The Writings of Kazuo Nimura

Kazuo Nimura

Japanese and Korean Labor Relations: A Comparative Study


By examining Japan and Korea's labor-management relations in a comparative perspective, this article attempts to elucidate characteristics common to both countries. At a symposium,(1) the unifying theme of which was the comparative study of Japanese and Korean labor management relations, I presented the paper which became the basis for this article. However, rather than examining only these two countries, I believe that a comparative study of labor relations around the world, not only of current issues but also including historical analysis, would help to clarify the essence of labor relations in Japan and Korea. While I say labor relations 'around the world,' my central focus here is on Britain (the 'Motherland' of Labor Movements) and other English-speaking countries that share and continue its traditions.

The task is rather complicated by the fact that the topic has been subject to continual change. The Korean economy and society have developed faster than any other in world history, and are still transforming on a daily basis. If one considers the political situation, which has potential for drastic changes, and the history of Korean labor relations, which has been strongly influenced by politics, it is clear that these factors cannot be explained in a simple fashion. Korea's labor-management relations and labor movement changed greatly after the 'Workers' Great Struggle' of 1987, and even a decade later, the situation had not stabilized. It is very possible that some drastic upheaval may soon transform the 'current situation' into 'yesterday's situation'. To conduct a comparative study of Korea's labor-management relations in such unstable times is a foolhardy endeavor for a beginner in Korean Studies, and may result in errors of the most basic kind. I would therefore like to invite critiques from all readers.

I   Commonalities of Japanese and Korean Labor-Management Relations

1.  Company-based Labor Unions

One of the first notable similarities when comparing Japanese and Korean labor relations on an international scale is that many of the labor unions in both countries are company-based unions.(2) In the Korean case, the unions of the zaibatsu (3) are not only company-based, but numerous unions operate at the office level.(4) Furthermore, the majority of the companies within the zaibatsu operate not as independent and separate company entities, but rather, act as divisions of major companies. For example, the hiring of college graduates does not take place at the company level, but at the level of the zaibatsu. The normal process is that the newly hired employees are then distributed to the companies, individuals' preferences having been taken into account.(5) Besides, the chairman of the zaibatsu, rather than CEOs of individual companies, has the decisive say in determining important management policies.(6) Thus, it might be more useful to regard the zaibatsu, rather than the individual companies, as one entity. I shall nevertheless use the term 'company-based labor union' to describe the similarity of labor union organization in both Japan and Korea. In Europe and America, the majority of labor unions are 'craft unions' or industry-based unions, which try to regulate labor conditions that will apply throughout the particular trade (craft) or industry i.e. beyond the framework of the individual company, or else they are general unions. By contrast, Japanese and Korean labor unions limit their members to employees within a particular enterprise/company.(7)

The Rationale for the Birth of Company-based Labor Unions.

Why is it then, that in Japan and Korea, so many labor unions became company-based?
In an attempt to answer this question, many Japanese labor economists and scholars of labor relations have looked to the characteristics of the labor market. Labor unions are organizations that market labor power; thus, it is natural that those who exist within the same market and who experience similar concerns and interests should find strength in numbers, and unionize. The main line of argument by scholars who search for answers in the nature of the labor market is that Japan's labor market is divided by company, and thus, labor unions organized along similar lines.

A similar theory places emphasis on the 'creation of the internal labor market' as the determining factor of company-based labor unions, for it divides the labor market along company lines. I have criticized this type of 'labor market determinism theory' on many occasions, as it does not explain the existence of post-war Japan's mixed labor unions (which include both white and blue-collar workers).(8) I shall refrain from repeating my criticism here.

However, I would like to reiterate one important point. That is, the historical experience of Korean labor-management relations clearly shows that it is incorrect to look at the 'labor market' as the sole reason for the creation of company-based labor unions. Yokota Nobuko, who researched the blue-collar labor market of the 1980s for Korean manufacturers, articulates the following points(9):

Until the beginning of the 1980s, Korea had "a single labor market, which was not distinguished by differences between small-and-medium enterprises [SMEs] and larger ones." However, "from the mid-1980s, larger enterprises began to train and amass core workers, who had worked there for 10 years or longer and had acquired a certain amount of skill." The 1987's 'Workers' Great Struggle' served as a turning point, when disparities in working conditions, such as wage differentials, were amplified between large enterprises and SMEs. Such variation may potentially lead to a wider gap in the stability of workers. However, even "in the early 1990s, there is still considerable mobility within the labor market among the majority of workers with fewer than 5 years of continuous service in the lowest ranks, and between large enterprises and SMEs."

Basically, until the early 1980s, the Korean labor market was hardly divided along company-lines; rather, there existed a single labor market for both large and mid-to-small enterpises. For lower rank positions, this trend remained well into the early 90s. At the same time, the majority of labor union organizations of this period consisted of company-based unions.
So the Korean experience - as evidenced by the labor market - shows that the explanation for company-based labor unions is inaccurate. Wherein then lies the reason for labor unions organizing along company lines?  Actually, I think that the question itself is problematic. Many scholars and labor activists believe that the natural organizational form of labor unions, or 'how a labor union should be organized,' is one that transcends the boundaries of companies and regulates all working conditions, whether of craft-unions or industry-based unions. With this preconception in mind, scholars and labor activists have repeatedly questioned why Japanese labor unions became company-based.
However, if one thinks about it quite simply, are such unions not a natural development? If workers find reason to unite, is it not instinctive to do so with workmates whom they know and see every day, and use the workplace as the basis for organization? Furthermore, one of the circumstances under which workers generally find the need to unite is due to dissatisfaction with working conditions, such as wages. Thus, workers working under the same employer need to join forces when negotiating with that employer. Unless there are highly unusual circumstances, the natural starting point for workers to unite is in workplace- or company-based organizations, and employers, too, prefer to deal solely with their company employees. Company-based organizations therefore ought not to be regarded as anything abnormal or aberrant in themselves.

Historical Conditions for the Creation of the Craft Union - The Tradition of Guilds

By posing the question in such a way, it is now clear that some special conditions must have preceded the formation of European and American craft unions. Why did workers in the West not prefer to unite with their fellows who labored together every day in the same workplace? Why did they consider it natural to organize with workers of the same trade, even though these individuals' names and faces were unknown to them? How did this way of thinking emerge?  And, why did managers/employers also accept this type of organization? The answers to these questions will help clarify the reasons why company-based labor unions became the norm in both Japan and Korea.

It is well known that the organizational starting point for labor unions in the West is to be found in regional craft unions. The medieval guild is considered to be the original form, or model, of the organization now known as the labor union. The basis of the guild tradition was to monopolize a particular area of skilled labor, and to block the work of those who did not join the guild. The system of apprenticeship limited the numerical growth of members, allowed for self-regulatory work hours, and discouraged competition between members. The objective of the craft union, similar to that of the guild, was to monopolize the labor market for a particular trade, refuse to work with non-members, make unilateral decisions on wages, and provide resolute opposition to new technology that might undermine their hard-earned 'skill.' Furthermore, to become a member, one had to serve a specified period of time as apprentice. All aspects of organization and policy shared commonalities with the guild tradition. The most important point to make here is that not only were these policies created by workers but society in general, including the management, accepted the existence of such organizations. The existence of such social agreement cannot be understood without taking the guild tradition into account.

In response to the above argument, it will surely be asked: "Why, then, did craft unions emerge in America and Australia, where the tradition of guilds did not exist?" This is not a very difficult question to answer. First, the people involved in labor movements in their respective countries of immigration had most likely participated in craft unions in their native land. Second, even if they lacked such experience, these people grew up within a society that considered craft unions the norm. Certainly, with the Eastern European and Asian Diaspora, the United States lacked guild and craft union traditions that were as deep-rooted as in England, and there were some managements who refused to recognize the existence of labor unions. Yet, the initial 'movers' of the American labor movement were British migrant workers, and the tradition of the British labor movement was inherited through them. Not only was the tradition of the labor union passed on, but working conventions which had created the guild and the craft union also took root in the New World. For example, let us look at the American mechanical industry. Even in factories without labor unions, the workers maintained their working habits and would therefore determine the length or the amount of the daily 'stint' of production themselves. The 'scientific management' of Taylorism aimed to break down such work habits, as well as to drastically change the social environment that acknowledged and accepted such practices. (10) The core population of Australia and New Zealand was formed by deportees, including labor activists, and other people who left British society in search of a better life abroad. Labor union laws were passed in the early stages of settlement in Australia and New Zealand, and the labor union movements there grew to be much stronger than their counterpart in the motherland. (11) These common understandings and consensus in a society are one of the basic requirements for the construction of labor management relations, and holds great meaning for social acknowledgement and acceptance of working habits.

