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Roh draws heavily from pool of labor leaders

By Kim Sung-tak, JoongAng Ilbo, 9 January 2003

[Second in a series] Kim Young-dae heads the social, culture and women’s issues subcommittee of President-elect Roh Moo-hyun’s presidential transition team. He served as vice president of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, one of two umbrella labor groups here.

Mr. Roh and Mr. Kim met in 1996 when Mr. Kim was seeking a lecturer for a gathering of confederation members. Mr. Roh had ran unsuccessfully for a National Assembly seat earlier in the year, and Mr. Kim asked him to give the speech. The two men became close friends in 1998 when Mr. Roh sat on the National Assembly Commission for Solution of Abusive Labor Practices.

Many of Mr. Roh’s close aides were members of a group of unionists who banned together last September to support his candidacy. The group advised Mr. Roh on his labor policies, and several of its members are advising the president-elect on a number of other issues. Park Tae-ju, a former union leader and co-founder of the group, acted as Mr. Roh’s labor policy adviser during his campaign. He was named to a working-level job at the social, culture and women’s issues subcommittee.

Lee Mok-hui, head of the Millennium Democratic Party’s Geumcheon district chapter, met Mr. Roh in 1998 when he served as an official of the Korean Tripartite Commission of labor, management, and government. The two men worked to resolve a Hyundai Motor strike that year triggered by mass layoffs. He was not named to a transition committee post, but is considered a key adviser.

Hyeon Gi-hwan, who was named to work on the social, culture and women’s issues subcommittee, served as foreign affairs director for the Federation of Korean Trade Unions. He was instrumental in organizing campaign rallies for Mr. Roh in the southeastern part of the country.

Sun Han-seung, who served as a special adviser to candidate Roh, will likely be named to a working-level post on the transition team, committee members said. Mr. Sun worked at the Korea Labor Institute before joining Mr. Roh’s camp.

Observers said the new administration, with the heavy influence of labor activists, researchers and progressive scholars, will likely promote more pro-labor policies than the outgoing administration. The presidential transition committee has said it plans to promote labor union participation in corporate management, a higher minimum wage and remedies for mistreatment of temporary workers.

The transition committee includes many scholars affiliated with nongovernment organizations. The director of the political affairs subcommittee, Kim Byong-joon, headed the Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice’s panel on local government. Kim Dae-hwan, director of the second economic subcommittee, worked for the same NGO. Lee Eun-young, a professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies and an official of the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, was also named to the political affairs subcommittee.