4) The Workers’ Welfare and The Working Environment
It should be recognized that Korean managers are not so concerned about the safety of the working environment, the welfare of the workers, and various facilities that can ensure such values. The reason is probably that they themselves have never recieved such facilities in Korea. They feel such facilities are a luxury compared to the level of Indonesian workers’ life. Lately, the issue of workers` welfare and the working environment has begun to replace the issue of wages as a source of disputes between workers and firms. For example, the demand of safety in the working environment, medical treatment facilities, insurance, dormitories, and meals. Demands for improving the working environment, workers` welfare and facilities mentioned above have become a not unusual reason to strike. Perhaps these new flows are the work of NGOs who have been concerned with labour issues and provide education to the workers about their rights. Recently, PT Sunkyong Keris, which is a collaboration company between Sunkyong, a Korean tycoon, and Batik Keris, a leading textile company in Indonesia, set up a modern factory, with advanced machinery, dormitory, air-conditioned buses to transport the workers, higher salaries, and more humane treatment, that make many workers want to work at this factory, however this working environment and facilities are the exception.
Actually there are quite a lot of manufacturers that set up facilities for the convenience of workers, but in reality the facilities were not fully utilized and can be said to be mere ornaments. Although there are canteens and food provided by the company, the canteens were dirty, and the quality and taste of food was far below standard, and even smelled awful. Besides they also did not provide drinking water. Therefore it is to be expected that the workers complain about the food problem. This is also one of the causes for workers’ protests. It has been described above that the toilet facilities are not satisfactory and restricted. The number of toilet cubicles is insufficient and some of them are even locked on purpose. There was one case in a garment factory, SA, owned by the Chinese, but it has Korean managers. There is a toilet with a leaking roof left unrepaired for months to the extent that the toilet floor is flooded but the roof is still not being repaired. Transportation issues are also becoming a serious problem. When workers want to return home after the overtime ended the factory does not provide a bus for the workers to go home and they even did not get any transportation allowances.
EIF shoe company has experienced a serious labour conflict. This company only operates 40 units of busses with a capacity each of 50 passengers, whereas the number of employees is 6500 people. SPJ furniture factory moved the plant from North Jakarta to Tangerang. This company did not provide dormitories in the new location. Many workers were forced to commute far away from their home to the working place. So they asked for a transportation allowance. However, the company did not accept their request, the company was even firing the workers that created the labour conflict. In addition, this plant is not equipped with dining facilities for lunch, the workers have to walk approximately 30 minutes to have their lunch.
In SA garment factories, about 300 people live in the labour dormitory, but in the dorms, only three bathrooms are available. The laborers are forced to queue every morning. They protested at the company. The company provided solutions by making a public bathroom that could be used to shower by eight people at the same time. For Indonesian people, unlike the Koreans, it is not common to show the naked body to others. Indonesian people are not used to the concept of a public bath, and for instance a changing room will always be based on one cubicle for one persons use. An Indonesian labour activists once said that he was not angry to know of all of this, but instead thought it a pity to see how the Koreans could ask 8 people to shower together in a cramped bathroom.
In Indonesia, there are many companies implementing ASTEK systems (Employment Insurance) to protect workers getting an accident at work, however there are also many companies that do not apply this insurance. The issue of no ASTEK is one of the reasons for labour strikes. Among companies that implement ASTEK, there are still some cases of discrimination. For example some workers were not included in the ASTEK by treating them as temporary workers, trainees that work only for three months or forever. The medical treatment facility provided by the company can not be freely used. The workers need to get a permit letter before getting the treatment. If at the end the workers need to acquire drugs for their illness, the procedure is so complicated that workers are reluctant to use the facilities.