In some Asian countries, like Singapore and Malaysia, where the laws were strongly influenced by their former colonial sovereign, the majority of unions are industry-based.(12)  However, in more recent times, Singapore's unit of collective bargaining has become company-based unions, and Malaysia, following its 'Look East' policy of examining Japanese and Korean models, revised its Labor Union Law in 1989 and legalized company-based labor unions.(13) As such examples show, there is a trend to change over from industry to company-based unions in places where the tradition of craft unionism is not established at the social level.

Organizational characteristics of Japanese artisans prior to industrialization

In Japan too, craft or guild-like organizations existed throughout history, where people of the same occupation grouped together into communities. Trade organization among artisans naturally formed through the system of apprenticeship, with the passing down of skills. It is only normal that these types of organizations protected the interests of those in the trade, who engaged in activities to help one another out. For example, carpenters, stonemasons, and plasterers are among the occupations with the longest traditions. Among these types of artisans involved in construction existed an organization called Taishikô (14), which formed throughout the country. Also, miners in metal mines created tomoko-dômei,(15) the objective of which was mutual aid and improvements in the transmission of skills over the generations, slowly joining forces nation-wide.

Unlike Europe, however, Japanese artisans' organizations did not monopolize the labor market for their particular field of occupation. In a "society of qualifications," like that of Germany and England, it was most important to have the accredited qualifications to in order to enter a particular occupation. To obtain this 'qualification', one needed to 'pound the pavement' as apprentice to a 'master' (an associate member of the organization) for a certain period of years, and then be formally accepted as member. In such societies, trade organizations were able to practice policies of limiting membership with the aim of maintaining bargaining conditions within the particular trade.

By contrast, Japan's artisans viewed the required 'skill' as the most important prerequisite in order to acquire a particular job. The phrase "if you have the skills, you are a fully-fledged man/worker (ichi-nin mae)," often used in Japanese artisan circles, aptly indicate this tendency. For example, one of the tomoko dômei conventions stipulated that to become a member, one had to spend 3 years, 3 months, and 10 days in apprenticeship. This requirement functioned as a mechanism restricting the numbers of those entering the occupation. However, in Japan, a person with the necessary skills could work as miner without being a member of a tomoko dômei. In short, the tomoko dômei did not control the labor market. Furthermore, the apprenticeship period of 3 years, 3 months, and 10 days was not strictly followed, and not a few escaped from their 'masters' and worked as miners who had 'won their spurs.' Such runaways, who left prior to finishing their apprenticeships were not limited to miners, but existed in various professions.

How is it that Japanese artisan/trade organizations came to show such different characteristics from their European counterparts? The major difference lies in the nature of Japanese cities in the Tokugawa period contrasted with European medieval cities, or more specifically, the differing relationship between the trade organizations and the power of the authorities. European cities were so-called 'free cities', and citizens shared in the administration of these self-governing communities. (16),(17) By contrast, in Japan under the Bakuhan system, the great majority of cities were castle-towns, under the direct rule of the local feudal lord. (18) Within these castle-towns, no organizations could exist without the approval of the lord, and autonomous merchants' or artisans' organizations could not grow independently of the lord's authority. (19) And, in order to control rising commodity prices the lord's basic policy was to "not recognize trade organizations whose goal monopolizing profit".(20)

Even in Japan, there was continuous and autonomous effort by the merchants and artisans to protect occupational interests by creating trade organizations called nakama that were based on individual trade groups. There were multiple ploys to determine 'turf,' and attempts to limit the number of fellow professionals within a certain region.(21) But in a society where work could be found without membership in a nakama, if a man had the necessary skills, such regulations were not enforceable upon him outside nakama jurisdictions and influences. So the most commonly used tactic by nakama groups was to ask to be allowed to provide gratuitous service to either the Bakufu (central government in Edo) or the local feudal lord. In return, the nakama groups would request authoritative power to force the non-members to join the nakama of a particular trade. They sought the protection of their occupational interests in authoritative intervention, not autonomy.

Nevertheless, the Bakufu and the lords allowed and prohibited trade organizations as they saw fit, depending on the policy objectives of the time, be it the need to secure forced labor or to stabilize commodity prices. The organization of merchants and artisans into nakama was fundamentally out of favor in the early Tokugawa period. However, in the late 17th century, certain nakama (shipping, credit, lumber, oil) were allowed to organize in Osaka. In the 1720s, merchants and artisans were ordered to form nakama, in an attempt to redress the drastic rise in commodity prices that was due to rice price degradation. In 1841, an ordinance ordering the dismantling of nakama was issued. Ten years later, a nakama/tonya restoration ordinance was issued.(22) There is no evidence that merchants and artisans resisted any of these orders from the authorities.

In short, Japanese trade organizations and the purpose of their existence can be characterized as solely for the convenience of those in power. In turn, merchants and artisans tried to protect occupational interests by relying on the lord's authoritative and regulatory powers. This historical legacy is perhaps not unrelated to the situation in present-day Japan, where there exist various regulations controlling competition. Thus, the convention of organizational autonomy and self-imposed regulations found in Europe's various professional organizations cannot be replicated in this type of society nor accepted by society at large.

Historical conditions in Korea

In Korea, as in Japan, the tradition of European guilds' self-regulation did not exist. The absence of craft-unionism can be surmised from the following evidence.
a) For about a decade following 1963, Korean official policy, based on the Trade Union Law, attempted to induce company-based labor unions to form industry-based organizations.(23) However, the policy was ineffective, as the reality of company-based organizations did not change.
b) The explosive development of Korean capitalism, more dramatic even than Japan's experience had been enabled partly by the introduction of new technology. If the tradition of craft-unionism had been strong among the laborers, there would have been firm resistance to technology that diminished the value of their craftsmanship. However, there is no evidence of such resistance.

What then were the relationships between artisan/trade organizations and the power structure, prior to Korea's industrialization? Professor Hagen Koo of University of Hawaii argues as follows:

Korea lacked the strong artisan culture or craft organizations found in Europe. Few in number, Korean craftsmen were mostly dependent workers hired by the government to make specialized products for the court and nobility, and they occupied a very low position in the Confucian hierarchy of social status. The Confucian cultural tradition has negatively affected the labor movement in many ways: it discourages horizontal interest-group formation, while emphasizing solidarity based on primordial relationships; it accords low esteem to manual work and encourages individual mobility based on education; and it encourages patriarchal and paternal relationships between employer and workers. In short, unlike their early European counterparts, Korean factory workers had to create their working-class history under very unfavorable historical and cultural conditions.(24)

In other words, prior to industrialization, Korea's artisans' organizations lacked autonomy, even in comparison to Japan, and the convention of self-regulation within such organizations did not exist. That is to say, the tradition of craft-unionism was absent from pre-industrial Korea.

The absence of Craft Unionism and its influences

The presence of the tradition of craft unionism (or lack thereof) in a particular country defines the organizational structure of labor unions, but one also must not overlook how this factor influences the issues of producers' organizations, labor-management relations, and the organization of management. For example, 'flexibility,' a characteristic frequently identified with so-called 'Japanese-style management,' was made possible by the lack of this craft unionism tradition. 'Flexibility' within producers' organizations meant, in concrete terms, the diversification and rampant alterations of the workers' job descriptions, be it through redeployment, loaning, or additional support to other divisions of the place of employment. This is how 'flexibility' is actualized, and such 'flexibility' is made possible by the absence of the western convention of 'occupational category.' This 'occupational category' framework, which maintains that only particular occupational types of worker with specific qualifications are allowed to perform certain duties, is not clearly demarcated in Japan.

