NPAD floor leader echoes need for labor reforms

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NPAD floor leader echoes need for labor reforms


Rep. Lee Jong-kul, the floor leader of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy, addresses the National Assembly on Thursday. [NEWSIS]

The floor leader of the main opposition on Thursday addressed the ruling Saenuri Party over the need to officially tackle corporate reform and reinforce policies for economic democratization.

Rep. Lee Jong-kul, the floor leader for the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), was critical of the government and ruling Saenuri Party’s policies that revolve around an economy based on exports by large conglomerates.

In his first address to the negotiation body at the National Assembly, Lee said that such economic policies favor the chaebol structure, in which the owning family wields control of a sprawling business empire.

He described the “emperor-like management” system of the chaebol structure, wherein the chairperson has absolute power over corporate management, as “a backward system that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.”

Such policies result in the polarization of society and squeeze the domestic market, Lee said, adding that it is problematic that “49.9 percent of income is concentrated in the top 10 percent.”

The objective, however, was not to get rid of the chaebol system or strip away their control, he said, but to “separate ownership and management.”

In regard to solving the budget deficit, he proposed increasing corporate taxes on large companies and establishing a special committee on the Korea-China free trade agreement within the National Assembly.

Lee welcomed the dedication to reforms shown by ruling Saenuri Party Chairman Kim Moo-sung in his speech the previous day marking the beginning of the National Assembly’s regular session.

On Wednesday, Kim focused his address on the reform of the country’s rigid labor market and job creation for young people.

Talks on reforming chaebol should officially begin, based on Kim’s proposal, Lee said. However, he added in response to the government and Saenuri’s proposal for labor reforms that the core of the problem was not about setting policies on job creation but on resolving employment issues for young and temporary workers and helping them to find permanent jobs.

“If the Park Geun-hye government’s labor reforms are policies that will enable the easy firing of employees and increase the number of temporary workers, I cannot agree with them,” Lee said.

He added that a panel focused solely on employment for young and temporary workers should be established within the National Assembly.

To improve relations with Pyongyang, Kim proposed a third inter-Korean leaders’ meeting within the year as well as the establishment of a joint office on inter-Korean cooperation in Kaesong.

Responding to the Saenuri chairman’s proposals on labor reforms, Lee told reporters after his speech that, “there were many areas in which we could agree on. … If we negotiate with each other in order to solve these problems, there is plenty of room to reach our goals.”

Likewise, Kim told reporters at the National Assembly that he had “listened to very good remarks,” in regard to Lee’s speech earlier that day.

“While the ruling and opposition parties cannot have the same thoughts, unlike in the past, there were no particularly extreme points; rather, there are areas that we can also take into consideration,” the chairman said.


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