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Roh’s Labor Policy Under Fire

Korea Times, 27 June 2003

A top business leader criticized the Roh Moo-hyun administration for its unclear and rudderless labor policy which he said scares away foreign investors and accelerates the exodus of Korean companies overseas.

Korea Employers Federation (KEF) vice chairman Cho Nam-hong pointed out that even within the administration, cabinet members are raising differing voices over the direction of labor policy. He warned that this would cast a cloud over resolving labor disputes.

Prime Minister Goh Kun pledged Wednesday to enforce the law against politicized strikes but Labor Minister Kwon Ki-hong allegedly argued in favor of strikers’ rights, believing it is okay to hold political strikes, Cho said.

He urged the administration to iron out the internal differences in labor policy.

He wondered whether laws and principles should be ignored for the sake of dialogue and compromise. He made the remarks as the government has repeatedly stressed the importance of resolving conflicts between labor and management through dialogue and compromise.

Cho also expressed concern about President Roh Moo-hyun's comments about his stance on labor-management relations, saying he should let the labor minister speak on his behalf.

He warned that without the ability to resolve labor conflicts, Korean companies have no choice but to relocate their bases overseas and Korea will not be able to attract foreign investors.

The number of Korean firms entering the Chinese market exceeds 10,000. Why do they go to China? The answer is they think the business environment is better in China than in Korea, he said.

Cho said10 well-known foreign companies have given up their ideas of investing in Korea due to a recent series of strikes. Among them, there is a company that canceled plans for further investment and to build its Northeast Asian head offices here, he added.

He said the KEF has advised its member companies to deal severely with illegal strikes. He chided the government for solving the Chohung Bank strikes inappropriately.