In Europe and America, the existence of craft guilds and craft unions provided the environment for the crystallization of the notion of 'occupational category.' It was critically important for the establishment of craft unions to clarify and delimit the organizational 'target.' As is well known, in the history of labor movements in the West, demarcation disputes (over organizations' areas of jurisdiction) were common in squabbles between labor unions. In contrast, while demarcation disputes among organizations did exist in Japan, these incidences were few, and never became a huge problem.

The following could be used as an anecdote to demonstrate the characteristics of 'Japanese labor-management relations.' If a worker in Europe or America were asked his/her occupation, the response would be in the form of an 'occupational category,' such as a turner, blacksmith, or painter. The response by a Japanese worker, who would answer by company name, such as 'working for Toyota', indicates the ambiguous nature of the realm of occupational duties. Japanese industries rarely limit the kinds of work for newly-hired, and it is common for their jobs to be undetermined prior to entering the company. After joining the company, new employees are put to work in various posts in order to determine which ones are appropriate for them. Such employees, when asked of their occupation, would naturally reply with the company name, for there is nay to respond with an 'occupational category.' In the case of blue-collar workers, there is a tendency for relatively longer periods of work within at one particular work site. Even in these situations, however, this does not mean that they work continuously at one particular function. As the duration of service in the particular company increases, it is common to gradually change over to work that requires higher levels of skill. Also, if there are absent workers at the same worksite, it is not rare to have employees engage in work that requires less skill. If the work is at the same workplace, it will normally entail taking on multiple duties. In companies experiencing slumps, a production worker may even temporarily function as a salesperson. It would be impossible to deal with western workers in such a fashion, for they believe their skill in the particular occupational category to be their personal asset and fortune.

Besides, in Japan "there is an alliance of 'technology and production,' in which the engineers and production workers maintain a co-operative relationship through intimate communication," thereby forming the means by which workers' suggestions can be translated into practice, as in QC groups.(25) Again, this alliance is made possible by the lack of tradition of specialized work and rigid 'occupational categories,' furthered by the decrease in status disparity between blue and white-collar workers after World War II in Japan.

In the West, the distinction between skilled and unskilled (later semi-skilled) workers is generally clear, and the differences in wages are also great. By contrast, the boundary between the two types of workers in Japan is ambiguous at best. This absence of craft tradition is the necessary condition that allowed the majority of Japanese labor unions to organize around company lines, as well as causing the 'white-collarization' of blue-collar workers, which I will discuss later in this paper. Conversely, in the study of labor-management relations in the West, it is necessary to remember that the tradition of guild and craft-unionism still greatly influences labor relations in the West today. This is an often neglected or under-emphasized point by western scholars of labor relations and labor history, who take for granted that craft unionism constitutes the starting point of labor movements.

The worker's sensitivities to the notion of 'social status':Blue-Collar and White-Collar

Another characteristic found both in Japanese and Korean labor relations is the sensitivity of workers to their own social status. In particular, blue-collar workers harbored (and still harbor) great resentment towards the different treatment of white-collar workers. In postwar Japan (26), a situation dubbed 'the white-collarization of blue-collar workers' occurred, thus making the commonality between Japan and Korea difficult to see. However, from the Meiji Restoration (1868) up until the 1950s, Japanese blue-collar workers believed that white-collar workers unfairly discriminated against them, and thus shared similar sentiments with present-day Korean workers on this particular point.

The 'white-collarization of blue-collar workers' in postwar Japan progressed as labor unions included both types of workers. These 'mixed collar' labor unions demanded the 'elimination of status discrimination,' and gradually this demand was realized. In Korea, the relationship between blue-collar and white-collar workers is similar to Japanese conditions of the prewar and/or the immediate postwar period.(27) For example, white-collar workers received salaries while blue-collar workers worked for daily or hourly wages. There are great disparities in wages even if academic credentials are equal,(28) and a system of periodic pay raise do not exist for blue-collar workers.(29)

In comparison to Japan in the immediate postwar period, blue-collar workers encompass a large majority of today's Korean labor movement, and the shop floor workers are said to be in control. Kim Yong Ji, expanding on research conducted by Kim Sam Su et al., notes the following:

The leading group in Korean labor union movements, except for solely white-collar workplaces, is that of shop floor workers for the manufacturing industries. In this particular industry, it is reported that 47% of labor unions allow administrative staff to participate, and fewer than 32% of unions permit white-collar college-graduates' affiliation. In the case of large enterprises, it is speculated that the proportion of mixed labor unions would be higher. Even in such cases, the leadership of the union movement lies in the hands of shop floor workers, not those with official positions, but general laborers.(30)

This is quite different from Japan in the early stages of postwar period, when white-collar workers, especially college graduates and others of higher educational levels, generally held the leadership positions of the labor movement.(31) At the same time, however, the above survey demonstrates how the Korean labor movements share more commonalities with Japanese cases than with western movements. Europe and America were strongly influenced by history as solely blue-collar labor movements. Thus, it is rare for white-collar and blue-collar workers to participate in the same organization. While labor unions that do accept white-collar members exist, in reality, they are divided into separate divisions and maintain a federation-like relationship. What the research of Kim and others identifies is the fact that close to one third of labor unions in the manufacturing industries (which are mainly comprised of blue-collar workers) accept college graduate staff, and one half of the unions accept high-school graduates office workers.

Still, a different survey (32) argues that the larger the scope of the enterprise, the higher the proportion of labor unions that accept clerical staff as members. That is, 71.6% of labor unions with more than 500 members accept high-school graduates, and 60.4% accept college graduates. Even without taking the scale of the enterprise into consideration, out of 259 labor unions studies, 59.8% recognized high school graduates office staff eligibility, and out of 260 labor unions, 51.5% accepted college graduates. Overall, this study shows higher numbers than those of Kim et al. However, this 'acceptance' or 'recognition' of white-collar workers exists largely on union rules. In reality, out of the college-graduate accepting unions, 31.6% had no college graduate members, and 65.8% had organized less than 25% of the eligible college graduates. In the case of high school graduates, 17.2% of the unions had none, and 54.8% had fewer than 25% of affiliates.

But the results of this survey also indicate the relative strength of mixed labor unions in Korea. Taking the above numbers, one can see that 25.3% of unions that accept college-graduates and 31.2% of unions that accept high-school graduates have organized over 75% of potential affiliates. Out of the 260 labor unions included in this survey, 34 were organized jointly by college graduates and blue-collar workers, and 48 included high-school graduates. The number of these 'mixed labor unions' cannot be ignored. Furthermore, if we take the sheer number of union members into consideration, such 'mixed unions' hold a larger percentage of the Korean labor union movement. This is because Korea's largest union, the Korean Communications Labor Union, which has 50,000 members, and Seoul Subway Corporation Union with its 10,000 members, are both mixed labor unions. Moreover, these unions are not just large in membership, but also in scale, as they continue to expand their activities and their social impact.(33)

The Desire for Social Mobility Upward

On the problem of disparate treatment of workers, one of the major points of dispute in the Korean labor movement today is the demand for removal/abolition of the so-called 'academic credentials inequality.'(34) This same point of controversy provided the foundation for Japan's postwar 'movement for management democratization (Keiei Minshuka Undô),' pursued by Japanese labor unions. In short, the question of academic credentials inequality held extremely significant meaning for the construction of 'Japanese-style labor-management relations'.

Obviously, Korea is not the only place where educational background influences wage levels or treatment. Starting with hourly or daily wages for blue-collar workers, and salaries for white-collar workers, the length of the working day, difference in starting/ending times, vacation days, pensions and benefits, dismissal notices in advance, etc., the difference in treatment can generally be seen in many countries. For example, a British case study from 1965 demonstrated how blue-collar and white-collar workers parked their cars in different parking lots, used different gates for entering and leaving work, and used different cafeterias and restrooms.(35)

However, in the Daewoo Shipbuilding Industry dispute, the catalyst was the difference in color of the gate pass, which is required for entrance into the workplace. The workers distributed leaflets that read: 'Employees are Family Members, Workers are not Domesticated Animals,'(36) which indicates that Korean blue-collar workers do not consider such differential treatment as natural, but as unjust status discrimination.

