TAIPEI (Reuters) - South Korean workers protesting against the closure of a Taiwan-owned electronics factory in Korea were deported from Taipei on Wednesday, in a rare cross-border labour dispute that has already led to the death of one of the workers.
Taiwanese union activists supporting the Korean workers at Taipei's central city airport shouted slogans and scuffled with police, who where escorting the 11 workers onto a plane bound for Seoul.
The Korean workers had arrived in Taiwan in late May to protest over the closure of a flat-panel display screen factory owned by the unlisted Hydis Technologies Co Ltd, a subsidiary of Taiwan's E Ink Holdings Inc, which is majority-owned by Taiwan's YFY Inc.
The Korean workers had been staging a sit-in in front of the Taipei residence of S.C. Ho, son of YFY's founder and one of its major shareholders, demanding the factory be reopened and its some 400 staff re-hired.
Two of the protesters were entering the sixth day of a hunger strike. One worker had already committed suicide in Korea in response to the closure.
"All we wanted was to come out and speak to us in person," Lee Sang-mok, one of the Korean workers, told reporters before being escorted onto the aircraft.
In a news conference held on Wednesday to address the controversy, E Ink's chairman, Frank Ko, said its Hydis factory in South Korea had booked losses of around T$6 billion ($194 million) since being acquired in 2008.
"Given the financial reality, we had no choice but to close the factory," Ko said.
The company said it had regularly increased workers' pay despite the sustained losses and had held numerous negotiations with unions during the closure process.
E Ink produces displays for so-called e-reader devices, such as those produced by Amazon.com and Sony Corp.
Taiwan and South Korea both have large and well-developed tech industries that are considered to be the mainstays of their economies and compete in a number of fields, including display screens and semiconductors.
South Korea does not formally recognise Taiwan due to pressure from China, which considers Taiwan a renegade province, though unofficial relations are largely amicable.
Such labour disputes, involving workers flying in from overseas to protest against their foreign owners, is extremely uncommon on the island.
"I've never seen a protest like this, with workers flying such a long way to express their demands," said Chuang Shu-ching, one of the Taiwanese activists supporting the Korean workers at the airport.