Where should Korea turn for help?
Kim Dae-hwan, the chairman of the Economic and Social Development Commission, left for Greece on Tuesday. The Greek government, which had been on the brink of default, urgently asked the commission for help.
The Economic and Social Council of Greece (OKE) was constitutionally established in 1994. Just like Korea’s Economic and Social Development Commission, the OKE provides recommendations to the government and assembly to resolve economic and social issues through social dialogue.
However, it has rarely played its function. While strikes have become a common practice in Greece, the OKE hasn’t been able to discourage or control them. And it hasn’t reached notable social consensus. Over time, Greece has become a country of tourism and agriculture. Because of the strikes, no foreign company wants to invest in Greece.
As Greece is still struggling in the default crisis, discord between labor and management continues. They work for their own interests. But Greece can escape from the economic crisis when labor relations become stable. And the key solution is a nationwide agreement.
Here, the OKE’s role is more important than ever. Since the end of 2014, the OKE has been asking the Korean Economic and Social Development Commissions for help. When the tripartite agreement was reached on Sept. 15, the Greek organization frantically sent an S.O.S., asking for cooperation. Greece wants to learn how Korea reached the agreement.
Kim and George Vernicos, president of the OKE, will sign a Memorandum of Understanding for information exchange and joint investigations and seminars. The Sept. 15 tripartite agreement has become a national asset that countries around the world pay attention to. It is the Korean Wave in agreements among labor, management and government.
While the agreement is so celebrated abroad, the Korean National Assembly has been slow to pass the bill, turning it into a topic of political strife. Before Kim left, he said, “While no agreement has been made on the law on temporary and dispatched workers, the public members recommended by the tripartite commission have made agreements, and the commission decided to send what the public members agreed on to the National Assembly. The recommendations have already been sent, but the National Assembly is not discussing it, putting the nation and the people in trouble.”
Kim also criticized the government. “The government should not rush the guidelines on firing underperforming employees and changes to employment rules. Once we’ve decided to reach agreements, we need to discuss them first.” On the Federation of Korean Trade Unions, he said that the protests against the bill were against the spirit of agreement, once it was decided to send the agreement to the National Assembly, and it was not right to delay consultation related to the guidelines.
Greece asked for help from Korea’s Economic and Social Development Commission out of desperation. But where should Korea turn for help? We even envy Greece for sending an S.O.S. to Korea.
The author is an editorial writer and senior reporter on labor affairs for the JoongAng Ilbo.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 16, Page 33
by KIM KI-CHAN