Government prosecutors Thursday arrested two senior officials of Hyundai Engineering and Construction Co. for alleged roles in the kidnapping of a labor organizer by gangsters.
Hyundai Engineering is a construction arm of the Hyundai group, one of the largest conglomerates in South Korea. Thousands of workers at several of the group's subsidiaries are currently on strike.The prosecutors in Seoul charged the two Hyundai officials, Choi Jae-dong, 47, and Kang Myung-ku, 42, with hiring a group of gangsters to kidnap a junior company official who was trying to organize a labor union at their company, the nation's largest construction firm.
The prosecutors said the investigation may be expanded to find out whether other senior Hyundai officials, including Chairman Lee Myung-bak, were involved.
Suh Jung-ui, 34, the junior Hyundai official, was abducted by a group of men on May 10 as he left a Seoul restaurant where he had been drinking with Choi and other Hyundai senior officials.
Suh returned home several days later and said he was released only after he wrote a letter of resignation addressed to the company.
The company denied involvement at that time. But details of the kidnapping unfolded this week when some of the hired gangsters either surrendered to police or were arrested in Seoul and provincial cities.
The gang's leader told police Hyundai executives offered him $27,000 for kidnapping the union leader and dissuading him from labor organizing.
On Wednesday, management locked out 20,000 striking workers at another Hyundai plant, the Hyundai Motor Co., and said there was little chance of settling a 3-day-old strike for higher wages.
At Hyundai Precision and Industry Co. in Changwon, striking workers freed one of the 11 company executives they took hostage last Friday.
The strikers are seeking higher wages.
Hyundai workers earn an average of $610 a month after one year, $750 after five years and $960 after 13 years.