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S. Korean workers walk off the job

Fire bombs, used in Sunday's rally, have not been seen in protests in South Korea for years.
Fire bombs, used in Sunday's rally, have not been seen in protests in South Korea for years.

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Violent demonstrations by workers in South Korea are scaring off investors. CNN's Sohn Jie-Ae reports.
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SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- Tens of thousands of South Korean workers have downed tools and walked off the job to protest the government's hardline labor policy.

Thousands of police were deployed after the Korean Confederation of Trade Union, or KCTU, called the strike and estimated as many as 150,000 of its 600,000 members would join the nation-wide walkout.

However, the strike was not as extensive as feared by mid-Wednesday, with the governments Labour Ministry estimating only 50,000 had joined the action.

The walkout was in protest against laws allowing companies to seize wages or assets from workers as well as sue over illegal protests.

The protest brought production at Hyundai Motor, South Korea's largest automaker, to a standstill for four hours with the Hyundai union saying all 38,000 unionized workers had joined the strike, according to Reuters news agency.

Hyundai's management estimated the strike would cause about $21 million in production losses.

More than 5,000 police had been deployed to key areas while South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun has called for calm amid fears the protest would turn violent.

Fears of violent protests

Wednesday's strike follows bloody clashes at the weekend by KCTU supporters.

Police officials said more than 44 officers were injured and 100 protesters were hurt in a rally on Sunday in Seoul.

Then, iron pipe wielding KCTU members used slingshots to fire nuts and bolts and hurled hundreds of petrol bombs at police in the capital's center.

The protest -- one of the most violent in years -- signaled a resurgence of labor unrest which the government is worried could drive away foreign investment.

The KCTU and other unions have become frustrated at Roh's tougher anti-union stance brought on after a series of damaging strikes at some of South Korea's biggest companies.


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