Thousands of bus drivers in Seoul ended their hours-long strike and returned to the roads Thursday after their union reached a compromise with employers over a wage hike.

The agreement follows a strike launched earlier in the day that disrupted 97 percent of bus routes in the South Korean capital, sparking chaos for commuters during morning rush hour.

It was the first general strike by drivers since 2012 and came after negotiations on pay collapsed early Thursday, with the drivers requesting a 12.7 percent hourly wage increase.

But the two sides reached a deal in the second round of talks held the same afternoon, with the drivers accepting a 4.48 percent increase and bonuses for two major holidays, the Seoul city government said.

"Starting from 1500 (0600 GMT) all bus routes will be normalised," it said.

The strike left many bus stations empty as commuters flocked to the subway to get to work in the morning, with some caught off guard by the news.

The Seoul city government had extended subway operating hours and added more trains during peak commuting hours, vowing to "deploy every transportation means" at its disposal.

"I wasn't aware of the bus strike because I don't follow the news closely," Cho Min-sang told the Yonhap news agency. "I was puzzled because there were no bus schedules on the bus station screens."

You Jae-youn, a 37-year-old AI industry researcher, told AFP she had switched to work from home after learning of the strike, but said she supported it.

"I am willing to take some inconvenience that could incur from the labour-management negotiations," she said.