Truckers’ strike slow to hit
Stars and Stripes June 20, 2007
SEOUL — A week of striking truckers and a paralyzed port in Busan won’t keep commissary shelves from remaining full, though some perishable U.S. products may be replaced by local goods.
"If the strike continues our shoppers might not see their favorite brands of yogurt or juice from the U.S. on the shelf, but we will have a local brand in stock," said Defense Commissary Agency Korea Zone manager Wayne Walk.
The six-day-old strike by thousands of Korean truck drivers demanding relief from rising fuel prices has stranded most goods entering South Korea through the country’s main port, including some bound for U.S. bases.
Walk said Wednesday that commissary officials have plans to help them weather the strike.
He said DECA’s three South Korean central distribution centers have enough inventory to keep stores stocked "during any type of delivery disruption."
In the past, he said, commissaries have endured delays caused by weather and dockworker strikes, and have always kept their shelves full.
He said the stores might be forced to stock local perishable items until the strike ends.
Frozen items are still being moved from the port by a special arrangement with two of the striking companies. Walk was unable to provide further details.
In the meantime, he said, commissary personnel are looking at other ways to bring food to U.S. military bases, most likely via rail.
Officials from the Army and Air Force Exchange Service are a little less optimistic.
Peter Catineau, AAFES-Korea distribution center manager, said the strike will affect the movement of its shipments from Busan port to its distribution center at Camp Market.
"These moves will be delayed due to lack of driver availability and equipment challenges faced during the strike," he said in an e-mail Wednesday to Stars and Stripes.
Catineau said AAFES is also looking at other ways of moving containers from Busan to its Camp Market distribution center. Moving products from the distribution center to the stores won’t be a problem because AAFES uses its own trucks and drivers, he said.
South Korean prosecutors said Wednesday they were seeking to arrest a dozen striking truckers on charges of beating drivers who refused to stay off the job.
Prosecutors were also investigating 60 other truck drivers on similar grounds to determine whether to ask courts to issue arrest warrants, said Lee Jin-han, a prosecutor at the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office in Seoul.
In addition to the ongoing truck drivers strike, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions is planning a strike on July 2 to protest renewed U.S. beef imports.
U.S. Forces Korea officials said that strike likely will have no effect on military bases.
Chi Hyeong-taek, president of the USFK Korean Employees Union, told Stripes on Tuesday that his organization had no ties to the "militant" KCTU and was opposed to its planned strike.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.