Cabbies tussle with police outside Yongsan Garrison
Stars and Stripes May 31, 2008
SEOUL — Taxi drivers from U.S. Army Garrison-Yongsan and Camp Casey tussled with South Korean riot police outside the garrison on Thursday, their ninth day on a full strike.
The drivers began a partial strike in late April because of a salary dispute with their employer, World Cup Arirang Tourism Co.
Organizers said about 200 drivers attended Thursday’s protest. The drivers, most wearing red headbands, chanted underneath the north side of the bridge separating Yongsan’s main and south posts early in the afternoon.
At about 2:30 p.m., the group crossed the street and confronted the police, pushing against the officers’ shields for two or three minutes before retreating.
The drivers then marched to other entrances around the base. Several carried signs, written in Korean, that complained of unfair wages and of the taxi company’s profit percentage.
Shawn Dorcy, general manager for the Army and Air Force Exchange Service at Yongsan, said Thursday he didn’t know when the taxi drivers would return to work. "They’re still out of work, and we’re still waiting on positive feedback" from World Cup, he said.
The taxi drivers say they haven’t had a pay increase since 2000, even though they received a $105 bonus and $2 per month for each year they worked for the company after striking in 2006.
Drivers say they earn 400,000 won (about $400) per month in base salary. The rest of their earnings come from a percentage of meter receipts, meaning that most make about $1,000 a month.