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쌍용자동차, 끊이지 않는 정치적 논란

쌍용차 범국민대책위원회 소속 회원들이 21일 오전 서울 여의도 국회 앞에서 기자회견을 열고 쌍용차 국정조사를 촉구하고 있다. (연합뉴스)
쌍용차 범국민대책위원회 소속 회원들이 21일 오전 서울 여의도 국회 앞에서 기자회견을 열고 쌍용차 국정조사를 촉구하고 있다. (연합뉴스)






새누리당과 민주통합당은 쌍용자동차 문제와 관련하여 여야 협의체를 구성하기로 합의를 보았다. 여야 간의 잠정적인 합의로 논란은 일단락되었지만 쌍용자동차 관련 문제는 정계를 갈라놓을 것으로 예상된다.

지난 목요일 민주통합당과 새누리당은 5월 말까지 한시적으로 활동하는 여야 협의체를 구성하는데 합의했다. 이번 여야 협의체는 “2+3 다인 협상단”으로 민주통합당이 줄기차게 주장했던 국정조사는 아니지만 이전에 제시한 쌍용자동차 대표단이 포함된 협의단체다.

민주통합당은 여야 합의체 구성이 국정조사를 포기한다는 것은 아니라는 당의 공식적 입장을 밝혔지만 소수당은 이번 결정을 비난했다.

“작년 대선기간 중 민주당과 새누리당이 노동자표를 구애하며 거듭 약속했던 쌍용자동차 국정조사 실시는 사실상 물거품이 됐다” 고 진보정의당 심상정 위원장은 말했다.

이어 심 위원장은 “사람 목숨을 가벼이 여기고 사회적 약자들과의 약속을 헌신짝처럼 버린 새누리당은 반드시 그 책임을 지게 될 것” 이며 "마치 약속을 지키라는 금속노조 쌍용자동차 지부나 진보정당이 과한 것처럼 책임전가를 하는 모습은 정말 안쓰럽다" 라고 덧붙였다.

통합진보당 김재연 대변인은 새누리당과 민주통합당에 대해 의회조사가 이루어져야 한다고 주장했다. 이에 민주통합당 측은 조사를 잠시 보류하고 있을 뿐이라고 응답했다.

“쌍용자동차 문제는 절망에 빠진 수많은 근로자들과의 약속이었고, 반드시 지켜질 것이다.”라고 민주통합당의 우원식 원내총무가 전했다. 그는 ‘2+3 협상단’은 새누리당을 협상 테이블로 끌어들이기 위한 것이라고 밝혔다.

“우리는 정부, 회사, 근로자와 노조 모두의 입장을 들을 계획을 가지고 있다” 고 우원식 원내총무는 덧붙였다.

쌍용자동차 국정조사 관련 이슈는 최근 불거져 나왔지만 노조와 사측간의 갈등은 10여 년 전부터 있어왔던 문제이다.

1997년 IMF로 말미암아 쌍용자동차의 모기업인 대우그룹이 해체된 것이 이번 문제의 원인이 되었다.

대우그룹이 붕괴되고 쌍용자동차는 2008년까지 빅적 순탄한 경영을 이어갔지만 작년 매출이 29.6% 급감하고 2천 270억원의 운영적자와 7천억원에 달하는 순차재를 초래하며 위기에 봉착했다. 쌍용자동차는 2009년 대규모로 공장 근로자들을 해고하였다. 

하지만 대규모 해고 발표는 77일간의 노조 농성에 부딛혀 실행에 옮겨지지 않았다. 해고 발표는 노사 협상으로 잠정적 중단되었지만 900명의 근로자들이 무급 휴가를 받고, 조기퇴직 혹은 해고를 당했다.

올해 초 해고된 455명의 노동자를 복직시키겠다는 계획이 나왔지만 2009년 이후로 23명의쌍용자동차 근로자 혹은 직계 가족이 해고 관련 문제로 목숨을 끊은 바 있다.

2009년 일곱 명의 쌍용자동차 근로자들은 중국의 사익기업에게 하이브리드 전기차와 관련된 기술을 넘겨준 혐의로 구속되었다.

이 문제로 한-중 양국 정부는 뜨거운 논쟁을 벌였고 중국은 소통채널을 닫기도 했다.

끝나지 않는 해고 문제와 쌍용자동차 전 소유주의 불법 활동에 진보 정당은 국정조사를 국회에 요구했다.

새누리당의 고위급 간부 또한 대선 이후로 국정조사를 실시하는 것에 대해 긍정적인 반응을 보였지만 이한구 원내대표는 반대의 입장을 보였다.

“내가 결정할 수 있는 문제라면 국정조사를 실시하는 것에 반대한다. 해고 노동자들을 위한 실질적 방안이 아닐 뿐더러 쌍용자동차 경영을 악화시킬 것이다” 라고 이 원내대표는 1월 라디오 인터뷰에서 언급한 바 있다.

