[EDITORIALS]Politics destroys unionsThe Korea Confederation of Trade Unions, after going on a four-hour strike a few days ago, now says it will conduct a full strike on Wednesday. The union had demanded that the government call off its negotiations for a free-trade pact with the United States and that it give up its current plan to revise labor-management relations regulations.
The Korea Confederation of Trade Unions has already gone out on five strikes for political reasons this year. Since it is stopping work so frequently, many union members now seem indifferent to the moves.
The union had originally planned to finish voting on this strike by Nov. 3, but extended the voting period by more than 10 days because the turnout by union member voters did not exceed 50 percent until Wednesday.
Many workers are now reluctant to join labor unions. According to data from last year, among wage earners other than civil servants, 1.5 million workers were labor union members, accounting for only 10 percent. That is the lowest percentage in the nation’s history, and it has declined continuously. Accordingly, it is difficult to say now that the Korea Confederation of Trade Unions or the Federation of Korean Trade Unions represents laborers.
Because of this, the labor unions are facing their greatest risk right now. The Federation of Korean Trade Unions has realized the problem and turned its gaze toward dialogue and compromise. But the Korea Confederation of Trade Unions is still persisting in its hard-line attitudes and political struggles, bringing isolation on itself.
The leaders of the labor union of Hyundai Heavy Industries, which once was the exemplar of hard-line unions, said after their recent visit to the United States, “The labor unions of that country had not realized their problems until their companies collapsed and they lost their jobs. We have no more time to waste on political strikes and demonstrations.”
They also said U.S. experts had advised that Korean labor unions should not miss opportunity for change.
What are labor movements for? They exist for improvement in labor conditions and in welfare. Labor unions are not political groups. Korean labor unions will lose their standing if they continue to shout political slogans, with iron pipes in hand and red bands around their heads.