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Saenuri chief pledges sweeping labor reform

The ruling Saenuri Party chairman vowed on Thursday to push for sweeping labor reforms in South Korea to help young job seekers find quality work, while the opposition leader followed with his own labor policy pitch.

In a speech delivered at Columbia University in New York, Saenuri Rep. Kim Moo-sung said many young Koreans are frustrated because there are not enough jobs in the market, and his party has been working to loosen the nation’s rigid labor market.

Saenuri Party chairman Kim Moo-sung speaks at Columbia University in New York on Thursday. (Yonhap)
Saenuri Party chairman Kim Moo-sung speaks at Columbia University in New York on Thursday. (Yonhap)


“I plan to make utmost efforts to help many young people find quality jobs through labor reforms to ensure they have a better future,” he said.

“Unlike the flexible labor market in the U.S., South Korea’s job market is very rigid. That is why we find it difficult to create more jobs for young people, and they are suffering from low wages.”

Trying not to miss a cue, the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy chairman also underscored his labor polices, saying that reforms must be conducted in a way that the “pains of the laborer” are shared by businesses and the government.

The remarks came at a time when rival parties are at loggerheads over the labor reform plans which are aimed at providing greater flexibility and tackling a divide between regular workers and nonregular workers. Labor groups have been opposing the reforms saying they could induce massive layoffs.

The ruling party hopes to pass the reform bill during the regular session scheduled for September.

The main opposition party, however, appears to be seeking to slow down the Saenuri Party’s momentum in an attempt to highlight the conflicting issues over the reform plans among different interest groups before general election campaigns kick off next year.

NPAD chief Rep. Moon Jae-in said his party would seek a broader negotiation platform, consisting of various stakeholders, to better reflect demands from the nation’s two labor umbrella groups. The idea, however, collides with the Saenuri Party’s plan to start a bipartisan negotiation by resuming a stalled tripartite meeting between the government, labor and business.

The labor market overhaul is one of the reform measures in President Park Geun-hye’s three-year economic revitalization plan. She and her party argue that labor reform is key to reviving the sluggish economy, improving the business environment for investments and eventually creating more decent jobs.

The labor groups have opposed the move, claiming it is intended to force regular workers out and replace them with nonregular workers, which would lower the overall quality of jobs.

The NPAD has also played down the reforms, alleging they were drafted in favor of the corporate sector.

By Cho Chung-un (christory@heraldcorp.com)

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