[EDITORIALS]Roh shows a pro-labor biasPresident-elect Roh Moo-hyun's comment on the labor dispute at Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction Co. appears to have implications for future government policy on labor-management relations. Mr. Roh, visiting the Millennium Democratic Party headquarters Wednesday, said, "I understand the difficulties the company is experiencing, but the management should come forward and solve problems comprehensively." The remark could be interpreted as an expression of affection for workers and an indication that he will keep a close watch on labor issues.
Doosan's executives may have felt chagrinned to hear that "the management should come forward and solve problems." As if they had been waiting for the remark, civic groups and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions issued statements one after another, and the presidential transition team demanded that the company resolve the conflict as soon as possible. A president-elect's remark has big repercussions.
Mr. Roh took a practical approach toward labor issues when he said, "Companies will be allowed to lay off workers more freely," thus easing the worries of the foreign business community. Of course, their worries are not entirely dispelled. They may be watching the future course of events. The business community overseas retains a critical view of Korea's rigid labor market. At such a sensitive moment, a comment like Mr. Roh's that seems to favor one side is not prudent.
Nor is it helpful for the Millennium Democratic Party to step in and propose itself as intermediary. Intervention by politicians confuses matters by placing the priority on a political solution rather than on law and principle.
Doosan's labor dispute will be a touchstone for relations between the new government and labor. The dispute should be settled before it spreads to other workshops. But it is important to respect law and principles instead of siding with either of the two. A president-elect, too, must look at the situation from a neutral position.