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Work Culture in Korea is Finally Seeing the Light at the End of the Tunnel

Working overtime in Korea is a cultural norm.

In Korea, the term 9-5 workday is almost nonexistent. According to the South Korea country review,

Workers in the public sector work 11.06 hours overtime, but workers in private sector work overtime 5 hours more than ones in public sector.

South Koreans worked an average 2,069 hours in 2016, more than any country in the Organization for Economic and Cooperative Development other than Mexico and Costa Rica, according to data collected by the Economic and Cooperative Development.

Korea does have a 40-hour work week implementation, but some workers have said they’ve worked upward of 80-hours a week (even though those hours are not permitted).

On Feb. 28, the South Korean National Assembly passed a bill aimed at reducing the country’s maximum working hours from 68 hours a week to 52. This comes five years after parliament first started discussions to revise the law.

The labor reform won by a landslide vote, with 151 in favor, 11 against and 32 abstaining.

What does this mean in terms of work? For starters, workers will be able to spend more time at home and with family. Stress levels will go down, and there may be more of an initiative to keep workers happy.

According to Raphael Rashid of Korea Expose, “Companies and public organizations with more than 300 employees will have to observe the new rules starting July 1. For companies with 50 to 299 employees, the law will be applicable on Jan. 1, 2020, and for businesses with 5 to 49 employees, from July 1, 2021.”

The biggest issue facing the previous act was the definition of a work week. The law did not clearly state whether it was a five-day working week or a seven-day working week. With the new act, the law clearly states that a working week is defined as “One week equals 7 days, including holidays [i.e.: public holidays and weekends].”

Unfortunately, while the light at the end of the tunnel can clearly be seen, Korea faces the issue of pay and businesses aren’t happy about the new law. Businesses are arguing that the new law actually hinders not only their work but the work of the employees.

According to the Guardian, “It could cost businesses an additional 12tn won ($11bn) a year to maintain the same levels of production, according to a study by the Korean Economic Research Institute.”

For now Korea will continue to work on their work ethics. It’ll be a long road coming, but I feel that with enough motivation, Korea can overcome their hourly issues.

Sources: Korea Expose, The Guardian

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