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Foreign Firms Reeling from Strikes

By Song Eui-dal (edsong@chosun.com), Chosun Ilbo, 31 August 2003

The number of labor disputes at companies with a foreign stake greater than 50-percent has been rising sharply this year, surpassing as of the end of August this year the number of disputes that occurred throughout all of last year.

KOTRA, the trade-investment promotion agency, said Sunday that the number of labor disputes at foreign-invested firms by the end of August reached 27, outrunning 26 cases of such disputes happened throughout last year. The number so far this year also accounted for about 10 percent of the nation’s total union struggles, said KOTRA.

Ninety-three percent of the unions of the foreign firms were under the wing of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), a progressive nationwide labor organization, and 85 percent of the companies were in the field of manufacturing, KOTRA said.

Of the total disputes this year, 10 occurred at Japanese-invested firms and seven at French-invested ones, said KOTRA.

An official at KOTRA said that more frequent labor actions at the foreign-invested firm are serving as a major roadblock to the Korean government’s much-touted plan to foster the nation as the business hub for Northeast Asia. He added that the disputes have been fueling the exodus of foreign and domestic firms out of Korea, cutting deeply into the nation’s much-needed foreign direct investment.