Exclusive: South Korea’s Yoon ready to offer ‘custom’ benefits to lure Tesla gigafactory

By Soyoung Kim and Jack Kim

SEOUL – South Korea will offer “tailored” incentives to encourage Tesla to set up an electric vehicle gigafactory in the country and minimize any risks posed by militant unions, President Yoon Suk-yeol told Reuters.

Yoon held a video call with Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk last week, and Yoon’s office quoted Musk as saying that South Korea is among the top candidate locations for a new Tesla factory.

“If Tesla, Space X or other companies consider more investment in Korea, including building a gigafactory, the government will do everything possible to support the investment,” Yoon told Reuters during a wider interview in his office on Monday .

Yoon said South Korea offers highly skilled workers and his government will ensure regulations are aligned with international standards so foreign firms do not face unexpected financial or regulatory hurdles.

“We are preparing a customized approach to give some advantages to these specified companies,” Yoon said through an interpreter when asked about what advantage South Korea can offer Tesla over other mentioned locations.

Tesla said it would consider building another gigafactory. Canada, Indonesia, India and Thailand have also been mentioned in media reports as possible locations, but analysts noted that those countries do not have the kind of automotive supply chain that South Korea has, although some are plentiful in natural resources such as nickel.

Yoon credited his government’s tough response to union strikes this year for starting the process of establishing the rule of law in industrial relations for both management and labor.

Yoon’s government is moving to use an administrative order to force unionized truckers back to work after talks aimed at ending their strike ended without an agreement on Monday.

About 9,600 truckers joined the strike organized by the truckers’ union, demanding a permanent guarantee of a minimum freight rate to protect against rising and unpredictable fuel costs and overwork.

“The militant union culture is a serious problem in South Korean society,” Yoon said. He said he told Musk that the goal of his labor policy is to establish the rule of law to eliminate the risks of unfair labor practices.

South Korea has averaged 39 days of annual work stoppages due to labor disputes over the past 10 years, nearly five times the United States’ eight days and nearly 200 times the of Japan’s 0.2 days, according to Korea Enterprises. Federation.

Yoon blamed previous governments’ frequent compromises with powerful unions for creating a vicious cycle of illegal strikes leading to more severe strikes and illegal actions by unions.

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