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South Korean Cargo Workers Threaten Strike

Cargo transport workers angry over high fuel costs and the policies of President Lee Myung-bak threatened a strike that could disrupt the movement of goods.

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- Cargo transport workers in South Korea angry over high fuel costs and the policies of President Lee Myung-bak threatened Thursday to follow through with strike plans that could disrupt the movement of goods.

The Korea Cargo Transport Workers Union voted earlier this week to go on strike Friday if there was no substantial progress in meeting their demands.

Truck drivers, who account for 40 percent of the union's membership and play a key role in transporting shipping containers to and from the country's ports, are complaining about the high cost of fuel, and seeking higher rates for hauling freight, among other demands.

Kim Young-don, a member of the central committee of the 13,000-member union, said members were being squeezed by high costs for diesel fuel and low wages.

''We will keep struggling until our major requests are accepted,'' he said Thursday.

The union also opposes Lee's plans to build a huge cross country inland waterway and his government's negotiation of an agreement with the United States to resume imports of American beef suspended over worries about mad cow disease.

The potential disruption to South Korea's export-oriented economy is the latest headache for the president, who has faced weeks of street demonstrations spurred by the April 18 beef agreement with Washington.

The union's Kim added that the impact of a strike would be particularly severe because he expects 90 percent of non-union cargo transport workers in South Korea to also walk off the job.

The government was planning to use trains and military trucks to transport cargo and avoid disruptions in the event of a walkout, Yonhap news agency reported.

''We are preparing various measures in cooperation with other ministries,'' said Yeo Sun-bok, an official at the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs, told The Associated Press, without elaborating.

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