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Edited by Maureen McKelvey and Jun Jin
Peter J. Buckley and Hinrich Voss
Edited by Young-Myon Lee and Bruce E. Kaufman
This chapter examines how the Korean labor market has evolved in recent times, and how it has both influenced and been shaped by Korea’s employment and industrial relations. Restrictions on job opportunities for youth, non-regular and low-wage workers, SME workers, and women have been exacerbated by a slowdown in economic growth and tertiary degree inflation. Labor market dualism persists, while the gaps in wages and benefits along firm size and working status faultlines are widening. Reform has failed because of a lack of negotiating skill and mutual-interest acknowledgment demanded for coordination. At the same time, Korean labor market regulations lag behind those of other industrialized nations by being unfriendly to global and IT-heavy workplaces, by impeding job opportunities, and by reducing job quality. Social partners must let go of the legacies that have led to the current labor market conditions, and adopt a new cooperative approach.
Dong-Bae Kim and Fang Lee Cooke
This chapter looks at the introduction and practice of HRM deployed in Korean companies since the Asian Financial Crisis and the relationship between HRM and labor unions. The limited evidence from recent surveys and studies suggests that new HRM practices employed since the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis may have contributed to the gradual decline in union density, from a high of 18.6 per cent in 1989 to 10.2 per cent in 2015. Analysis did not find systematic evidence that HRM has directly affected labor unions, except where there was a change in union status from union to non-union. These results echo other researchers’ conclusion that the effect of labor union substitution with HRM practice is a primarily US phenomenon. A review of the extant empirical studies shows that labor unions play different roles in the adoption of specific HRM/management practices, with various impacts on workers and gendered implications.
Yongjin Nho and Hyung-Tag Kim
This chapter explores the militant unionism of Korean labor, tracing its form to a history of resistance to authoritarianism. While militant labor unionism has had some successes, including gains in and protection of wages, it appears burdened with unintended consequences in the enterprise-centered landscape of Korea: inter-union rivalry and increasing wage differentials by firm size and employment status, as well as negative employment outcomes. While unions have attempted to reorganize along industrial lines, they have to date been effectively muted despite distorted statistics suggesting the contrary. The two competing national unions – the ‘old unionism’ enterprise-based FKTU, and the industrializing KCTU, further complicate the picture, with branch affiliate negotiations effectively draining industry level vigor. Case discussion of the Korean Financial Industry (FKTU affiliate) and Korean Metal Workers Union (KCTU affiliate) helps to shed light on the reality of multi-employer bargaining practices.