Ending ‘imperialistic management’
Since high school, I have attempted to climb Mount Jiri five times. No one asked me to do it, and I took the challenge because I love mountains. I reached the top of Cheonwang Peak three times. But twice, I had to quit halfway due to rain. It takes 10 hours of hiking per day for two days to complete the trail. What would you do if someone forced you to do it? You would flat out refuse or make excuses not to go. If you had to go against your own will, you would be under great duress.
In the early morning of Christmas Day, Daebo Communication and Systems employees climbed Cheonwang Peak as a team-building activity, and a 42-year-old Mr. Kim died on the trail. The union leader had texted his wife, “I am being dragged to Mount Jiri. I will see you in two days.” But he returned as a cold corpse. The family is in despair and asking, “Who would want to go to a team building activity on Christmas?”
The company has a rule: “No elevator use during the lunch hour.” If the management finds a violation, the employee is punished by being forced to go up and down the stairs of the 12-story building 20 times. The management also ordered some employees to lose weight, and they had to submit a pledge.
When this strange culture was reported by the JoongAng Ilbo, the company apologized and posted a letter of condolence on its website. But it claimed that the chairman had health issues and liked to emphasize the benefits of exercise to employees, and that the company policy should be understood as a corporate culture of valuing the health of employees.
Social media and online commentators criticized it as “imperialistic management.” The chairman was criticized for treating the employees as his tools. “Bosses always assume that employees like what they like,” someone wrote. Another proposed that “if the company is really concerned with the health of employees, it should allow employees to leave the office on time and provide health allowances to use on sports of their choice.”
No one blames the corporate culture of valuing employees’ health. But problems arise when the owner arbitrarily forces it on employees without asking for their input. High-handed orders by the chairman are likely to violate human rights, but such cases are neglected by legal authorities, according to a National Human Rights Commission official.
Related laws need to be created. But what’s most urgent is to change the point of view. Paying a salary does not make employees a possession of the owner. In the corporate culture of covering up dissatisfaction with a “chairman’s order,” tragic cases like Kim’s death can always happen.
As seen in Kim’s case, the company can be socially condemned and suffer damage to its corporate image. Owners need to change their mind-set and attitude.
The author is a national news reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 8, Page 29
by CHO HAN-DAE