South Korean Truckers End 8-Day Strike, Return to Work

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- Truckers in South Korea ended an eight-day strike that caused major disruptions to domestic production and cargo transport, their union and the government announced after negotiations Tuesday.

Thousands of truckers joined the nationwide strike, calling for an extension of temporary guarantees of minimum wages amid soaring fuel prices. The strike triggered delays in the shipment and delivery of steel, cement, petrochemicals, tires and other items, with some factories forced to halt production.

The strike's damage has been largely limited to domestic industries, though experts say a prolonged strike could have undermined global supply chains already hit by Russia's invasion of Ukraine and China's COVID-19 restrictions. There have been no reports of substantial disruptions of key South Korean export items such as semiconductors and automobiles, Industry Ministry officials said.

During their fifth round of negotiations on Tuesday night, representatives of the truckers and Transport Ministry officials reached a deal on ending the strike, the Cargo Truckers Solidarity and the ministry announced in separate statements.

They said the ministry agreed to seek to extend the current rules on minimum wage guarantees and consider increasing fuel subsidies for truckers. The union said drivers will immediately return to work.

"It's fortunate that the Cargo Truckers Solidarity withdraw its collective refusal of (cargo) transport and decided to return to work now," the Transport Ministry statement said. "We feel very sorry to the people for causing concerns."

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said Monday that the first six days of the strike had caused an estimated 1.6 trillion won ($1.2 billion) in damages.

Earlier Tuesday, about 6,800 truckers rallied at various sites across South Korea on their eighth day of the strike, according to the Transport Ministry. It said some steel and cement factories had halted operations and some striking truckers obstructed cargo transport at some major southeastern ports.

During a Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Han Duck-soo, the country's No. 2 official, called the reported transport obstructions "illicit activities" that would never receive public support, according to Cho Yongman, a government spokesperson.

Cho cited Han as saying that the transport disruptions could pose "a big irrecoverable blow" to South Korea's economy, which already faces other difficulties.

Police said Monday that they had detained 44 striking truckers but released most of them except for two who were formally arrested. Two additional truckers were detained Tuesday, the Transport Ministry said.