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Chairman of FKTU Lee Yong-deuk Criticizes Trade Unions

Posted July. 04, 2007 03:43,   


Lee Yong-deuk, chairman of the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU), one of the major trade unions in Korea together with Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), condemned labor activists in Korea yesterday, saying, “The labor movement in Korea is a complete fiasco,” adding, “Activists have an illusion that their work is very successful. However, what they are doing is just the thing that Western countries went through 50 or 60 years ago.”

During an “Address on Human-centered Management,” which was organized by the Korea Labor Institute and held in a CCMM building in Yeouido, Seoul, Lee argued, “Korea’s labor movement has little support from the public and was the lowest organization rate in the world.”

Lee noted the lack of popularity and an illusion of a labor union as reasons for this failure.

Lee also added, “We wrongly believed that our labor movement is a successful practice in the world. This is because we limited our boundary to just self-created aggressive corporatism.”

Following this, he said, “It is an unprecedented case that the proportion of organized workers stays at 10 percent,” adding, “This gives us a reason why we have to transform ourselves and admit the fact that the movement is a failure.”

As of the end of 2005, the proportion of organized workers marked a record-low rate of 10.3 percent.

Regarding this, Lee said, “The direction of the labor movement that was set 20 years ago, when the national income was just $3,000 to $4,000 and the national power was so weak that it couldn’t hold Olympic Games and the World Cup, still remain intact,” adding, “Under this condition, one who argues for different views is easily regarded as a betrayer.” This remark from Lee seems to be set for the senior members of the KCTU who have criticized Lee for being friendly with the management.

Regarding the recent general strike of metal workers’ union under the KCTU undertaken to protest the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA), Lee said, “Even though they staged a general strike, there were only 3,000 workers in factories who stopped working.”

He added, “I wondered why the best beneficiary of this agreement had the strike. I concluded that the reason for this was because they lacked issues that give the rationale of fighting.”

Following this, Lee criticized that aggressive corporatism which led the labor activities during the 1987 democratization movement still remain a dominant method in the labor movement.

Lee pointed out that while “struggle” is a sort of means to raise the stakes in the negotiation, aggressive corporatism places an inordinate amount of stress on the struggle itself, which hinders peaceful agreement.

Lee said, “It is impossible for the KTCU to have negotiations with the government officials in representative meetings,” adding, “They are just obsessed with digging up issues for fighting.”

Meanwhile, Lee also expressed his concern over how the Korean labor movement is seen by foreigners.

“Foreign newspapers headlined the general strike in Korea despite the fact that few workers participated. Because of this, foreign investors who I met in Japan in June did not believe my comment that the Korea’s labor movement has changed,” said Lee.

At the address, the new movement direction that Lee argued for was “social reformative corporatism.”

“This is a labor movement that is based on talks and negotiation in favor of both the society and industry,” said Lee. He also added that it is intended to create new environments in which the central authority carries out labor movement for the interests of society, local authority do so for the interests of its local community, and the industry do so for its own interests.

Lee also argued, “Labor activists should seek a way to help youth families and work to attract foreign investment,” adding, “It is time to see labor movement activists transforming themselves into activist for social movement.”

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