For years, a separate class of South Korean shipyard workers — hired through contractors — say they endured wages barely one-third regular workers', got no paid sick leave for COVID-19, and routinely rode to worksites in the back of a pickup truck while others sat safe and warm inside their vehicles.

This year, they said they'd had enough.

About 100 contract workers at Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering launched a 51-day strike, demanding a 30% wage hike and drawing national attention to the plight of South Korea's contract workers — nearly 30% of the salaried work force by some estimates — who say they have been pushed to the breaking point by surging inflation and lagging wages.