President Ms Na Soon-ja, Secretary General Ms Yoo Ji-Hyun, and the members of KHMU, Happy New Year to you all! I congratulate you for starting the New Year with these new executive officers.
You are the new leadership who received more than 90% of support from your members at last December’s election, and are taking up a new responsibility with a strong expectation from the union members. That reminds me of President-elect Obama in the UnitedStateswhowillsooninauguratehisnewadministration,thustakinguponhimselftheresponsibilityforthesupportandwishesoftheAmericanpeople.
However, such a huge expectation is, in a sense, mirroring the harsh reality. The financial crisis that emerged in Americalastyearhasthrownthewholeworldintoaneconomicturmoilandvastnumbersofworkers,bothintheprivateandthepublicsectorshavelosttheirjobsandarenowoutinthecold.Noonecanpredicthowlongthiscrisis,whichsomedescribeastheonethatoccursonce-in-100-years,willlast,orwhenitwillcometoanendandinwhichway.Insuchcircumstances,thetradeunionmovementwillalsocertainlycomeunderstrongpressuretoadjusttothishardreality.
Korean trade unions, however, have reassuring experiences of standing up and boldly facing adverse circumstances as was the case during the IMF crisis of 1997. And KHMU has been steadily growing as an industrial federation. Therefore, I firmly believe that you will gallantly face the present challenges without fear.
At the time of 1997 crisis, International Financial Institutions or IFIs and the governments in Europe and USA made a false accusation that the affected countries invited the crisis upon themselves due to insufficient structural adjustment. Once they were hit by the current crisis, they seem to have forgotten what they preached then, and now insist on the fiscal stimuli and regulating speculation. They are shamelessly trying to bail out large corporations.
We, who work in the public service, must change this crisis into an opportunity. We need to persuade our governments, employers and IFIs to rectify the misuse of money as investing in public service is the wisest solution.
Health services that support human life and health are the most fundamental public service. And if we want sustainable employment in this field with health service workers who can have pride and find their job worthwhile, the society needs to recognise that the health workers trade unions play a crucial function. I sincerely hope your union will become a focal point by playing such a role in Korea,andfurtherintheworldasitcontinuestogrow.
Finally, I would again like to thank Ms Hong Myung-Ok, Ms Na’s predecessor, forhergreatcontributionandcooperationinPSIactivities.Ialsowishthatshewillcontinuetobeactiveandsupportthenewleadership.
PSI Asia Pacific Regional Organisation