|Starbucks Korea CEO Song Ho-seob receives a commemorative tumbler from the Culture Heritage Administration's former administrator Chung Jae-suk during a heritage reserve sponsor ceremony in Seoul, June 17, 2020. Yonhap|
By Kim Jae-heun
Starbucks Korea CEO Song Ho-seob's apology to employees working at the chain's coffee shops was not enough to keep them from taking to the streets to protest.
A number of Starbucks Korea employees drove two trucks around Seoul with signboards displaying messages calling on the company to improve working conditions and salary and to stop treating its employees as expendable.
Starbucks Korea has been introducing special promotions to give customers seasonal gifts in return for collecting a number of stamps when they purchase beverages.
Each time an event was held, customers formed long lines to obtain Starbucks' promotional goods, inundating workers with orders.
Starbucks Korea's "Reusable Cup Day" to celebrate the coffee chain's 50th anniversary here unleashed pent-up anger among employees.
Song tried to soothe his employees' grievances by sending emails apologizing for causing an overload of orders.
"I would like to express our sincere apologies for putting such great pressure on our partners due to problems caused by insufficiencies in the process," Song said.
However, the company decided to go ahead with another promotional event scheduled for Oct. 17, which led workers to hit the streets in protest. They said Song's apology was nothing more than lip service to diffuse their anger.
"Our resting area in the shops are barely 16 square meters in area, and we eat our lunch and dinner next to mops. We just want to sell coffee instead of being involved in marketing campaigns all year long," Starbucks Korea staffers said.
Meanwhile, Starbucks Korea employees will continue to hold the two-truck protests until Friday around Seoul.
On the first day of the protests, the two trucks departed from YTN headquarters in Mapo District, western Seoul, at 10 a.m. and drove around Sangam-dong and Ewha Womans University, where Korea's first Starbucks coffee shop opened in 1999.
They stopped by the coffee shop chain's headquarters in Myeong-dong, downtown Seoul, and moved to the final destination in Cheongdam-dong where Starbucks Korea opened its 1,000th store.