The fact that both Japanese and Korean workers are dissatisfied by unequal treatment probably results from shared values and feelings. Workers in both countries have strong desires for upward social mobility, and are rather sensitive to status inequality. Taken from another perspective, both Koreans and Japanese are sensitive to the difference of self and other, as social relationships in both societies are constantly hierarchical and take into consideration the difference in 'status'. This must be a consequence of historical formation. An aspect of society that illuminates this point clearly is the nature of the language itself. In both Korea and Japan, it is required that a speaker properly employ both the language of honorifics and humility, such as differentiating when to use first or third person in speech. It is imperative not only to possess linguistic skills, but also the ability to gauge the status of the 'other' person, and make the appropriate decision of which type of language to use. That is, in Korea and Japan, people are conscious of their status relationship to others on a daily basis. Language of honorifics and self-abasement/humility reflect the nature of human relationships in the particular society, and at the same time, the existence of such use of language requires acute awareness of hierarchical relationships.
Hypothetically, if one's 'academic background' were solely a direct result of an individual's ability and efforts, fewer people would probably feel the disparity in treatment based on academic credentials as 'unjust discrimination.' However, in pre-1950s Japan, and until recently, Korea, there were many who became blue-collar workers, not because they did not like studying, but rather due to their family's financial difficulties. Thus, for those individuals who reluctantly became blue-collar workers, the disparity in treatment with white-collar workers was bound to be felt as 'unjust discrimination.'

Furthermore, in Korean society, there is traditionally a strong proclivity to scorn physical labor. This societal disdain has lowered the social value of blue-collar work, contributing to the build-up of dissatisfaction. In pre-war Japan, there were also pejorative views toward factory work. But those views reflected the fact that only those in destitute situations reluctantly worked in factories and that the wages were low. Manual labor itself was not disparaged.

While manual labor requires 'sweat and physical activity', highly skilled artisans were socially respected; artisans themselves were proud of their craft and most passed down their vocation to their descendents. Among Japanese engineers with college degrees, there exists a tradition of 'work site-ism', which means that they regard the production site itself to be an important factor in the improvement of technology. Many enterprises often place their newly hired college graduates initially at production sites. It will be interesting to see how this difference in perception of labor may influence Korea's problem of 'white-collarization of blue-collar workers' in the future.

Another reason why workers in both Japan and Korea may have strong desires for upward social movement may be the relative lack of obstacles between the classes in contrast to other countries. In Britain, which will be examined in the next section, 'jumping the fence' to white-collar status - where the difference between blue- and white-collar workers can be seen in language, hobbies, or in other cultural aspects, such as clothing, food, and housing - may seem almost impossible at least until the 1980s.(37) Such aspects as language and hobbies are a matter of upbringing from childhood within the family and cannot be changed in a short period of time. However, in both Japan and Korea, as long as one obtains good academic credentials, it is possible with relative ease to rise to high status. It is very likely that the record high rate of college entrance in both countries reflects such realities.

Class-consciousness within British Society

As is often pointed out, there existed a strong sense of 'Them and Us' among British blue-collar workers. Certainly such attitudes may have greatly changed now, but such vestiges remained well into the mid-20th century, and their influence still lingers today. In America, such an 'Us and Them Consciousness' also exists, although not as strongly as in Britain. This 'Them and Us Consciousness' is a reflection of blue-collar workers' resentment of the disparaging attitudes of other classes. In this regard, there are similarities with pre-WWII Japan's blue-collar workers, who were infuriated at being considered lower class, and thus 'enraged by unfair discrimination'.(38) The British working class, unlike the Japanese laborers, did not make angry demands to be allowed into bourgeois society but rather, created their own separate world with its own unique lifestyle, social manners, and language. It may be, as is often said, that the blue-collar workers took such measures out of pride of belonging to the working class, but that was not the only factor involved. Other classes, especially the lower-middle class, continued to make efforts to maintain social and cultural boundaries in order to block easy crossovers from the working class.(39)

In postwar Japan, 'class composition theory', based on Marxist economics, categorized the majority of white-collar workers as the working class. In addition, both blue- and white-collar workers supported the labor movement, and they were affiliated to the same labor union organizations. Thus, in Japan, there is a strong tendency to include white-collar workers as part of the working class. For this reason, it is easy to forget that the English term 'working class' originally only referred to blue-collar workers. In England, white-collar workers, such as administrative and sales staff, along with retail dealers, have been regarded as part of the lower-middle class. As is well known, the 'middle class' encompasses a large space between the 'upper class' and 'working class'. Thus, the 'middle class' includes the bourgeoisie, but the white-collar workers consciously consider themselves part of the 'middle class,' and seek to maintain distance and boundaries between themselves and the working class.

In terms of actual income, the lower strata of the white-collar workers do not differ greatly from the upper strata of the blue-collar workers, yet they go to great lengths and expense to maintain an appearance of being middle-class. Thus, there were some white-collar workers who were in greater financial difficulties than blue-collar workers. In spite of, or rather, because of such evidence, white-collar workers worked hard to maintain a distinct and separate culture of clothing, housing, hobbies, and language from the blue-collar workers.(40) Such jealously protected notions of the 'middle class' must have enforced the 'Them and Us Consciousness' in blue-collar workers.

II    The difference between Japanese and Korean Labor Management Relations

In our search for commonality within Japanese and Korean labor management relations, we have examined some points of variety between the two countries. This section will analyze the differences.

Comparison of Company and Managerial Make-up

In comparing Japanese and Korean labor relations, one first recognizes the difference in the configuration of personnel in enterprises in the two countries or, to put it more bluntly, the difference in the character of the manager.

Generally, in Japan's major enterprises, management policies are decided within the board of directors, more specifically in the board of managing directors, centering around the president/CEO of the company. The overriding majority of the board of managing directors is composed of those chosen employees who have served the company for several decades. While they have little power as stockholders, they wield their influence in running the company based on their long years of cultivated experience. If business declines, and requires the 'refurbishing' of the management, then the enterprise's main bank (the main creditor as well as the largest shareholder) will get involved in the selection of the board and may send in managers from outside the particular company. However, once business profits recover, then it is customary to replace such managers with those coming up within the company. By contrast, in most of Korea's major enterprises, the founder (owner-manager) or the son or brothers, or some other type of blood relatives constitute the small circle of management. As major stockholders and owners of the company as well as the decision-makers of management policy, they are, quite literally, the capitalists.

In short, in both Korea and Japan, there is a great difference in response to the question of who owns the company. Obviously, in legal terms, the 'company' in both Japan and Korea belong to the capitalists/ stockholders, as in the West. However, in postwar Japan, there is a tendency to regard the interest of the company employees, rather than the stockholders, as most important. Even in times of great loss of profit, it is difficult for Japanese enterprises to embark on an immediate 'restructuring' of the company by means of 'laying-off' people, after the American business model. Thus, the company will 'restructure' itself while at the same time emphasizing security of employment, even if there are no stock dividends for several years running.

Japanese Enterprise Historical Circumstances that Promoted the Division of Ownership and Management

Where and how did these differences originate? One of the reasons may be the difference in the length of the history of enterprises in Japan and Korea. For the most part, there is at least a 60 to 70 year difference, or in the case of Mitsui and Sumitomo (both great merchant houses in the early modern period), the difference amounts to several hundred years. However, even in comparison to the West, where the history of capitalism is still longer, Japanese companies' separation of ownership and management is more complete, and the influence of the shareholders is very small. From this perspective, the difference cannot be explained simply by the number of years, but through an examination of the different historical conditions.

In this regard, one of the most important points lies in the policies of the American Occupation forces in Japan after the Second World War, which led to the decartelization of the zaibatsu, and the expulsion of family members from management positions. Based on these Occupation policies, zaibatsu family members and large shareholders, who had dominated the top management positions, were completely purged from company boards. In the first stage of the 'financial purge' in 1946, around two thousand executives in 238 companies were expelled from managerial positions. Again, in 1948, 3,625 people with executive experience, mostly from zaibatsu families and those related to zaibatsu activities, were forced out. Those who came into the power vacuum in these companies had worked within the company as managers for many years, and were not family members.

