Today, it’s as quiet as a ghost town on LCD Road in Paju, Gyeonggi. Restaurants are empty and nearby apartment buildings look run down.
The owner of a nearby restaurant said, “I recently put my shop up for sale.
The problem is simple. LG Display is closing its P7 plant, the last large-scale liquid crystal display (LCD) panel production facility in Korea.
The total number of subcontractors employed at the plant was at one time 18,000. Today, their numbers are dwindling, and the morale of those who remain is low. Soon the total will be zero or close to zero.
There was a time when shift change was characterized by an after-work hustle and bustle of dinner and a drink or two. Those days are gone. Now the few remaining workers quietly go to the factories or go straight back to their dormitories.
There are signs hanging here and there like flags of surrender.
“Vacancies are three times higher than when the factory and LCD panel production were at their peak,” said a local owner. “When the year-end promotions disappeared a few years ago, all the karaoke and pubs disappeared with them.”
Seven enterprises are operating in the four-story building. When the industry was booming a decade ago, the building was filled with about 20 establishments, ranging from Japanese eateries to high-end beef joints.
Now there are convenience stores and cheap restaurants where you can eat for 7,000 won.
LG Display said Covid may be a factor affecting business conditions in the region, but the company has yet to provide figures on how many jobs have been lost.
A nearby glass cutting business is open, but no orders are coming in.
“They say organic light-emitting diode panel production will replace LCD, but we don’t know if we can keep our workforce,” said a company official.
LG Display posted a total loss of 1.2 trillion won, or $936.3 million, in the second and third quarters due to increased competition, especially from China, and reduced demand for large LCD screens.
The employee voluntarily resigns or transfers to a related company.
CEO Jong Ho-yong said last month, “There will be no forced restructuring or voluntary retirement.
LCD Road has been buzzing about “silent firing” in recent months. “Quiet Quitting” means that employees do the bare minimum to get paid, but don’t quit. A silent layoff creates a better situation for the company to lay off.
At a large company, downsizing can have a disproportionate impact on suppliers, so silent firings may be less likely.
As the sun set in Incheon’s Namdong Industrial Complex, the cars left the lot, one by one the lights of the factories turned off, leaving the square pitch black.
“You could say that all the factories that have turned off the lights have closed,” says the real estate agent. “All transactions were put on hold over the summer as interest rates continued to rise.”
He said most of the small factories were built on credit, so it was difficult to sell them.
Active factories within the complex are struggling to survive, let alone retain jobs.
“We’re barely making ends meet and we can’t even think about hiring when we’re doing renovations,” said a source at a small manufacturer. “When jobs are low, wages are low, so even when we’re looking for jobs, people don’t come.”
“Last month, one of GM Korea’s plants in Bupyeong was shut down, which caused a lot of damage here,” said another plant manager. “I believe early next year there will be more shutdowns among the plants in the complex.”
Workers who have been voluntarily laid off in every downturn since the 1997 Asian financial crisis fear a wave of “silent layoffs.”
“There’s no guarantee that management won’t resign voluntarily if they don’t like it,” said one employee at a small company.
“There is a dual system in the labor market in Korea,” said Lee Young-myung, a professor at Dongguk University’s Department of Business Administration. “For large companies with unions, it is difficult to fire workers, but for small enterprises it is too easy. Conglomerates choose “quiet layoffs” to induce employee resignations, or avoid hiring new people. For small and medium-sized enterprises, the larger side effects can be damaging.”
LEE DONG-HYUN, KO SUK-HYUN, LEE HEE-KWON. [[email protected]]