By on January 20, 2012

The website for midwives the voice of union activists Labornotes reports that a South Korean Hyundai Motor worker set himself afire Sunday after management refused his request to slow down the line. The 44-year-old unionist, Shin Sung-hun, is in critical condition. According to the site, Shin poured paint thinner over and set fire to himself .

As a result, union members at the plant refused to work overtime, which crippled production of sport utility vehicles at Hyundai and Kia. Management agreed to make a public apology and to reprimand some supervisors.

That done, Hyundai said it would seek damages caused by the union’s action.

Rough crowd.

 

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52 Comments on “Hyundai Worker In Flames...”


  • avatar
    jfbramfeld

    Well, that was a success.

  • avatar
    Lokki

    HYUNDAI once burned, twice KIA

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Well if it wasn’t for the evil unions Hyundai could turn that plant up to I Love Lucy.

  • avatar

    I couldn’t imagine ever doing this but I guess they are standing up for their peers.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    If he was trying to pull a Foxconn, he’s doing it wrong.

  • avatar
    JCraig

    If the line is going fast enough to make you want to set yourself ablaze I wonder if quality is taking a nosedive. Hyundai’s initial success was destroyed by the “Build as many as you can at all costs” mentality. Rushed production and irate workers is not a recipe for building great cars.

  • avatar
    replica

    Sounds like he got caught up in the heat of the moment.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Seven posts so far, and no one has blamed the UAW. Must be some kind of record.

    • 0 avatar
      Rob Finfrock

      If anything, it shows how comparatively limp and toothless the UAW actually is.

      Want to show true commitment to your cause? Don’t kick protection money to the world’s angriest (yet most laughably ineffective) women’s shoes salesman. Don’t break out the giant rat puppet and stand dumbly outside Toyota dealerships. Don’t demonstrate willful incompetence by releasing vehicles from your plant without brake pads.

      No, dude, if you think your employer is treating you unfairly… light yourself on goddamn fire. They may doubt your sanity, but never your commitment!

      Or, failing that level of devotion… you could do the sane, adult, and responsible thing instead. Take the initiative, man up, and go find another job. This appears to be as equally lost on South Korean workers as it is on their union counterparts here in the States, albeit with slightly different results.

      • 0 avatar
        mikey

        @..Rob…The dude set himself on fire to protest line speed? The rest of the union refused O.T as a form of prorest.

        In a UAW plant line speed increases are aplauded.10 percent line speed,translats to more jobs.

        In a modern UAW plant refusing OT is frowned on by your peers. Should a group of people refuse,it usually results in the company moving the work elsewhere.

        The man was obviosly a tortured soul,with other mental issues. For that he has my sympathy.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Keep your day job, Mr. Finfrock. (I am hopeful that it has nothing to do with either writing or comedy.)

      • 0 avatar
        Rob Finfrock

        I’m “amused” that you actually believe your opinion matters at all, Pch. Bzzzzz….

      • 0 avatar
        mikey

        @ Rob….You don’t agree with “PCH101″..? I don’t agree with all his comments either. Truth be known, I don’t agree with most of yours. You certainly don’t agree with mine.

        Thats just the way it is, dude.

        Insulting the guy is beneath your standards,and also that of what used to be TTAC,s

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Don’t worry about it, Mikey. Mr. Finfrock is the type of guy who carries a plastic spork into a gun fight, and then wonders why he always misses. He’s redundant, predictable, and cliched, but not much more than that.

    • 0 avatar
      don1967

      Now Pch101; you got exactly what you wanted. Actually I thought it was pretty good.

    • 0 avatar
      GS650G

      Were we supposed to blame someone other than the guy who torched himself? Help us out here.

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    Holy crap. Could you even imagine the news if a Big 3 line worker did this at an American plant? In the US automotive union, the three most shocking news topics we have are Bob King, his glasses, and Chrysler workers getting high and drunk on their lunch break.

