President Moon Jae-in emphasized the significance Tuesday of revising South Korea's major labor-related laws to allow the jobless and dismissed workers to join unions and improve the overall rights of employees here, as the government is pushing for the ratification of some key conventions of the International Labor Organization (ILO).
He was speaking during a weekly Cabinet meeting held at Cheong Wa Dae, according to presidential deputy spokesman Yoon Jae-kwan.
In the session, its members approved the bills on labor unions, civil servants' unions and teachers' unions.
The approval is part of the liberal Moon administration's move, fiercely protested by major business lobby groups here, to complete the long-overdue ratification of three core ILO conventions.
The conventions are No. 87 on freedom of association, No. 98 on the right to organize and collective bargaining and No. 29 on the prohibition of forced labor.
Moon described the revision bills as "urgent legislation."
"Each of the bills is very important" not just in protecting the basic labor rights but also in the process of ratifying the ILO conventions, he was quoted as saying.
The president pointed out pressure from the European Union.
The ratification of the conventions is necessary to resolve a trade dispute with the EU linked with the bilateral free trade agreement (FTA), he added.
The EU has called on South Korea to ratify the conventions, saying that its failure to do so is in breach of the FTA.
Moon instructed Cabinet members to underline the point in persuading the National Assembly to pass the revision bills, Yoon said.
South Korea joined the ILO in 1991, but it has yet to ratify four of the eight core conventions.
Last year, the government submitted the revision bills to the National Assembly, which failed to get passed amid the conservative main opposition United Future Party's resistance.
After the bills were automatically scrapped with the end of the 20th parliament, the government began the administrative procedure again to submit the bills to the new parliament.
The government also plans to submit to the National Assembly a ratification motion for the three ILO conventions through a Cabinet meeting early next month.
In the current 300-seat parliament that opened late last month, the ruling Democratic Party holds 186 seats.
Still, it remains uncertain whether or how soon the National Assembly will pass the bills.
Business leaders here are staunchly against the bills, saying it's premature for the country to adopt them. They argue that it's necessary to introduce sufficient legal measures to counter illicit strikes and other collective actions by workers.
They also cite deepening woes over the economic crisis from the COVID-19 pandemic. (Yonhap)