In late April 2002, General Motors Chairman Jack Smith flew to Seoul to sign an agreement to buy key assets of bankrupt Daewoo Motor Corp. He expected the usual pomp and circumstance common to such ceremonies. Instead, he got chaos.
Screaming Daewoo union members wearing red headbands burst into the signing-ceremony room. They fought with guards and threw chairs. Smith was shoved through a trapdoor under the stage that led to the parking garage, where he and other GM staffers made their escape.
Smith and the GM contingent drove around Seoul while aides frantically conferred on their cell phones. Finally they agreed to go to the headquarters of Korea Development Bank, one of Daewoo's selling creditors, for the formal signing.
"To Jack's credit, there was no way we were not going to go through with that signing," says Rob Leggat, GM Asia Pacific spokesman.