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Sexual harassment of teens rampant at workplaces

Korean teens often experience workplace harassment as well as overdue pay, according to a report released by the Gender Equality Ministry.

As of last year, 240,000, or 7.2 percent of all teenagers aged 15 to 19 were employed part time. Among them, 79.2 percent said they worked without written contracts, while 10.5 percent said they experienced verbal and sexual harassment at work.

While 15.6 percent said they were not paid for extra work, 12.6 percent said they were not paid at all.

The ministry also registered 163 cases of teen workers’ rights being violated last month.

The largest number of violations ― 65.9 percent ― occurred in small restaurants and cafes nationwide. Other employers that broke the rules included hair salons, bakeries, convenience stores and movie theaters.

Almost 40 percent of the reported cases had to do with not informing employees about working conditions, including wages, working hours and holidays.

Some employers purposely did not include all the required information in their written contracts, said Koh Young-sook from the Gender Equality Ministry.

While 16.6 percent of the cases involved not offering any written contracts, 12.2 percent of the violations had to do with not informing the workers about the minimum wage.

More than 25 percent of the reported employers did not undergo the required education on sexual harassment at the workplace.

Under the current law, an employer can be fined up to 5 million won ($4,500) for not informing employees about working conditions, and up to 20 million won for paying workers below the minimum wage rate.

Currently, the minimum wage in Korea is 5,580 won an hour.

Jeong Eun-hye from the ministry said the government is planning to launch a service whereby legal or labor experts would visit teens in need at their workplaces, should they face problems with wages or experience any form of harassment.

Teen workers can also send a text message at #1388 for help if they think they are experiencing labor rights violations.

By Claire Lee (