Edited by Young-Myon Lee and Bruce E. Kaufman
Chapter 15: Social dialogue at a crossroads
Social dialogue in Korea has been shaped by its structural weaknesses for the past two decades, namely within a government-led ‘mobilized social dialogue’ model around the Tripartite Commission. The context is unfavorable to social dialogue and compromise: low union density and employer association organization rate, and loose integration between labor and management organizations. Partisan politics are strong, potentially weakening public sympathy. Moreover, enterprise-level bargaining and industrial relations are the norm, with supra-enterprise-level negotiations the closest thing to absent national-level negotiations. Despite notable exceptions, the social dialogue system itself has a high level of institutionalization, is state-led, and in many ways unrepresentative. In particular, the heavy-handedness of the government in social dialogue is an obstacle to sustainable progress. A great leap to an autonomous social dialogue model based on equal partnership will allow Korea to face the huge transformations ahead in its political, economic and social development.
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