Koreans Strike More Than in Any Other Rich Country

  • By Lee Ki-hun

    December 04, 2018 12:17

    Korean workers down tools more often than their counterparts in any other major economy as labor relations are chronically bad.

    According to a report by the Korea Labor Institute on Monday, strikes in Korea cost businesses 2.03 million lost workdays in 2016. The number was derived by multiplying the number of striking workers by the number of days they downed tools.

    That means an average of 5,600 workers went on strike every day. The KLI compared the figures to International Labor Organization data and found that Korea suffered the largest number of lost workdays among the world's nine major economies.

    In Japan, only 3,000 workdays were lost in 2016, which is just 0.14 percent of Korea's.

    There were 120 labor strikes in Korea in 2016 compared to 259 in Australia and 641 in Spain. But the lost number of workdays was much larger here due to the length of the strikes.

    In 2016, the number of lost workdays increased almost five times compared to 447,000 days in 2015, due to 20 strikes by workers at Hyundai and affiliate Kia, while unionized rail workers downed tools for 74 days.

    But labor-dispute negotiation rules differ from country to country posing limits to simple comparisons. For instance, downing tools for more than eight hours is considered a strike in Korea, but in Finland it is anything over an hour. In Australia, the number of lost workdays must total at least 10 in order to be considered a strike.

    Nevertheless, a World Economic Forum survey placed Korea at 124th among 140 countries when it comes to labor-management relations.

    Chung Seung-kook at Joongang Sangha University said, "Korea's labor movement has traditionally focused on a very combative stance in order to obtain higher wages."

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