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Hankook Tire faces trouble in Hungary

Hankook Tire now faces double criticism after the Hungarian governments’ cancellation of its subsidy payment due to the company’s illegalities added to domestic criticism over its plant workers’ deaths in Daejeon.

Yonhap News reported Thursday that the Hungarian government has withdrawn its plan to give the world’s seventh tire maker more than Ft 140 million (about $8.1 million) in subsidies. The government explained that the Korean company has violated its country’s laws twice and was fined more than 130 million won (Ft 24 million, $138000) after building a plant in Dunaújváros in July 2006. The company was initially granted the subsidies, as well as contributions to its training program and other tax breaks from the Hungarian state. Hungary is one of the two countries where the tire maker has plants. The other is China.

However, the company was fined for making employees work extra hours and for hiring 32 Korean dispatched workers without reporting to the government. Inspectors in July found one worker who had fewer than five days off in a month and several workers have to work continuously for 16 hours a day, which is clearly against the law. The tire company spokesman Calvin Pak said the company had a few “mishaps” in the beginning due to lack of understanding, but had corrected these and paid the fine as well. He said the company has requested the Hungarian government to provide the subsidies as promised and that the subsidy should not be linked to the company’s mistakes.

However, the company reportedly still has problems. For instance, Tamás Székely, the head of the Chemical Industry Union of Hungary, told the online media outlet Pressian that the Korean company is hindering union activity. He said that though disclosing the names of labor union members or heads is not mandatory according to local labor law, the company refused to approve the union because they wouldn’t reveal the members’ names. He also said that one of the top members of the union was sacked after allegedly being identified. Meanwhile, the death of 15 workers at the company plant in Korea is becoming an issue in the European country, too.

According to Yonhap, though a toxic solvent, called HV250, is not used in the country, the mayor of Dunaújváros said he will ask for the inspection result into the 15 deceased people, some of whom allegedly died as a result of being in contact with the material. Currently, the Ministry of Labor is conducting a probe to study the relations between the sans-benzene solvent and the deaths. (