Hyundai and Kia Love Child Labor

Hyundai group’s distribution network is under regulatory and law enforcement attention, due to child labor at component manufacturers. The vendors manufacture components for production lines, namely Hyundai’s in Montgomery.

Rampant Child Labor

A minimum of four distinct providers of Hyundai and Kia Corporation have used child labor in Alabama production lines, according to an investigation by Reuters.

Government agencies are investigating whether children worked at as many as six additional automakers in the manufacturers’ supply chain in Alabama.

According to conversations with a father and police official, a 14-year-old Guatemalan girl assembled vehicle body components at a facility run by Hwashin America Corp.

This is a contractor to the two automobile manufacturers in the southern Alabama town of Greenville, in May of this year.

A former manufacturing engineer told Reuters that he labored with at least ten minors at factories controlled by Korean auto-parts manufacturer Ajin Industrial Co. in Cusseta, Alabama.

In addition, six former Ajin employees reported working with several minors.

In two comments made by the same public relations agency, Hwashin and Ajin said their hiring standards prohibit the employment of minors. Using identical terminology, both businesses stated, to their knowledge, they had not employed minors.

Children’s work at Hwashin and Ajin has not before been publicized. The research by Reuters in July revealed SMART Alabama LLC, a Hyundai subsidiary in the southern Alabama town of Luverne, used child laborers as young as 12.

In August, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that SL Alabama LLC, a branch off of South Korea’s SL Corp and also another Hyundai distributor, employed minors, including a 13-year-old, at its Alexander City production plant.

Investigations

Ever since, as many as ten Alabama facilities that provide Hyundai or Kia with components have been probed for child labor by different state and federal law agencies and regulatory organizations, according to two individuals with knowledge of the investigations.

Investigations are being performed in small towns and remote outposts, where the majority of suppliers and employment recruiters are situated.

It is unclear if the investigations will result in criminal charges, fines, or other consequences, according to the two sources.

According to sources acquainted with the operation, a team of Labor Department and Alabama state inspectors came unexpectedly to one of Ajin’s facilities on August 22.

According to two witnesses who attended meetings of Alabama’s anti-human trafficking response team last month, one of the inspectors said when the team came, employees bolted out the back and fled the premises before being questioned.

The assessment has not been disclosed earlier.

Eric Lucero, a spokesperson for the Labor Department, told Reuters the agency’s Wage and Hour Bureau is conducting an inquiry into Ajin, but he refused to clarify whether the investigation involves child labor.

Ajin stated the company “would comply completely” with any regulatory or law enforcement inquiries.

This article appeared in NewsHouse and has been published here with permission.