South Korean supply chains disrupted as truckers strike for third day

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Thousands of truckers in South Korea went on strike for a third day to protest the sharp surge in fuel costs, slowing activity at ports, disrupting production, and posing new risks to a strained global supply chain.

Presenting the new South Korean President, Yoon Suk-yeol, with one of his first significant economic challenges, nearly 7,200 members or almost 30% of the Cargo Truckers Solidarity union were on strike, South Korea’s Ministry of Transport said.

A truck drivers’ union official said the number of participating members was higher, and non-union truckers also joined them. The government estimates that about 6% of the nation’s 420,000 truckers belong to a union.

Among firms feeling the pain was steelmaking giant POSCO which has been unable to ship about 35,000 tons of steel products from two plants daily since the strike began—equivalent to nearly a third of its daily consignments from those factories.

The truckers, regarded as self-employed contractors in South Korea, are seeking pay increases, and a pledge that an emergency measure guaranteeing freight rates introduced amid the pandemic and is due to expire in December 2022 will be extended. They also want it to apply to a broader range of trucks, not just container, and cement trucks.

The truckers’ demand comes when South Korea’s inflation has hit its highest level in nearly 14 years.