Libcom.org May 24 2011
Riot police have broken up a strike and occupation of Yoosung Enterprise
factory in Asan, south of Seoul.
Around 3000 riot police have attacked 500 strikers staging a sit-in at the
factory, which manufactures piston rings for Hyundai, Kia, Renault and
General Motors in South Korea.
The majority of occupiers have been arrested, with the remaining strikers
and their supporters being dispersed by the police.
The raid marks a significant attack on a building strike wave in the South
Korean automobile industry which has seen several victories, but also
follows several years of mounting repression against the workers'
movement. Hyundai had already suspended production of diesel engines at
its Ulsan plant as a result of the strike action creating a supply
bottleneck, and had been threatening to suspend production of petrol
engines as well.
However, Ulsan plant itself has been hit by strike action in recent
months, initiating the strike wave leading to the Asan occupation. The end
of 2010 saw a wave of strikes in which irregular workers - precarious
employees with minimal rights, usually on short-term contracts and who
earn on average less than half the salary of permanent employees - took a
leading role. A sit in by irregular workers turned into a full-scale
occupation after the protest was attacked by security guards and company
thugs. The dispute spread to Chunju and Asan, and in Asan was met with
significant violence during a prior attempt to organise a sit-in.
The tight supply chains utilised by Asian car companies, in particular
Hyundai, with its lean production model, have been successfully disrupted
by workers taking strike action in recent years, most effectively in