Monday, December 08, 2003

Industrial relations, the Korean way

"It wasn't exactly a kidnapping, but the managers did not go by choice. When an alarmed Iraqi employee called out to ask where they were being taken, one of the managers began to respond, but a worker smacked him in the head, a Washington Post reporter observed. Workers led the managers by their arms to a conference room in the back of the Tutaitulah Hotel, where the workers had been staying.

The room was dim, and the executives were placed in a row of seats in the front of the room.

Hae Chun Suh, Ohmoo's president, wearing a sky-blue bullet-proof vest, stared stoically at the crowd. E Sah Park, a manager for Shiloh, sat in a corner with his hands on his face after a worker had hit him in the stomach. Another worker was seen throwing some food left over from lunch at his bosses, the reporter observed.

Then, either individually or in small groups, workers came up to yell at them. "Why were they alone? Why wasn't there anyone to help our friends?" demanded Song Kun Bae, 35.

Tae Ho Ohm, 42, chastised the managers for not taking into account the emotional state of the workers when they tried to order everyone back to work the next day. "The way we think, those who lived and died, we are all the same," Ohm said.

The workers placed blank pieces of paper in front of their managers and told them to write letters apologizing for their role in the deaths of their co-workers and promising that there would be compensation. "And write it prettily," one worker demanded."

Washington Post story on the Korean contractors' exit from Iraq.

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