The Evolution of Korean Industrial and Employment Relations
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The Evolution of Korean Industrial and Employment Relations

Edited by Young-Myon Lee and Bruce E. Kaufman

The Evolution of Korean Industrial and Employment Relations explores current employment and workplace relations practice in South Korea, tracing their origins to key historical events and giving cultural, politico-economic and global context to the inevitable cultural adaptation in one of Asia’s ‘miraculous’ democracies.
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Chapter 15: Social dialogue at a crossroads

Hong-Geun Chang


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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