  • avatar
    carve

    Looks like he…lost his cool

    It seems this man…had a firey tempor

  • avatar
    Philosophil

    Many of the comments in this thread are actually very disturbing. I’m out of here.

    • 0 avatar
      carve

      The dude was an idiot. I can understand (barely) doing something like this to protest an oppressive government. This guy had a complaint about the job he worked in voluntarily. He could’ve hurt a lot of people who DIDN’T want to be lit on fire with this stunt.

    • 0 avatar
      x9419c

      @Philosophil I agree.

      • 0 avatar
        WheelMcCoy

        Philosophil and x9419c, wait for me!

        But before I leave, I hope the commenters read the labornotes link in the OP. Key take aways:

        - an average worker at Hyundai/Kia works 2,657 hours a year, about 600 hours longer than an average assembly line worker.
        - Shin was raising concerns about high defect rates caused by high-speed production.
        - Shin pointed out that the plant shipped out defective engines

        The link is pro-union, so I’d like to hear the other side of the story. Regardless, the comments here aren’t from the Best and the Brightest. Call me Bewildered and emBarrassed.

    • 0 avatar
      Tosh

      And Bertel’s midwife crack is callous and in poor taste for a grown-up.

    • 0 avatar
      nova73

      Tendentious pinkoes leave TTAC over some tongue-in-cheek editorial comments…less political clutter on TTAC.

      • 0 avatar
        rentonben

        It’s usually been my experience that thin-skinned people are usually worthless, so I imagine that it’s no loss to anybody that they self-select an run home.

        A lot of my best friends give me all sorts of crap for my views, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  • avatar
    fred schumacher

    Mr. Schmitt:

    My God man, what were you thinking? Self-immolation is the ultimate sacrifice, and you led with the childish line, “The website for midwives the voice of union activists Labornotes…”

    You are the editor-in-chief of this website, and you used your position to take advantage of a tragedy and turn it into a sick dig against unions. This shows appalling lack of judgement.

    I second Philosophil. I’m out of here. From now on I’ll go elsewhere for my automotive news.

    Sincerely,

    Fred Schumacher

    • 0 avatar
      rentonben

      No.. Giving your life for others is the ultimate sacrifice. Lighting yourself on fire just because you have to work hard is the more likely the result of mental issues.

      • 0 avatar
        JCraig

        Yea South Korea is a free country with a strong economy, a sane person would quit. This isn’t like Foxcon where employees are treated like animals (according to the CEO) and kept locked in the factory at all times.

      • 0 avatar
        x9419c

        There is probably much much more to the situation than we are aware of. While he may have a psychological PROBLEM, I seriously doubt having to “work hard” provoked this.

    • 0 avatar
      ...m...

      …many east asian cultures have a long-established tradition of self-immolation as form of political protest: as shocking as it comes across to western audiences, it’s a comparatively unexceptional expression of martyrdom to bring attention to one’s cause-du-jour over there…

      …certainly it’s no less sorrowful a circumstance in context, but the popular romanticisation of self-immolation has lead to it becoming a relatively commonplace act in the face of apparently-unassailable frustrations, enough so that the greater populations tend to shrug it off as just another blip in the noise society at large…

      …my point is that as terrible as this act may come across from our perspective, the disincentive to this sort of martyrdom can be low enough in many asian cultures that it’s not necessarily indicative of grossly exploitative working conditions: a distressed worker with metal health issues over there could more-readily be pushed to this sort of act than seems normal to our experience over here…

    • 0 avatar
      MattPete

      Dude, I didn’t read it as a dig at unions at all (and I’m one of those people that thinks that the constant digging at unions is old and annoy).

      Instead, I thought that he was having fun with two meanings of labor. After all, “Labornotes” would make a good name for midwife newsletter (or an OBGYN newsletter).

  • avatar
    replica

    I don’t think the OP made much of a dig at unions or spun this event to make a point. I read it over again to make sure, the tone wasn’t somber by any means, more “as a matter of fact.” Even if there was a little jab, what respect is there to be given to someone that doesn’t even respect themselves? Someone set themselves on fire because work was stressful? If that were a logical response to work stress, we’d all be aflame by lunch.

