Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Internationalized Chaebol

Here's some interesting news. Ssamgyoung Auto's union has just announced a strike vote against its Chinese majority investor, the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC). The strike is against technology relocation and I wonder if their idea for a strike may come from similar strategies such as those employed by the movement of reclaimed factories in Argentina whom have occupied factories that have been shipping or selling off their fixed capital investments to overseas buyers and locations in the wake of economic crisis. Here's more on the strike from Joongang Daily:
Unionized workers at Ssangyong Motors Co., Korea's fourth-largest carmaker, said they will go on strike if the company's largest shareholder reneges on a pledge to invest in the company's domestic factory. Ssangyong Motors' workers want Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. to invest $1 billion in Korea, fulfilling a 2004 pledge made when the Chinese company bought 48.9 percent of Ssangyong for $500 million. The workers oppose Shanghai Auto's plan to build Ssangyong Kyron sport utility vehicles in China."The union took a vote and 79 percent of the workers were in favor of the strike," said Cho Young-jin, spokesman for Ssangyong's union. "We won't stage a strike immediately but wait to see what Shanghai Auto does."

The Korea Times also reports that union leaders claimed that SAIC Motor, which holds a 50.91 percent stake in Ssangyong Motor, has no plan to invest even a penny in the Korean subsidiary since its acquisition last year.

In my opinion this strike vote is interesting in that the chaebol have become increasingly internationalized (both in their activity and ownership) and, thus, so must labour tactics. Of course, the Argentinia case is somewhat different in that the domestically dominant class has long been internationalized at least in terms of its colonial origins and dispositions thus its forms of allegiance seem somewhat different then Korea's dominant groups which have, in general, been more economically nationalist when it has suited them, and now perhaps internationalist, when it doesn't. But the Ssamgyoung case is even different because we are no longer discussing a dominant class that is not simply internationalized in activity but in its constitution. Thus, how labour goes about attempting to woo an internationally owned corporation (ssamgyoung) to invest in a national space (Korea) might be an interesting problematic for the future. In some ways, the legitimacy of South Korean governments may rest on how well they can deal with this problematic, and how much more it will expand.

This is also something to continue to think about as we see what sort of agreements and protest the APEC Busan event (see below) generates.

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