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The Strains of Economic Growth : Labor Unrest and Social Dissatisfaction in Korea

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커버이미지
  • 저자 David L. Lindauer, 김종기(金鍾基) , Ezra F. Vogel, 임희섭(林熺燮) , 손재영(孫在英) , 이정우(李廷雨)
  • 발행일 1997/03/01
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요약 Nearly twenty years ago the Korea Development
Institute(KDI) and the Harvard Institute for International
Development(HIID)began a joint research project that resulted in
the publication of ten book-length studies on the first three
decades of Korean economic development(1945-1975). The
positive reception afforded these volumes, combined with
significant new developments in the Korean economy, encouraged
the two institutes to think of a sequel. We decided to focus on a
number of studies that went in-depth into several features of
the post-1975 period.

Three themes were chosen that dealt with central features
of Korean development, which were either not present in the
pre-1975 period or were present in only muted form. The first
of these studies dealt with macroeconomic policy during the
1970s, when oil prices rose sharply, and with the aftermath of
these macro adjustments in the 1980s. The second study dealt
with Korea`s movement away from generalized support for
exports of manufactures to a policy if targeting specific
industries, the heavy and chemical industry drive of 1973-1979,
to a retreat from industrial targeting in the 1980s. This the third
and final study, deals with some of the strains of rapid
economic growth. Special attention is paid to labor relations and
the labor market in the 1980s, when Korea`s democratization led
to the end of government had to learn new ways of working
together.

These three studies differ from the earlier ten-volume series
in another important respect. The earlier series dealt only
peripherally with the politics of the economic changes that were
analyzed. The three recent studies include political economy
issues as central themes. Technical economic analysis continues
to play an important role, but many chapters are devoted to how
and why key economic policy decisions were actually made, a
process that involved more than purely economic considerations.

This volume begins by recognizing that despite all its
spectacular economic achievements, Korean society was in a
state of crisis in the late 1980s. Nowhere was this more evident
than in the unrest surrounding labor relations. In the two
months of July and August 1987, Korean workers initiated more
strikes than had been recorded in the previous quarter of a
century. As the nation prepared for the summer Olympics of
1988, scenes of riot police battling Korean workers could be seen
on the nightly news around the world.

Despite low unemployment and rapidly increasing real
wages, Korea`s worker-the backbone of the nation`s export-led
growth-challenged the nation`s prevailing system of labor
relations and demanded a voice that long had been denied them.
Many factors contributed to their dissatisfaction and that of
many Korean households. There was widespread desire for
greater political freedoms and, in a society with an historical
intolerance for inequality, growing concentration in the
distribution of wealth met with board social disapproval and
deep resentment. Workers had additional grievances. Real wages
and employment had grown rapidly, but the conditions of
working life were slow to improve. Hours remained
extraordinarily long, industrial safety poor, and independent
representation, virtually nonexistent.

One of the conclusions of this study is that Korea did well
in relying on competitive forces to determine wages and
employment outcomes. But the historical suppression of labor
organizations limited improvements in the quality of working life
and contributed to the labor unrest that marred the performance
of the economy and strained the nation`s social fabric.

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