POSTCARD FROM SEOUL
Trying to book a hotel room in Seoul proved difficult, thanks to a strike by hotel workers. Eventually, I secured a room on the 21st floor of the Hilton hotel, which towers above the ancient Namdaemun market. Room service and laundry were not available, and a couple of the restaurants were closed. But overall, guests enjoyed the usual high level of Asian service, even though hotel workers had gone on strike. Outside the building, crowded ranks of disgruntled hotel workers stood in picket lines, wearing red headbands and modifed jerkins. Their presence was intimidating.
As if that were not enough, their leader arrived to direct an extraordinary four-hour rally. Even on the 21st floor, I could hear the booming voices of the strike leaders and the strikers' songs amplified by giant speakers.
It would be interesting to see what Western union leaders would make of this thoroughly Asian display. It would be even more interesting to see how Ford Motor Co. would handle things if it buys Daewoo. Imagine Jac Nasser having his peace shattered by giant speakers aimed at his office window. And they thought the United Auto Workers union was tough!
If Ford or General Motors buys Daewoo, there will be deep and complex cultural issues. You just cannot walk in and tell Korean workers that this is how it is going to be. That is why Hyundai still believes it has a chance of buying its Korean rival.