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[Newsmaker] Yoon battered over 120-hour work week comment and more

Yoon Seok-youl (Yonhap)
Yoon Seok-youl (Yonhap)
Members of the ruling Democratic Party continued to slam former prosecutor general and presidential contender Yoon Seok-youl on Wednesday for saying that people should be allowed to work 120 hours in a week if they need to.

As Yoon criticized the 52-hour work week system as a failed policy in a recent newspaper interview, he said he met people in start-ups who said there should be exemptions to the work hour rule as game developers often need to work 120 hours for a couple of weeks and then have a period of rest.

“The Nazis’ Auschwitz concentration camp was 98 hours work per week, and people worked 90 hours during the Industrial Revolution in Britain,” Kim Young-bae, a member of the Democratic Party’s supreme council, said on Tuesday, adding that Yoon’s views of labor were just astounding.

Another DP supreme council member Kang Byung-won said, “did you (Yoon) come from 1988?”

“If a person works 120 hours a week, he will die,” a spokesperson of Gyeonggi governor and DP’s presidential frontrunner Lee Jae-myung said.

Yoon said he didn’t mean people should work 120 hours a week.

“What kind of a dictator would make people work 120 hours a week? That’s nonsense,” he told reporters in Daegu on Tuesday.

“I heard that people on the political opposite side from me distorted what I said as if I said we should work 120 hours. It’s not worth any attention.”

Giving workers the right to decide for themselves on working conditions is not just good for the company but can also be good for the workers, Yoon said, adding that wide exemptions should be given to the 52-hour work week rule.

A DP floor spokesperson said in a press briefing that if Yoon simply meant to criticize the government’s labor policy, he “flunked,” and if it were a policy groundwork, it’s “really scary.”

“He should study properly if he wants to run for president,” the spokesperson said.

“What has he been learning cramming all this time? It’s very disappointing. Better stay quiet when you don’t know well,” a spokesperson for the Justice Party said.

“Apologize to the ordinary people who are working hard in the scorching heat.”

DP’s presidential contender Rep. Park Yong-jin also said, “what kind of lessons did you get from whom?” Yoon has reportedly been “learning” through his meetings with people in various fields since he quit prosecutor general in March amid rising popularity in presidential preference polls.

Yoon also had a slip of the tongue during his visit to Daegu on Tuesday as he tried to praise its citizens for getting over the massive COVID-19 outbreak early last year.

“It got under control because it began in Daegu,” he said in a hospital in Daegu.

“People say if it were in another region, it wouldn’t have been handled in an orderly manner, and there would have been a riot.”

DP’s Kim Young-bae said on Wednesday that Yoon “really is a male Park Geun-hye,”

criticizing him for “belittling other regions” when he was supposed to express respect for the medical staff and volunteers.

DP floor leader Yoon Ho-joong said the ex-chief prosecutor’s remarks were “contaminating politics” by leaning on the old evils of regionalism, and called on Yoon to apologize and learn politics from square one.

DP’s Rep. Kim Doo-kwan said Yoon made the remarks out of political calculation to appease the people of Daegu, the heartland of conservatives, as his ratings are falling, but his words were “an insult to the people of Daegu as well as all Koreans who single-heartedly worried about Daegu.”

By Kim So-hyun (sophie@heraldcorp.com)
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