SEOUL, March 25 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's major shipbuilders are planning to recruit new workers despite the ongoing belt-tightening mode on hopes that the industry is on track towards recovery, sources said Monday.
Although they did not finalize the details on the new hiring, the major shipyards are considering recruiting a small number of workers.
The local shipbuilding industry, once deemed the backbone of the country's economic growth and job creation, has been reeling from mounting losses caused by an industrywide slump and increased costs.
The country's big three shipyards -- Hyundai Heavy, Samsung Heavy and Daewoo Shipbuilding -- posted a combined operating loss of 8.5 trillion won (US$7.4 billion) in 2015.
Stung by snowballing losses from tumbling orders and heavy debt, the three shipyards have been conducting a range of restructuring steps, including massive layoffs in past years.
But coming into 2019, there have been signs that the shipbuilding sector is recovering.
South Korean shipbuilders were first in the world in terms of total new orders last month, outpacing Chinese rivals.
In 2018, for the first time in seven years, South Korean shipyards ranked No. 1 in annual orders secured. Increased orders for LNG carriers helped Korean shipbuilders retake the top spot in the global hierarchy.
South Korea lost its No. 1 position to China in 2012 and was second up to 2017.
"The sector may get a boost if the trade war between the U.S. and China eases," a source at Hyundai Heavy said.
Last week, President Moon Jae-in urged his staff to pay more attention to supporting the local shipbuilding sector, which could lead to a rise in hiring.
Seoul-Tokyo trade row averts worst case
Luxury fashion powerhouses rush into S. Korean market
With Asiana acquisition, construction-centered HDC eyes biz diversification
Telco-cable TV mergers to reshape S. Korean media market
Possibility of S. Korean rate cut looms after U.S. rate reduction