[REPORTER’S NOTEBOOK]Strange principles and logic“What kind of law and principles were broken, anyway?” Deputy Prime Minister Kim Jin-pyo responded with an edge to his voice in a press conference last Monday. He contended that during mediation efforts to end the Chohung Bank strike, the administration obeyed the law and stuck to principles. Press criticism, he said, was misplaced.
Here is his logic: He stressed that his face-to-face meeting with Chohung Bank’s union, which was striking illegally, was nothing but mediation and negotiations. He also asserted that he did not violate the principle that the union should not intervene in the rights of management, and he did not go back on the government’s policy of privatization because he prohibited persons from Chohung Bank from becoming the chief executive officer of the future merged bank. He said he also sold the bank at once, and refused the union demand for an installment sale.
But to take his words at face value, some other points need to be considered. Mr. Kim called in the press on June 16th and declared the Chohung Bank union’s strike illegal. He said that if illegal activities occurred, they would be dealt with harshly under Korea’s civil and criminal laws. But the agreement includes a clause that said the legal consequences flowing from the strike would be minimized and civil or criminal charges would not be pursued. On Tuesday, President Roh said he would indeed pursue legal charges against the leaders of the illegal strike, but the business community is taking a wait-and-see attitude.
Also in the agreement is a clause that the bank committee to be formed to pursue the eventual merger of the two banks should consist of equal numbers of persons from Chohung Bank and Shinhan Financial Group, and the executives of the holding company to be formed should also represent both banks equally. It should be considered whether that clause is relevant to the question of interference in management rights. If the appointment of executives is not relevant to management, then Mr. Kim’s logic is correct.
He also said, “Even though a strike is illegal, solving the problem through talks and negotiation should be tried first to lessen the conflict and social cost.” Well, if that is a principle of this administration, it surely did follow its principles in these negotiations over the strike.
Beginning at his Monday press conference, Mr. Kim has stressed several times that law and principle have been upheld. But this administration’s concept of law and principle seems to be more and more ambiguous.
by Song Sang-hun
The writer is a economic reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.