Distrust of unions, and GM, hangs over South Korean efforts to stem job losses

Either he risks losing political capital and thousands of high-paying jobs if General Motors cuts its presence in South Korea, or he faces a public backlash if he uses taxpayer money as a lifeline for the U.S. automaker. Last week, GM announced it would shut down a factory in Gunsan, southwest of Seoul, and said it was mulling the fate of its three remaining plants in South Korea. It wants help from the government to restructure and keep the plants operating. Although coffers are full in both the government and Korea Development Bank, which owns a 17 percent stake in GM Korea, officials say likely opposition from South Koreans makes any financial support for the Detroit auto maker politically tricky. “We cannot be free from the potential public backlash expected from helping a private company using taxpayers’ money,” said one government official, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the ongoing discussions. On top of that, public support for South Korea’s auto worker unions, which have a reputation for militancy, has fallen as young workers battle to find increasingly rare full-time positions. South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in. Photo taken on February 17, 2018 by Reuters/John Sibley. A survey released on Thursday showed 30 percent of respondents oppose any public aid for the automaker, with 56 percent backing support only if GM lays out a feasible turnaround plan. According to the survey by pollster Realmeter, just 6 percent say the government should inject public funds unconditionally to save… [Read full story]


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