Miyajima Hideaki points to two reasons for the usage of non-familial managers who had moved up the ranks within the company:

1) after the 'desolution of the zaibatsu' and the 'purge', selections of managers needed to gain approval of the 'Committee on Reorganization of Holding Companies' (Mochikabu gaisha seiri iinkai), which strongly favored non-familial managers rather than stock holders
2) the labor union became strongly vocal regarding the selection of the manager, and was involved often.(41)

Along with postwar reform, we must not overlook another important historical factor relating to the fundamental composition of Japanese organizations, and that is the system of the ie (家) or 'household'. As is well known, the Japanese family household was not organized solely for the continuation of the lineage; the main objective was the succession of the family fortune and business. For samurai, the most important thing was the stipend; for farmers, it was ancestral land, and for artisans and merchant houses, it was the continuation of the family business that was most important. If the head of the household did not have male offspring, it was commonplace to obtain a new male family member (through adoption or marriage) with no blood relations, solely for the continuation of the household or family business. And, if the blood-related son's conduct was unsatisfactory or lacked ability, it was not uncommon for the real son to be disinherited, and a non-blood relative to continue the family business.

From another perspective, within the realm of the 'family,' the head of the household exerted great power, but was not an absolute ruler. Rather, he was head administrator of this organization called 'the Family' and responsible for its continuation and development, and if his behaviour was judged unbecoming of such positions, it was possible for him to be ousted from his status.(42) Within such conditions, the head of the household became restricted to maintaining titular authority in large merchant houses. Slowly, it became the norm that 'professional managers' and shop men handled the actual administration of the family business and were entrusted with business matters. (43) Inheriting such practices, some Japanese zaibatsu, from the pre-war period onwards, began entrusting actual managerial matters to non-familial managers. Based on such practices, it is clear why the decartelization of the zaibatsu and 'financial purging' policies did not negatively influence many companies, but rather led to a fresh beginning within a relatively short period. The training of future 'professional managers,' who were not blood relations, had begun under such traditions. These two historical factors, the Occupation policies and the family system, greatly influenced the clear and nearly absolute separation of ownership and management in Japanese enterprises.

Management of Post-WWII Japanese Enterprises

Financial institutions began holding each other's stocks, thereby increasing the number of 'stable stockholders.'(44) This increase in stability secured the status of 'professional managers,' who had moved up the ranks of the company and actually ran the company in postwar Japan. The average stockholder's power and voice decreased further in postwar Japanese enterprises, as both long and short-term capital (ranging from administrative budgets to capital investment) were available from bank loans. In this way, stockholders no longer participated in board meetings, and the overwhelming majority of those attending the meetings were comprised of 'professional managers' who had worked their way up through the ranks of the company. Thus, board meetings became gatherings of professional managers, as even (at least one of) the auditors would normally be selected from within the company. In Europe and America, there are many examples of creating management teams, administered and directed by a committee of directors from outside the company, which are separate from the stockholder's board committees. However, in Japan, the board committees constitute the management teams.(45) As a result, Japanese managers were able to focus on long-term perspectives of increasing market-share or the scale of the company instead of short-term profits to provide dividends to stockholders.

In this way, as managerial staff were mainly those who moved up the ranks in the company, competition for promotion became fierce, even though wages were non-competitive, based largely on seniority. Employees of Japanese companies compete with each other for nearly 30 years, and not unlike a tournament, the employee who outdoes everyone else becomes the manager.(46) However, since it is a competition over a long period of time, in order to avoid a loss of vitality within the organization, it is in the company's best interest to maintain some incentive for employees even if they receive some negative evaluation at some point in their career, Thus, many companies do not employ an elimination tournament style, but prefer a tournament with repechage. Furthermore, company-based labor unions regarded the participation of outsiders in company management with alarm, and welcomed the creation of a management team by employees who had been promoted internally. There are numerous examples of company mergers being blocked by labor union opposition.

One of the aspects of Japanese managers that has received much attention is the proportion of managers with experience of serving as labor union officials. In 1981, out of 313 companies affiliated with Nikkeiren, 232 companies had executives with union official experience, and out of the 6121 total executives, 16.2% (992) have labor executive backgrounds.(47)

Managers in Korean enterprises

Korean enterprises are generally organized around family partnerships. Not only do the founder and blood relatives own shares like the large stockholder, but they are directly involved in business operations, as seen in the assumption of the offices of president, vice-president, director, etc. by relatives.(48) The reason for such frequent cases of involvement of family members in management may lie in the recent establishment of Korean zaibatsu. The majority of chaebol were established after the 1950s, and enough time may have not passed to cultivate professional managers from within the enterprise. It is normal, not only in Korea, but most countries including Japan, for a company's founder to take charge of the management immediately after establishment. However, looking at Lucky Kimsung, established half a century ago in 1947, the sons and sons-in-law of the now deceased founder, as well as the founder's younger brother and his sons and sons-in-law, 27 in total, still participate in the management of the group enterprises.(49)

Korean companies thus operate under stronger kinship ties than in Japan, maintaining a family system in which the founder and siblings, along with sons and grandsons, participate in the actual management of the enterprise. Also, primogeniture is practiced, in which the oldest son, who is also responsible for continuing the ancestor-worship rituals, inherits more than his siblings. However, equal distribution of inheritance to all the children is slowly becoming the norm, increasing the number of relatives participating in the management of the company. As a result, one can assume that these practices are restricting the opportunity of promotion for those employees who are not blood-relatives of the founder, and negatively influencing the cultivation of professional managerial staff.

2.   Political and Legal environment

Another major difference in the conditions that influence Japanese and Korean labor relations is the political and legal environment surrounding labor union activities. While both countries' constitutions lay down basic rights for workers, the actual laws relating to labor-management relations, especially trade union laws, are very different.

Japan's Trade Union Law

Following defeat in World War II, Japan's fundamental rights of workers were determined under the American Occupation, where the right to organize, the right to collective bargaining, and the right to strike were established in the constitution. The Trade Union Law, enacted prior to these, and the various other pieces of labor legislation were progressive even by international standards. In particular, the stipulation on "unfair labor practices" within the Trade Union Law was extremely advantageous to the unions, and had only been passed in the United States ten years before (the Wagner Bill). In short, management were prohibited from the following acts:

1. Firing or discriminating against employees because of their affiliation or activities with labor unions
2. Requiring withdrawal or disaffiliation from with labor unions as a condition of employment
3. Not consenting to collective bargaining without legitimate reason
4. Allowing a manager to intervene in labor movements, and gain control of it.

Later on, in 1948, due to reversals in Occupation policy, civil servants were deprived of the right to collective bargaining and the right to strike, and the Trade Union and Public Service Laws were revised. Furthermore, after the outbreak of the Korean War, the 'Red Purge' began in Japan, where numerous Communist party members and sympathizers were expelled from public office and key enterprises. For the budding labor movement that rapidly grew under the protection and development policies of the Occupation forces, the 'Red Purge' and the deprivation of many civil servants' rights were a great blow.

However, even after the denial of collective bargaining rights for civil servants, they continued to maintain their labor union organization, and remained very active. The union of civil servants continued to engage in disputes, deploying various modes of activities. These included continuing workplace meetings through lunch breaks into normal hours of operation, to strikes. Certainly, these types of activities were considered illegal, so some staff were fired or received pay deductions. Nevertheless, the labor legislation for postwar Japan was, even by international standards, very good on the whole in terms of protecting the freedom of labor union movements.

Even under such protective legislation, in reality, when it came to promotion, labor activists, communist party members and sympathizers were commonly discriminated against in both the public and private sectors. There were widespread cases of isolating and/or forcing retirement of those labor activists who did not agree with management policies; various methods were employed to do this. However, except in cases of employment regulation infringements, it was legally impossible to fire employees solely because of their philosophical beliefs or labor activism. While various other reasons were used to fire labor activists, if the fired employee decided to enter a lawsuit through the courts or Labor Relations Commission, the odds of his/her winning were high.

Another presentation is to be given on labor policy [at this symposium], so I will skip this issue here. However, I would like to point out that Japanese labor administration, like that of the ILO, keeps to the tripartite principle. The Labor Ministry, along with other divisions, have widely recognized the voice of labor unions, as seen in the equal participation of unions alongside management in policy deliberative councils, although there is a strong tendency towards Rengo federated labor unions. It is rare to see the Zenroren unions participate in such meetings. Also, each labor union has cooperative relations with the Social Democratic Party, Democratic Socialist Party, and the Communist Party, influencing legislation as well. The recent reconstruction of political parties and power in Japan has led to a more fluid relationship between labor unions and politics. While the decline in union influence is undeniable, the labor unions do still maintain some leverage. At the local government level, the unions are a force to be reckoned with, especially in regard to municipal elections.

