South Korea’s Automotive Labour Regime, Hyundai Motors’ Global Production Network and Trade-based Integration with the European Union
British Journal of Industrial Relations
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This article explores the inter-relationship between global production networks (GPNs) and free trade agreements (FTAs) in the South Korean auto industry and its employment relations. It focuses on the production network of the Hyundai Motor Group (HMG) – the third biggest automobile manufacturer in the world – and the FTA between the EU and South Korea. This was the first of the EU’s ‘new generation’ FTAs, which among other things contained provisions designed to protect and promote labour standards. The article’s argument is two-fold. First, that HMG’s production network and Korea’s political economy (of which HMG is a crucial part) limited the possibilities for the FTA’s labour provisions to take effect. Second, that the commercial provisions in this same FTA simultaneously eroded HMG’s domestic market and corporate profitability, leading to adverse consequences for auto workers in the more insecure and low-paid jobs. In making this argument, the article advances a multi-scalar conceptualisation of the labour regime as an analytical intermediary between GPNs and FTAs. It also provides one of the first empirical studies of the EU-South Korea FTA in terms of employment relations, drawing on 105 interviews with trade unions, employer associations, automobile companies, and state officials across both parties.
AuthorsCampling, L; Harrison, J; Richardson, B; Smith, A; Barbu, M
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