Written by LEE Sang Heon
Published by 생각의 힘 (2015)
<We Need to be More Aware> illustrates the stories of the hard working people around us. The author Sangheon Lee, currently the Special Adviser to the Deputy Director General for Policy on Economic and Social Issues, shared his insights and experiences on labor rights.
The book is divided into four sections. Part 1 illustrates the everyday life and hardships people face at work: Turkey miners working under hazardous conditions whereas the Turkey government considers the dangers at mines as something that could happen on an everyday basis, Korean residents putting up signs on their apartment building asking delivery personnel to use stairs instead of elevators, and an American company that regards the workers’ bathroom use a waste of time and a proof of their laziness. Part 2 explains the gap between theoretical economics and the real world labor market. Focusing on the topics of inequality and wage, the chapters discuss the debate on Piketty’s view on inequality reflected in this book <Capital in the Twenty-First Century>. The thought the author presents on minimum wage is quite interesting, touching on economic models and also social context. Part 3 captures the untold stories of renowned figures who are usually only known for their great achievements. Along with their mind blowing careers, they are human beings living in the social context with peculiar private stories. The chapters reveal Albert Einstein’s take on social values, and the life of Eleanor Roosevelt as both the contributor to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and as a “women”. Part 4 is on the author’s personal dedications.
The authors’ views and interpretation on the labor market and labor rights leave us a lot to think about. Simply said, we learn that the labor market is consisted of the exchange of labor and wages between households and the firms. In some instances, firms and consumers, by giving wage or making a purchase, misunderstand that they have the right over the “person” providing labor to produce the product or provide service. But before that person is a provider of labor, he or she is a human being. Wage is not just a price for the labor or a factor in the economic equation, but it is a critical factor shaping one’s life and the society. Living in a busy world, we sometimes forget the people around us. The book reminds us to think once more of the world of capitalism we live in and how ‘labor’ is understood in that society.
Human Asia Intern Jiwon Seo