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Seoul bus drivers strike over pay, snarling commute in South Korean capital

SEOUL — Bus drivers in the South Korean capital of Seoul went on strike on March 28 after last ditch efforts at negotiating a wage hike broke down, snarling the commute for the city of more than nine million people and another million from the outskirts.

With disruptions expected during rush hours, the Seoul Metropolitan Government said the subway will run for extended hours with additional trains put into service.

The city's 25 districts will also provide 480 shuttle buses to carry commuters to subway stations.

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

The negotiations between the Seoul Bus Labor Union, which represents drivers serving 97 per cent of bus operations, and their employers failed after the union demand for a 12.7 per cent hike in hourly wages was dismissed as "excessive," Yonhap reported.

Commuters in Seoul were left bewildered on Thursday morning, with some not being aware of the strike after the talks broke down before dawn, the Yonhap news agency reported.

"We'll make an all-out effort to smoothly reach an agreement between the union and the management soon," Yoon Jong-jang, a head of the Transportation Planning Bureau at the Seoul Metropolitan Government, said in a statement.

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.

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.

South Korea also has an ongoing doctors' strike as thousands of trainee doctors have