Taiwan Media at War over South Korea Comparison

Taiwan Media at War over South Korea Comparison
Photo Credit: 宋小海|苦勞網
Why you need to know

'If this is the level of a newspaper’s editorial team, then it’s enough to make one embarrassed about the quality of Taiwanese media. What right do we have to flatter ourselves to be influential and have ‘international perspectives?' writes South Korea-based Taiwanese journalist Yang Chien-hao.

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Since amendments to Taiwan’s labor laws took effect on Dec. 23, 2016, many employers have said that their businesses have been affected, especially those in the service, old economy and retail industries. The main challenges these businesses have been facing include the increase of personnel costs, increase in overtime pay, and difficulties in meeting staffing requirements, according to the results of a survey published yesterday by local online human resources firm 1111.com.tw.

The amendments to the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) were proposed by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). It is also known as the “one fixed day off and one flexible rest day” policy (一例一休). The policy aims to reduce working hours, increase overtime pay, and relax standards for annual leave, but reports have said the policy will lead to raised prices of commodities and layoffs due to employers being unable to meet the new requirements.

An editorial published yesterday by Chinese-language United Daily News (UDN) compares Taiwan’s new labor laws to those of South Korea, which Taiwan has long seen as a competitor in many fields, from economics to arts and culture. The article says, “The shining economic numbers of [South] Korea accumulate from working. You can call it the ‘[South] Korean hell,’ but you can’t deny that this is the main reason [South] Korea is the seventh largest economy in the world.”

The new policy is meant to help Taiwanese avoid long working hours, but “currently it seems that rising prices, increasing inconveniences, and large-scale layoffs will possibly lead us into a different ‘Taiwan hell,'" the report concludes.

In response to the UDN editorial, udn Global, a sister publication of UDN, today published a piece criticizing the previous article. The piece was written by Yang Chien-hao (楊虔豪), a Taiwanese journalist based in South Korea. Yang condemns the UDN editorial team for using the labor law amendments as a reason for Taiwan’s current economic status since the island-nation has been falling behind South Korea economically for ten years. He says, “When observing South Korea, you can’t just look at the surface. Because behind the solid economic numbers are too many inhumane abuses and sacrifices.”

The article also compares the current labor laws in both countries, which show working hours in South Korea have been decreasing in the past 15 years and the average monthly wage has gone up. Yang says the results show the UDN editorial team “lacks basic knowledge of Taiwanese and Korean labor conditions.”

Yang says if the UDN editorial team “wants to emphasize the conflicts that have risen in light of the new policy” then it should “do its duty as the media” by clarifying what all sides (employers, workers, and the government) are saying regarding the policy and the disputes that need to be taken care of. It should also bring up possible solutions to these problems and supervise the government, says Yang.

“If this is the level of a newspaper’s editorial team, then it’s enough to make one embarrassed about the quality of Taiwanese media. What right do we have to flatter ourselves to be influential and have ‘international perspectives?’”

Editor: Edward White

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