Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) - This morning, thousands of truck drivers in the country stopped working to protest against the indiscriminate rise in fuel prices, threatening to paralyse the main South Korean ports and bring exports to a halt. At midnight yesterday, more than 5,000 drivers stopped their trucks, asking the government to increase petrol subsidies, raise transport tariffs, and introduce a minimum salary.
"We are suffering from rising oil prices", says Chung Hee-seon, a representative of the Korean transport union, "and there should be corresponding measures like a raise in transportation charges". If their demands are not met, the dimensions of the protest "will expand, because 90% of the union's 13,000 members are in favour of the strike", to whom "are added others from the sector who do not belong to our union".
The shutdown threatens to cause enormous economic damage to South Korea's commerce system: according to the Korea International Trade Association, a similar event in 2003 - when 6,000 truck drivers shut off their engines for two weeks - caused a loss of 540 million euros in exports. The government, in the meantime, has provided for the use of 100 military vehicles, and the use of freight trains.
The protest of South Korean truck drivers against high petrol prices is only the latest in a series of demonstrations: Spain and Portugal have come to the brink of paralysis, and fishermen in France have gone on strike. Similar instances have been seen in Thailand, while fresh disturbances are expected in Italy and the United Kingdom.