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[Opinion] Where Is the Ministry of Labor?

Posted March. 27, 2002 08:56,   


No signs for the resolution of the Korea Electric Power Industry Union are seen around. The government is threatening of dismissing over 3900 unionists who had not returned to their workshops and, on the contrary, the union is moving forward the second general strike in solidarity.

Why on earth the management and labor relationship of the state run industries won`t be resolved? Is it because our labor unions are too radical? Or the union leaders specially prefer illegal strikes?

The answer is `No.` It`s not because our labor movement is too radical nor they love illegal strikes. History proves that any labor movement in any country has both elements of the radicals and moderates. The modes of labor movement are dependent on the way that the society deals with the labor movement. The radical elements will not prevail if the labor side and the management dialogue each other honestly in the atmosphere of mutual respect. Then moderate and rational labor side will lead the labor movement. However, the mutual respect and honest dialogue cannot be achieved in a few days. It requires of painful efforts for a long time. In brief, the cooperation between the labor and the management side may be accomplished by the effort enough to move the Heaven.

However nothing has done for the past 2 years, only wasting precious time. In sum, the planning and coordination function of the administration has not worked. It would be a definitely wrong diagnosis if the government says it`s because of the radicalism of the labor unions, ignoring the negligence of its duty.

The government ministries consistently ignored the labor issues by now. It has failed to show its ability to understand the labor problems in depth and to resolve the problems while being very good at criticizing the labor side for the economic slowdown. There were no serious discussions and considerations about the pains that the laborers have to undergo.

The government has betrayed its attitude that it will only move forward the privatization of the public business sector and, if the labor side does not accept it, the Ministry of Labor would push them to accept it, or if even that does not work, the Police and the Prosecution would calm them down.

How possibly the government would discuss and cooperate with the labor side when it considers the labor unions as potential criminal groups. The authoritative labor policies of the Park Jeong-Hee regime have not made even a step forward still in 21st century.

The government must show its efforts enough to impress the Heavens. Otherwise, the labor issues of the public business sector will be more complicated.

Park Se-Il (Professor of School of Law at Seoul National University)