Chapter 1: Viewing Korean employment and industrial relations
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In order to contextualize Korean employment and industrial relations (EIR) in the field of EIR thought, a field largely dominated by Western ideas and experience, this chapter breaks down Korean EIR into its component parts using two particular frameworks: a union/labor management model and an employment relationship model. This structured approach brings to the fore often overlooked facts regarding Korean institutions, collective actors, socio-economic and political forces that have shaped its employment relations and industrial environment – namely, the preponderance of small to medium-sized enterprises, the highly politicized evolution of unions and employer associations and their connection to the besieged and suffering ‘haan’ mentality, the movement away from Confucian-system paternal relations and the preference for strong, centralized leadership. The chapter highlights key events that have driven a narrow labor/management bias in Korean EIR, especially the Great Labor Offensive, and examines the whole through Kaufman’s employment relations model.

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