China's diplomatic row with South Korea over THAAD is having a local blow back. Work is drying up for Hyundai's Beijing workers, and with that, the factory town is struggling to survive. Joel Labi reports
"New thinking", "new possibilities" is the slogan greeting workers filing in to this Hyundai plant on the outskirts Beijing. But for many staff here, it couldn't be further from the truth. They're the latest victims of China's political spat with South Korea and they're losing shifts, while stubborn leaders squabble over Seoul's rollout of the THAAD anti-missile system, which Beijing bitterly opposes. Some say they're only working one week a month as China cracks down on Korean business. Hyundai's sales have tumbled 60% in the world's biggest auto market, forcing it to cut production across four plants; all of which were forced to temporarily shut down last week because they couldn't pay suppliers. The backlash is also rippling through the wider village, where many Hyundai workers live while they're on rotation. It's virtually become a ghost town. Demand for housing is almost nonexistent and small businesses have no one to serve. "In the past we get fifty people coming here in one day and now it's only five people. Isn't that called being affected", said local shop owner Li Gonghe. The diplomatic standoff is also stifling areas around other Hyundai factories in China, and with every Pyongyang missile launch, an even longer shadow is cast over the futures of workers caught up in a fight they have nothing to do with.