Problems in the working environment, safety and accidents at work, are in fact more serious than the social issues formed by these issues. Issues of accidents at work are not so prominently on the surface because the attitude of the employer as well as the attitude of the worker. If there is an accident at work that resulted in a worker being injured or killed, it appears like Korean companies will not be stingy in treating the worker and providing compensation, as they fear creating a bigger problem. The workers also tend to think the problem is solved if they are given adequate medical treatment and compensation. Therefore, accidents at work recieve less public attention. However, if attention is paid to the issue of the use of old equipment in Korean small and medium-sized enterprises, we can imagine how serious the safety problem is. The medical treatment and compensation could for the time being be a form of consolation, but the victims remain victims. If the company does not provide decent care and compensation for an accident at work, and lets the same accident occur again and again, it will cause serious problems for Korean companies.
5) Labour Management and Illegal Lay offs
Among the various types of management, labour management and worker controls are most typical for Korean companies. Especially in the companies attitudes toward unions and the labour movement. The responses to the unions and labour movements are very similar to what they had once enforced in Korea, so it is difficult to reject the allegations against Korean style management. In Korean companies, the manager will not allow the formation of labour unions and if it has been formed earlier they want to change it so the union tends to put the interests of the company first. It is possible that the rejection of labour unions comes from their previous experience in Korea. Korean small and medium companies were driven to move abroad because of the existence of labour unions and the labour movement. They still remember very well that the reactivation of the labour movement prevented them from freely controlling labour and wages.
However, the activities of the unions and the labour movements is still below the worrying level for the Korean investors. The only labour union in Indonesia, the Indonesian Workers Union (Serikat Pekerja Seluruh Indonesia; SPSI), is strictly controlled by the government. Perhaps more precise is to consider it as a progovernment union. However, only 20% of the companies have branches of SPSI and the number of workers who become members of this union are also very minimal. Lately there are some liberal union organizations, but since there is pressure from the government from the onset, they have not been able to grow. In the 1990s, disputes between workers and companies rose sharply, but if we consider the rapid increase of Indonesian industrialization and its strategy, the number of disputes can not be said to be high (see table 4). The labour movement in Indonesia is not so aggressive. Destruction of companies’ facilities are rare. At most, workers strike and just hang out. Laborers actions are only limited to shouting their demands and slogans. After the company`s security personnels arrives, workers point out representatives and then go away. The elected labour representatives will join the consultations with the company and the officials from the Department of Labour. Physical dispute cases as took place in Korea are very rare.
However, the bitter experiences in Korea has made the Korean company managers sensitive to labour issues and makes them act extreme. In other words, illegal and aggressive ways to mobilized against the organized were applied in Indonesia, but is more spontaneous and still considered polite action. The extreme ways of handling the strikes end up raising new problems and aggravating the conditions of strife.
The persons who are considered the leaders of the labour movement will be treated in an oppressive manner or pacified. If any of these ways are not effective, this person will be dismissed unfairly. In this study, the authors obtained a variety of information. Among them there are those who said that the formation of trade unions were prevented by threats, laborers are prohibited to join the unions, and the union executives are chosen from people who would easily accept a bribe. Mass media coverage on the strike occurring in Korean companies after the year 1993, mostly reported workers’ strikes that demanded the recognition of trade union establishment, or the re-activation of the union if there was a union established before. In these cases, the labour union established is a branch of the SPSI, which can be regarded as a formality. From this fact, we can see how strong the refusal of the Korean managers is towards labour unions, even if prohibiting the formation of labour unions is actually a violation of law.
The suppression of labour movements by the Korean manager is a similar response as used in Korea in the 1970s and 1980s. Workers who are considered to unmanageable or suspected to stimulate the labour movement and provoke strikes are transferred to the heavy duty works and the works that do not guarantee overtime payment. If a strike occurs, the company will ask the security personnel to go to the strike location to find the person who provoked the strike. If the security personnel still cannot find the person, the company will find a scape goat. Among workers who got fired from a Korean company, there are a number of workers who do not understand for what reason they were fired. A female worker who was harassed by a Korean manager had been fired from work because of her involvement in the labour movement. The management wanted to fire her, but they needed a valid reason. They sent another worker to start a fight with her. The female worker fought against the abuse. The company called both of them and fired them. This action is possible because the company regulations include an article which mentioned that workers who are fighting in the working place will be given a dismissal punishment. Furthermore, the authors have heard of an issue where the company mobilized thugs to threaten workers.
