A trilateral committee of government, labor and management representatives agreed Friday to raise the country's minimum hourly wage by about 7.1 percent to 5,580 won (US$5.50) per hour for next year, officials said.
The Minimum Wage Council reached the deal after an intensive overnight discussion on compromise plans, marking the first time in six years that a minimum wage has been set within a legal deadline.
The hourly wage translates to 44,640 won a day for those who work eight hours a day and 1.16 million won a month for those who work 209 hours a month.
The pay raise will affect the nation's estimated 2.69 million workers struggling with low income, according to the council.
Initially, the labor circle demanded a 26.8 percent increase from this year's hourly wage of 5,210 won, while the management proposed a freeze. But they put forward compromise plans during a plenary meeting of the council on Tuesday and began negotiating over them on Thursday afternoon.
As the two sides failed to narrow differences until early Friday morning, the council put a government-proposed motion for a 7.1 percent raise to a vote. The motion then passed the council in a 18-0 vote with nine abstentions at the end of the overnight negotiations.
"We think the raise is still not enough for workers but take this as a result of our best efforts," a labor representative said after the meeting.
The Korea Employers Federation, on the contrary, showed strong discontent toward the decision, criticizing the government for "disregarding reality."
"This decision was made without considering difficulties facing small businesses. Responsibility for all ensuing problems should be on the decision by the council's government members which ignores the reality and the labor circle," it said in a statement.
The Ministry of Employment and Labor is scheduled to fix the minimum wage by Aug. 5 after announcing details of the agreement next week. (Yonhap)