The governor of South Korea's most populous province criticized South Korean workers on Thursday for their alleged sloppy work ethic.
Gyeonggi Governor Kim Moon-soo said he was surprised to see hardworking Americans at Kia Motors' assembly plant in Georgia during his tour of the plant a day earlier. Kia is South Korea's second-largest automaker and is affiliated with Hyundai Motor Group, the world's fifth-largest carmaker.
"Few people strolled around" at Kia's plant, Kim said as he praised American workers for discipline at work during his meeting with heads of Kia and several other South Korean companies near Georgia.
Kim lashed out at the alleged sloppy work ethic of South Korean workers back home, claiming they always smoke outside of gates and stroll around.
Kim, who was touring the United States on a mission to attract American investment to his province that surrounds Seoul, said South Korean workers lack a strong work ethic.
Shin Hyun-Jong, Kia's vice president in charge of the assembly plant in Georgia, said those who leave their designated workplace during working hours can be fired. He also said workers who doze off during work are reported to the company by their co-workers and can be dismissed.
In Seoul, a Kia official handling issues said no workers in South Korea leave their workplace to smoke during working hours, though they can smoke during breaks. The official asked not to be identified, citing policy.
Still, South Korean workers at Kia plants lag behind their American counterparts in terms of productivity due to lack of cooperation by Kia's union in South Korea in adjusting to personnel changes on assembly lines.
The official said it takes 16.3 hours for American workers to build a car, compared with 28.9 hours for South Korean workers.