PT. Garuda Indawa, a shoe manufaturer of Eagle brand, once committed a lamentable action. Immediately after receiving information about a visit by the Minister of Manpower, the company chose a few workers and gave them training to only give good answers to the Minister’s questions concerning the level of wages and bonuses which were not true. Each worker selected for this training was rewarded with 10 thousand rupiah. After realizing this company’s act, the workers began to conduct a strike. This case was reported by almost all printed mass media daily newspapers and one of them posted this news as a news headline. After the strike happened, the head director of the company was requested to come to the office of the Ministry of Manpower and was given a warning., the workers’ strike still continued for a further week.
A Korean staff member who is in charge of labour affairs at one of the Korean investment companies, which had been quite famous from its involvement in several labour disputes, bluntly started a story about how Koreans handle labour issues. When they started the development of the factory building, the manager of the factory will establish a collaboration with the security personnel as early as possible. The labour recruitment for the company do not accept workers who have experience working in other places in order to avoid intruders to enter as laborers in the company. After labour disputes occurred several times, a SPSI branch was enforced to be recognized. The company appointed an officer to lead the secretariat of the branch so the branch could still be controlled company. According to this Korean staff member, small and medium Korean companies played an important role in the collapse of the Korean image. Therefore, he argued that to eliminate the bad image of Korea, all the shoe factories need to draw back their operation to Korea.
Lately, many companies try to include more and more Indonesian style labour management by placing native Indonesians to manage the laborers. A director in chief of a garment company said that his company has been sending home their Korean employees except for two personnel. The consideration to hire Indonesians that it is cheaper and if there is any dispute between labour and management, it should be able to be resolved among the Indonesians and eliminate the worry for the problem to develop into conflicts between nations. Moreover, if labour management is entrusted to an Indonesian, the conflict will only be “limited” to resolution between Indonesian people and the possible resulting dissmissal would also be an Indonesian to another Indonesian. However, the final decision remains in the hands of the Korean staff so actually the assignment of Indonesian personnel in the labour management sector is merely a temporary strategy. Final accountability lies with the Koreans. Therefore, a serious strategy is still needed to give more of a Indonesian style to the company, which gives more involvement and responsibility to the Indonesian personnel in the decision making process.
6) The Korean Manager`s approach
The approaches of Korean style management mentioned previously can not automatically be said to be of Korean origin. Although the approaches are similar to the experience in Korea in the past and applied in Korean companies in Indonesia run by Koreans, in fact these approaches can also be found in the labour management of foreign companies owned by other authoritarian states, and these can also be found in the military policy of Japan. Moreover, these approaches can easily be widely found in Hong Kong and Taiwan investment companies, or in factories owned by Chinese and native Indonesians. Many even say that the approaches implemented by Hong Kong and Taiwanese companies, as well as Chinese-owned companies are far more cruel and less humane.
As reviewed before, violence, physical punishment and beatings occurred in the early stages of the history of Korean investment in Indonesia. Today such practices have disappeared from the Korean company’s environment. The record of violence in the past remains to contribute to the creation of a negative image of Korean people. Contempt, both in the form of attitude and words when seeing the weakness of the opposition, is an act of violence. This type of action still occurs. Some of the Indonesian workers who were interviewed by the authors mentioned that they hate the dirty words and verbal abuse committed by the Koreans. They said that when the Korean are angry and stressed, they like to curse in Korean, shouting, yelling and screaming. Many workers are familiar with vulgar Korean words, such as “saeki”, “imma”, and “shibalnom”. After making friends with Korean personnel, a female worker once asked him the meaning of those words she knew, and apparently those words were dirty and irritating.
