Interpersonal Trust and Confidence in Labor Unions: the Case of South Korea

  • VOL. 20 NO. 2
  • pp. 267-290

Byunghwan Son

  • Keywords

    interpersonal trust, labor union, South Korea, institutional confidence, government partisanship

  • Abstract

    How do ordinary citizens view labor unions? The importance of public opinion about unions has rarely been highlighted in the contemporary literature on labor politics. Using five waves of the World Value Surveys on South Korea, this article suggests that public confidence in labor unions is significantly affected by individuals’ interpersonal trust, conditional on their perception of the political representation of labor. Unlike those with high levels of trust, low-trust individuals view unions as an agent seeking their exclusionary interests at the expense of the rest of the society. The difference between high- and low-trust individuals’ confidence in labor unions is more pronounced when a liberal, rather than a conservative, government is in power because of the public perception that labor interests are already well-represented by the liberal government and union functions are redundant in such a circumstances. The empirical findings are found robust to alternative theoretical arguments and empirical techniques.

  • Author(s) Bio

    Byunghwan Son is an Assistant Professor of Global Affairs at George Mason University ( His research appears in outlets such as Journal of Politics, Journal of Peace Research, Foreign Policy Analysis, and Political Studies.