m a r k a n d e y a

Archive for July 2nd, 2007

Bad News Day

Posted by Brian on July 2, 2007

The lousy news continue to rain down on me…

Korean firms show their true colors:

An alarm is ringing for Korean firms operating in China after Beijing passed a stronger labor law aimed at protecting workers’ right last week.

When the new law goes into effect in January 2008, it will reduce labor flexibility and increase operational risks for Korean firms while improving the basic rights of local workers, experts say.

The impact is expected to be heavier on small independent firms that account for 98 percent of Korean businesses operating in China, while conglomerates and other big firms are better prepared for the change.

“The Chinese government has passed the Contract Labor Law that has a heavy focus on workers’ rights. There is a high possibility that labor costs will go up for foreign firms,” said Kim Kyung-yong, a senior manager of the Asian team at the Korea International Trade Association (KITA), an interest group representing some 65,000 companies. “Firms have to cope with the changes while they still have the time to do so.”

The new law passed the Chinese legislature with strong support from the public after a series of reports were published on poor working conditions and compensation at workplaces. Most foreign firms have welcomed the law, at least on the surface.

The law has some provisions that can be considered too rigid to the eyes of Korean employers, who generally anticipate lower wages and less stringent labor regulations in China than here.

For example, the law will ensure people who have worked more than 15 years or ones within five years of retirement will not be fired in any eventuality. Also, interns and other probationary workers must be paid more than 80 percent of regular wages.

Workers can get a lifetime contract from their employers when they complete two short-term contracts. It also gives greater power to labor unions for collective bargaining and the implementation of new employment regulations.

China has the temerity to improve the working conditions of their lower working class and, rather than celebrate and eagerly support this move, Korean companies gripe. I guess it might be a challenge for them to treat Chinese workers with the slightest amount of dignity.

I’m reminded of a student I had a few years ago who owned a company that utilized a factory in China for production. One day, I asked him if he was concerned about the working conditions and wages of the Chinese employees there; he looked at me like I was asking him if he was concerned about the mildew stains in the bathroom of room 7 at the Spokane Quality Inn.

And in other news, Hanhwa chairman Kim Seung-youn was sentenced to 18 months in prison for assualting bar workers in a revenge attacks on behalf of his son. If you’re dumb enough to believe that he’ll serve even a third of that time you’re dumb enough to believe that Scooter Libby might have had the chance of doing jail time of his own.

Let the Kim Seung-yeon Pardon Watch begin. 1, 2, 3, 4…

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Posted in Korean Issues | 1 Comment »

Not Surprising…

Posted by Brian on July 2, 2007

Bush commutes Libby:

“I respect the jury’s verdict, but I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive,” Bush said in a statement issued Monday.

“Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby’s sentence that required him to spend 30 months in prison.”

Bush said Libby will still have to pay a $250,000 US fine and serve two years probation.

“My decision to commute his prison sentence leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby,” Bush said.

He noted that Libby’s wife and young children have “suffered immensely” and Libby’s reputation as a public servant and former lawyer has been “forever damaged.”

This is the same kind of bullshit we see a lot in Korea, with the elite getting slaps on the wrists on account of their suffering family or their contributions to Korean society. I wonder if the same right-wing bloggers in Korea who routinely ridicule Korea for its weekly pardons and turnstile-equipped white-collar prisons will have the same strong reaction to this case.

Libby was convicted of leaking the identity of an undercover agent and was sentenced to 2 and a half years in prison in an American court of law. But when King Bush disagrees with the outcome of a well-respected legal system with 200+ years of history behind it, you know who comes out on top.

And before someone says “But Bill Clinton…,” I was just as pissed about his last minute pardons also.

Senator Obama says it best:

“This decision to commute the sentence of a man who compromised our national security cements the legacy of an Administration characterized by a politics of cynicism and division, one that has consistently placed itself and its ideology above the law. This is exactly the kind of politics we must change so we can begin restoring the American people’s faith in a government that puts the country’s progress ahead of the bitter partisanship of recent years.”

I am so sick and tired of being disappointed by my government.

Posted in American Issues | 1 Comment »