This study aims to review the historical background and characteristics of labor-management relations in Korea, and to provide guidelines for future policy-making in labor-related areas, including labor union establishment procedures and labor-management consultation schemes.
Korea’s labor unions, which had acted as political and social organizations, especially leading anti-Japan nationalist movements in the country’s Japanese colonial era, turned themselves into economic bodies to promote the rights and economic status of their members with the enactment of the Labor Unions Act in 1953. They began to explode in number as their organization principle shifted from company-basis to industry-basis from 1961. “The Special Act To Protect the Nation”, enacted in the early 1970s, suspended labor unions’ rights to collective action, required the authorities’ permission for collective bargaining, and subjected every collective agreement to discretionary adjustment by the authorities. Finally, in the late 1970s, the very foundation and legitimacy of labor unions were put into question.
In December 1980, the Korean government revised the Labor Unions Act with an intention of letting labor unions contribute to social justice and national security through protecting the rights and status of their members. However, some new rules included in the revised act such as prohibition of third-party intervention or the administrative authorities’ power to cancel or alter collective agreements contradicted the initial purpose of revision, the constitution of Korea, and international labor treaties. The revision led to a sharp decrease in the number of workers who organize unions and newly established unions, and eventually thwarted overall union activity, exemplified by reduced union fee revenues and fee payment rates.
The future policies regarding labor-management relations in Korea should be based on four pillars: setting up an environment in which labor unions and collective bargaining are recognized as a legitimate mechanism to resolve conflicts in a rational and fair way, not as causes of the conflicts; transforming management perspectives towards employees from paternalistic or instrumental ones to views that embrace employees as true partners for business; reforming labor-related administration through its specialization, broader empowerment to collective bargaining, and stronger prevention of unfair labor practices; and revising the Labor Unions Act towards stronger right of collective organization and democratic management of unions.
노사관계 정책과제와 방향
현행제도 개선을 중심으로
|Series Title; No||연구보고 / 83-03|
|Subject Country||South Korea(Asia and Pacific)|
|Subject||Social Development < Employment|
|Holding||KDI; KDI School|