The opposition’s strange logic
“Only the representative from the Federation of Korean Trade Unions was invited to endorse a deal. How can this be called a grand compromise? This isn’t even a small compromise,” Rep. Choo Mi-ae, a member of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), said Wednesday about a recent deal agreed upon by the nation’s labor, management and government representatives. “Even if labor and management reached an agreement, the federation does not represent even 5 percent of some 18 million workers,” she said.
Her comments likely reflect the fact that the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions did not participate in the deal. The umbrella union was repeatedly invited to join negotiations, but refused.
Choo’s remarks make us wonder if a union that rejected talks should be recognized at all, while another union that reached a difficult compromise through tough negotiations should be denied. She should have persuaded the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions to sit down at the negotiating table.
After talks concluded, she denied the compromise and tried to undermine the union that signed the deal. This is inappropriate.
Choo already had a controversial history.
In July 2009, the country was embroiled in a debate over the law, intended to protect the irregular workers. “The Labor Ministry only inflicts pain upon workers,” Choo said at the time as the chairwoman of the National Assembly’s Environment and Labor Committee. “It oppresses the working class and it must be shut down.”
The ministry subsequently issued a statement defending itself. “It is a clear defamation against a government ministry and a serious insult against the 5,700 public servants of the ministry who work day and night to improve the working conditions of laborers,” it read, demanding Choo apologize.
The leader of Environment and Labor Committee holds great authority, and the government made the rare decision to confront it. Even Kim Dae-hwan, who currently heads the tripartite commission who served as a labor minister during the Roh Moo-hyun administration, criticized Choo. “If the Labor Ministry is shut down, the committee also must be shut down,” he said.
The Federation of Korean Trade Unions should be praised for endorsing the compromise despite internal and external pressures. That is not something to be criticized. The federation, furthermore, formed an alliance with the NPAD, so the party must seriously consider how it is treating its partner. The main opposition must share the significance of the compromise with the federation and make necessary revisions to participate in labor reform.
The author is a senior reporter of employment and labor news for the JoongAng Ilbo.
JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 25, Page 33
by KIM KI-CHAN