Works councils in Korea: History, performance and assessment

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Kaufman, Bruce
Lee, Young-Myon
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Lee, Young-Myon
Kaufman, Bruce E
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2018
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Abstract

An important part of the employment relations system in the Republic of Korea (hereafter Korea) is the works council. In 1963, all private-sector business organizations in Korea were required by legislative statute to have a works council. Then, in 1981, a minimum size threshold of 100 employees was created, subsequently reduced to 50 employees and then 30. Today works councils in Korea are both widespread and well institutionalized. Works councils are particularly interesting workplace institutions because they occupy an intermediate position in the continuum of organi-zational structures set up in companies for employer–employee communi-cation, negotiation, and problem solving. On one end of the continuum are individualized, informal, and direct methods, such as an open-door policy, weekly team meetings, and discussion with a staff member in the human resources department, while on the other end is industry-wide col-lective bargaining with an independent labor union. Works councils are in the middle because they give employees collective (indirect) representa-tion and a formally organized forum for bilateral discussion and problem solving with management, but works councils are limited to the employees at a single enterprise and do not engage in union activities of organizing, collective bargaining, and striking, and political action.

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The Evolution of Korean Industrial and Employment Relations
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Commerce, management, tourism and services
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