South Korea: First Strike in Samsung History Begins

Negotiations between management and the unions, which lasted several months, were unsuccessful. On June 7, employees of the South Korean industrial giant Samsung Electronics went on strike for the first time in history.

An action that undermines the myth of the Korean “family business” and caused a stir in Seoul. Employees at the giant in consumer electronics, from TVs to smartphones (a market segment where it is among the world leaders) and in the delicate and important high-performance microchip sector (where, however, the company is chasing Taiwanese leaders) are demanding higher wages. Negotiations have been stalled since January 2024, and no agreement could be reached.

Therefore, the National Samsung Electronics Union (NSEU), which has about 28,000 members, one-fifth of the company’s entire workforce, has shut down. In any case – for now at least – it’s a “courteous” strike: only one day’s break is scheduled, and employees have requested “coordinated use of vacation time.” This is “our first step toward the ultimate goal of a large-scale strike,” said Lee Hyun-guk, deputy head of the NSEU, according to the Yonhap news agency.

Samsung said there would be no impact on manufacturing or commercial operations and wanted to calm the situation by explaining: “We are sincerely cooperating with the union and will continue to negotiate with them.” Yonhap also reports statements from research firm TrendForce, which confirmed that the strike day is not expected to cause disruptions to Samsung’s production, given that June 7 falls between a Thursday holiday and a weekend, and Samsung’s semiconductor factories have a high level of automation.