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Friday, October 29, 2004

Wages, and Samsung ownership

The Digital Mal, the site of the Monthly Mal has a couple of interesting pieces worth noting.

• "Where did all the high school graduates go?"; the Ministry of Labor has published statistics on wage structures. The article notes that even though the high school graduates are the biggest group in the labor market (43%), they are largely ignored in media and policies. When "youth unemployment" is talked, it refers to university graduates.
High school graduates' wages compared to uni graduates

Anyway, the proportion of uni graduates has doubled from 14 to 29% since 1990, reflecting the world's highest uni entrance rates.

The wage differentials between high school and university graduates has been slowly growing since the mid 1990s, after decreasing rapidly in the early 1990s (see the linked table).
The proportion of wage earners making no more than million won has remained the same, but those making more than 3 mil W are now 17% instead of 13% two years ago. (This is the issue of which there's been a lot of talk; the polarization of the labor market and the increasing differentials between the well-to-do organized workers in big companies, with good negotiation power compared to unorganized labor in small companies.)

I wanted to find some comparative material to put the Korean wage differentials into some context. Here are some Finnish figures on income levels an education from 2001 (pdf file source)

All employees 25 800 €
Middle school 21 900
Tertiary ed. 26 600 (corresponds to the Korean "high school"
Undergrad level 32 800
Grad level 40 000 (most uni grads in Finland are Masters)
Postgrad 49 600

The most common university graduation degree has been Masters, so the wage differential between those with university education and those with tertiary education in Finland is about the same as that between uni and high school graduates in Korea. Sure these figures are not that comparable, but still. In Korea the Gini coefficient has indicated a relatively even distribution of income, but the real differences in wealth, as also experienced and recognized by Koreans, come from capital income (stocks, real estate etc).

• About the Samsung famiglia (Lee Kun-hee et al) insisting of being allowed to continue the control of Samsung Electronics through the ownership of Samsung Life (article)
그동안 삼성생명은 보험 계약자들의 보험료를 끌어들여 투자라는 명목으로 계열사들의 경영권을 방어하고 동시에 지배권을 강화해 왔다. 공정거래위원회는 이런 악순환을 끊겠다고 나섰고 삼성을 비롯한 재벌 그룹들은 경영권 위기를 핑계로 필사적으로 저항하고 있다. 온갖 수단을 썼는데도 경제 살리기에 실패한 노무현 정부는 재벌 그룹들의 손을 들어줄 분위기다. 투자와 고용이라는 절대 과제를 이들이 쥐고 있기 때문이다.
경영권 위협은 물론 가능한 이야기지만 소설과 달리 실제로 그런 일이 벌어질 가능성은 크지 않다. 삼성전자는 SK보다 시가총액도 훨씬 크고 지분도 잘 분산돼 있다. 그리고 설령 경영권 위협의 가능성이 있다고 하더라도 이처럼 시장의 원리를 어겨가면서까지 무작정 재벌 그룹의 손을 들어줘야 하는가는 따져볼 문제다. 그들은 지금 그들의 영향력을 앞세워 우리 사회에 양보를 요구하고 있다. 그러면서 정작 그들은 그 무엇도 조금도 양보할 생각이 없는 것처럼 보인다.

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