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Labor Flexibility, A Key to Economic Success
Region: Asia
Location: Korea, South
Published May 25, 2011
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Korea’s labor unions are known for their militancy. This characteristic is believed to be the result of past political repression and perceived economic inequality. Since the 1960s, Korea has achieved remarkable economic growth, due mainly to cheap labor and diligent and skilled workers. The government emphasized a “development first and distribution later” policy during the early stage of Korea’s economic development, and labor policy became a part of the nation’s overall economic agenda. Labor policy during this period was intended to guarantee the basic livelihood of workers and provide sufficient workers for industrial development. But it was not until the mid-1970s that the government recognized the importance of labor issues. Workers became aware of their rights and began demanding better working conditions and a fair share of economic success. A series of labor disputes took place, but the government and employers treated labor leaders as socialists and communists, and cracked down on their activities.

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