[EDITORIALS]Poor opinion of Korean unionsHardline unions are cited by foreign businesses as a huge obstacle that makes them hesitate to invest in Korea.
There have been cases in the past when foreign businesses stopped investing or doing business in Korea because of illegal and radical actions by certain unions.
In this situation, the example of Gyeonggi province provides a new model for the labor-management relations of Korea, tainted by a radical image. It has formed a tripartite committee composed of labor, management and government officials to attract foreign investment.
This committee, which includes chairman Lee Hwa-soo of the Gyeonggi regional branch of the Federation of Korean Trade Unions, the governor of Gyeonggi province and business executives, recently made a 10-day tour around Europe. They met potential investors and succeeded in attracting more than $200 million worth of investments in high-technology industries.
The head of a large business who was initially reluctant about investing here changed his mind and promised to attend negotiations after Mr. Lee vowed that radical union actions would be curbed.
Following visits to the United States and Japan last year, Mr. Lee has now ventured to Europe in his efforts to improve the image of Korean laborers among foreign businesses and investors. Mr. Lee’s efforts are an exemplary model of labor-management harmony and cooperation.
This model should not stop at Gyeonggi province but spread throughout the country. Such cooperation among labor, management and the government should become the new tradition in the Korean labor-management culture.
Despite the problems, there are signs of improvement. Although it ended in vain, there was even an effort within Korean Confederation of Trade Unions to return to the Korea Tripartite Commission from which it had walked out in 1999.
Such signs of change should hopefully lead to progress in labor-management relations. Gyeonggi province has shown us how much can be achieved if labor and management cooperate. The government and businesses are trying their hardest to revive the economy. If the unions cooperate, we can accelerate our economic recovery and create new jobs from which laborers and all would benefit.
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