South Korean Auto Workers Striking Over U.S. Trade Deal

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - Workers at South Korea's Hyundai Motor Co. and its affiliate Kia Motors Corp. will stage partial strikes this month to protest a proposed free trade agreement between South Korea and the U.S., labor unions at the two companies said Tuesday.
 
The workers will stop production on the carmakers' domestic assembly lines for two to six hours a day from June 25-29, said spokesmen for the unions.
 
The proposed trade pact with the U.S. would wreak long-term havoc on South Korea's manufacturing industry, particularly automakers, said Kia Motors' labor union spokesman Jeung Hung-ho.
 
''As Hyundai Motor will likely produce more of its vehicles in its overseas plants, there seem to be few benefits the carmaker can get from the trade deal,'' said Chang Kyu-ho, a spokesman for Hyundai Motor's labor union.
The two companies issued a statement saying ''this is an apparent political strike which has nothing to do with working conditions.''
 
The trade deal, which still requires legislative approval in both nations to take effect, is the biggest for the United States since the North American Free Trade Agreement more than a decade ago. It is the largest ever such deal for South Korea.
 
Hyundai workers held strikes and partial strikes on 33 days last year that caused production losses of 118,293 vehicles and cost the company $1.8 billion before agreements were reached.
 
Hyundai and Kia share 73 percent of Korea's automobile market.

 
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