SEOUL, SEPT. 4 (FRIDAY) -- Riot police stormed two South Korean factories today to arrest radical strikers as the government announced a new crackdown on violent labor protest.
Speaking after the police raids on a shipyard in Ulsan and a motor plant at Inchon, Interior Minister Chung Kwan Yong said industrial violence had gone beyond tolerable levels and that future incidents would be severely repressed.
A total of 175 people were arrested, police said.
A police spokesman said about 3,000 riot police went into the ultra-modern Daewoo Motor Co. plant, about 20 miles west of the capital, after a management request to intervene to end a worker occupation.
Production of Daewoo cars, including the new Le Mans export model, has been disrupted by strikes and stoppages for nearly a month. This week, angry workers demanding better pay and work conditions went on a rampage, smashing equipment and torching cars.
In Ulsan, the southeast city built around the huge Hyundai Group, riot police raided a workers' dormitory early today and seized 70 sleeping strikers suspected of leading the violent protests that have shaken the city this week.
Police then entered the shipyard to arrest other suspected labor agitators.
Witnesses in Ulsan said a crowd of 15,000 workers later gathered in the shipyard. Police fired tear gas to disperse a group of about 200 trying to block the gates and made several arrests.
After the raids, Interior Minister Chung told reporters: "The government will arrest and severely punish those who carry out violent activities such as arson, destruction of property and hostage-taking.
"Official forces will intervene inside and outside the workplace to end such incidents, even without a request from the company."
He pledged that peaceful work stoppages would not be suppressed.
South Korea has been wracked by serious labor disturbances since July when the government -- under pressure after weeks of nationwide street protests at its authoritarian rule -- promised democratic reforms.
More than 3,000 companies in auto-making, electronics, tourism, transport and other industries have been hit by strikes and stoppages since July.
About 800 disputes, mostly in taxi and bus firms, still were unresolved last night, the Labor Ministry said.
The government at first tolerated labor demands, recognizing that workers had not received a fair share of the fruits of South Korea's recent economic successes.
Last week, however, after a series of violent incidents, Prime Minister Kim Chung Yul accused procommunist agitators of fomenting the industrial troubles as part of a plan to destabilize South Korean society and bring about revolution.