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Riot Police Prepare for Protest at Hyundai's Headquarters

Associated Press

Riot police have been deployed to Hyundai Motor's headquarters in Seoul on Wednesday ahead of a planned protest by workers amid a dispute with management over bonuses, the company said.

Beefed up security included the arrival of about 2,000 riot police, the boarding up of first floor windows and the placing of shipping containers near the building to block protesting workers, said Hyundai spokesman Jake Jang. 

A man who answered the telephone in the office of Hyundai's approximately 44,000-strong union in the industrial city of Ulsan said that about 2,000 workers were on their way to Seoul from various parts of the country to protest. Ulsan, where Hyundai has its main factory, is 415 kilometers southeast of Seoul. 

The man, who would only describe himself as an associate of the union, refused to allow his name to be used, citing alleged bias by media in reporting on its activities. 

Hyundai's Jang said the company expected about 1,000 protesters to descend on the Seoul office later Wednesday. 

The protest comes two days after Hyundai sued the union, seeking damages for production losses caused by the dispute. Hyundai is seeking damages totaling one billion won ($1.06 million) from the union and 27 of its leaders for refusing to work overtime. 

Hyundai's union has refused to work overtime since late last month after workers received a bonus equal to one month's salary, which they say is less than agreed. 

The company says the negotiated bonus total was based on an incentive to reach the company's annual production target and since that wasn't achieved the payment was reduced. 

Labor troubles are a near constant headache for Hyundai. Through 2006, Hyundai's union has gone on strike every year but one since it was established in 1987.