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Trucker strike spooks business

The nation’s unionized truck drivers walked out of their jobs on Monday, demanding a 30 percent hike in trucking fees and legislation of a guaranted minimum wage and labor rights.

Government and industry officials expressed worries over the impact on the economy from the general strike, which comes three years after truckers staged a strike in June 2009.

Public officials are also concerned about the possibility that parcel delivery service workers will follow suit.

Government officials said about thousands of unionized truckers began the industrial action at the nation’s eight ports including Busan and Incheon.

No major disruptions were reported at ports and logistics centers on the day because non-union members worked as normal, officials said.

Police are investigating a series of arson attacks targeting trucks of non-union members on Sunday, and suspect that unionized workers may have been responsible.

The Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs is working to prevent the strike from causing disruption at major logistics centers.

In coordination with related ministries, the Transportation Ministry vowed to take legal action against their illegal collective action.

The business sector also urged an early resolution of the strike, saying collective action was not desirable at a time when the global economy shows signs of worsening due to the eurozone fiscal crisis.

“Side effects will be serious in terms of attaining economic recovery while the nation is suffering difficulties, affected by the eurozone debt woes,” the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry said in a statement.

The KCCI stressed that the walkout could deal a critical blow to industrial distribution channels including exports.

Over the weekend, President Lee Myung-bak instructed ministries to take every possible countermeasure to block the trucker union’s collective action.

Last Wednesday, about 200,000 taxi drivers staged their first one-day nationwide strike, demanding that the government cut taxi fuel prices and allow an increase in fares.

The Transportation Ministry extended public transportation in the day to minimize the impact from the strike.

In Seoul, tens of thousands of drivers gathered for a protest rally at Seoul City plaza to press the government to accept their demands.

By Kim Yon-se (