Hyundai's Union to Help Build Food Plant

Hoping to improve its reputation

The union of South Korea's largest carmaker Hyundai Motor, under fire at home for its labor militancy, announced plans on Aug. 29 to help build a food plant in North Korea. The 44,000-strong union will raise about 500 million won (US$530,222) to help build the corn-noodle plant in Pyongyang, union leader Lee Sang-UK said. He said the union would send equipment through South Korean aid groups.

"We hope the noodle plant will help North Korea ease its food shortages," Lee said. He did not say when the plant would be set up.

It is the first time that a South Korean company union has decided to give this type of humanitarian aid to the impoverished country. North Korea faced a food shortfall this year of one million tons, or 20% of its needs, even before floods this month which wiped out a sizeable proportion of the annual harvest. It says the floods left at least 600 people dead or missing and caused huge damage to all sectors of the economy.

The union's project comes amid growing public complaints about a strike planned by Hyundai workers. The union will vote today on whether to strike in support of an 8.9% pay increase, an extension of the retirement age from 58 to 60 and a halt to the allocation of work to overseas plants.

Strikes have become almost an annual ritual at the Hyundai Automotive Group, the world's sixth largest.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007

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