Gov’t official resigns post after labor talks collapse

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Gov’t official resigns post after labor talks collapse

Taking responsibility for failed negotiations on structural reforms for the labor market, Kim Dae-hwan, chairman of the Economic and Social Development Commission who led the talks between management and labor, has stepped down two months before his term ends.

Kim tendered his resignation to the Blue House on Thursday, commission officials said Friday.

In his resignation, Kim said, he “bitterly feels [his] responsibility for the collapsed talks for structural reforms for the labor market,” according to the commission.

The negotiations were between the Korea Federation of Trade Unions and the Korea Employers Federation.

On Wednesday, labor negotiators left the meeting with employers and government, saying they would never accept the two most contentious management demands: revising employment law to make it easier for employers to lay off workers and adopting a so-called peak wage system.

Management and the government have urged labor unions to agree to the two issues so corporations can cut costs for high-ranking, high-paid employees and offer more jobs to young people.

Kim called the exit by labor negotiators on Wednesday “disappointing,” saying they pursued only their own interests and didn’t negotiate.

Kim, who was labor minister from 2004 to 2006, was inaugurated as the 11th head of the presidential body in June 2013.

He launched a “special committee for structural reform of the labor market” in September and frequently pledged to step down from the post if negotiations failed.

The resignation of the chairman again ignited speculation that the Blue House-run body could be disbanded, as the talks arranged by the commission did not include the voices of all workers, employers and other stakeholders.

The two major corporate and labor organizations, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions and the Federation of Korean Industries, had refused to attend any negotiations led by the commission in recent years, questioning their effectiveness. The commission did not invite any parties representing contract workers, female workers and youth.

BY KIM HEE-JIN [kim.heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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