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"Show Me the Proof"

Posted October. 24, 2003 22:52,   


"Give us specific evidence that Korea will be an attractive place to invest with strengthened competitiveness if a set of labor reform measures carries out."

Jerome Stoll (CEO of Renault Samsung Motors Co., Ltd.), Vice President of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in Korea (EUCCK), urgently requested this to Minister of Labor Kwon Ki-hong on October 24. Kwon met with foreign businessmen home and abroad who were complaining of aggressive labor unions for the first time on this day.

Kwon invited 13 leaders of several business associations formed by and for foreigners such as the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea (AMCHAM), the Seoul Japan Club (SJC), and EUCCK to a restaurant in Yoido, Yeoungdeungpo-gu, Seoul. It was a social luncheon.

The luncheon’s purpose was to make them understand that Korean industrial relations only appear to be worse than what is real. As he expected, they started to complain.

Tami Overby, executive vice president of AMCHAM, said, "It is true that the head office believes that Korean labor unions are much too aggressive. You have to show them specific evidence to change their thoughts."

"There have been more conflicts between labor and capital since 1987 when movements of Korean Confederation of Trade Union stared. Actually I am skeptical about the reform measures that you explained." said Nobuya Takasugi, the chief director of SJC and Fuji-Xerox chairman and CEO. Peter Born, vice chairman of banking for EUCCK said, "A labor union of a foreign company in Korea was newly established recently. They have a difficult time in negotiating."

Some criticized government`s excessive intervention in the labor dispute.

James Blaszczyk, vice president of AMCHAM (CEO of Owens Corning) said, "Employers could not help sitting as spectators since the government and workers were in the center of disputes about pending questions such as reducing statutory labor hours It was a warning message to government-labor negotiation without management.”

Kwon answered, "The government will have `moral authority` over labor`s illegal acts if system and law on labor-management relations are established. I cannot present concrete figures, but I am sure the number of extreme strikes will be greatly reduced." He also mentioned about discussion in the tripartite commission of labor, management and government. He added, "If disputes over the improvement of the system and law on industrial relations do not come to an agreement by a certain point of time, the government will carry its point."

Kyung-Joon Chung news91@donga.com