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S. Korea: Shipbuilders expand benefits for foreign workers

HD Hyundai, Hanwha Ocean and Samsung Heavy Industries are in a fierce rivalry to secure foreign workers and employees specializing in R&D, amid a lingering labor shortage under the recent shipbuilding industry boom, according to industry officials, Monday.

In order to prevent the outflow of their workforces, the top three shipbuilders in Korea have come up with various welfare benefits for their employees.

HD Hyundai Heavy Industries, one of the shipbuilding affiliates of HD Hyundai, is the nation’s first shipbuilder running a support center for foreign workers. It also hired 22 translators to help foreign workers communicate better with their Korean peers at its shipyard in Ulsan.

In addition, the company is using Instagram to share ways of communicating with foreign shipbuilding workers in English, Vietnamese, Thai, Uzbek and Sri Lankan languages.

Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries, another shipbuilding affiliate of HD Hyundai, designated June as the month of foreigners and decided to provide beverages from foreign countries on every Friday of this month. It is also running a Korean language class for foreign workers.

“We have offered various welfare benefits for foreign workers, including translation services, dormitory housing and food suitable to their religious faith,” an HD Hyundai official said.

As part of efforts to secure R&D specialists, HD Hyundai decided to pay a bonus of 1 million won ($774) to its employees whenever they recommend an experienced worker who ends up joining the company.

Hanwha Ocean, which changed its name from Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering after Hanwha Group’s acquisition, finished remodeling dormitories for foreign workers late last year. It also offers foods of their countries every weekend.

In addition, the company is running a coordinator program to ask foreign workers familiar with Korean culture and language to help workers from abroad adapt.

In order to retain its Korean employees, Hanwha Ocean plans to raise base salaries to as high as those of its rivals. It also started recruiting a large number of experts in engineering and various other fields, so that it can have as many employees as its rivals have.

“We will recruit our staff by the end of this year,” a Hanwha Ocean official said. “We decided not to limit the size of the workforce, in order to secure future experts in advance.”

Hanwha Group Vice Chairman Kim Dong-kwan also told reporters last week that it is time for the shipbuilding unit to hire additional employees and asked former employees to return.

Samsung Heavy has paid extra money to newly arriving foreign workers, to help them adapt quickly to living in Korea. It also tried to expand dormitories for foreign workers and secure translators.

Regarding its efforts to secure experts in maritime engineering, the company signed an agreement with Busan Metropolitan City on Monday to set up an R&D center in the nation’s second-largest city.

“We will start recruiting maritime engineers on Tuesday,” a Samsung Heavy official said. “More than 200 workers including subcontracted workers will work at the new R&D center next year.”

Source: The Korea Times

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