Korea Inc. pledges to work with ruling party

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Korea Inc. pledges to work with ruling party

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Park Yong-maan, chairman of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, third from right in the front row, with members of the ruling Democratic Party and member companies on Monday at the chamber’s headquarters in central Seoul. [YONHAP]

Members of the ruling party and the country’s business lobby promised on Monday to listen to each other’s voices and work together toward the same goal of boosting national economic growth.

The meeting between key lawmakers from the Democratic Party and Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry came as the relationship between the labor-friendly government and business community were frozen, particularly over a minimum wage increase that went into effect this year.

Other attendees from the business community included Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Yoon Boo-keun, Hyundai Motor President Chung Jin-haeng and Korean Air CEO Cho Won-tae.

“We wish to have a meeting with the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry on a regular basis to discuss policies,” said Woo Won-shik, floor leader of the Democratic Party, in opening remarks at the meeting. “We hope the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry takes the lead in forging a social compromise and social solidarity model fit for Korea so that entrepreneurs and laborers will collaborate to achieve qualitative growth for the national economy.”

Park Yong-maan, chairman of the chamber of commerce, responded that he also hopes to talk with lawmakers about pending issues and offer constructive alternatives toward the goal of reaching social compromise, adding that the National Assembly’s legislative work will become the key element of kick-starting changes.

Park added that this year will be “particularly meaningful for the Korean economy” because gross national income per capita is expected to surpass $30,000, putting the country within the threshold of developed nations.

“This year will also be the one that could gauge what effects that policies unveiled thus far have caused,” he said. The chairman also mentioned urgent issues that member companies of the chamber of commerce have discussed, including deregulation, more active use of big data, and revitalization of the service industry and labor. Some of these goals require legislation, he noted.

“The provisional session of the National Assembly, scheduled for February, is expected to discuss deregulation and work hour reduction,” Park said, “but we hope the additional issues I mentioned are also put on the table, which will be of great help to us.”

On the topic of reducing the number of work hours in a week, which the National Assembly aims to pass in February, Samsung’s Yoon said the law needs to be more flexible, given labor intensity gets high when new products come out.

“When an average number of work hours per week is pinned down, flexible operation will become difficult,” he said.

Korean Air may have to shift flight attendants in the middle of a flight should the number of work hours be fixed, Cho said.

Hyundai Motor’s Chung said the government’s plan to increase pay for extra hours during weekends could encourage workers to avoid working on weekdays and prefer weekends to raise their pay.


BY SEO JI-EUN [seo.jieun@joongang.co.kr]

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