As South Korean workers began returning to their job sites after the New Year holidays, strikes that crippled industry appeared to be running out of steam. The strikes were called to protest a controversial labor law. The Korea Democratic Confederation of Trade Unions, an outlawed labor group that called the strikes last week, had urged members to continue their protests. But its strike call received a mixed response. Thousands of shipyard workers returned to work, while auto workers stayed off the job. Workers at Daewoo Motor Co. and Asia Motor Co. only briefly resumed work before rejoining the strikes. Hyundai, the nation's largest auto maker, and auto parts maker Ssangyong remained shut. The 500,000-member confederation said 46 unions and 96,158 workers answered its call. But the Labor Ministry estimated that 31 unions and 22,884 workers responded. Kwon Young Gil, the union group leader, accused the government of plotting to "paint the confederation as backing down."