The Koreans admit that among the people who came from various countries to Indonesia to do business, Koreans seem to stand out as very rude. However, please note that in the Indonesian culture, yelling, loud voices and being hasty are very disliked, especially in the Javanese culture. Being rough in the Korean language can be interpreted as being arrogant. However, in the Indonesian language, these words are more negatively distorted, showing lack of education and being low. Koreans are usually considered as rude people. In hot and humid temperatures, Indonesians like to be slow, while the Koreans in the working place like to run here and there, while yelling with bad words. With this kind of attitude, it is impossible for Koreans to give a good impression. No way the Koreans are very good. It is said that the Korean vocabulary being memorized the fastest by workers is “Pali-Pali”, which means quickly. Meanwhile, the Koreans also memorize the fastest the vocabulary that has the same meaning with the word “Pali-Pali.” For example, in Latin America “rapido rapido” and in Bahasa Indonesia, “cepat-cepat”. In the eyes of an Indonesian, hasty behavior, offensive language, and screaming while ordering people around are an attitude for a mentally insane person. Indonesia has a philosophy of Pancasila as the state direction and one of the principals in Pancasila is harmony, which is drawn from traditional values.
Korean people can not perform good dialogue and have difficulty in listening to others. This can cause problems in Indonesia. The thing that often created problems in the early period of the Korean investment history in Indonesia was the physical contact between people. The Koreans do not understand that physical contact is often considered as an insult for the Indonesians. In fact, Indonesian people taught themselves to be patient with this form of humiliation. In a job training center of Binawan Ltd., an employment agency that provides education to prospective workers wanting to work abroad, the instructor pulled the trainee’s ear and hair, slaps the face, or stands two men facing each other and slapping each other as a form of exercise to help the trainees to adapt to the prospective working place. According to a laborer, physical violence has disappeared and Indonesian workers have been able to receive mild physical contact as evidence of good intentions.
However, the humiliation is still continuing. The most difficult thing to accept is the behavior of the Koreans using the legs (not hands) to point out an item and assign work. Furthermore, even though the physical punishment has disappeared, there are still punishments such as being assigned to clean the floors or toilets and stand for hours in the corner. Indonesian people who have never undergone an authoritarian education or military life, and are still allied with the Malay culture which can not receive open humiliation, certainly can not accept this attitude and the punishment of the Korean people.
Although physical violence has disappeared as the Korean managers were begining to experience retaliation and reactions, the act of humiliation still continues to occur because the views of the Koreans have not changed. The Koreans hold a differing view on the Indonesian race, the culture of Indonesia and the Indonesian laborers. Other author in his paper once criticized the elitism, racism and nationalism, which is always in the head of Korean people as the main cause of disputes and worsens the conflict between the Korean investors and the workers. This research also observed the biased view of the Koreans being the root of the inhumane nature in Korean style management. Results of the survey analysis of an earlier study on the Korean community in Indonesia by the author together with this research show that the Indonesians are considered as lazy (90.9%), dirty (95.6%), and dishonest (70.6%) by the Koreans. Furthermore, the culture of Indonesia has a lower level than the Korean culture (80.9%) and no discipline (82.1%). Here we can see a hugely biased view of the Koreans about the people of Indonesia.
Sometimes these racist views also emerge in a very unusual form. According to an interviewed worker, there is a manager of a Korean garment company in Surabaya, that likes to do an odd thing. Every day without any exception, 15 minutes before four o`clock, he tosses 200 sheets of working time cards on the floor and enjoys the view of the 200 workers pushing each other as they search for their own cards. At the same company, there was another incident of a Korean manager cutting the strap of a worker`s sandals. The worker was having an injured leg, so he had his leg bandaged and wore new sandals for work at that time. When he saw a worker wearing new sandals, the manager cut the strap of his sandals. The reasoning of the Korean manager for his action was that he considered the worker was swollen with pride since he wore a new pair of sandals. After cutting the strap of the sandals, the managers were throwing money to the worker. From this attitude we see that the nature of the Koreans is just like a poor person that has just gotten rich recently (OKB; Orang Kaya Baru), and think that they can solve everything with money in Indonesia.
