History of Labor Movement in Korea Kim KeumsooHonorable Chairperson of Korea Labor & Society Institute (KLSI)
Formation of wage workersCommodity-money economy started in 17th and 18th centuriesEmployed labor started in state and private sectorsThe embryo of capitalism Peasant revolts and revolutionThe Ganghwado Agreement with Japan in 1876Worker organizations organized in mining, seaport and transport sectorsThe first labor union in Korea: in May 1898 Sungjin Bonjung Dockers UnionWorkers struggle in mining, dock, railway sectors
Colonization by Japan(1910-1945)Japan colonized Korea in 1910 (actually a protectorate in 1905). Colony economy: reform of land, currency, finance, banking system.World War 1 (1914-1918), Socialist Revolution in Russia in 1917 The March 1st Movement (popular uprising): 7000 peoples killed Workers joined the uprising, and staged strike and collective actions.
1920sGrowth of Working class in industrialization. Strike in Busan dock (1921), Gyeongsung Rubber factory strike (1923), Yeongheung strike (1928), Wonsan General Strike (1929). Workers organizations established at national level: Korean Laborers Mutual Aid Association (1920) aiming at mutual aid, awareness raising, and employment agency.
Workers organizations established at national level in 1920sKorean Laborers Mutual Aid Association (1920) aiming at mutual aid, awareness raising, and employment agency. Korean Labor Federation (1922) aiming at new society and class unityGeneral Federation of Laborers and Farmers (1924) aiming at the emancipation of workers and farmers, struggle against capitalistsGeneral Federation of Labour (1927): The Shanghai Provisional Government (1919)Communist Party of Korea (1925)Shinganhoe (popular front) (1927)
1930sThe Great Depression in USAMonopoly capitalism developed in Japan. Industrial workers increased in Korea: 101,943 in 1930; 188,250 in 1936; 520,027 in 1942Militarism, excessive exploitation, oppression over labor movementViolent and revolutionary labor movement: social revolution, underground activity, link with communist party. Sit-in struggle, demonstration, sabotage, escape from factory.Armed struggle for national liberation
1945-1950US army occupied South Korea, while Soviet occupied North KoreaUnemployment, high consumer price, lack of life essentialsAnti-communism and cold war policy by US armyIn November 1945 Korea National Council of Trtade Unions(KNCTU: Chunpyong) was established with 505 delegates; 16 industrial unions, 1,194 workplace-level locals, 500,000 members aiming at full independence, popular front government in pursuit of progressive democracy, cooperation with national capitalistsIn March 1946 Korean Labour Federation for Independence Promotion (KLFIP: Daehan Nochong) was established with 48 delegates; 15 unions based on right-wing movement aiming at cooperation between management and union, Political strike of KNCTU: the September General Strike (1946), the March General Strike (1947), the February 7 Strike (1948), the May 8 Strike (1948)
1950-1960The Korean war (1950-1953)Pro-US and anti-communist government: President Rhee Sungman (1948-1960), Failure of land reform, US-aid economy, the formation of monopoly capitals.Labor laws were made in 1953: the Trade Union Act , the Labor Dispute Act, the Labor Relations Commission Act, the Labor Standards Act. KLFIP was only accepted by Rhee governmentThe Rhee Sungman government was down with the April revolution in 1960.
1961-1970Military coup in May 1961 led by General Park Junghee (1961-1979). The Authoritarian regime: 5-year economic planHigh economic growth, wide income gapStudent movement was activatedOppression on labor movement: ban of unions political activity, ban of multi-union, complication of legal procedure concerning labor dispute, government intervention, Political crisis
1961-1970Reorganization of labor movement into the Federation of Korean Trade Union (FKTU) by military government.Forced establishment of industrial unions: union structure based on industry, but union activity confined to company level. economic struggles were active. Extra-Ordinary Law on Trade Unions and Labor Disputes Adjustment for Foreign Invested Companies (1970)Trade union movement gave up political struggle and legal/institutional reform
1971-1979Military dictatorshipExport-first economy, heavy industry, Foreign Direct InvestmentThe Special Law on National SecurityOppression on labor movementStudent movement, popular and workers movement grew. Wage workers increased: 3.78 million in 1970, 6.52 million in 1979Low wage, long working hours, industrial accidentsPresident Park Junghee was killed by KCIA chief in October 1979.