Korea's Trade Union Law and Politics

The three rights of labor, while restricted to being 'within the confines of the law,' have been protected as constitutional rights since 1948 in Korea. Besides, the 1948 Constitution stipulated that "workers in private, for-profit enterprises have the right, as determined by law, to equal allotment of profit," which is rarely seen in constitutions of other countries.(50) However, the labor legislation, which was supposed to crystallize the basic rights of labor, was enacted five years after the Constitution, and the law regarding "equal allotment of profit" never materialized. The four basic labor laws, enacted in 1953, contained progressive elements, as in Japan, such as prohibiting "unfair labor practices", but such elements remained on paper only. The law and the reality of labor-management relations were so out of sync with each other that it was in fact "nominal legislation that existed for show only."(51) When the Korean peninsula became an area of US-Soviet conflict, the absolutist governing structure prioritized national security, and labor movements were severely restricted. Thereafter, whenever the military seized political power, labor movements were strictly controlled, as the object of potential social unrest and disorder. Labor legislation was revised numerous times, in 1963, 1973, and 1980, but all revisions increased constraints on the freedom of labor movements, and recognized wide-ranging political interventions.(52)

After the 'Workers' Great Struggle' of 1987, the revision of the Constitution as well as labor-related legislation greatly improved and increased the conditions for autonomous labor movements. Yet, even within these revisions, several elements from the period of the authoritarian regime remained. Labor unions were banned from political activity, and 'third party involvements' were forbidden, among others, restricting the freedom of labor activity. To top it all, violations of such laws were considered a penal offense. Today, civil servants and teachers are not allowed to unionize, and in private corporations, there exists a restriction on the formation of multiple unions within one company, if "the organizational aims are the same as a pre-existing union." While nearly a decade has passed since the declaration for democratization, such provisions have yet to be altered.

Another significant point in understanding Korean industrial relations is that the power of interpretation and handling of the law by political agents is greater than the written law itself. That is to say, the discretion of those with authority is more powerful than the system itself. For example, when the 'Democratic Labor Union' applied for permission to organize a labor union, the administrative authority created a 'ghost union,' provided the 'ghost union' with certification of establishment, and applied the restriction of 'multiple labor unions' to the 'Democratic Labor Union,' denying its request for organization. In reality, this is interference with the organizing of labor unions.(53) Thus, it is impossible to understand Korean labor relations as being solely based on the structure of labor legislation, without taking the administrative authorities into account. The president and his under-secretaries are all involved in the administration of labor. In terms of labor relations, the president's chief secretary, responsible for social welfare issues, plays a very large role. For instance, in the public divisions labor union dispute in the spring of 1996, a conflict arose when workers from the Seoul Subway Unions were fired. In this case, the president's under-secretary bypassed the Seoul Municipal Subway Corporation, and negotiated directly with the representatives from the public divisions labor union.(54)

The difference in decision-making process

Consensus-building in Japan: The Importance of Mutual Consent

Another significant point of comparison between Japanese and Korean labor relations is the process of operation and decision-making in various organizations. While Korea's decision-making process is generally top-down, Japan is traditionally bottom-up, or more accurately, "decision-making that focuses on consensus building". This difference in the process of decision-making is conspicuous in political institutions and company management, but also noteworthy in labor unions and related organizations, as the defining difference between in Japan and Korea.

Japan's decision-making process, which focuses on consensus building, is not a post-war phenomenon, but rather a result of history. The original model probably arose from the system of administration and policy resolution of the Tokugawa period. The Tokugawa shogunate's bureaucratic mechanism was constructed in such a way that authority would not be concentrated in one individual. For example, the rojû, jisha bugyô, machi bugyô, and other such central officials had multiple appointees, and in times of important matters, all were called forth to meet and discuss the issues. On issues of daily affairs, this group decided the monthly replacement of tsukiban autonomously. The procedure for policy-making would follow either of these routes. Based on consultation with those above, lower-ranking operational staff would provide a written verdict, or they would initially submit a proposal, which would make its way up the ladder to be approved.(55) In short, all those involved in various levels of administration were consulted in the process of determining policy, and oriented toward creating consensus.

This organizational operation and decision-making process was not restricted to the shogunate, but also widely operative in various organizations throughout Japan, including trade associations. For example, in the tomoko dômei, both the ôtôban, who was in charge of operations, and hakomoto, who looked after finances, selected on a monthly basis. Official decisions were made unanimously in general meetings, where all members were present.(56)

This type of decision-making process that sought unanimity still continues today in various Japanese organizations. Prior to any major decisions, government ministries, for example, have a consultative meeting, involving all interested parties. Final decisions are based on the findings of this meeting. Such practices, as well as favoring unanimous agreement over majority decision and frequent rotation of positions of high-ranking bureaucrats, are probably not unrelated to the traditional political culture mentioned above.

Korea: Anticipating Strong Leadership

Hattori Tamio notes that in Korean enterprises, "decisions are made at the top, particularly concentrating around managers who are blood relatives, and as such, top-down management is practiced." On the basis of such an assessment, he raises several points relating to the implementation of such a management model. (57)

1. Korean enterprises do not have a long history and they are run by the founder or the second generation (son)
2. A big element of each enterprise's development has been the quick response and decision-making of the owner-manager to the changing industrial environment,
3. Personal ties to the political world have been integral to the development of the company,
4. Korea's economic development was based on low wages as well as a mass production formula, which required huge investment. Such risky investments were possible only because the manager was the owner.
5. Since the authority was centralized in the person of the owner, the cultivation of talent was delayed.

These are most likely factors that led to the top-down management model of Korean enterprises. However, this concentration of decision-making authority in the top echelons is not limited solely to business management but can be seen widely in Korean organizations; this will require further explanation.

For example, with regard to the world of politics, in both North and South Korea, there have been presidents and chairmen with great authority in the last half-century. As power was concentrated in the particular person, charismatic leadership led to a top-down model of political activity. Obviously, there are many factors at work here, particularly the north-south conflict in the peninsula. The constantly tense military relationship, at times breaking out into actual hostilities, must have been one of the influential conditions for the top-down approach to politics. However, in addition to such direct factors, is it not important to address longer-term, more historical conditions and the existence of Korea's traditional political culture?

This realization came to me after learning about the 'presidential system' in the operation of Korean labor unions. According to the research conducted by Kumon Hiroshi and Hagiwara Susumu at an anonymous automobile union 'D', elections for union leadership are organized as a team, with the candidate for chairman and 4 other running mates for official positions. The elected team then has the authority to appoint 32 members of the executive committee. While further research is necessary to determine whether this system is widespread or not, it seems that the system of executive committees in other labor unions also allows for the exercise of strong leadership. The application of the 'presidential system' even in labor unions may imply that Korean society is one that respects individual leadership. By contrast, the anonymous decision-making process of "unexpected unanimous agreement" is favored in Japan rather than the decision of a specific individual.

The reality of the difference between the two countries cannot be accurately grasped solely by using dichotomies of 'top-down' and 'bottom-up.' In the case of Korea, while the emphasis lies in charismatic leadership, policies are probably not all due to initiatives by the individual leader, but the product of group policy-making by numerous supporting staff. However, when those policies do come out in the open, the leader receives the credit, enhancing the charisma of the individual, and producing favorable results. There are not a few cases in which a distinguished individual's leadership functions effectively in Japan as well. However, even in such situations, the leadership is not credited to the individual, but is seen as the product of "decision-making in which all interested parties are involved." This is the most accepted method and produces the most results.


(1) This article is a revised version presented at the Second Korea-Japan Exchange Symposium (07 October 1996), sponsored by Ohara Institute for Social Research, Hosei University, and Institute for Business and Economic Research, Inha University, which took place at Inha University in Korea. I would like to thank Professor Kim Jiwon of Korea National Open University for translating this article into Korean, and the Professor Lee Jong Koo of Sung Kong Hoe University, who acted as commentator, as well as all the participants who provided useful comments.

(2) According to Korea's Labor Research Institute survey of 1990, 98.1% of company-based unions include those which are factory and office-based. See Pak Pil Kyu, Kankoku rôshi kankei no shin kôzô [The New Structure of Korean Labor-Management Relations], (Nihon Keizai Hyôronsha, 1996), p.171. This is about 5% higher than the proportion of Japanese company-based labor unions.

