UPDATE : 2018.9.21 FRI 09:12
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GM Korea CEO does not deny possible withdrawal at parliamentary audit

The head of General Motors Co.'s South Korean operations, speaking during a parliamentary audit session Monday, didn't deny speculation that the U.S. carmaker may withdraw from South Korea on weaker sales.

At the audit, GM Korea President and Chief Executive Kaher Kazem repeatedly said he will do his best to put the Korean unit's business back on track without dismissing the decadelong rumors.

Repeatedly asked if there was a possibility of the U.S. auto giant's exit from Korea, he said GM Korea's executives and employees are doing their best to normalize operations and to develop a sustainable business model in the country.

His direct quotes were not available for this article.

GM Korea marked its 15th year of doing business in Asia's fourth-biggest economy Oct. 16 amid growing concerns that it may opt to leave the country entirely due to poor performance and high labor costs.

The company and its union have yet to finalize this year's wage negotiations, which have been suspended until new union leadership is elected in mid-November.

In the January-September period, GM Korea's domestic car sales plunged 20 percent to 102,504 units and exports also backtracked 2.3 percent on-year to 299,476.

In this photo, taken July 6, 2017, a GM Korea worker passes by the west gate of the carmaker's plant in Bupyeong, just west of Seoul. (Yonhap)

GM is widely expected to restructure its operations here to reduce net losses and seek a turnaround. Possible restructuring measures include the sale of some of its domestic plants and job cuts.

In South Korea, GM has four plants, a design center, a technical center and a proving ground for new vehicles. The global carmaker owns a 70.12-percent stake in GM Korea.

GM Korea's product lineup lacks competitive sport-utility vehicles (SUV) at a time when global demand for crossovers is on the rise. Cars produced in the country include the Malibu midsize sedan, the Cruze compact and the Captiva SUV. All GM cars sold in South Korea use the Chevrolet marque.

Hwi Won  edt@koreapost.com

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