Research Handbook of Comparative Employment Relations
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Research Handbook of Comparative Employment Relations

Edited by Michael Barry and Adrian Wilkinson

The Research Handbook of Comparative Employment Relations is an essential resource for those seeking to understand contemporary developments in the world of work, and the way in which employment relations systems are evolving around the world.
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Chapter 10: Employment Relations in Japan and Korea

EeHwan Jung


EeHwan Jung INTRODUCTION It has been generally believed that employment relations in Japan and Korea are quite different. Until the 1980s, comparing Japan’s and Korea’s employment relations was regarded almost as nonsense, as Korea’s industrial relations under successive authoritarian regimes were not fully developed, while Japan had well-developed industrial relations. Korea’s employment relations were compared more often with those of other developing countries such as East Asian NICs (newly industrialized countries) that failed to build democratic industrial relations (Deyo, 1989, 1997). In particular, Korea was often compared with Taiwan, as the two countries belonged to the same phase of economic development (Bamber and Ross, 2000; Kong, 2005). Even after political democratization and the growth of the labor movement in Korea, differences rather than similarities have been stressed in comparing employment relations in Japan and Korea. More than anything, industrial relations in Korea have been much more adversarial than in Japan. Whitley (1999, p. 202) anticipated that the Japanese level of employer–employee interdependence and commitment was unlikely to become institutionalized in Korea in the near future. Indeed, it does not seem to make sense to argue that Korea’s employment relations system is a variant of the Japanese model. It is also true, however, that employment relations in Japan and Korea share many similarities. If we agree to the common view that lifetime employment, seniority pay and enterprise unionism are three pillars of employment relations in Japan (OECD, 1973), Korea also has at least two of these pillars. Unions are enterprise-based...

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