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Seoul bus drivers end strike after city agrees to wage increase

SEOUL — Bus drivers in the South Korean capital of Seoul ended an hours-long strike on Thursday (March 28) after a deal was reached between the city's bus union and its employers over a wage hike, easing the commute for the city of more than nine million people.

The Seoul Bus Labour Union and their employers agreed to a 4.48 per cent wage hike after negotiations, Seoul's city government said, with public transport operations returning to normal right after the deal was agreed. The unions had originally asked for an almost 13 per cent wage increase.

The full-scale strike by the city's bus drivers was the first in 12 years. Their last strike lasted for around 20 minutes.

Buses in Seoul are operated on a quasi-public system in which private companies manage the buses while it's heavily subsidised and regulated by Seoul's city government to ensure accessibility of services.

Before the deal was reached, Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon pleaded for a swift compromise. "City buses are the legs of the citizens; their livelihood and daily lives literally depend on them," he said.

Oh Jeong-hui, a 25-year-old from Seoul, said she had left home early after hearing about the strike. "Normally it would take 15 minutes by bus but I took the subway and had to transfer which took around 30 minutes," she said.

South Korea also has an ongoing doctors' strike as thousands of trainee doctors have walked off their jobs in protest against the government's plan to increase medical school admissions.

Critics have said the authorities should prioritise improving the working conditions of trainee doctors while the government says the plan is vital to remedy a shortage of doctors in one of the world's fastest-ageing societies.

Seoul bus drivers strike over