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[Editorial] Isolation of the KCTU Hawks

Posted February. 02, 2005 23:01,   


The recent Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) special grand convention ended in violence, suspending votes on the return to the Korea tripartite commission. It was the second time that the return to “social negotiations,” or, “dialogue over the tripartite commission,” headed by Chairman Lee Su-ho, has failed due to disorderly conduct and forceful platform occupation by the hawks. In abandoning the democratic procedures of peaceful debate and voting and by spraying paint thinner at the platform, the KCTU has again disappointed the Korean citizens that expected change in the labor rights movement.

After drawing back from the Korea tripartite commission six years ago, the KCTU engaged in physical movements such as strikes instead of holding dialogues and concessions. This strengthened the image of “a hard-striking country,” and worsened employee-labor relations, the situation in which domestic and foreign investors shy away from Korea, and increased the amount of part-time labor. The radical movements of the KCTU have led to both unsteady employment and social welfare.

Thus, the ordinary citizen has become increasingly hostile towards the KCTU. More strikes ended in failure due to the public’s criticism, and labor union members began to express doubts of the KCTU hawks. It was in this atmosphere that the dove Lee Su-ho acquired power a year ago.

The KCTU administration’s efforts in attempting to engage in dialogues with the tripartite commission rather than pursuing radical measures over current labor issues including the part-time work laws is commendable, however, and this is important for revitalizing the country’s economy, and also for the existence of the KCTU itself. But should the hawks reject “social negotiations” by hindering the movements of the current administration, selected by a majority through a legal process, the crisis that the KCTU faces will only be exacerbated. Should hawks that are against employee-labor coexistence through dialogues persist, the KCTU will not be shielded from popular criticism. The efforts towards ignoring internal conflict by strengthening strikes externally are bound to fail.

The KCTU should decide immediately to return to the engagement of dialogues with the tripartite commission through peaceful means, and should cooperate in the efforts to advance legal instruments in employee-labor relations in order to revitalize the economy and reduce the extreme differences within the labor unions. This is the only way for the KCTU to recover from the crisis it faces.