The development of the Korean economy is heavily influenced by labor union activity.
Many large Korean companies, except in a few rare cases, are unionized, attributed greatly by the 1987-1989 Great Labor Offensive period (Lee and Lee, 2005). In general, unions in Korea have had strong impact on improving the life of workers, including wage level, job security, and working conditions. This strong impact, however, also increased labor cost and may have actually hindered companies' competitiveness in the market, particularly the global market.
II. Union and Human Resource Development
The research on the relationship between union and human resource development, including training and development, has had a long history. Oswald (1985) mentioned critically that unions seek to raise member wages at the expense of nonunion labor and firm efficiency, under the utility-maximizing theories of a monopoly. Traditionally, the union was neither active in developing human resources nor training in a company, because it may lead to differentiation in performance and result in differentiated compensation, resulting in a negative effect on union solidarity. The exception is craft unions. Craft unions, in particular, throughout their existence, have been intimately involved with regulation of the apprenticeship system (Turner, 1962; Price, 1980). Therefore, labor unions in general have long recognized that proper education and training for officials, activists, and members in general, assist in making the union a more effective provider of services to its members. But, the training of members as employees has traditionally been low on the list of trade union priorities (Costine and Garavan, 1995).
The global and informational workplaces, however, make training and development a
required activity to workers in general (Claydon and Green 1994; Castells, 1996). This
new workplace creates demands beyond that of the old workplace, and can no longer