Trying to mend a simmering internal dispute over its social dialogue agenda, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions has decided on a cooling-off period and will defer a decision till next month on rejoining the tripartite committee, union officials said.
At a meeting on Saturday, the executive members of the KCTU, the second largest but strongest umbrella labor union in Korea, also decided their current leader should stay in his post, the officials added.
KCTU president Lee Soo-ho had offered his resignation to take responsibility for violence that erupted during the union`s convention meeting early this month.
Opposing the relatively dovish leaders` push to rejoin the Korean Tripartite Committee, the official dialogue channel between labor, government and business, a band of hawkish unionists physically blocked the voting procedure, with some wielding knives and throwing flammable paint thinner on the floor.
The KCTU leadership, backed by a majority of moderate members leaning toward dialogue rather than confrontation, lashed out at the hard-line faction for disrupting democratic procedures and planned another convention tomorrow. Hawkish unionists threatened to block that meeting.
During Saturday`s meeting, however, the hard-liners agreed to take part in the democratic decision-making process at the re-arranged convention which was postponed until March to allow time for more discussions.
"The decision is aimed at narrowing the gap among ourselves through sufficient time and discussions," the union spokesperson, Lee Soo-bong said. "This is a way to prevent the meeting from turning into violence again, and will also help our organization to foster an atmosphere of dialogue and communication," he added.
Coming only two days after the presidential election of the nation`s other umbrella union group, the Federation of Korean Trade Unions, the KCTU`s move raised cautious prospects within labor of a tranquil, albeit tense, period in the nation`s restless labor relations.
The FKTU on Thursday re-elected current leader Lee Yong-deuk, who has been emphasizing the need to actively engage in dialogue to deal with pending labor issues. Currently, the FKTU is the sole labor member of the tripartite panel.
Watchers say Lee wants the union to be a leading player in the labor movement, particularly by representing labor in talks with the government on crucial issues such as a government-proposed roadmap for future labor-government relations and a grand social agenda of creating more jobs.
On the other side, parliamentarians, apparently backing off their previous uncompromising stance, have hinted that a controversial bill on labor market flexibility can be delayed to the special Assembly session in April. Both labor groups have been threatening an all-out battle if the Assembly acts to pass the measure.
By Lee Sun-young