[EDITORIALS]Applause for a labor leaderThe Federation of Korean Trade Unions is making efforts to change. Yesterday, Lee Yong-deuk, head of the union umbrella group, attended a meeting of the state-run Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, which among other duties works to attract foreign investment.
At the meeting, Mr. Lee said, “We will join efforts to promote foreign investment.” The leader of Korea’s labor world said that he would meet in person with foreign investors and would “make efforts to clear up their misunderstandings” about Korea’s labor unions.
The lack of flexibility in Korea’s labor market and the image of “rigid unions” have been decisive obstacles to foreign investment in Korea. The labor unions’ demand for wage increases that outstrip productivity growth and illegal strikes have led foreign businessmen to turn their backs on Korea. It has brought about a plunge in Korea’s credit rating and has made the nation’s economic conditions worsen.
In such a situation, the Federation of Korean Trade Unions’ attempt to change would give a good impression about the domestic market to foreign investors. Recently, Lee Hwa-su, chairman of the Gyeonggi province committee of the federation, accompanied Sohn Hak-kyu, governor of Gyeonggi province, to the United States, Japan and other countries in search of investors for the province. The visit was successful, and they attracted a great deal of foreign investment.
Such changes should spread through the whole labor world here. Despite Mr. Lee’s efforts, labor has not changed its inclination to take a hard line. The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions is likely to go out on a short general strike today, though the governing Uri Party said it would delay introducing a bill regarding irregular workers that the group opposes. The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions should consider the timing and the effects of the strike.
Now that the Democratic Labor Party, which speaks for the labor world, has influence in the National Assembly, labor should reform itself. Labor and the government are responsible for the downturn of the Korean economy amid the upturn of the global economy.
We hope that Mr. Lee’s attempt will be a turning point in Korea’s labor-management relations toward a rational, productive and cooperative relationship.