Pilots at flag carrier Korean Air on Thursday threatened to go on a weeklong strike just as millions of Koreans forward to holiday abroad over the long Chuseok break.
The Korean Air pilots' union said it notified its employer that 390 pilots will take part in the strike.
But the airline is designated as an essential public service, so only a certain portion of its 2,300 pilots can strike at once without risking jail. And the airline must maintain 80 percent of international flights, 70 percent of flights to Jeju Island and 50 percent of domestic flights.
That still leaves a wide margin for chaos and ruined breaks in a country with notoriously short holidays and excessive working hours.
Korean Air and its pilots have been haggling over wage hikes for the last two years. The union wants a retroactive four-percent wage hike for 2015 and seven-percent hike for 2016 plus bonus pay.
Management has offered a 1.9-percent wage hike for 2015 and 3.2-percent hike for 2016, plus new incentive payments.
The strike may not happen. During the last peak-season strike on Dec. 22-28 last year, only 150 pilots took part. Unionized pilots threatened another strike in March but called it off.
A Korean Air management spokesman said, "The strike is unjustified since it was not put to a proper vote. We can’t accept union demands." The carrier said it will mobilize foreign pilots to ensure smooth operations if the strike goes ahead.