Criticism needs balanceCho Suk-rai, chairman of the Federation of Korean Industries, gave his opinion about political, economic and social issues and gushed over his wishes for the next president in a forum for local company chief executives. His speech was an hour long and was filled with sharply pointed criticism, which made it almost like a bitter denouncement by the business community directed at power and society.
He first denounced the lack of legalism. He cited the throwing of cow excrement at counters selling U.S. beef, the illegal occupation of E.Land stores and waste of trillions of won due to delays in the Mount Cheon seong tunnel construction project because of hunger strikes. All of his denouncements are right. We never heard that the police tried to stop those who threw cow excrement. After the court’s “generous” refusal to issue arrest warrants, the militant labor union members are trying to block E.Land stores again. Cho said, “If a company wants to shed its workforce to improve productivity, the labor union opposes it, saying the labor burden will be more intensive.”
But that is not all. Hyundai Motor’s labor union has long opposed the company’s attempt to hire more workers to expand production, saying they don’t want to work night shifts.
Cho emphasized the “entrepreneurs’ high spirits.” He said the government, when it raised the conglomerates’ investment ceiling, asked the companies how much they would invest once the regulations are loosened. Corporate investment cannot be made in this coercive way, he said. It makes sense. The current administration has summoned entrepreneurs to urge further investment, while it keeps labeling them as unethical.
Also, he said the latest E.Land crisis was caused because the government pushed ahead with the new labor law to protect temp workers despite opposition from the business community. We agree that the new labor law, focused heavily on an ideological agenda and setting aside reality, spurred the problem.
But it is not right to point fingers at the government for all the problems. The business environment was certainly murky, but business leaders also have to ask themselves whether they tried hard enough to do what they should have done. It also has to acknowledge that the current administration pushed ahead with its market-friendly plans, including the signing of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement. By doing so, bitter criticism from the business community will be better accepted by the public.