Starbucks Korea workers protest for improved conditions

By Kim Ji-woo & Kim Tae-gyu, UPI News Korea
Starbucks Korea workers protest for improved conditions
A truck carrying a message from Starbucks Korea employees drives past Seoul streets on Thursday. Workers say that the company is carrying out customer events without considering the workload of employees. Photo by Kim Ji-woo/UPI News Korea

SEOUL, Oct. 8 (UPI) -- Employees of Starbucks Korea staged a protest in Seoul against excessive workloads due to the company's marketing events.

The employees, who mobilized trucks for the Thursday protest, said the company treats them inhumanely. This is the first protest for Starbucks Korea, which does not have a trade union.


The trucks displayed a message that read "Starbucks employees are not expendable. We want a working environment where we can focus on providing one cup of coffee to one customer."

The two trucks drove past various locations in Seoul, including the country's first Starbucks store near Ewha Womans University and its 1,000th branch in southern Seoul.

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Employees of Starbucks Korea decided to stage the event last week after the company offered limited-edition reusable cups in a recent marketing event, which attracted crowds.

Customers stood in long lines in many Starbucks stores across the country, as baristas and other workers struggled to serve them.

Starbucks Korea CEO Song Ho-seop apologized via an internal email, but it failed to calm the angry employees.

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"Starbucks Korea could expect that its marketing events would increase the workload of its employees. I don't know why the company did not prepare for that," Inha University Professor Lee Eun-hee told UPI NewsKorea. "So many corporations talk about customer satisfaction. To satisfy customers, companies are required to satisfy their employees first. Starbucks Korea appears not to understand this tenet."


A Starbucks Korea representative said in a telephone interview that the company will come up with various measures for its employees after listening to their complaints.

Shinsegae Group set up a joint venture with Starbucks to open the coffee chain's stores in South Korea in 1999. The group's vice chairman, Chung Yong-jin, spearheaded the process.

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Starbucks has become the country's dominant coffee chain.

Earlier this year, Starbucks sold all of its stake in Starbucks Korea to Shinsegae.

South Korea is one of Starbucks' biggest markets, with the number of stores reaching roughly 1,500, according to New York-based data platform Knoema.

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