It seems that harassment and sexual violence also often occur. This research did not focus on this issue, however most workers interviewed mentioned that they are familiar with at least one case of marriage between a Korean manager and Indonesian female worker in their working environment. Among Korean managers, most are married men. In one study of workers at a foreign shoe factory (mostly owned by Koreans) in Tangerang and Bogor, there was an incident where an Indonesian male worker kissed an Korean female manager as an act of revenge against the sexual harassment by male Korean managers to female Indonesian workers. The bad image of the Koreans in Southeast Asia including in Indonesia, is largely caused by the perception and the drifted sexual behavior of the Korean men.
4. The image of Koreans as an Exploitative Broker: implications in the history of the political economy
Problems occurring in the Korean investment companies abroad are quite serious, but in Korea, these problem are not properly addressed. Thus, Korean society only knows of them as made-up matters or as insignificant. If there are any criticisms, it is only limited to the level of principles and morals. In this research, the authors concluded that labour problems experienced by Korean companies overseas are very complicated and are not the same as what is known in Korean society. The problems arising in the future are also estimated to be more severe than forecast in Korean society.
The need to define the Korean companies overseas should be considered as early as possible. Until now, the Korean company overseas is usually defined as a company whose capital is invested by the Koreans, as a solo investor or in collaboration with local investors. In other words, Korean firms overseas are identical to Korean investors. However, the Korean style management which is criticized by the Indonesians does not only focus on the companies which have Korean shareholders, but also the companies that have foreign investors such as the Indonesian Chinese, Taiwanese, and people from Hong Kong, but have Korean managers. Thus, to find the solution for labour problems overseas, we need to broaden the definition of Korean companies overseat to: not just those companies with Korean investors but also those companies that commissioned the Koreans as managers for operations and administrations.
In the labour-intensive industrial sector, the Koreans play very important roles as plant manager, production supervisor, manager of labour, and administrative personnel. According to Mr. Chung, the Chairman of the Korean Garment Industry Association, there are more than 40 factories that do not belong to the Koreans, but do have people from Korea as factory managers. The Koreans who work as managers and workers in garment factories in Indonesia count about 1,500 people, including 500 who work in factories owned by the Koreans. According to the statistics of the Indonesian Labour Ministry, in July 1995, Korean workers in Indonesia counted some 8000 people, being the largest number. Meanwhile, according to the Korean Foreign Department’s statistics, there were about 50 thousand Koreans living in Indonesia with the number of workers being 6,000 people.
Almost all of Korean shoe factories in Indonesia employ Koreans as managers, supervisors, and technical and production advisers. Among the so-called Korean companies, in most companies only the managers are Koreans, while there Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia Issue 11 (March 2011): Southeast Asian Studies in Korea 20 was also a company that was referred to as a Korean company, even though the manager was Chinese.
How did this happen? The wage increase in Korea has made Korea lose its competitiveness for labour-intensive industries at the international level. Workers in this sector were driven out. When the industry changes, the managers and administrative personnel may move to other types of industries, however for the production supervisors, technicians and low skilled workers, to move to other industries sectors is very difficult as it will need different skills and experiences. If companies want to move overseas the labour could also move along, but if the company had to close down the business and had to moved the different type of industry, those production supervisors and the technicians were forced to find their own place of work. Among the workers who move by themselves, many came to Indonesia. According to Mr. Chung, they come in person to offer themselves.
There are many factors which draw them to Indonesia. Labour-intensive industries such as the footwear industry is a new segment for Indonesian investors. Therefore, Indonesia does not have the knowledge base and experience in management, production, and technology. Indonesia takes advantage of the changing conditions in Korea by inviting the Korean engineers and production supervisors who have the experience but whose positions have been shifted. There are even companies that do not belong to the Koreans who want to bring the Korean supervisors and technicians who were already working in other companies by providing incentives such as a good salary and position.
