As the confirmation of the prime minister nominee seemed to get back on track Wednesday, the presidential office shifted its focus to the legislation of key bills reflecting President Moon Jae-in’s key election pledges.
Among them is a plan to reduce regular working hours and to ban employers from making their staff work overtime without compensation.
Dubbed the “no work after 6” bill, the legislative proposal aims to address the widespread workplace culture in South Korea where those who finish work at 6 p.m., or the time stipulated in their contract, are deemed less devoted and loyal. Many Korean workers remain in the office after official work hours are over, waiting until their superiors leave.
At least two proposals, submitted by lawmakers of the liberal Democratic Party and the conservative Bareun Party, are currently pending at the National Assembly.
Although they differ on some details, the bills would effectively compel employers to keep a record of their employees’ working hours in order to eradicate unnecessary overtime work. Any form of work-related contact after hours -- phone calls, text messages and social media contact -- are to be regarded as work orders and would therefore trigger employers’ obligation for overtime payment.
In the recent presidential election, four of the five main candidates included those measures in their manifestos. The only exception was Hong Joon-pyo of the Liberty Korea Party. The hard-line conservative party, along with the business circles, has largely been against the plan.
The main conservative party’s claim is that the working hours rule should be introduced gradually, starting first with large companies and then moving on to smaller ones.
“I agree that weekend labor should be included in the extended working hours count, but a grace period is needed,” said Rep. Shin Bo-ra of the Liberty Korea Party.
The four parties in favor of the plan control at least 186 votes of the current 299-member parliament.
By Bae Hyun-jung (firstname.lastname@example.org