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Date: Fri, 26 Apr 1996 06:10:55 -0500
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> print 07021 >>> Item number 7021, dated 96/04/24 17:01:02—ALL
Date: Wed, 24 Apr 1996 17:01:02 GMT
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From: Young-jae Park <progress@nuri.net>
Organization: Progressive Party
Subject: Korean Labor Weekly News

History of Labor Laws Amendment have been interspersed with ‘Drive, Debate, Reservation’

Translated from Daily Economy News, 17 April 1996

[Publisher edited text slighly for the sake of clarity.]

The civil government has appealed to workers [to accept] the division of pains for business recovery, and, simultaneously, required to excercise self-restraint in labor disputes. In the discussion for domestic labor-related laws amendment which have been proceeded under this atmosphere, there seems to be two standpoints with different views. One is to amend the labor laws to meet ILO standards urged by labor, another is to amend it as a means of economic growth tried by the government and employers. The two standpoints have shown confrontation (Labor Law Society of Korea, abstracted from ’How right to amend the labor laws’)

Labor Policies of Civil Government and Amendment of Labor Laws

President Kim Young-sam, who promised the revision of labor laws and related laws in his the 14th presidential election campaign, declared publicly the inauguration of the civil government after taking his office and expressed his intention to reform in every social realm.

He showed his strong will to ‘reform’ economic policy, including proceeding [with the] ‘5-Year Plan for New Economy’ Therefore, the basic direction in labor policy was pointed out to be just[ly] subordinated to the logic The economy has to be activated, Furthermore, it produced the logic that ‘Pain division’ of the employers and the workers is needed to save the economy. Labor group showed opposition against that with reason that it is a labor policy increasing the complete charge of pain of workers. This early government’s labor policy become more obvious when we take ‘the Amendment Draft on labor-related laws’ as an example, known that the Ministry of Labor Affairs submitted to the Committee for Ease Administrative Regulations in 1993.

The Draft was to revise the Article 16 of the Industrial Safety and Health Act and the Article of the Enforcement Decree in which stipulate to assign 1-3 health managers with full responsibility in places of business with 50 or more full time employees in proportion to the type of industry and the scale, to rise the standard of the assignment to places of business with 300 full time employees or more.

It means that the revision should take direction to reduce production cost of companies even if worker’s health is ignored.

Ministry of Labor’s Amendment Drive on Labor-related Laws Causes debates

Proceeding the revision of labor laws by Ministry of Labor Affairs and denunciation in 1993.

However in early 1993 when is the early year of the new government, the labor ministry can be evaluated that it shower more positive movements in the revision of labor laws than before, such as ‘insistance of no work, partial payment’ which were initiated by newly appointed labor minister Lee In-Jae ended in failure because of strong resistance of employers were enough to attract interest of labor groups and actually they launched the work with ‘the Research Comittee on Labor-related Laws (RCLL)’ as the central figure. RCLL was formed in 4, 1992 with purpose that the labor laws should be revised in accordance with economic conditions in Korea.

It has 12 public welfare commissioners—8 from academic circles, 2 from law circles, 2 from the press—and 18 research commissioners including 3 members each from the Federation of Korean Trade Unions(FKTU, Nohchong) and the Federation of Korean Industries(FKI).

The committee planned to carry a amended bill in a regular session of the National Assembly but while the public welfare commissioners had differences in view, the term expired.

The contents of their research were transformed working hour system, reducing holidays, matter of payment on monthly and yearly leaves, plural trade union prohibition act, allowing political activities of trade union, improving work conditions of temporary employees etc were main subjects. Among these, in cases of no work no pay, prohibition of the 3rd party intervention, it was difficult to reach a conclusion facing confrontations among labor group, employer group, and the government, and they agreed that after establishing concept of political activities the matters may be solved somewhat easily, the FKI insisted legislating transformed working hours system establishing notifying retirement before hand system, removing monthly/yearly holidays, and monthly physiologic leaves, with analysing that acts ‘do not fiction with the real conditions’ should be amended while the FKTU insists that about 30 provinces of labor-related laws give disadvantages to workers and submitted a revision program.

In 1993 when the research committee delayed revision schedule failing to the narrow differences on disputed points such as allowing plural unions, allowing unions participating in politics, repeal of the 3rd party intervention prohibition, clarifying ‘no work no pay’, and then got in gear with labor ministry’s line that would start the revision after consentrating a administrative power on HYONDAI labor dispute to finish. So the revision was postponed with reason of ill preparation, and in the end resented revising in the year.

The reason (background?) that the government decided to reserve was not simply because of being pressed for time, but reportedly, it was followed by judgement that the difficult matter of the labor laws revision shouldn’t burden economy since the implementation of the real-name financial system which carried into effect in 1993 summer was more urgent question and taking the ‘no work, part pay’ subject as an example made dissenting voices, to reduce discord in society reservation is inevitable.

Defying the government’s reservation line, Korean Trade Union Representatives’ Conference which was leading democratic unionist groups in those days declared that reforming policy of the civil government has already run out and required to fully open the labor- related laws research committee’s revising work which have been progressed behind closed doors and go through procedure of collecting the public opinions.