What makes the Korean manager popular is simply and solely the Korean style management. The Korean style management method is very fascinating in the eyes of investors in the labour-intensive industrial sector. This method can guarantee productivity and rigorous work in the short term with the same wages. Usually the factory produces goods with the original equipment manufacturers (OEM) technique. The company that place the orders with this kind of factory often requests to have the Koreans employed as the factory managers and supervisors. For the buyer or the client, high productivity at low cost within a limited time is a very important element. For the buyers, the Korean style management is not a problem because they can place the orders with another factory for their goods if there are problems with labour in those factories.
The above conditions have caused the former production supervisors, technicians and workers in the area of Busan, Daegu and Masan to move to foreign companies in Indonesia. These people get better positions compared to their previous positions in Korea, such as plant manager, supervisor, and technical adviser. Their job in the new place, as discussed above, is to increase the productivity by improving the intensity, extending the working hours and completing the orders within a limited time. All these tasks involves the management of production and the organization of workers, and requires them to perform their duties in the field and to meet the workers face to face every day. They must be persuading, encouraging and forcing the workers to work to their maximum potential within their physical limitations as a human. The eyes of the Indonesian laborers do not see the foreign investors, instead they only see the Koreans who do their duties as supervisors and are always in front of the workers.
What advantages can be brought by those Korean production supervisors and technicians who work overseas to the Korean community? Of course, there is the effect of reducing Korean unemployment and balancing income from outside the commercial sector. But the foreign exchange earned from only thousands of people abroad does not compare to the damage of the Korean image, which is a public treasure of Korea. The Korean economy is relying on foreign countries, meaning the international community, for more than just employment. The international community, in terms of the economy has different meanings to Korean society: the markets of production goods, the sources of imports, the area of investment, source of labour, and the tourism sites. Therefore, the image of Koreans in the eyes of the international community is much more important than the workplace for thousands of people who generate a little foreign exchange. Moreover, they are just workers. They do not participate in important matters such as decision making, financial management and banking. They can be evicted at any time by reason of management accountability. They are no more than lackey.
Seeing this development, we should note the meaning of the role played by the Koreans as mid-level managers in the Indonesian community. It is noteworthy in terms of Indonesian political-economic history, in which the role of the middleman (broker) is performed by the Chinese people. In the eyes of the natives, the image of Chinese people as the middleman is for exploitation. This time, the Koreans are in a dangerous position. They seem to want to act as the evil brokers.
History of the role of the Chinese middleman can be traced back to the Dutch colonial era. Dutch colonialists passed the role of middleman (broker) between the imperialists and indigenous people to the Chinese people and expected them to exploit the indigenous community. Dutch colonialists categorized the Chinese as Foreign Orientals and handed over legal position as intermediate between Europeans and natives. Dutch colonialists made Chinese work as mediators with the native Dutch to connect them with the producers or consumers in these structures. Thus, as the middleman the Chinese sold European goods to the natives while collecting crops from indigenous people and selling them to the colonialists. Chinese`s profits were determined by how expensive they sold and how cheap they bought from indigenous natives. Furthermore, the colonialists worsened the image of the Chinese by favoring the Chinese to work in the immoral and exploitative fields. For example, the taxation task was entrusted to the Chinese, the monopoly on the manufacturing and trafficking of opium was given to the Chinese, and the pawnshop businesses and loansharks were allowed only among the Chinese. No wonder that in the eyes of natives, the Chinese were accomplices of the colonialist and the indigenous exploiters.
