[Newsmaker] Protests against HHI-DSME merger escalate

By Shin Ji-hye
  • Published : May 29, 2019 - 15:36
  • Updated : May 29, 2019 - 16:50

Protests by the workers of Hyundai Heavy Industries against a tie-up with Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering are escalating, with labor unions of Hyundai Motor and DSME joining the strike on Wednesday.

Two days ahead of HHI’s shareholders meeting to decide on modalities of the merger, the workers’ protests intensified by occupying the venue and staging an all-out strike to disrupt the meeting. 

Hyundai Heavy Industries workers protest against a tie-up with Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering on Wednesday at a venue for a shareholders meeting to be held Friday in Ulsan. (Yonhap)

If the proposal for physical division of the company after merger is passed by shareholders on Friday, the group will be divided into two companies: an intermediate holding firm called Korea Shipbuilding & Marine and a business firm, Hyundai Heavy Industries. Under KS&M, there will be four affiliates, including HHI, DSME, Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries and Hyundai Mipo Dockyard.

“Then, all the assets will go to the intermediate holding firm while all the debts will go to HHI. The company’s debts will rise 95 percent and job cuts will be inevitable,” said Kim Hyung-kyun, a labor union representative.

Some industry watchers, like Park Sang-in, a professor of Seoul National University, confirmed such doubts citing the firm’s past policies “favorable to its owner family.”

The critics refer to 2017 when Hyundai Global Service transformed into an affiliate from being an after-sales service business division under HHI. The lucrative division which was directly under the holding company of HHI reportedly brought immense profit to Chung Mong-joon, who has a controlling stake in the shipbuilding company, and his eldest son Chung Ki-sun.


In December last year, senior Chung was given 74.8 billion won ($62.6 million) in dividends and his son received 14.7 billion won despite business difficulties.

Amid growing conflict between labor and management, HHI filed charges against around 60 workers. The police also deployed around 2,000 troops in case of an emergency.

Meanwhile, the National Pension Service, second-largest shareholder of HHI with a 9.35 percent stake, said Wednesday it would vote in favor of the division proposal during the shareholders meeting Friday. 

By Shin Ji-hye (