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Hyundai Motor under fire for worker’s death from COVID-19 caught in Kazakhstan


(Hyundai Motor)
(Hyundai Motor)
Anxiety is growing among employees of Hyundai Motor Group after an employee recently died, failing to recover from a COVID-19 infection contracted during a business trip to Kazakhstan.

While staffers complained over a lack of protection from the company, management claimed that overseas business trips have been kept to a minimum in compliance with safety guidelines.

According to Hyundai Motor, an employee of the overseas production technology team died of COVID-19 complications Saturday morning at Inha University Hospital while receiving treatment for the infection.

The deceased employee was confirmed for the coronavirus on April 27 in Kazakhstan, some two weeks after arriving in the Central Asian nation to work on the carmaker’s complete knockdown assembly line.

He was returned home in May via a special air ambulance arranged by the company as his symptoms aggravated during self-quarantine.

Complete knockdown, or CKD, refers to the manufacturing system of delivering individual parts and assembling them on site. CKD facilities are mostly located in emerging economies where labor costs are relatively low, with loose regulations.

“We offer sincere condolences to the deceased employee and his family members,” the company said, vowing to enhance prevention and response measures to the coronavirus.

The company nevertheless alluded that it cannot ban overseas business trips altogether.

“We are currently limiting overseas business trips to a minimum range of unavoidable cases,” a company spokesperson said, adding that employees are provided with exclusive transportation and lodging.

In light of the recent circumstances, the company is also carrying out an advance vaccine program for those set to take overseas business trips.

Employees, however, pointed out that the “COVID-19 safety kit” offered to business travelers merely included basic items such as a few KF-94 face masks, sanitizing wipes and a mini detergent.

Given that the carmaker’s key production facilities are located in less developed economies -- including India, Brazil and Russia -- calls are mounting for Hyundai Motor and its sister brand Kia to enhance safety actions for their own staffers and those employed under subcontractors.

By Bae Hyun-jung (tellme@heraldcorp.com)
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