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Jai-Joon Hur

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.