Repeated reservation

The revision was postponed to extraordinary session of the National Assembly for the first half year in 1994, but in expectation that it would cause unrest labor—employer relation if the labor laws amended in the first half year because wage bargains are prospected to be delayed for worsened economic conditions, the government put off the revision until regular session of the National Assembly of last half year.

Also the government showed confusing attitudes.

In press conference held for the list anniversary of his inauguration in February 1992, President Kim said I’m not considering of the labor laws revision at all but on the other hand, Nam Jae-hee, the Minister of labor, and Lee Hoe-chang, the Prime minister, said they would drive the revision in other places.

After all the revision wasn’t driven in 1994 with the government’s excuse of considering recent strikes such as railway subway strike and several strikes in big companies, since then, prospects of concerned persons came out that The revision would be impossible because local autonomy and the National Assembly elections are going to continued since 1995, and the government concluded internally not to drive the revision during president Kim’s term of office.

On the other hand, Lee Hyung-ku, the former minister of labor, expressed his view that he would drive the revision when the relations between labor and management were matured last year, and Jin Nyum, the present minister of labor, evaluating that the amendment work wasn’t effective because of different interests of the labor and the employer, he would drive in a new and practical way which on assumption of the people’s consultation not by centering the Labor Laws Research Committee.

However it is hard to forecast if to which way the confrontation between the government and labor groups on the revision would go, but, before joining the OECD, voices of international community is high that fundamental labor fight of Korea should be improved after international standard there for the revision would be unavoidable any how.

Practical steps is needed rather than declaration.

In this country, history of the the revision of labor laws has been suffered from a vicious circle. In labour groups the revision has been an important subject every year, but by interests of the labor, employer and the government the ’revision’ have been shaken repeatedly by political/economic air without consultation in spite of the impendent requirement.(Reported by Hawngbo Yon, staff reporter of the Daily Labor News issued by KLPIC)

Conflict-Repression Practices to be courageously operated

Korea force the labor laws of military regime and continue vicious circle of conflict and restraint or it will keep promise to ILO and join in OECD favorably with the amendment of the labor laws and release of imprisoned members of trade union, Korea have to choice.

Presenting a report that Korea have to amend the regressive labor laws before it join in OECD, recently Joun Evans, a General director of the Trade Union Committee of OECD, said like this.

The domestic concerned may regard his utterance as manifest criticism, but his utterance show plainly the view of the international society about the work conditions of Korea. His utterance published in main economic newspaper in England, the Financial Times and spreaded all over the world.

The criticism that Korea had been violating the international labor standards was presented steadily by ILO, EU and UN for a long time. Recntly, the International Union of Trade Unions’ delegate which visited to Korea expressed informally worry about aggravating circumstances of Korean trade unions’ activities. In comparison with developed countries, Korea classify into the underdeveloped country in labor in the international society because Korea regulate still much the foundation, participation of trade union, strike, collective bargaining and progressive members of trade union is imprisoned and workers are discharged for reasons of participating in labor dispute.

Korea get faced with amending the labor laws with the recognition of the international society and the pressure of labor related international organizations and groups. Especially, the international society give pressure to Korea at the right moment that Korea make an effort to join in OECD. Labor related international organizations and groups point out that Korea is changing all economic and social systems into developed model, but it is persisting in out-of-date remains in labor related system and they are heightening the intensity of pressure to present the concrete reformatory program.

With this trends of the international society, somewhat the trends of change is perceived in position of obstinate Korean government. For example, Korean government sent the official document to ILO. In the official document, Korean government premise that the extensive sympathy about what should be, basically, of the reformation of labor-related systems on the relations between labor and management is forming after the civil government is emerged. and make clear that it will drive to amend the labor laws to accomplish the common good of entire industrial societies.

Firstly, the government commented formally on the problem about the law amendment also about the problem of confirming KCTU, ILO indicated, the government said that because the existing labor laws prohibit the plural trade union, and emphasized that a solution about this problem will be presented if the amendment of law get accomplished and alluded concrete amending direction of the labor laws. This is noticed since the position of the government go through with logic that sympathy isn’t formed socially and given conditions aren’t mature is changing.

While Korean delegate headed by Choi Schung-pu, the Labor Vice- Minister has been participated in OECD/ELSA from April. 15., labor experts give much interest to be hold OECD/ELSA in Paris, France. Though ELSA is only one of 26 committees under the OECD executive committee, it examine Is a country’s labor policy advanced indeed enough for joining in the OECD?

It was known that the government provided against this committee and the Chong Wha Dae, the Ministry for Finance and Economy, the Ministry of Labor Affaires and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the related ministry prepare this committee much.

That is why ELSA is last opportunity to show blueprint of Korea’s labor policy to Korea which intends to join in the OECD until this late year at the latest. This trends of the international society become to act main motive of amending the labor laws with the domestic need to settle the advanced relations between labor and management for 21th century down.