Kim has to tone down union-bashing laws

In a humiliating climb-down for the government of President Kim Young Sam, South Korean MPs last night passed a revised version of a controversial labour law, two months after the country's worst national strikes.

The revision represents a drastic U-turn for President Kim, whose popularity ratings plunged during the month-long unrest. The latest version of the law has been denounced by trade-union leaders, but is likely to quell calls for further industrial action, at least for the time being.

The law was first passed by the ruling New Korea Party at the end of last year, in a secret dawn session of the National Assembly at which no opposition MPs were present.

Its stated aim was to improve the competitiveness of South Korean companies by allowing them greatly flexibility in laying off workers.

But the sneaky manner of the law's passage, and its apparent bias in favour of employers and against trade unions, provoked South Korea's largest strikes, involving some 1.2million workers, and costing $3.28bn (pounds 2bn) in lost output.

The new version allows firms to impose flexible working hours, and removes the obligation for them to pay striking workers. But the planned relaxation of the rules on lay-offs, which are impossible under present law, will be delayed for two years. Firms are no longer allowed to sub-contract production and bring in strike- breakers during disputes.

Immediate recognition on a national level is given to the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, which led the strikes but which is technically illegal under existing legislation. Multiple unions will be allowed within companies in five years.

The National Congress for New Politics, Korea's biggest opposition party, won a further concession when it agreed to passage of the bill only on condition that the National Assembly also revises another unpopular law, which grants new powers to the internal security agency.

For President Kim, however, the damage is done - indeed, public anger over the labour law has since been eclipsed by a corruption scandal over excessive loans which were made to the bankrupt Hanbo Steel Corporation.

Several of his closest advisers have been arrested on bribery charges, and at the end of last month the President made a televised apology for the failures of his government.

A senior North Korean politician who fled into the South Korean embassy in Peking last month will soon be allowed to travel to the South, according to officials in Seoul.

An official of the South Korean foreign ministry said that the Chinese authorities had agreed to allow Hwang Jang Yop to defect.

More talks will determine whether he travels to Seoul directly, or via a third country.

News
people

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people

Sport
nflAtlanta Falcons can't count and don't know what the UK looks like
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
High notes, flat performance: Jake Bugg
music

Review: Despite an uphill climb to see Jake Bugg in action, his performance is notably flat

News
The Putin automaton will go on sale next month in Germany
videoMusical Putin toy showing him annexing Crimea could sell for millions
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are seeking a confident...

Senior Data Analyst - London - £38,000

£30000 - £38000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Data Analyst - Lon...

Norwegian Speaking Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + competitive OTE: SThree: Progressive in Manchester...

IT Support Analyst - London - £22,000

£20000 - £22000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Chel...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London