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Shifting stand, President tells labor leader greater growth will aid workers

JoonAng Ilbo, 2 October 2003

Signaling a shift in his labor policy in order to bolster the country’s struggling economy, President Roh Moo-hyun has begun stressing growth and job creation over a more equal distribution of wealth across Korea’s society.

The government cannot embrace all of the labor’s requests in a difficult economy, said Mr. Roh, who was elected as a strong pro-labor candidate. My job is to make sure that people have food on the table, Mr. Roh said. And I am ready to be criticized.

Mr. Roh made the remark on Tuesday in a meeting with Dan Byung-ho, leader of the militant umbrella labor group, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions. The president reacted when Mr. Dan said the administration’s aim of achieving more equal distribution had been replaced by a growth policy of achieving $20,000 gross domestic product per capita. Such policy will only widen the gap between the rich and the poor, Mr. Dan said.

The president said his goal is to strike a balance between growth and equitable distribution. He said, When the economy is weak, there is less to distribute. So continuous growth is important.

A Blue House spokesman said when Mr. Dan mentioned that many workers had been arrested under the Roh administration, the president responded: It is regrettable, but we should make an effort to abide by the law.

A total of 110 workers have been arrested during the Roh administration.