Yoon flip-flops on worker directorsIt has become hard to define the identity of Yoon Suk-yeol, the presidential candidate of the main opposition People Power Party (PPP). During his visit to the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU), he backed the union’s demand for the right to seat a labor representative on the board of directors at public corporations. However, while visiting the Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry the following day, he vowed to overhaul current business regulations and lift them except for necessary ones so that businesses are less hindered by government intervention.
One day, he was pro-union, and the next day, he was pro-business. He vowed deregulation to companies, yet promised to the union a form of regulation which employers dread most.
Although it is common for politicians to promise anything that can buy votes during election seasons, a leading presidential candidate pledging contradictory policies cannot be right. Yoon strongly criticized the government’s universal enforcement of the 52-hour workweek and emphasized corporate autonomy. He has betrayed the conservative party’s principle by promising a policy to woo votes from unions. Business organizations have fiercely opposed the idea of union representatives joining their board of directors because it can damage their “rights to business management.”
They fear that if that system is introduced for public corporations, it will spread to the private in due time. President Moon Jae-in had campaigned to adopt the system starting with the public sector.
Yoon’s sudden proposal has baffled the PPP, which has criticized Lee Jae-myung — the presidential candidate from the ruling Democratic Party (DP) — for promising the adoption. Yoon’s camp claims that the PPP has turned approvingly towards including labor representatives on boards. If the opposition has really changed its position, it must explain its sudden about-face and help ease corporate jitters over the challenge to their management sovereignty and competitiveness.
A labor board representative could play a positive role. In the case of public institutions, the board member from outside can keep political appointments of executives in check. But under the influence of our militant unions, labor and management could bargain and indulge irresponsible management. Yoon proposes to adopt the system first and seek fixes if problems occur.