The origins and early development of the Korean labour movement

Kwon, Seung-ho, and Leggett, Chris (1995) The origins and early development of the Korean labour movement. In: Current research in industrial relations: proceedings of the 9th AIRAANZ Conference. pp. 262-275. From: 9th AIRAANZ Conference, February 1995, Melbourne, VIC, Australia.

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Since the mid-1980s, industrial relations researchers (Kim Byung-whan, 1988; Park Yong-ki, 1993, pp. 137-171;) and other social scientists, for example Wilkinson (1994a, 79-114; 1994b) have directed their attentions to industrial relations and, even more focussed, to labour organisations (Kim Hwang-joe, 1993, pp. 133-161;) in South Korea (the Republic of Korea, hereafter referred to as Korea). Others (Yoo Sang-jin and Lee Sang M, 1993) have emphasised the uniqueness of Korea's business conglomerates, the chaebol, especially their relationship with the state (Moon Chung-in, 1994, pp. 142-166), but including their employment practices (Kwon Seung-ho and Leggett, 1994). Australian researchers have sought lessons for Australian public policy from the Korean industrial relations phenomena (Lansbury and Zappala, 1990) and, attracted by Korea's status, along with Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong, as an Asian Newly Industrialised Country (NIC), some American and Korean scholars (Deyo, 1989; Koo, 1990; Vogel, 1991) have inter alia used comparative methods to illustrate the directive role of the state in shaping the industrialisation process. In particular, for Korea, it has been the apparent political transition of the country from state authoritarianism towards a more democratic scheme of things that has inspired the more recent commentators (Rauenhorst, 1990).

In comparisons with Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong there has been a tendency to perceive the Korean labour movement as the most suppressed among those of the Asian NICs, and for many the successful economic development of Korea is partly attributable to the political subordination of labour and its compliance with the corporatist hegemony of the state (Deyo, 1989). As persuasive and contemporary as this explanation is, it is not founded on a research-based understanding of earlier stages in the development of the Korean labour movement. A study of the labour movement's origins, of its inherent ideological conflicts, of the beginnings of its subordination and of its culture would both complement the contemporary focus and perhaps offer further insights into its nature. To these ends, this paper traces the development of the Korean labour movement during the first half of this century and links it to the present.

The paper is organised according to the historical stages in the development of the Korean labour movement from the late 1890s to just before the commencement of the rapid industrialisation of Korea in the 1960s. Three criteria form the basis for this organisation: changes in the nature of industrial relations; changes in the political economy; chronology.

Item ID: 17224
Item Type: Conference Item (Non-Refereed Research Paper)
ISBN: 978-0-86444-560-5
Keywords: industrial relations; labour; trade unions; Korea
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Date Deposited: 30 Jan 2013 07:09
FoR Codes: 15 COMMERCE, MANAGEMENT, TOURISM AND SERVICES > 1503 Business and Management > 150306 Industrial Relations @ 100%
SEO Codes: 91 ECONOMIC FRAMEWORK > 9104 Management and Productivity > 910401 Industrial Relations @ 100%
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