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Will gov't executive order extend to steel, oil industry truckers?

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First Vice Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy Jang Young-jin, left, is on a guided visit at the manufacturing plant of SeAH Steel in Gunsan, North Jeolla Province, Friday. Courtesy of Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy
First Vice Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy Jang Young-jin, left, is on a guided visit at the manufacturing plant of SeAH Steel in Gunsan, North Jeolla Province, Friday. Courtesy of Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy

By Lee Kyung-min

Over 1.6 trillion won ($1.2 billion) in economic losses brought on by the nationwide strike of the country's unionized truckers continue to cripple major export-driver manufacturers, according to the trade and transport ministries, Friday.

Further strengthening calls for stronger government measures is a short-term fuel shortage, a major inconvenience to the public, increasingly showing disapproval of the demands of unionized truckers. The government said the current law which guarantees a minimum wage will be extended for three years, but the truckers say the law should be revised to permanently guarantee the minimum freight rate and that more cargo items should be eligible for the minimum rate besides cement and export containers.

President Yoon Suk-yeol is expected to determine whether another executive order similar to the one issued Tuesday should follow next week. Tuesday's stern, unprecedented order requires striking truckers in the cement industry to return to work immediately, or face prosecution after the suspension and revocation of their driver's licenses.

Fuel shortage

According to Opinet, a website operated by state-run Korea National Oil Corp., Friday, 60 local gas stations have run out of fuel as of Thursday. This number is more than double the 23 that had a day earlier.

The country has only up to a three-day supply of fuel, a faster decline in supply from the previous day when it had an eight-day supply of gasoline and a 10-day supply of diesel.

Up to 80 percent of the cargo truckers who carry fuel provided by the top four local refiners ― SK Innovation, GS Caltex, S-Oil and Hyundai Oilbank ― are union members. Many have warned that a prolonged strike will lead to a short-term fuel shortage and overall price hikes.

Also taking a major loss are steelmakers.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said an estimated 1.1 trillion won in loss has been incurred by the steel industry, including 870 billion won in losses by the top five steelmakers: POSCO, Hyundai Steel, Dongkuk Steel, SeAH Steel and KG Steel.

"The shipment of steel has been slashed to about a third of the seasonal average," a SeAH Steel official said. "A prolonged strike will lead to major disruptions to our business."


Lee Kyung-min lkm@koreatimes.co.kr


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