    He could have done something else like, oh, I don’t know, not set himself on fire. That’s generally the first step to avoiding self-immolation. Oh, and finding a different job he could have been happier with.

  • avatar
    carve

    Oh Oh I thought of another one.

    This guy….knows how to make an inflamatory statement

    Looks like he got…a little hot under the collar

  • avatar
    banjopanther

    You don’t F with Koreans, man! They are probably the worlds most hardcore protesters. Remember when their government was thinking of importing US beef?

    http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2008/06/south_korean_protests_over_us.html

  • avatar
    BMWfan

    What a shame. If he survives, I hope he gets help for whatever issues he has that caused this. Unfortunately, life is cheap in some other countries. If I was an executive at Hyundai, I wouldn’t be sleeping too well for the foreseeable future.

  • avatar
    i_godzuki

    I recalled something similar happened at Ssangyong Motor there about the time of a long sit in. I had no idea it was this hardcore, though:

  • avatar

    No more jokes or puns. Sounds to me like he was very frustrated
    after raising serious concerns and was not listened to. You would
    probably go nuts too if you worked a mind-numbing job 51 hours a week.

    I always admired the great writing on this site by readers. The good writing of the articles inspires good responses. Now, not so much.
    Wake up, people. Have some respect for this man’s life and think about your good fortune, riding around in VERY nice cars made with what is tantamount to slave labor.

    • 0 avatar
      lothar

      +1 mor2bz……..this sight has had some great writing on autos and things auto………but those in charge seem to have a disrespect for law, law enforcement, and human life? Yesterdays rants on LEO’s and todays rants on labor (although expected here) have me reorganizing my bookmarks……..

      just not fun anymore

  • avatar
    FPF422

    I’m with Philosophil and the few others with a conscience here… The stupidity of many is very disturbing.

  • avatar
    shaker

    Pretty callous comments here. Of course, our possessions are more important than the people who make them. Maybe we should re-think our priorities…

  • avatar
    John

    I worked in a burn unit for a while. Most people don’t know that in just about every major burn unit and psych hospital in North America there is always someone who tried to kill themselves by setting themselves on fire, but lived. The result is massive third degree burns. Takes months and multiple operations to fix them because so little alive skin is left for grafting. The process is incredibly painful. The man in the picture is guaranteed to die. I left the burn unit because I couldn’t take dealing with the burned kids. Couldn’t cope with it emotionally.

  • avatar
    Les

    Wasn’t an unusually fast assembly-line for the number of workers assigned to it one of the (admittedly many) things that doomed the Chevrolet Vega?

  • avatar
    mikey

    @ Les….In order for an assembly line to run faster “jobs per hour” =JPH, you need more space, and more people. It impossible to take a line that was designed to run 50 JPH and make it run at 80 JPH. If you need 20 feet to complete your job assingment,and you only have 18 ft,it don’t work.

    In the seventies and eighties GM tried to make it work,with limited sucess.

    I worked Oshawa#1 B plant in the eighties. We had that plant running 60+JPH. The plant was built in the fifties and designed for 45 to 50 JPH. We tripped over each other,hoses,and other tools got tangled. Complex emmision systems of that era,added to the confusion.

    The washrooms were backed up, in more than one way. In the fifties there were no women in the plant. GM had to convert mens rooms over to women rooms. Tempers were short,and fist fights were not uncommon.

    However through it all myself and fellow CAW/UAW workers built some pretty fine cars. Even up here in rust country, you still see some old B Chevy’s.

    Finally somebody higher up got smart. They gutted the place in 85,then again in 88.

    Today they got one of the most modern,state of the art,flexible lines in the world.

    As one who survives on a GM Canada pension,hopefully its not too little,too late.

    Mikey
    A proud, former UAW/CAW worker


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