At the end of the colonial era, the Chinese people had improved economically, but did not further have a political patron. After Indonesian independence, the Dutch position as the Chinese political patron was replaced by the military. Suharto and the military regime that held the hegemony in 1965 effectively utilized the Chinese presence. The Suharto regime provided the political protection and economic advantages to the Chinese as well as gave them the task to build the Indonesian economy and provide political money. In addition, the Chinese people working together with cronies contributed significant treasures to the cronies in power. The Indonesians called the Chinese barons (Cukong).
The culture of the Chinese in Indonesia has many elements that do not allow them to mingle with the Indonesian community. Chinese culture has a worldly view of religion, worship of money and materialism, likes to eat pork and drink liquor, and to gamble. All these things are contrary to the teachings of Islam, the majority religion of the Indonesian population. Because of these elements, the Chinese in Indonesia are very slow in adapting to local culture compared to the Chinese in Thailand and the Philippines.
The role and the appearance of the Korean people in Indonesia are not so different from the role and the appearance of the Chinese people. The Korean companies in Indonesia, such as joked by local intellectuals, are fond of approaching the political rulers and looking for collusion relationships. Many Korean tycoons work with the President`s children and Chinese businessmen who have a relationship with the authorities. Korean managers which are hired by the foreign and Chinese companies in Indonesia, in the eyes of the natives, are only capitalist henchmen. The managers at companies mentioned previously just create the image of the middleman that exploits indigenous labour. Moreover, the number of Protestant churches and Catholic churches of the Korean community in Jakarta are eight. Perhaps this aspect also does not please the people of Indonesia that are 90% Muslim. The number of karaoke facilities is about 10 and the drinking culture exacerbates the bad image of the Koreans.
The image of Koreans as middleman is very dangerous. Given the experience of the Chinese and the Japanese in the past, the Koreans are not in a safe position. Chinese people are often under attack of revenge. After being empowered by the colonialist in Indonesia, every time there is an instability in the socio-political situation, Chinese people are always victims of murder and terror. During the last ten years, the differentiation and the violence against the Chinese decreased but the possibility still exists. Suharto`s regime in fact protected the Chinese, but also indicated its nature by taking advantage of anti-Chinese sentiments and making the Chinese into scapegoats to temporary eliminate the natives` complaints and frustrations. In January 1974, there were anti-Japanese riots that lasted for a few days in Jakarta and Bandung. The Indonesians did not like the collusion committed between the Japanese and the Chinese with the authorities. From this Malari case, the Japanese studied and showed a serious attitude to changing the image of Japan in various ways. From the stories like that above, it can not be said that there is no relation to what is happening with the Koreans.
5. The weapons of the weak: the struggle of Indonesian workers discourse
The creation of the bad image of Koreans as middlemen and Korean companies implementing less humane management in a place of business, which is the Korean style, shows a process of discourse formation of the weak who are successfull in protesting against the hegemony of the capitalist. Actually, Korean style management is not just limited to the Korean firms` environment. The oppressive control of labour that was once used on early stage investments in Indonesian history also has been loosened up. A lot of Korean companies are now regarded as the ideal workplace for Indonesian workers. The small-medium investment is also declining in the last two to three years. The role of the Korean as middleman is only found in the shoes, garments, and toys industrial sectors. However, the Korean companies are also widely known as a workplace that is most hated by Indonesian workers because of their cruelty and less human policies. This aspect can be interpreted as a victory discourse of the workers that is being used as a weapon of the weak. The weak struggle through a war of words, such as making up rumors and spreading them, vilifying, and lying. Almost all of the Koreans, especially the managers and the supervisors met the author, they mentioned stories of workers without merit and victimization. The Korean diplomats whose work related to the Korean investments such as the Korean communication attache, labour attache, and the trade attache also showed their disappointment towards the bad image of the Koreans and the bad coverage from the mass media. Another difficulty in this study also comes from the attitude of workers who tell untrue stories and rumors. The Indonesian government implements various policies to invite foreign investors. Over the last ten years, the Indonesian foreign exchange policy led to liberalization. Thus, a large number of foreign investments came to Indonesia. Officials of the Capital Investment Coordinating Board said that they are not worried about the labour problems experienced by the Korean companies. The voice of Muslims and nationalist intellectuals, who criticized the subordinate effects of capitalism and demanded economic independence, is now almost gone and does not appear again. In other words, it can be said that Indonesia at present is dominated by the hegemony of liberal capitalism and an open door policy. If so, why is it that in the Korean companies case the truth is not being recognized and the discourse of the hegemony and capitalism does not apply?