(3) Chaebol is the Korean word for Konzern in German, conglomerate or combine in English, and zaibatsu in Japanese.

(4) In the early postwar period, labor unions were more office-based than company-based in Japan as well.

(5) Kodama Toshihiko, Kankoku kôgyôka to kigyô shûdan [Korean Industrialization and Business Collectives] (Gakubunsha, 1995), p.160

(6) The chaebol disputes involving Daewoo Shipbuilding and Hyundai Heavy Industry in the late 1980s would not have been resolved if the chaebol's 'commander in chief' had not participated directly in the negotiations. (Generally, 'commander in chief' refers to the president/chairman, but in the case of the Hyundai Chaebol, it was Jong Ju Yong, Honorary Chairman.). See Kodama, op. cit, p.200. This event implies that either the presidents of these companies were not entrusted with the authority to make the final decision on important issues, or that the unions would not recognize anything but the words of the 'commander in chief' of the chaebol as the final decision. Perhaps it was a combination of both.

(7) An Jun Sik, Shûshin koyôsei no nikkan hikaku[Lifetime Employment System: A Comparative Study of Japan and Korea], (Ronsôsha, 1982), p.262.  Sun Chang Hui, Kankoku no rôshi kankei rôdô undô to rôdôhô no shintenkai[Korea's Labor-Management Relations: New Developments in Labor Movement and Labor Legislation],(Nihon Rôdô Kenkyû Kikô, 1995), pp.99-100.

(8) Nimura Kazuo,"Kigyô-betsu kumiai no rekishiteki haikei"[Historical Background to Company-based Labor Unions] ( in Hosei University, Ohara Institute for Social Research, Kenkyû Shiryô Geppô, no.305, March 1984, "Nihon rôshikankei no rekishiteki tokushitsu"[Historical Characteristics of Japanese Labor-Management Relations], in Shakai Seisaku Gakkai ed., Nihon no rôshikankei no tokushitsu, (Ochanomizu Shobô, 1987), and "Sengo shakai no kiten ni okeru rôdôkumiai undô"[The Labor Union Movement at the Beginnings of Post-War Society in Japan], in Series Nihon Kin/Gendaishi, vol.4,( Iwanami Shoten, 1994).

(9) Yokota Nobuko, "1980nendai no Kankoku ni okeru rôdôshijô kôzô no henka seizôgyô seisanshoku danshi rôdôsha wo chûshin ni"[The Changes in 1980s Korean Labor Market Structure: Focusing on Male Workers in Production at Manufacturing Industries]" in Ajia Keizai, vol. 35, issue 10, (15 October 1994).

(10) David Montgomery, "Workersf control of machine production in the nineteenth century," in Workers' Controle in America, (Cambridge University Press, 1979).

(11) Marcel van der Linden & Jürgen Rojahn eds., The Formation of Labour Movements 1870-1914: An International Perspective, 2 volumes, (Leiden: Brill, 1990).

(12) Ichimura Shininchi ed., Ajia ni nezuku Nihon teki keiei[Japanese-style management take root in Asia ], (Tôyô Keizai Shinpôsha, 1988), p.111.

(13) Journal of Japanese Labor Studies (Nihon Rôdô Kenkyû Zasshi), Number 435, July 1996, p.34.

(14) Translator's note:'Taishi' can mean eldest son or prince, and 'kô' usually refers to a group formed out of similar interest.

(15) Translator's note: Considered to have emerged in the middle of the Tokugawa period (1603-1868). By the Meiji period (1868-1911), it expanded to include coal miners in Hokkaido and other locations. Tomoko referred to a miner who finished his apprenticeship, and was working under a master. Dômei translates as alliance, union, confederation, league, etc.

(16) Recent studies of medieval cities in Europe indicate that previous descriptions of the autonomous and free nature of medieval cities were exaggerated, and that these cities should not be regarded as the origins of modern civil society. Furthermore, the relationship of autonomous cities and the sovereign differed from country to country; see Hayashi Takeshi, Seiyô chûsei toshi to jiyû to jichi (Liberty and Autonomy in Western Medieval Cities) (Keibundô, 1986). However, in comparison to Japanese cities, these western medieval cities did maintain a certain level of liberty and autonomy, even if it was of the nature of a 'special right' within the framework of the feudal system.

(17) Translator's note: The term kyôdôtai is translated as community, following the model of Herman Ooms, Tokugawa Village Practice.

(18) Translator's note:Bakuhan system is the term used to describe the balance of power between the shogun (bakufu) and the 250 domains during the Tokugawa period. While this term is highly debated, the common understanding of the system is as follows: the Shogun (Bakufu as institution) doles out the land to the domain (han) lords, and these lords serve the Shogun by ruling over these lands. Castle-towns are cities (bourg) that grow surrounding the area around the domain's castle.

(19) Until the Warring States period (ca. 1477-1568) in Japan, there existed cities with characteristics similar to those of autonomous cities. The city limits were defined by the surrounding moat, and merchants hired soldiers to protect themselves.

(20) Inui Hiromi, Edo no shokunin: Toshi minshûshi e no shikô[Artisan in Yedo:Towards a Urban Social History ],(Yoshikawa Kôbunkan, 1996), p.88

(21) Inui, Edo no Shokunin.

(22) Uemura Masahiro and Miyamoto Matarô, 'Keiei soshiki to keiei kanri'[Management Organizations and Administration] , in Yasuoka Shigeaki and Amano Masatoshi ed., Kinseiteki keiei no tenkai[The Development of Early Modern Management ]( Iwanami Shoten, 1995).

(23) Sun, p.148

(24) Hagen Koo ed., State and Society in Contemporary Korea, (Cornell University Press, 1993), pp.136-37. However, it is problematic attribute the weakness of artisans' organizations directly to the tradition of Confucianism.

(25) Itô Minoru, Gijutsu kakushi to hyûman nettowâku-gata soshiki (Innovative Technology and Human Network-style Organization) (Nihon Rôdô Kyôkai, 1988).

(26) Translator's note: Post-war Japan means post-World War II. However, the beginning (and the end) of 'postwar Japan' is greatly debated.

(27) Translator's note: Pre-war refers to pre-World War II.

(28) Choong Soon Kim, The Culture of Korean Industry: An Ethnography of Poonsan Corporation, (University of Arizona Press, 1992), pp.102.

(29) An Jun Sik, 'Kankoku ni okeru jinji/rômu kanri no hatten'[The Development of Personnel Management in Korea],' in Ohara Institute for Social Research Journal, issue 417, (August 1993). Yun Jin Ho, "Kankoku zôsengyô deno genba kenryoku wo meguru rôshi katei"[Who has Power at the Work Site:Labor-Management Conflict in Korean Shipbuilding Industry], in Ohara Institute for Social Research Journal, issue 457,( December 1996). Kodama Toshihiko, Korean Industrialization, ch.5.

(30) Kim Yong Ji, 'Kankoku no Jidôsha A-sha ni okeru jinji seido kaikaku, Jô[Revamping the System of Human Resources in Company 'A' a Korean Automobile Company, Part I], in Ohara Institute for Social Research, Issue 450, (May 1996), p.19. The survey quoted above comes from the following source: Kim Sam Su Et al, Rôshi kankei seido kaizen no tame no kenkyû rôshi kankei seido ni kansuru yoron oyobi jittai chôsa bunseki[Study for the Improvement of Labor-Management Relations System], (Kokumin Keizai Kyôiku Kenkyûjo, 1992).

(31) See n. 8 above: Nimura Kazuo, "Sengo shakai no kiten", 1994.  Furthermore, in Korea's Democratic Labor Union movement, intellectuals-turned-labor activists played an extremely large role. In the international context, this shares some characteristics with the situation in Japan. (Jong Yong Dae, "Minshu rôdô kumiai undô no seichô to seiji katsudô" [The Development and Political Activity of the Democratic Labor Union Movement], in Ohara Institute for Social Research Journal, issue 457, (Dec. 1996).

