All Things Korean; Pragmatism & Compassion

Korea Times (Seoul, Korea), November 26, 1999 | Go to article overview

All Things Korean; Pragmatism & Compassion


Alan Greenspan, the U.S. Federal Reserve Board chairman, told the House of Representatives that, ``...the need to keep our labor markets as flexible as possible and the ability to get training to move up the ladder has got to be unimpeded...'' And ``...we cannot have a sophisticated capital market, unless we have a flexible wage market...'' Over the years, the Korean labor market has been known as rigid and regulated. Despite some improvement this year, unemployment is still at an alarming level at the heels of economic reform and out-sourcing of government services. All these must change and improve. Deregulating the wage market must be pragmatic, as a flexible wage rate should be the instigator for lowering jobless rates.

Labor unions in Korea are rightly concerned and filled with unrest about job security and stability amid the growing difficulties in the job market and the high rate of unemployment. The union movement in Korea along with the government and business conglomerates must uphold the principle of pragmatism in the globalization process. The economic revival of the Asian economy must be based not solely on economic rationale but on the right mix of pragmatic rationalism and social conscience of humanism.

In its report to a conference on social development progress in Bangkok, the International Labor Organization (ILO) warned that, ``...no countries in the region have escaped the trend toward higher unemployment, with job prospects throughout the Asia-Pacific sharply reduced... the labor market problems were likely to deteriorate further over the near term...'' As the ILO called for urgent action on the labor market, Korea's two national labor unions, the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU) and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), must be equally responsible as management and government, to explore the ways and means to alleviate the gloomy future of employment.

The government must take the firm initiative and make unpopular decisions on labor market and wage policies for the sake of pragmatism and compassion on behalf of the ordinary citizens. Kim Dae-jung's government has the delicate task of redesigning its labor relations in Korea and devising job search programs for the growing number of unemployed. It is an urgent mission of the government to review our education system within the framework of extensive training and retraining programs of redundant human resources. A long term strategic program through technical and vocational training schemes must be implemented as a value-added approach to human investment thereby revolutionizing the Korean education system.

A pragmatic approach must be used to dismantle the notoriously inefficient bureaucracy in government and proceed with privatization. Downgrading government services and privatizing state-run utilities are mainly for efficiency and productivity purposes. This privatization however endangers government duties and obligations to provide community services to citizens, which are run on the basis of cross-subsidization.

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