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The BBC's Caroline Gluck
"The laid off workers hurled fire bombs at riot police."
 real 28k

Wednesday, 7 March, 2001, 12:47 GMT
Riots over Daewoo lay-offs
Firebomber
Activists hurled firebombs at police
Hundreds of South Korean activists armed with steel bars and firebombs battled with riot police on Wednesday to protest against mass lay-offs by the ailing Daewoo motor company.

Rioter wielding steel bar
The rioters were protesting against mass lay-offs
Fighting broke out shortly after Daewoo re-opened its main plant in Pupyong, 30km (18 miles) west of Seoul, which had been shut down for 20 days.

Union officials said about 100 former Daewoo Motor workers and their families had been taken into custody by police after they lay down in the street to block buses of employees heading for the factory.

The violence followed the announcement that nearly 1,800 workers would be laid off as part of restructuring plans aimed at making the company attractive to a foreign buyer, possibly General Motors Corp GM.

Firebomb and riot police
Activists say the protests will continue
Reports said several hundred workers and activists, many wearing masks, clashed with about 1,000 riot police. Some hurled firebombs and stones.

A crowd of round 1,500 protesters at a rally outside the plant chanted: "Down with the government of President Kim Dae-Jung which is forcing workers out of jobs."

A police helicopter hovered overhead, broadcasting warnings to the protesters to disperse or face arrest.

Protests

Daewoo Motor, South Korea's third-largest carmaker, shut down the Pupyong plant on 16 February, citing a growing inventory of unsold cars.


Our struggle will go on indefinitely as long as police are stationed here

Union leader Dan Byoung-ho
However, its union said the closure was an attempt to stop protests by laid-off workers.

Dan Byoung-ho, head of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), called for a halt to the lay-offs and vowed the protests would continue.

He said workers would hold nationwide rallies this month, targeting not just Daewoo Motor, but also the government for pushing ahead with restructuring measures.

Fraud

Daewoo Motor filed for bankruptcy in November with estimated debts of at least $10bn. It has since been kept afloat with emergency bank loans.

The company promised to shed about a third of its 16,000 workforce in return for the loans.

Prosecutors have meanwhile launched an inquiry into secret funds allegedly embezzled by Daewoo Group founder Kim Woo-Choong.

A South Korean court allowed prosecutors on Tuesday to enlist help from Interpol to track down Mr Kim, 62, who is in hiding abroad.

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See also:

24 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
Daewoo workers hunt boss in France
20 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
More clashes at Daewoo plant
02 Feb 01 | Business
Daewoo corruption scandal deepens
09 Nov 00 | Business
Daewoo grinds to a halt
08 Nov 00 | Business
Daewoo declared bankrupt
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