rewriting the column

▲ Han Seok-ho, labor activist

The title of the column that stopped a year ago was ‘Labor Movement?!’. Stopped using it for 4 years and 6 months. Many of the union members of the two major trade unions claimed to have entered the top 10% of Korean social income. I was just stating the facts as evidenced by all kinds of statistics. reality is so. The labor movement, which includes upper-class workers as union members, argued that it should implement a social solidarity strategy in partnership with labor outside the labor union, namely, workers on the margins outside the union fence and small merchants. He also called for a wage freeze for the top 10% of workers. Instead of freezing wages, the idea was to use the money to create a solidarity fund and use it to improve the treatment of non-regular workers and subcontractors, to support small business owners, and to increase youth jobs. The idea was that if workers first set up a solidarity fund, the chaebol had no choice but to offer it. The idea was to create a solidarity society where everyone can live together.

In the labor movement climate up to that time, it was shocking and heresy. The labor movement was a period in which all workers recognized that they were living on the bottom, regardless of whether their annual salary was over 100 million won or less than 30 million won. It was a time when the social contribution fund was devalued as nothing more than a contempt. It was a time when wage freezing was rejected as the logic of the capitalist class. There were pros and cons and fierce criticism both inside and outside the labor movement. There was also opposition from the Central Executive Committee of the KCTU. Even though it was not the official position of the organization, I had to apologize for claiming the title of chairman of the Social Solidarity Committee.

In the meantime, the five public sector divisions of the two major labor unions promoted the Public Coexistence Solidarity Fund. The Confederation of Trade Unions Office Finance Federation established the Ubuntu Foundation, and the Korea Federation of Trade Unions Financial Union established the Financial Industry Public Interest Foundation. The health and medical union of the KCTU is saving 1% of the union fee as a social solidarity fund, and the chemical fiber food union is promoting it in the same way. No one in the labor movement now denies the reality that many of the union members of the two major trade unions are in the top 10%. The financial union did not even go to the wage freeze, but offered a portion of the wage increase as a fund to support unstable workers suffering from COVID-19. Even the Busan subway union boldly practiced the extraordinary strike of the Employment Solidarity, which yielded more than 10 million won per union member to create new jobs for young people. In addition, many labor unions are practicing solidarity for living, solidarity for funds, solidarity for welfare, solidarity for wages, and solidarity for employment according to each situation. It is evidence that many union members and activists have been thinking about social solidarity for a long time. Sooner or later, the social solidarity strategy will become a labor movement-oriented strategy. Only the special social solidarity strategy that shakes society in a bright direction, and the determination of the two major trade unions remains.

resume the column again. As the title, I thought of ‘Samchil Society – Solidarityism – Solidarity Strategy’. However, as the column title was pointed out that it was too long, it was shortened to ‘Samchil Society’. The Samchil Society refers to a society in which the top 10% of pre-tax income occupied 30% of total income and the remaining 90% occupied 70% of total income.

The argument for making Korean society a Samchil society will encounter resistance from two sides. One aspect is the ideological rebuttal. This is because Samchil Society is a concept that recognizes an appropriate level of equality, that is, inequality at an appropriate level. Even if the Korean labor movement has no meaning in practice, it will face criticism from the point of view of Marxist-Leninist egalitarianism that still remains in its DNA. The psychological resistance and passive laziness of some activists who do not practice egalitarianism and do not live egalitarianly, but only retain their DNA, will not be formidable.

Another aspect is the practical barrier. According to Hong Min-ki, a senior research fellow at the Korea Labor Institute, Korea is already a five-five society in which the top 10% of the country already owns 50% of total income. According to the global inequality database of Thomas Piketty and others, Korea is close to five societies. As of 2016, 14.9% of the top 1% and 31.7% of the next 9% together accounted for 46.6%. The inequality occupied by the top 10% is so serious that Korea has overtaken even the United States, a symbol of global inequality.

In order to change from the Five Society to the Three Chil Society, the income share of the top 10% must be reduced by 15-20 percentage points. In order for the remaining 90%’s income share to rise from 50% to 70%, the top 10% will have to wait and take a little more income from their current state. Even if that happens, it will take 20 years for the Samchil Society to become a society, but the top 1% and the next 9% are highly likely to resist. What’s more difficult is that the second highest 9% includes a significant number of union members from both major trade unions.

Nevertheless, Samchil Society is a path that must be taken. I try to unfold the idea from the perspective of the bottom 50% of the bottom periphery, not the top 10%. Alternative criticism is expected.

Labor activist ([email protected])

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