South Korea president warns of crackdown as trucker strike enters second day

SEOUL, Nov 25 (Reuters) - South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol warned the government might step in to break up a nationwide strike by truckers, describing it as an illegal and unacceptable move to take the national supply chain "hostage" during an economic crisis.
Thousands of unionised truckers on Thursday launched their second major strike in less than six months seeking better pay and working conditions. The action is already disrupting supply chains across the world’s 10th largest economy, affecting automakers, cement and steel producers.
Union officials told Reuters there were no ongoing negotiations or dialogue with the government. The country’s transport ministry said it requested dialogue with the union on Thursday, but the parties have yet to agree on a date.
Union officials estimated about 25,000 people were joining the strike, out of about 420,000 total transport workers in South Korea. The transport ministry said about 6,700 people attended on Friday in about160 locations nationwide, down from 9,600 people on Thursday.
“The public will not tolerate taking the logistics system hostage in the face of a national crisis,” Yoon said in a Facebook message late on Thursday, noting that exports were key to overcoming economic instability and financial market volatility.
“If the irresponsible denial of transport continues, the government will have no choice but to review a number of measures, including a work start order.”
According to South Korean law, during a serious disruption to transportation the government may issue an order to force transport workers back to their jobs. Failure to comply is punishable by up to three years of jail, or a fine of up to 30 million won ($22,550).
Were the government to take this option, it would be the first time in South Korean history such a order is issued.
The strike comes after South Korea saw October exports fall the most in 26 months as its trade deficit persisted for a seventh month, underlining the slowdown in its export-driven economy.
Amid the economic gloom, Yoon’s approval rating remained mostly flat for the fifth week at 30%, according to Gallup Korea on Friday, although his focus on economic affairs received a positive response.
‘HARD-LINE RESPONSE’
Outside the gate of the container depot at transport hub Uiwang, dozens of unionised truckers have set up camp and are staying overnight in white tents, watched by patrolling police although the strike has been peaceful so far.
“We are going to pour everything, resources and money, and execute every strategy we have,” ...