Koreans do not understand that the discourse of workers’ struggle is powerful. For an oppressive state and big capitalists, Indonesian labour is only a weak party and helpless. The Indonesian state has the McCarthyism views that considers the labour sector as potential communist enemies. Therefore, the government’s labour policy at the political level is oppressive. Various policy reforms over the past ten years lie within current neo-liberal globalization being identical with the activation of the capital sector and the weakening of the labour sector. The workers in Indonesia have been weakened and strangled by state conservatism, the unsupportive atmosphere from society, and being unorganized, although there have been labour-intensive industrializations. The weakening labour sector and the failure to organize laborers continues to occur supported by market factors. The number of laborers and the unemployment rate make the Indonesian labour market into a buyers market. In such a weak position, the open and organized struggles of the Indonesian workers were forced to be given up. If so, is it true that Indonesian workers have given up their fight? The answer is no. Indonesian workers are battling against the oppressive state, hegemonic capital, and the weakening of the labour sector, with their very powerful weapons. Their weapons are words. The war of words can defeat the enemy without causing casualties when they engage in an open and organized struggle.
How can the effects of this war of words that those who have been tasting the inhumane management of production and labour as the Korean style management wage can be invalidated, regardless the reality and their origins? The number of workers who work at about 350 Korean companies are at least one hundred thousand people. Their experience and understanding of the Korean companies will spread through their family, relatives, and friends network into Indonesian society. In the process of deployment, the sentiment of the nation and nationalism will add to the power of distribution. Thus, the anti Korea discourse will be more solid. Authors in this study, can see that the struggle of the Indonesian workers against the Korean companies in the form of discourse is extremely effective. Almost all Indonesian workers who met the author can not prove the heinous controlling labour practices such as low wage, violence and forced overtime. The author also received a labour activists` report, but the case was proved to be illusory and just a lie.
If the word of the made up story has been passed to several people, it will be boasted and blown out of porportion. A big gap is always found between the actual experience of the workers in the factories and the stories of people outside the factory. The existence of this distance proves that the struggle against Korean management is not conducted directly and openly in front of the Koreans, but is done indirectly and unorganized. This type of struggle is executed behind the scenes and is addressed to the anonym Korean. The effectiveness of the struggle can be seen from the following: Indonesian workers say that the Korean companies are the most unattractive company to work at; Indonesian society in general also considers the Korean company as a company that forces their laborers; within the mass media coverage about labour issues at Korean companies, there are many made-up reports or lies, and the image of the Koreans in Indonesian eyes is very bad.
From the end of 1993, Korean small and medium scale capital has had to start moving out of Indonesia. Many Korean companies have to close or reduce their production scale. New investment capital for the medium and small scale almost stopped. Meanwhile, the companies that still operate in Indonesia strive to improve productivity through refining its management, such as: change of the wage systems, increase of wages, improvement of workers` infrastructure and facilities, localization of labour management, and automated operation. From the second semester of 1994, labour disputes such as sabotage and strikes decreased drastically in Korean companies. Is it impossible to read this fact as a victory for the struggle for workers’ discourse? Although the victory was considered as a partial victory and not the big victory under hegemony capitalism, for the Koreans – the capitalist, the managers, the supervisors, and Korean society in general, you have to bear in mind that these things are very painful. The Japanese tried to erase the animalism of economic degree for decades. This situation is also the same for the Koreans. To remove the embarrassing image of the Koreans, the people of Korea will take no less time than the Japanese.