Yoon warns of ‘firm action’ against labor unions refusing to disclose account books

February 20, 2023

President Yoon Suk Yeol warned Monday of “firm action” against labor unions that refuse to disclose their account books while receiving large amounts of government subsidies, his office said.

Yoon’s warning came during a weekly meeting with Prime Minister Han Duck-soo as they discussed ways to increase labor unions’ accounting transparency and regulatory reforms, according to presidential spokesperson Lee Do-woon.

President Yoon Suk Yeol (Yonhap)
President Yoon Suk Yeol (Yonhap)

“The president stressed once again that the starting point for labor union reform is transparency of labor union accounting,” Lee said during a press briefing.

“There is no choice but to take firm action against behavior that uses hundreds of billions of won from taxpayers’ precious money in government subsidies, but denies the rule of law and refuses to disclose the details of their use,” Yoon was quoted as saying.

The hundreds of billions of won was an apparent reference to People Power Party Rep. Kweon Seong-dong’s recent claim that the country’s two largest umbrella unions — the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions and the Federation of Korean Trade Unions — received 152.1 billion won (US$117.4 million) in subsidies from the labor ministry and regional governments between 2018 and 2022.

Meanwhile, only 120 out of 327 labor unions and groups with 1,000 or more members complied with the government’s request for accounting records from Feb. 1-15, according to the labor ministry.

Last week, Yoon asked Labor Minister Lee Jeong-sik to give him a comprehensive report on the issue.

Speaking to reporters after briefing the president Monday, Lee said the government will give a 14-day grace period to the 207 labor unions that refused to comply and impose a fine after that period.

If the unions continue to refuse, the government will carry out an on-site inspection and impose an additional fine if the unions try to block the inspection.

Starting this year, the government will exclude labor groups that fail to meet their accounting obligations under the law from government subsidies and also conduct a detailed analysis of the subsidies dispensed so far with the option of confiscating them in the event irregularities are found, Lee said.