Angry South Korean GM Workers Trash Executive Offices Over Missing Bonuses [Video]

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

General Motors workers in South Korea forced their way into company executive offices on Thursday, destroying furniture in response to news that the automaker’s local unit told employees there will be no bonuses due its ongoing cash crisis.

Based on video evidence, the incident itself was weirdly organized, with just a hint of underlying fury. As tables were carefully moved out of the office, perhaps to be destroyed elsewhere, union members tossed chairs, glasses, and the CEO’s various knickknack to the ground. There was also some light smashing of a cabinet and the trampling of a blazer, which was later carefully dusted off and removed from the room by an employee. The whole affair was closer to the hiring of a budget moving crew than a full-blown riot.

However, the singular security video only showed what happened in the office belonging to chief executive Kaher Kazem. Other rooms may have gotten a different treatment. According to Bloomberg, GM Korea described the event as a “violent incident” that “resulted in significant damage to company property.” The incident was reported to the police and the company has stated it will take legal action against the workers involved.

In February, General Motors announced it would shut one of its South Korean factories, saying it would file for bankruptcy should the union refuse to make concessions by April 20th (a traditionally ominous date that is also Hitler’s birthday — as well as “weed day”). GM has also requested the Korean government offer financial support so it can continue operating within the country.

Paik Un-gyu, Korea’s minister of trade, industry and energy, has spoken with both the union and GM Korea and said the attack on office furniture was a misstep. “Should the industrial conflict seen yesterday and today happen again, it will be difficult for [GM Korea] to gain public support and government support,” he said in a statement.

Even in an ideal scenario, GM’s Korean sales will need to see a turnaround if the company is to continue operating there. March sales were down 58 percent this year. Meanwhile, the automaker has asked employees to resign voluntarily as it closes its Gunsan plant — something thousands have agreed to. But even with the union playing nice and the government offering aid, there is no assurance that GM won’t still pull out of the region. The company could simply be buying time as it decides how to best orchestrate its retreat from Korea. Although, it has proposed a $2.8 billion (USD) investment plan and a $2.7 billion debt-for-equity swap as a way to turn the tide.

Despite the incident in the executives offices, the union has officially said it is willing to accept the company’s demand for a wage freeze and no bonuses for 2018. But it will continue opposing any proposal that cuts worker benefits and has been vehemently against closing the Gunsan facility.

[Image: via Youtube]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Sooperedd Sooperedd on Apr 06, 2018

    Don't freak with The Wongs.

  • Big Al from Oz Big Al from Oz on Apr 07, 2018

    That was pretty good entertainment. I'd say they knew they were on video. Well, my personal view of GM's involvement in Sth Korea is directly related to the pending tariffs outcome by Trump & Co, another clown outfit like these Korean union guys.

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