[Campus Commentary] Strike bothers students trying to get a jobHyundai Motor Corp. and its labor union have settled their 20-day dispute with a compromise agreement to pay year-end bonuses demanded by the union, on the condition that the workers recover the losses. Reaching an agreement in just three days was a surprise compared to the past.
However, the repercussions are becoming worse, with consumers considering a boycott of all Hyundai Motor Corp. products. It shows that the strike has caused great disappointment, to the extent that people would refuse to use the products of the nation’s number one car company.
Growing up in India, I have experienced how a company from one’s mother country can influence citizens living abroad. To Korean families in India, Hyundai Motor played that role. We could see Hyundai cars on the road alongside cars made by Ford and Toyota. It gave us a sense of pride and gratefulness to be Korean, living in a foreign country and seeing a native enterprise compete with the world’s leading car companies.
However, that feeling has vanished now. As a college student, I am especially disappointed and angry about the latest strike while there are many senior students and graduates struggling every day to get a job. Some say, “It is much easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a graduate to get employed.” We just cannot see the purpose of this latest strike.
According to a report from the National Statistical Office released on Jan. 18, the number of graduates from 320 universities nationwide has increased to about 2.3 million, compared to 620,000 in the 1980s. One out of every 16 Koreans is enrolled in college nowadays, whereas in the 1980s, only one out of 60 people was in college. However, due to the imbalance between available employment and potential employees, about 28 percent of 268,000 graduates have failed to become employed in 2005. As I look forward to becoming a junior in March, I fear that I myself might be among next year’s 28 percent.
Therefore, watching the labor union of Hyundai Motor Corp. going on strike just to receive 50 percent more in bonuses offends many job seekers who do not even have the opportunity to get a foot in a paid job. Was there a justifiable reason for the strike? There hardly seemed to be any, and it was obvious that without sound intentions, the union as well as the company will lose trust from people. Before asking for the unpaid bonuses, they should have done their best to fill the target output.
In contrast to Hyundai Motor Corp., whose union has struck almost every year since its establishment 21 years ago, Toyota hasn’t had a single labor-management dispute for more than 50 years since 1951. And the results are manifest. Today, Toyota is leading the world auto industry whereas Hyundai Motor sales in Europe last year decreased by 5.7 percent and increased in America by just 0.1 percent.
For college students and graduates seeking jobs, the necessity for the strike just did not resonate. That is why it roused antipathy rather than sympathy. Next time we hope to see unions step back and yield a point to help bring hope to people wanting to break through the employment barrier.
*The writer is a reporter of the Ewha Voice, the English newspaper of Ewha Womans University.
By Choi Yoon-ji