GM's Closing Its Gunsan Plant In South Korea

2018 GM Korea workers hold a gathering to protest GM's decision to shut down the Gunsan plant by May

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday used a decision by General Motors Co GM.N to close one of its four plants in South Korea to launch fresh criticism of the U.S.

"This is the first step in a holistic plan to turn GM Korea into an acceptable return on investment", she said in an email.

General Motors is in the process of slimming down its overseas operations. "Time is short and everyone needs to move with urgency".

With a manufacturing capacity of 250,000 vehicles at GM's Gunsan plant set to be gone by May, experts argue that a chain reaction caused by the shutdown, including GM's possible withdrawal from the South Korean market, will have an adverse effect on the rest of the automobile industry, dealing a severe blow to its competitiveness.

GM is on a major restructuring spree with many unprofitable business units in India, Russia, Western Europe and Southeast Asia, either getting closed or getting shrunk.

GM has proposed terms to its Korean labor union, the South Korean government, and key GM Korea shareholders, requesting help keeping operations going in that country.

"The government expresses deep regret over GM's one-sided decision to suspend and shut down" the plant, the finance ministry said.

GM Korea also gave 1.8 trillion won from 2014 to 2016 to its headquarters on the ground of research and development spending. The shares rose 2.5 percent through Monday's close after an 18 percent jump a year ago.

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GM sells Chevrolet and Cadillac brand vehicles in Korea. The conference call came after GM reported a strong financial performance in 2017, though took some one-time charges on the sale of Opel-Vauxhall that dinged net profits. The factory operated at barely 20% of its capacity previous year, building both the Chevrolet Cruze sedan and the Orlando SUV.

The factory was running at about 20 percent of its full production capacity past year, GM said.

Barry Engle, GM executive vice-president and president of GM global, said, "The performance of our operations in South Korea needs to be urgently addressed by GM Korea and its key stakeholders".

The company started closing down operations in unprofitable regions including Europe, Australia, South Africa and Russian Federation, since 2015. A total of about 300,000 workers rely on GM when including suppliers, according to the carmaker's local union.

The decision to close the factory comes less than a week after GM CEO Mary Barra said company officials were "in discussions" with minority owners and union officials involved with GM Korea that could lead to "some rationalization actions or restructuring."

"It's unreasonable that the company tells us it will fire people while we are in negotiations for wages", the spokesman said.

Unionized workers at the carmaker vowed to stage a sit-in protest, accusing the company of trying to shift the blame onto them for years of losses.

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