(32) Jong Yi Hwa, 'Seizô-gyô ni okeru naibu rôdô shijô no henka to rôshi kankei'[Labor-Management Relations and the Change in the Internal Labor Market in the Manufacturing Industry] (, Ph.D. Dissertation, Seoul National University. Quoted in Pak, The New Structure, 1996, p.183.

(33) See Pak, The New Structure. In general, Korean studies of labor-management relations focus on labor unions in export industries, such as automobiles and shipbuilding, and other sectors are often overlooked. However, some of the most active organizations in Korea today are the labor unions of the public sector, organized as the Council of Representatives from Labor Unions of the Public Division, to which the Korean Telecommunications unions and Seoul Subway union are both affiliated.

(34) See Kim Yong Ji, Kodama Toshihiko above. Also see Hosei University Comparative Economics Research Institute, Kobayashi Kenichi and Kawakami Tadao eds., Kankoku no Keizai Hatten to Rôshi Kankei Keikaku to Seisaku[Korea's Economic Development and Labor-Management Relations Plan and Policy],(Hosei University Press, 1991).

(35) George S. Bain, The Growth of White-Collar Unionism, (Oxford University Press, 1970), pp.48-65.

(36) Fukagawa Yukiko, 'Senshinkoku e no michi to kadai: Sangyô minshu shugi wa kanôka'[Is an Industrial Democracy Possible? The Path towards becoming a Developed Nation and its Problems] in Watanabe Toshio ed., Survey of Korean Economy, 1990.

(37) There is a historical backdrop to the upward social aspirations in Korea. That is, during the Yi (Choson) Dynasty (1392-1897), there existed a privileged class called the yangban. The yangban 'were not a inherent status, but there were no objective standards by which one could measure yangban status, so it was inevitable that the lower classes would aspire to move upward for yangban status. Thus, this created a yangban oriented society.' Miyajima Hiroshi, Yanban: Richô shakai no tokken kaisô[Yangban:The Privileged Class of the Yi Choson Society ],(Chuôkôron sha, 1995).

(38) See n. 8 above: Nimura Kazuo, 'Historical background,' OISRJ, no.305,(March 1984).

(39) The depth of the rupture between the two classes can be seen in Naitô Norikuni, Igirisu no rôdôsha kaikyû (The British Working-Class) (Tôyô Keizai Shinpôsha, 1975), as well as in George Orwell's testimony, which is quoted in the above work. George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier (1937). Also, for reference to the strength of working-class culture even into the 1970s, see Paul Willis, Learning to Labour (1977).

(40) Jeoffrey Crossick ed., The Lower Middle Class in Britain: 1870-1914 (Japanese translation: Shima Koji, Igirisu Chûsan kaikyû no Shakaishi,(Hôritsu Bunkasha, 1990.)

(41) Miyajima Hideaki, 'Senmon keieisha no seiha'[The Domination of Professional Managers] in Yamazaki Hiroaki and Kikkawa Takerô ed.,Nihon keieishi 4: 'Nihonteki' keiei no renzoku to danzetsu[History of Japanese Management vol. 4: Continuation and Severance of Japanese-style' Management]( Iwanami Shoten, 1995).

(42) Kasaya Kazuhiko,Samurai no shisô: Nihongata soshiki, tsuyosa no kôzô[The Philosophy of the Samurai: The Strength of Japanese-style Organizational Structure],(Nihon Keizai Shinbunsha,1993).
Hirayama Asaji, Ie shakai to kojinshugi:Nihon-gata soshiki genri no saikentô;[Ie society and Individualism:A Reexamination of the Principles of Japanese-style Organizations],(Nihon Keizai Shinbunsha,1995).

(43) See Uemura, Miyamoto articles above.

(44) Translator's note: A 'stable stockholder' is a shareholder who is not influenced by price fluctuations or productivity and continues to own the stock for long periods of time. These 'stable stockholders' are usually related financial institutions or clients.

(45) Miyajima Hideaki, 'Zaikai tsuihô to keieisha no senbatsu Jôtai izonteki gabanansu sutorakuchâ no keisei',[Banishment from the financial world and the selection of managers: The construction of a dependent-phase governance structure] in Hashimoto Yoshirôed.Nihon Kigyô Shisutemu no Sengoshi( The Postwar History of Japanese Industry System, (Tokyo University Press, 1996).

(46) R. P. Dore, Authority and Benevolence: the Confucian Recipe for Industrial success (Ken-i to jintoku: keizaiteki seikô ni jukyô ga hatasu yakuwari, trans.Tamaru Nobuo) in Bôeki Masatsu no Shakaigaku - Igirisu to Nihon (The Sociology of Trade Friction: Britain and Japan) (Iwanami Shinsho, no.355, 1986).

(47)  The Nikkeiren Times, 17 September 1981.

(48) Hattori Tamio, Kankoku no Keiei Hatten[The Development of Management in Korea], (Bunshindô, 1988).
Chan Sup Chang and Nahn Joo Chang,  The Korean Management System: Cultural, Political, Economic Foundations, (Quarum Books, 1994).

(49) Hattori Tamio,'Kankoku zaibatsu no shorai' [The future of Korean zaibatsu? A Hypothesis on 'The Growth and Demise of Zaibatsu], in Makido Takarô ed., Kiro ni Tatsu Kankoku Kigyô Keiei: Arata na Kokusai Kyôsôryoku no Kyoka wo Motomete[Korean Management at Crossroads? In Search of Strength for International Competitiveness],( Nagoya University Press, 1994). These figures are from 1991. In 1985, there were 30 such persons. See Hattori, Kankoku no Keiei Hatten, p.271.

(50) Yu Kun, Kankoku no Rôshikankei- Rôdô undô to Rôdôhô no Shintenkai[Korea's Labor Relations: New Developments in Labor Union Movements and Labor Laws],' (Nihon Rôdô Kenkyû Kikô, 1995), p.146.

(51) The following sources were consulted to understand the state of Korean labor union movements.
Kim Yoon Won, Kankoku rôdô undôshi (A History of the Korean Labor Movements), trans. Nako Michiko, (Takushoku Shobô, 1978).
Li Sun On ed., trans., Kankoku no rôdô undô: taidô suru tatakai to sono shisô (Korean Labor Movements: The Growth of the Struggle and its Ideals) (Shakai Hyôronsha, 1979).
Nakao Michiko and Nakanishi Yô, "Beigunsei zenhyô daikanrôsô chôsen kaihô kara daikanminkoku e no kiseki" (American Military Policies Trajectory From the Liberation of Korea to the Republic of Korea), in Keizai Gakuronshû ([University of Tokyo] Journal of Economics), no.4, vol.49, (Jan. and April 1984).
Jang Jip Choi, Labor and Authoritarian State: Labor Unions in South Korean Manufacturing Industries, 1961-1980 (Korea University Press, 1989).
Yoshida Chiyo, "Kankoku rôdô undôshi no hitokoma - 1970-nendai joshi rôdôsha no tôsô to toshi sangyô senkyô undô" (A 'Pawn' in the History of Korean Labor Movements: The Female Workers' Struggle of the 1970s and Missionary Activities in Urban Industries), in Mita Gakkaizasshi (September 1990).
Seoul Federation of Labor Unions ed., Liang Guan Su trans., Zenkiroku Sôru Rôren (The Complete Records of Seoul Federation of Labor Unions) (Takushoku, Shobô, 1988).

(52) Ito Abito, Kurashi ga wakaru Ajia dokuhon Kankoku[A Reader to Understand Lifestyles in Asia: Korea],(Kawade Shobô, 1996), pp.64-68.

(53) Kim Jiwon, 'Kankoku Sansei zaibatsu ni okeru rôshi kankei no henka'[The changes in labor relations by Samsung zaibatsu of Korea], in Ohara Institute for Social Research Journal, no.450,(May 1996).

(54) Based on interviews with Mr, Soku Chison, the president of the Seoul Metropolitan Subway Labor Union, October 11th, 1996.

(55) See Kasaya cited above.

(56) Nimura Kazuo, Ashio Bôdô no Shiteki-bunseki: Kôzan Rôdôsha no Shakaishi (The Ashio Riot of 1907: A Social History of Mining in Japan.(Tokyo University Press, 1988).

(57) See Hattori cited above, pp.109-115.

Translated by Izumi NAKAYAMA

Written and Edited by
NIMURA, Kazuo @