Striking workers fought police with firebombs, pipes and rocks today after 10,000 riot troops stormed the country’s largest shipyard to quell three months of violent strikes.
Police said 700 workers were arrested at the Hyundai shipyard in Ulsan, about 150 miles southeast of Seoul, and Korean news reports said at least two dozen people were injured.
To protest the police action in Ulsan, radical students and workers battled riot police today in six cities, some firebombing Hyundai offices and showrooms of the conglomerate’s auto division.
400 Injured in Violence
The shipyard strikers, demanding recognition of their union, have staged sporadic work stoppages since Dec. 12, and at least 400 people have been injured in related violence.
Riot troops entered the shipyard by breaking through barricaded gates with heavy equipment. Some even arrived by boat. Firing tear gas, they raced up fire escapes and down hallways of company dormitories to drag out hiding strikers.
Windows were smashed by rocks and clubs as police entered the buildings, according to the South Korean news agency Yonhap.
Tear gas spewed over the shipyard and into nearby residential areas, causing citizens to complain. Yonhap said about 2,000 relatives and supporters of the strikers were also dispersed by tear gas.
The shipyard is owned by the Hyundai Group, one of the nation’s largest conglomerates, which produces cars, ships, electronics and others products.
Hyundai has refused to recognize the union at the shipyard, and up to 5,000 of its 22,000 workers have clashed with pro-management workers. The Labor Ministry said today that Hyundai has lost $6 million daily as a result.
About 1,000 students at Ulsan University were dispersed by riot police using tear gas today as they tried to march from the campus to the shipyard to join the strikers, Yonhap said.
At Changwon, a south coast city, about 1,800 workers at Hyundai Precision Co., a subsidiary of the conglomerate, rallied in support of the striking workers and demanded that the government stop suppressing the union.