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Two major trade union centers in intense competition

Posted February. 02, 2019 07:30,   

Updated February. 02, 2019 07:30


The Federation of Korean Trade Unions (KFTU) and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) are the two major trade union centers in South Korea. They join hands with each other when there is an important labor-related issue such as the proposed expansion of a flexible working hours system. They remain as competitors in more cases, however, partly because the KCTU was established as an independent alternative to the KFTU in the first place.

The two groups also differ in the direction. The KFTU is relatively more moderate and puts emphasis on negotiation while the KCTU takes a hardline stance. The former is generally cooperative in sitting down with the representatives of the government and businesses, but the latter has not rejoined the Korea Tripartite Commission since it left the commission in 1999.

With the KCTU growing bigger in size to be comparable to the KFTU, the competition is getting fierce. As of last year, the KFTU had 1,036,236 members while the KCTU had 995,861 members. The rivalry often develops into conflicts as a trade union with a majority of all members can have bargaining rights. When POSCO’s trade union under the KFTU secured a majority last year, it was strongly criticized by the KCTU, which claimed that the company had urged it to join the KFTU.

Eun-Seo Park clue@donga.com