[EDITORIALS]Seeing the lightLabor Minister Lee Sang-soo recently reinforced the importance of enterprises, especially conglomerates. Mr. Lee, in an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo, said, “The jaebeol are the driving force of the Korean economy and what counts most under the current circumstance is who leads the economy. Good performance by conglomerates will lead to a good economy.” He added, “Creating a business environment in which companies can do well is one of the crucial roles of the labor minister.”
Mr. Lee is, surprisingly, a representative pro-Roh Moo-hyun figure. For this reason, many have cast dubious looks at him out of fear that he would make labor policy veer to the left. Now that he has shown how much he has changed, it no longer seems necessary to worry about that. His transformation is unprecedented and worth welcoming.
He gained fame as a labor and human rights lawyer after being arrested for leading an operation to investigate the truth behind the death of a laborer at Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co. in 1987. In 1989, he said, “An illicit alliance of the government and jaebeol keeps oppressing laborers.” Seven years after that, he said, “The Korean economy’s low efficiency has been caused by a concentration of economic power in the conglomerates.”
Now he has confessed that he has changed his views. He acknowledges the fact that he should transform himself from when he served as a lawmaker.
The fact that he harshly criticized the hard-line labor strife waged by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions is also a testament to the all-new Mr. Lee. He said labor unions these days have gained too much power. Labor strikes, unless backed up by the public, will lead to failure; the Korean people have never praised the confederation.
The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions should carefully listen to that straightforward comment by Mr. Lee. The labor group took the lead in planned demonstrations in the United States to oppose the negotiation of a U.S.-Korea free trade agreement and is planning a summer general strike.
Awaiting Mr. Lee are pending issues such as mapping out plans for enhancing labor-management relations and bills on non-regular workers. Now he will have to begin doing and stop talking. It is the only way he can be acknowledged by the public. We hope that he will be remembered as a minister who sticks to law and principle, just as his predecessor Kim Dae-whan did.