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Published : 2010-05-19 18:50
Updated : 2010-05-19 18:50

One out of 10 Korean workers was found to be paid less than the legal minimum wage, a survey showed Wednesday.

According to a nationwide survey conducted by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions in March and April, 10 percent of the 2,970 respondents said they received hourly pay of lower than the minimum 4,100 won (about $3.50) set by law.

When considering the common wage cuts during the internship period (10 percent) and of security workers (20 percent), the figure was up to 20 percent of the responding workers, the survey found.

The situation was worse among young part-time or irregular workers, with 30 percent of them paid less than the minimum wage.

Even when they found they are paid less, 19.4 percent said “they would endure,” while 27 percent of those aged younger than 20 said the same.

“The Ministry of Labor cracks down the violation of minimum wage once or twice a year. However, no sign of progress is witnessed. Regular monitoring is essential,” said an official of the KCTU, the nation’s second-largest umbrella labor group.

In March, an alliance of 25 labor and civic groups announced a proposal on next year’s minimum wage, which is considered an important indicator in deciding the average wage level across industries.

The group, the Alliance for the Minimum Wage, has demanded an increase in next year’s minimum hourly wage to 5,180 won, a 25 percent increase.

“Our proposal -- 5,180 won for hourly pay and 1.08 million won per month -- is never an overestimated amount considering the nation’s economic size and situation,” the group claimed in a statement released Wednesday.

“Korea ranked the lowest in the minimum wage again this year among the OECD nations. It’s time to shun this shameful record,” the group said, pledging an all-out fight to realize a wage hike for next year.

Contrary to the expectations of workers, the Korea Employers Federation, a business lobby group, has offered to freeze the minimum wage at the current level, citing the uncertainty of the current economic turnaround.

The Minimum Wage Council, comprising 27 representatives from the government, labor and business, will review the minimum wage in the coming months.

The final decision is expected to be made by June 29. 

By Lee Ji-yoon(jylee@heraldcorp.com)