Labor movement in 1970sBread and better unionism of FKTUIncreased union members (470,000 in 1970; 1,100,000 in 1979)Extreme struggle: self-burning of Jeon Taeil in 1970Spontaneous struggles: riot by Hyundai Shipbuilding workers, riot by Hyundai construction workersStrike increased (133 strikes in 1975, 110 ones in 1976, 96 strikes in 1977, 102 strikes in 1978, 105 strikes in 1979) demanding for wage increase, the right to organize, union democratizationIntellectual and religious communities supported labor movement. Making of democratic unions (Wonpung Woolen, Chunggye Clothes, Dongil textile, Contral Data, YH Trade)
1980-1986The second military coup by military Jeon Doohwan (1980-1987).The Gwangju Popular Uprising in May 1980Union purification policyDemocratic unions were destroyed. Change of labor laws: ban on multi-unionism, enforcement of company unionism, ban on the third party intervention, wage control. Government task force team on labor unionsLabor disputes increased, worker struggle for union democratizationUnion membership increased (850,000 in 1981; 1,300,000 in 1987)Strikes increased: 186 in 1981, 88 in 1982, 98 in 1983, 113 in 1984, 265 in 1985, 259 in 1986Spontaneous, but non-legal struggle: labor disputes in 1980, taxi workers strike in 1984, Daewoo Motor strike in 1984, Guro district strike in 1985. Combination between intellectual movement and labor movementSolidarity struggle among different company unions
The Great 1987 Workers StruggleTurning point of Korean labor movementThe results and achievements of labor movements in 1960s (embryo), 1970s (beginning) and 1980s (growth). 3,749 collective actions in 1987; 1,873 strikes in 1988; 1,319 strikes in 1989. most of the strikes were non-legal or illegal, ignoring the legal procedure. Members-led strike. Half of the strikes were staged in non-unionized factories. Workers Uprising rather than industrial disputes. The biggest scale of workers struggle in Korean history. The Beginning of working class movement as political forces
1988-1990sInternationally, collapse of socialist bloc Nationally, conservative politics: military general-turned president Roh Taewoo (1988-1992), merger among the right-wing ruling party and 2 opposition parties. The first civilian president (1993-1997) failed to implement the reform of social and economic policies.Change of two Koreas relationship Structural change of Korean economyMarket opening: entry to OECD and WTO, absorbed into the Globalization. Economic crisis: IMF-control regime in 1997
1988-1990sOppression on labor movementFailure of labor law reform (1988-1990) and change of labor lawsAggressive labor policy by government (relaxation of the dismissal requirements, no work no pay principle, exclusive personnel and managerial rights, the government investigation on union business.Neoliberal policy: deregulation on capital, flexibility of labor market, government strategy of labor control, market opening. New Management Strategy: downsizing, flexibility, performance-based wage system, workplace control, spread of company culture. The General Strike of 1996 DecemberThe election of liberal governments: Kim Daejung government (1998-2002) and Roh Moohyun government (2003-2007). The two liberal governments had failed to achieve the substantial reforms, but resulted in strengthening the neo-liberal regime. Lee Myungbak government (2008 present): anti-union, anti-labor, anti-North Korea, attack on democracy and freedom, dependency on USA
1988-1990sRapid development of union organizations: 2,675 unions with 1 million members in 1986; 7,880 unions with 1.8 million members in 1989, but slowdown since 1990. Expansion of unionized sectors: teachers, white-collar, professionals and technicians, servicesUplift of labor disputes: 176 in 1986, 3749 in 1987, 1873 in 1988, 1616 in 1989, 322 in 1990, 243 in 1991, 235 in 1992, 124 in 1993, 125 in 1994, 88 in 1995, 74 in 1996. Growth of struggle capacity: drastic improvement of wage and working conditions, reinstatement of dismissed workers, democratization of workplace, union right to personnel and managerial matters, job security, social reformDevelopment of struggle form: sporadic and isolated struggle coordinated and organized struggle; company-level struggle regional/industrial/national struggleDetermined struggle: fact-to-face confrontation with state power (the nation-wide political general strike of 1996/1887)
Growth of labor movement A new confederation based on democratic unions, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) was established in November 1995. KCTU declared: the equal society, rejection of labor-management collaborationism, active struggle with general capital, national reconciliation between two Koreas, construction of industrial unionism, making of working class as a political forces (construction of workers party). FKTU deleted anti-communism in its constitution and declared the trade unionism of democratic and welfare society. Democratic Labor Party was established in 2000 in the initiative of KCTU and got 10 seats in the National Assembly in 2004 general elections.
Current situation and tasks of labor movement in Korea4689 unions with 1.64 million members (male: 1.29 million, female: 354,369) as of 2009. Organizational form of trade unions: 4,354 unions are based on company-level, 228 regional/occupational unions, 62 industrial unions, 43 industrial federations, 2 confederations (national center) FKTU: 2,513 unions with 740,335 membersKCTU: 553 unions with 588,394 membersIndependent/neutral unions: 1,623 unions with 311,605 members29.4% of FKTU members belong to industrial unions; 79.1% of KCTU members belong to industrial unionsUnion density: 10.1% 121 strikes in 2009
Ideology and PoliticsMovement ideology: FKTU: Social Reform UnionismKCTU: Social Revolution Unionism Political strategy:FKTU: had alliance with the right-wing ruling party, now has broken up with the party, not clear direction.KCTU: has supported the progressive parties such as the Democratic Labor Party and the New Progressive Party, demanding to two parties to be merged.
TasksOrganizational task: expansion of union organizations, consolidation of industrial unionism. Struggle task: struggle to reform government policy and institutionsPolitical task: increase of progressive party members among union members and construction of a new united progressive party by political education, political propaganda, and political activity. Strategy task: making of a new strategy for the future of labor movementSelf-reform task: restoration of the authoritativeness of labor movement, self-innovation, restoration of the self-respect of workers