In this report, arguments were made against the charges on
labor rights and working conditions of Korean wage earners.
The legal framework of the industrial relations system and trade
union movement in Korea was reviewed. Changes in labor
conditions in Korea were also examined to see how the general
well-being of workers has been improved over the years during
the nation`s rapid economic development.
It should be noted as one of the concluding remarks that
the legal framework of Korea`s industrial relation system does
provide workers with basic labor rights and that the trade union
movement has expanded over the years and become more and
more influential in improving the general welfare of the workers.
It should also be noted, however, that the legal framework and
the labor practices in Korea differ form the systems of
industrialized countries in a few areas and that this difference
should not be interpreted as a sign of outright denial of the
basic labor rights of workers.
Labor policies in Korea should be set forth within the
context of the overall objectives of economic development as
well as the cultural and historical background of the nation. In
terms of generating employment opportunities and improving the
general welfare of workers, the provision of unlimited power to
strike may not represent the most appropriate solution. The role
of the government in industrial relations in Korea as a
developing country cannot, due to obvious reasons, be identical
to an industrialized country.
As Korea becomes more and more industrialized and her
work force expands, industrial conflicts occur more noticeably.
Occurrence of industrial conflicts, by no means are completely
avoidable. Both parties, labor and management, and the
government as a moderator, are currently in the midst of a
learning process through with great pain in some countries and
somewhat less in others. All the parties involved are making
continuous efforts to positively resolve the labor problems Korea
faces and to devise ways and practices through which industrial
peace can be achieved.
In looking at Korea`s present situation, the nation has
expanded employment opportunities significantly, wages have
increased substantially, and the general levels of social welfare
of Korean workers have improved at remarkable rates. These
high growth rates were primarily made possible through Korea`s
rapid economic development based on an outward-looking policy
of export promotion.
In this regard, many Koreans see the connection between
the U.S. GSP program and the Korean labor rights as a
spurious protectionisitic measure by the United States.
Economically, the removal of the GSP for Korea will create
extreme industrial and external pressures on the labor-intensive
export industries. Thus hindering, not helping the progression of
the welfare of Korean workers.
In conclusion, Korea`s labor system is rooted in the nation`s
cultural and historical background, designed to suit the needs of
the country at its current level of economic development, and it
is practical in its provisions and requirements. The system does
not match laws and practices prevailing in more developed
countries, but it does not necessarily mean a denial of workers`
rights. Therefore, Korea`s current labor policies are not a valid
source for complains or sanctions against Korea.