Labor organization seeks bigger role

By Suk Gee-hyun
  • Published : May 20, 2014 - 21:09
  • Updated : May 20, 2014 - 21:10
The Korea Labor Foundation’s functions need to be streamlined to become more effective, says its new chief Eom Hyeon-taek.

“The projects we handle do not fit the institution’s name or goal,” the secretary-general said in an interview with The Korea Herald on May 9.

Until now, Eom says, the foundation has been tasked with carrying out a wide range of state labor-related projects that do not match its intended purpose.

The government programs that the foundation has been in charge of include employment policies for the middle-aged and reforming the country’s employment models.

“(Bringing about) greater self-regulation of the KLF will require sound financial backing. But changing the structure as a whole will be tough. What we can do, instead, is specify and carry out labor-management policies set by higher organizations such as the Economic and Social Development Commission.”
Eom Hyeon-taek. (Yoon Byung-chan/The Korea Herald)

Despite the foundation’s lackluster performance to date, Eom has big plans for his three years as the secretary general.

“As a long-term goal, I hope to expand international projects with the country’s exemplary labor policies such as a three-party system, employment network, training programs and minimum wage system,” Eom said.

“The KLF has a full capability to act as a coordinator in developing countries to design and promote customized labor systems,” he added.

As for South Korea’s labor-management relations, Eom stressed that workers and management have to see each other as indispensable, valuable partners to further improve their ties.

“Companies blame labor unions, while unionists put all the blame on the management. But the lack of understanding between the two groups is what hampers the competitiveness of firms and the country as a whole,” Eom said.

“Without a common thread of ownership, companies can’t strengthen their competitiveness.”

Regarding the controversial ordinary wage and maximum working hour issues, the secretary general expects it will take a considerable amount of time for politicians, workers and businesses to find common ground.

“They have different expectations, and each party has high hopes about getting the result (they want).”

In an effort to offer directions and plans for solving the wage conundrum, the KLF is hosting an international symposium at Seoul’s Lexington Hotel on May 28.

Professor Ishida Mitsuo from Doshisha University and Dr. Reinhard Bahnmuller from Germany’s FATK will compare the labor systems of Korea and other developed countries and suggest how Korea should revise related laws.

“The forum is not about finding answers to the problems. I hope it provides a stage to review similar cases abroad and discuss wage issues that could lay the groundwork for healthier labor-management relations,” Eom said.

Eom graduated from Seoul High School and studied sociology at Seoul National University. He received a master’s in labor-management relations at the University of Illinois and passed the 24th Public Administration Examination. Eom also served as the head of the Seoul Regional Labor Administration and as director general of the Labor Ministry’s labor management cooperation policy and industrial accident prevention and compensation bureaus. He has worked for various international institutions including the International Labor Organization.

The Korea Labor Foundation is a public organization established under the Ministry of Employment and Labor in 2006 to boost partnership between labor and management.

By Suk Gee-hyun (