[EDITORIALS]Festering corruption in labor

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[EDITORIALS]Festering corruption in labor

The head of a Kia Motor labor union who is charged with irregularities involving hiring appeared before the prosecution on Monday. This, however, is not the end but the beginning of the investigation. Suspicions of corruption involving labor unions are spreading uncontrollably.
There is already a witness who claims to have handed over 60 million won ($58,130) to a union leader and waited for a job. It has also been revealed that union leaders intervened in the process of goods supplies from affiliates. Unions at Kia’s other factories that objected to an investigation of hiring-related corruption can’t be free of suspicion. It has also been disclosed that civil servants on the local level have intervened in irregular hiring.
The suspicion extends to Kia’s head office. Last October, it grasped the basics of the corruption, but waited with folded arms until the prosecutors started to investigate. This attitude is not suitable for one of the world’s leading automakers.
Kia Motor was saved from bankruptcy by the infusion of 7.4 trillion won in public funds when it became insolvent in 1997. It still owes 1 trillion won to its creditors. Nonetheless, since 2000 its unions have staged job actions 15 days per year. Considering this circumstance, the prosecutors should be strict.
The prosecution doesn’t think that this occurred by chance; rather, they think it is systemic corruption resulting from unhealthy labor-mangement relations. A wound that festers must be drained. Reflecting such an expectation, Kia’s share price has gone up.
The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions has suggested that it may strike the Kia unions from its membership. The union distanced itself from Kia, saying, “Don’t hurl abuse on the entire labor movement!” But there are many companies that seek their union’s consent in new hires, or restrict management’s rights by forming a personnel management committee with equal representation from labor and management. The tyranny of the unions attached to big businesses has gone beyond the limit. Power that is not checked or supervised becomes rotten.
We remember when politicians ran to Kia when it was about to go bankrupt, called the automaker a national business and sided with the union. But labor unions can no longer be considered sanctuaries. Politicians must cooperate in devising a measure that can prevent such irregularities.
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