SKorea strike eases, as truckers return to work

A growing number of truck drivers were returning to work from a strike that has disrupted operations at South Korea's seaports and damaged the country's export-driven economy, the government said Thursday.

About 1,500 workers have ended their walkout after reaching agreement with management at 39 workplaces, and about 1,000 more are expected to return to work later Thursday, according to the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs, the AP reported.

Some 13,000 unionized truckers went on a nationwide strike Friday over rising fuel prices, demanding the government increase fuel subsides, help raise transportation charges and introduce a minimum wage.

Despite the increase in the number of workers ending the walkout, more than 10,000 workers still remain off the job. The average container traffic at seaports is just over a third of the pre-strike levels, according to the ministry.

The situation at South Korea's largest port in Busan was a little better, with its container traffic reaching about half of the usual volume, the ministry said. Busan handles more than 70 percent of the country's container traffic.

On Wednesday, prosecutors said they were seeking to arrest a dozen striking truckers on charges of beating drivers who refused to stay off the job. The government on Tuesday threatened legal action if the truckers do not return to work soon.

The strike is an additional headache for the embattled government of President Lee Myung-bak, which has faced weeks of street rallies over its decision to resume imports of U.S. beef.

A major union federation has also said its members will go on strike next month to pressure the government to cancel the beef import deal.

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