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Antitrust chief warns of strict response to unionized truckers for hindering on-site probe

Dec. 2, 2022 - 19:59 By Jie Ye-eun

Fair Trade Commission Chairman Han Ki-jeong speaks during an emergency press conference held at Seoul Government Complex on Friday. (FTC)

South Korea's antitrust watchdog said Friday that it would deal sternly with the nation’s unionized cargo truckers for hindering an on-site probe into its head offices as their walkout continues over a week.

Investigators of Fair Trade Commission visited the union's headquarters in Seoul and Busan to see whether its members had forced other workers to stop their transport duties or join the strike.

Deterred by union members to enter the offices, the FTC Chairman Han Ki-jeong issued the warning during an emergency press briefing held at the Seoul Government Complex, saying the union may face criminal charges if it continues to interrupt the antitrust regulator’s investigation.

“The unionized cargo truckers are systemically interrupting our officials to launch an on-site probe. We’re taking this very seriously,” the chief said. “If the union deliberately blocks the officials’ from entering into the offices, we will take a firm stance for obstructing and refusing the probe.”

This comes in response to the union workers putting a brake on the FTC officials’ probe by giving the reason for the representatives’ absence while dozens of the antitrust regulator officials visited the office earlier in the day.

The unionized cargo truckers say it is “unfair” to apply the FTC law to a labor union. Under the current South Korean law, those who disrupt an official FTC investigation could face a prison sentence of less than three years and a fine of up to 200 million won ($153,990).

Yet the antitrust regulator chief stood against the union, clarifying that the unionized truckers are a “business association.” Moon Jae-ho, the spokesperson of Han, also said that the union needs to be “more cautious” about disrupting the probe for a long time, while stressing its seriousness.

After the FTC’s warning, the presidential office made an announcement that a special Cabinet meeting would be held over the weekend if necessary. If the nationwide strike by truck drivers continues, the government will discuss ways to invoke a back-to-work order for fuel tanker drivers.