[EDITORIALS]Good steps on laborJob creation is the best wealth distribution policy because distribution weakens if the economy is difficult, President Roh Moo-hyun said yesterday at a lunch with the leaders of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, the more aggressive of the two umbrella labor groups in Korea. Mr. Roh has come down, it appears, on the side of a “growth first ― distribution later” policy. He also recently appealed to the leadership of the Federation of Korean Trade Unions to help stabilize the labor market.
The Roh administration came into office showing signs of wanting to put distribution first. After some labor violence, that position became an obstacle to the economy, making domestic and foreign investors uneasy. Investment shrank and our economic recovery was delayed. The number of jobs was reduced and unemployment increased.
If the growth of the Korean economy is less than 3 percent this year, the number of unemployed will surge, our society will become more lifeless, and friction and confrontation will prevail. Economic difficulties will deepen. People will not worry about wealth distribution ― they will worry about bankruptcy.
Mr. Roh was right to ask labor for help in stimulating growth. Jobs must be created, and that can be done only when labor relations stabilize. We hope the meetings of President Roh and labor leadership serve as an opportunity to end the time- and energy- consuming labor-management quarrels and disputes between labor and the government and open a window to dialogue and cooperation.
The government must lift restrictions, boost companies, and fight corruption to win the trust of investors.
Labor must cooperate. Wealth distribution is important. But we have to have something to eat before we hand out food. Unions also have to ponder whether their actions really benefited workers. Only 12 percent of employees in Korea belong to a union. Militant unions must learn that they are the cause of lower investment and fewer jobs and workers are paying the price for that.