이 원내대표의 라디오 인터뷰는 민주통합당과 진보계열 정당의 행보에 따라 국회일정이 늦춰진 것에 대한 비난을 한 것으로 보인다. (코리아헤럴드) 


<관련 영문 기사>


Deaths, allegations raise Ssangyong as major political issue

By Choi He-suk

A compromise has been reached between the ruling Saenuri Party and main opposition Democratic United Party on the issue of a parliamentary investigation into Ssangyong Motor Co. allowing the extraordinary session of the National Assembly to convene on Monday.

Despite the tentative peace between the two main political parties, the issue continues to divide the country’s political arena.

Under Thursday’s agreement, the DUP and the Saenuri Party formed a six-member negotiation group that will operate until the end of May. The inter-party body was agreed on as a compromise for the so-called 2+3 multi-party negotiation group. The multi-party group, which was a step back from the parliamentary investigation the DUP had been calling for, would have included labor and management representatives from the carmaker suggested earlier by the DUP.

While the DUP defended its compromise saying that opening a parliamentary investigation remained the party’s official stance, the decision sparked strong criticism from minor parties.

 “The parliamentary investigation the Saenuri Party and the DUP have promised repeatedly to win over the laborers’ votes has in effect been aborted,” Rep. Sim Sang-jeung of the Progressive Justice Party said.

“The Saenuri Party, which has thrown away a promise with the society’s weak and shown disregard for human life, will have to bear the responsibilities. (The DUP’s actions) that pass on the responsibility and make out the Ssangyong metal workers’ union and the progressive parties to be asking too much are pathetic.”

A similar two-way attack was opened by the far-left Unified Progressive Party with its floor spokesperson Kim Jae-yeon referring to the development as revealing the deceptions of the Saenuri Party and the DUP, and that the parliamentary investigation was the only answer.

For its part, the DUP claims it has only set aside the parliamentary investigation rather than given up on the idea.

“The Ssangyong Motor parliamentary hearing is a promise made to the numerous workers who are in despair, and will not be discarded,” DUP deputy floor leader Woo Won-shik said. He said that the DUP was not giving up on the parliamentary investigation but reserving it as a “powerful weapon.” He added that the inter-party negotiation group, and the so-called 2+3 negotiation group suggested earlier by the DUP, is a means to bring Saenuri Party to the table.

“Our plan is to listen to all sides -– the government, employer, Ssangyong Motor division of the Korean Metal Workers’ Union, the company labor union -– through the inter-party negotiation group in order to look for answers.”

Although the parliamentary investigation into the carmaker has only recently become a major sticking point for the country’s politicians, the issue began to take root more than 10 years ago.

Ssangyong’s troubles began with the collapse of its parent Daewoo Group in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98.

Following Daewoo Group’s fall, the carmaker underwent a five-year workout period at the end of which China’s Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. acquired 48.9 percent of its shares to become the majority shareholder.

The carmaker operated under relatively favorable conditions in the following years until 2008 when sales dropped 29.6 percent from the previous year, resulting in an operating deficit of 227 billion won and net deficit of more than 700 billion won.

As a result, the company announced a sweeping restructuring plan in 2009 that included mass layoffs.

The plans were met with strong opposition from the labor union leading to a 77-day sit-in strike that nearly drove the company over the edge.

The layoff plans were scaled back in the labor-management negotiations, but more than 900 workers were placed on unpaid leave, opted for the early retirement plan or were laid off.

In the same year, SAIC severed ties with Ssangyong, and India’s Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd. took over the Korean carmaker in 2010.

Although plans for reinstating the 455 workers on unpaid leave were announced earlier this year, 23 people -– former Ssangyong workers and their family members -– have committed suicide or died of other causes since 2009.

While SAIC has been out of the picture for some time, allegations against the Chinese firm have continued.

The Chinese firm has been accused of investing in Ssangyong to reap quick financial gains, and to access the Korean carmaker’s technologies.

In 2009, seven Ssangyong employees were charged with handing over hybrid electric vehicle-related technologies to SAIC, and were cleared in August 2012.

A month later, however, Sim alleged that the Korean government became aware of illegal activities conducted by SAIC before the Chinese firm severed ties with Ssangyong.

Seoul and Beijing engaged in heated debate over technology theft at the carmaker, according to Sim, which led to Beijing shutting down the communication channel.

After years of unresolved labor issues, and allegations of illegal activities and speculative investment by the carmaker’s former owner, progressive political parties have called for a parliamentary investigation into the carmaker.

High-ranking officials of the ruling Saenuri Party have also expressed positive sentiments towards the idea in the run up to and after the Dec. 19 presidential election, but floor leader Lee Han-koo has since made his opposition clear.

“If I was to decide on my own, I would oppose it. (A parliamentary investigation) is not helpful for solving the problem of laid-off workers, and can make Ssangyong’s management conditions even more difficult,” Lee said in a radio interview in January.

The comments incited strong criticism from the DUP as well as the minor opposition parties with stronger left-leanings, leading to a standoff that resulted in the parliamentary schedule being delayed.

(cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)
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