| The Korean Railway Workers` Union started a strike Monday, but train passengers faced little disruption. Since the suspension plan was notified a few days ago and more than 6,000 alternative workers were injected, enabling a normal operation of KTX and subways of the Seoul metropolitan area.
Seoul Station was in calm mood on the first day of strike. A woman who had booked a Mugunghwa train from Seoul to Cheonan four days ago to go to a hospital said, "I saw a notice that operations of certain Mugunghwa trains can be suspended, but came to Seoul Station because I got no call." The 12:05 p.m. train heading for Cheonan that she booked was in normal service.
Some people arrived at the station early worried that the strikes could suspend operations suddenly or delay departure. A woman living in Daejeon arrived at the train waiting room in the morning and continuously checked information for the Mugunghwa train that is due to leave on 2 p.m. She said, "I changed the ticket to one leaving after noon because I had to wait long for morning train. I came too early concerned about the strike."
A housewife who had come to Seoul from Busan to look after her daughter`s two-year-old son, said, "I bought a KTX ticket but agonized over whether to get off on the express bus terminal while on my way to the train station as I was worried that the strikes could affect operation of KTX," adding, "Fortunately, most passengers in the waiting room including me can return home without confusion."
Meanwhile, cargo trains will likely suffer some setbacks. Authorities are concerned that a prolonged strike could lead to a massive logistics disruption on the last days of the year.
Freight railway operation rate was just 52 percent at 3:00 p.m. Monday. Domestic freight transport sharing ratio on railroads is just 5 percent, yet the top 10 freight transport firms are concentrated on cement (five firms) and containers (four firms) industries. Cement firms pre-transported five-day work of cement (about 240,000 tons) ahead of the strike, but will run out of alternative transports if the strike is prolonged.
Most cement companies gave up freight train transport. Asia Cement based in Jecheon, North Chungcheong Province normally rely 60-70 percent of its cement cargoes on railway transport, but launched road transport Monday by securing bulk trucks. Total cement transports remained at just 3,000 tons Monday, sharply down from normal 10,000 tons. A source from Korea Cement Association said, "The cement business suffered big setbacks in 2009 when railway strike had prolonged. We are observing the situation since cement shipments rise this time around for deadline of construction."