(ATTN: ADDS info in paras 4, 12-14)
SEOUL, Nov. 24 (Yonhap) -- Unionized truckers in South Korea launched a nationwide strike Thursday, the second of its kind in less than six months, stoking worries over supply disruptions amid post-pandemic recovery efforts.
The government vowed to take a zero-tolerance stance against the strike, warning of stronger action than the last time.
The latest walkout came about five months after the truckers staged an eight-day strike in June, which resulted in massive delays of cargo shipments, and other logistics and supply disruptions across the country.
The Cargo Truckers Solidarity Union, under the wing of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, said about 11,000 of its 22,000 members participated in strike rallies held in 16 regions across the country in the morning. Police put the number at 9,600.
The organizers said they will start off by blocking the entries to major logistics hubs in the Seoul metropolitan area and other key regions, including Busan in the southeast and Gwangyang in the southwest.
The truckers have demanded the government extend a freight rate system guaranteeing basic wages amid soaring fuel costs.
Land Minister Won Hee-ryong said the ministry will seek to issue an executive order to stop the strike as early as next week if the truckers do not return to work, insisting the government cannot accept the truckers' demand.
A trucker who does not comply with the executive order can face imprisonment of up to three years or a 30 million-won (US$22,500) in fine.
Won said earlier the government would consider deploying military trucks to provide support for urgent deliveries.
The strike came despite the agreement between the government and the ruling party to extend the freight rate system for three years. Truckers demand it be permanent and applied to truckers in other industries, including steel, auto and grain, from containers and cement.
The strike is set to cause major supply disruptions in the auto, steel and refinery industries, forcing manufacturers to cut the daily output.
The walkout reduced cargo container traffic at major ports to about 40 percent of the normal level.
The ministry said container movement at 12 major ports from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. fell to 14,695 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) from the usual level of 36,655 TEU.
"There has been no significant damage so far because major shippers and transport companies moved their cargo in advance, in preparation for the strike," the ministry said.
Transport disruptions had already begun in a major industrial complex in Pohang, about 370 kilometers southeast of Seoul, where incoming and outgoing shipments were being delayed, including Hyundai Steel's 8,000-ton shipment of supply.
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