The Korea Herald


Business groups protest against industrial accident bill

Envisioned legislation could place top company executive behind bars for major failure in safety management

By Bae Hyunjung

Published : Dec. 22, 2020 - 17:03

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South Korea's protestors (Yonhap) South Korea's protestors (Yonhap)
South Korea’s business circles protested Tuesday against the ongoing legislative move to enhance their safety management responsibilities and to hand down sanctions, including the possible imprisonment of a top official.

“We fully agree to the legislative intent to better protect workers’ safety and to prevent industrial accidents,” said the country’s key business groups in a joint rally held at the Korea Federation of SMEs headquarters in Yeouido, western Seoul.

“But it is excessive to lay all the blame upon the management and to hand down quadruple sanctions including criminal punishment, corporate fines, administrative sanctions and punitive damages.”

Participating in the joint statement were top or senior officials from the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Federation of Korean Industries, Korea Enterprises Federation, Korea International Trade Association, Korea Federation of SMEs, Federation of Middle Market Enterprises of Korea, Construction Association of Korea, and Korea Specialty Contractors’ Association.

The latest statement also marked a rare case in which the top officials of KEF and KITA stepped out to the public arena to speak against an ongoing legislative process. The business groups had announced a similar statement earlier this month, but the attendants at the time were mostly vice chairmen.

Also, the Federation of SMEs claimed that the law, if enacted, is likely to weigh upon the small and medium-sized companies here that may not be able to afford to allocate additional budgets or human resources, especially under the incumbent COVID-19 crisis.

Their action came in response to mounting gestures within political circles to initiate a new law to hand down heavier punishments upon negligent employers in case of industrial accident.

“We will make our best effort to pass the industry-related safety law by Jan. 8, which is within the extraordinary parliamentary session,” Rep. Joo Ho-young, floor leader of the opposition People’s Power Party, said Tuesday in a party meeting.

“The Democratic Party has used expressions that give the impression that we are against the legislation, but this is not true. It is just that we want to make sure that the risk of excessive legislation should be removed in order to protect innocent people from facing punishment.”

The opposition lawmaker’s remark came in an apparent response to that of his ruling Democratic Party of Korea counterpart Rep. Kim Tae-nyeon on the previous day.

While the ruling party has been pressing the conservative opposition camp for participation, the more progressive minority Justice Party has been holding a hunger strike since earlier this month in front of the National Assembly, along with family members of victims of industrial accidents.

By Bae Hyun-jung (