Public Relations Director,
Economic and Social Development Commission
The Economic and Social Development Commission, the first standing body of social dialogue in Korea, marked the 10th anniversary on January 15 this year. The Commission was instituted in January 1998 to respond to the need of social partners' concerted effort to ride over the financial difficulties which hit the nation in the wake of the foreign exchange crisis in the Asia-Pacific region. Since then, the Commission has contributed to transforming the nature of the labor relations in this country: from that of confrontation and conflict to that of dialogue and cooperation. Additionally, the Commission, as the first forum in Korea where social partners gathered together for social dialogue, has paved the way towards participatory democracy.
The labor relations had not been an issue of concern since the 1960s largely due to the Government policy of putting economic development before anything else, with the result that the labor disputes erupted at national level in August 1987. The labor and the business were seriously at odds with each other for the following several years, until the Presidential Commission on Labor Relations Reform was set up in 1995, bringing together the representatives of the Government, unions (the Federation of Korean Trade Unions, and the National Confederation of Trade Unions which was later renamed as the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions) and employers (Korea Employers Federation) for discussions on revision of the labor law.