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[Opinion] Labor Sentiment

Posted November. 11, 2006 04:25,   


“Those who take part in strikes are the KCTU’s puppets (KCTU: Korean Confederation of Trade Unions). Let’s stop strikes inflamed by the extreme minority. It resembles what the current government is doing.” Articles like this are being posted one after another on the web site of the labor union of Hyundai Motors in opposition to the general strike the KCTU is planning to implement from November 15 to obstruct the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement. KCTU had planned to close the vote on the general strike on November 3, but when the turnout of voters ended up at 46.7% it extended the voting period and cut down the general strike to 4 hours with time limits.

Many cases can be observed where the labor sentiment of the majority turns down the labor movement which exists on drastic strikes. The ratio of the organization of labor unions hit a new low of 10.3% at the end of last year. Over the last two months, long term strikes over five business sites were brought to an end with the decision of the labor union "to return to work unconditionally.” On November 8, 173 labor unions made a “declaration for labor-capital harmony and peaceful industry” at the Jeonbuk Province Hall. “Helping youths striving to find jobs and increasing enterprises and jobs by any small number is the priority task,” they said.

In no other nation than South Korea, labor groups seized by anachronistic left wing ideologies flutter in triumph. In the U.S. the organizational ratio of labor unions which surpassed 83% in mid 1940s has fallen down to 8% in the private sector. In Europe they even say "labor unions are dead.” We live in an era when 1.2 billion new laborers are offered through globalization and millions of workers apply to work at any wage. The number of unemployed youth has surpassed 500,000 across the nation. In a situation where capital, factories and jobs are leaked abroad, it goes without saying that the noisy labor movement has lost its place.

Nevertheless, KCTU says it would open a “national laborers’ convention" in the Seoul Square with 30,000 mobilized workers on November 12. The traffic in central Seoul is about to suffer another paralysis. The Police did not permit the meeting which was initially planned to take place in Sejongno crossroads but permitted it when the location was changed, only to court criticism that the administration is easily deceived. The strife of KCTU for the sake of strife will only bring upon itself the hatred of the citizens and the ignorance of labor sentiment.

Gwon Soon-taek, Editorial Writer, maypole@donga.com