Unity under fire
There is nothing like a common enemy to unite a broken family. Both the ruling and main opposition parties forgot about their separate internal schisms over a new way of nominating candidates for the next general election to form united fronts to fight - or defend - the government’s decision to take back the authority to write history textbooks. The New Politics Alliance for Democracy, which had been on the verge of a split following its leader’s sudden pact with the ruling party to use public opinion polling to nominating candidates for next year’s election, became united overnight and transformed its previous cacophony into a harmonious voice against the government.
The main opposition is not new to the game of ganging up. Its members showed similarly impressive teamwork and spirit to protect a peer accused of using his influence to get his daughter a high-paying job.
NPAD Rep. Yoon Hu-duk came under fire after he called the head of LG Display, which is based in Paju, a district he represents, to say his daughter applied for a legal consultant position with the company. The fact that Yoon’s daughter got the job even though she was ineligible raised controversy and criticism amid exceptionally high unemployment among college graduates. The party slapped together an ethics investigation, but that was mere show. Yoon was cleared and the committee claimed that his alleged call to LG Display two years ago could be punished under the party guidelines. We cannot know the intentions behind the unusual bit of collaboration and cooperation within the party, but lawmakers with grown-up offspring must have all felt sympathy for a colleague trying to do his best for his child, ethics and fairness be damned!
Youth unemployment is so bad that even lawmakers must make personal appeals to find jobs for their kids. Yet that’s just a personal problem. On the official side, the main opposition party does not appear to be happy about the labor-employers agreement in September concluded after a year of discussions under the arbitration of the government. Employers and union representatives finally agreed to yield a little to make jobs more available for young people.
In current conditions, it is unlikely that the proposed bill to create more jobs for young people will pass the legislature easily. Moon Jae-in, head of the party, came up with separate measures to create jobs for young people over the weekend. He proposed issuing merit certificates for companies eager to hire young people and introducing a hiring quota for the young. But there is no need to go to all the trouble of making a new law to solve the job conundrum.
Various economy-related bills are being held hostage by the main opposition through the use of the National Assembly Advancement Act, which prevents any political party from ramming bills through using a parliamentary majority. The bills are designed to lift various regulations and create new business models allowing more jobs. The so-called Service Industry Development Act that the government believes could create 350,000 jobs also has been stuck for nearly three years due to opposition from NPAD.
A revision to medical law that allows telemedicine and new businesses estimated to create 39,000 jobs and a tourism promotion act that could lead to 17,000 new hires by easing regulations to build hotels are also gathering dust at the assembly. Unless the opposition parties end their blind protection of unions, the youth unemployment problem cannot be solved. Strict prerogatives for unionized workers have aggravated income inequalities between large and smaller companies and reduced job opportunities for young people.
Under the longstanding patronage of liberal parties, unions of large companies continue to collect fatter paychecks through strikes every year. Because of the great difference in salaries between large and smaller companies, young people vainly compete for scare jobs at large companies although there are jobs available at smaller enterprises. The vicious cycle continues as large companies with increasing wage burdens cannot afford to recruit new people.
Moon’s set of proposals are hardly new. The NPAD has always vowed to solve the youth unemployment problem. Its manifesto says it will work towards creating decent jobs for young people and addressing the problems of an aging society to stimulate new growth. The NPAD members should re-study their manifesto. We respect their enthusiastic concern about history education.
But we hope they would be as assertive and eager on youth joblessness. I am sure they can come up with clever and innovative ideas from the way they saved their colleague from disciplinary action for using his power to get his daughter a job. They should open their heart and ears to hear the woeful cries and sighs of the young people.
JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 13, Page B8
*The author is the industry news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Pyo Jae-yong