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Record number of Koreans forced to leave bar, restaurant jobs

A record-high number of Koreans involuntarily left their jobs at bars and restaurants in the first half of this year, possibly due to the country’s latest minimum wage hike, government data showed.

The number, 46,563, is the highest since the government began recording the data in 2009.

According to the report, the number of Koreans who were forced to leave their jobs at restaurants and bars, because they failed to get their contracts renewed or their employers went out of business, among other reasons, has increased significantly since last year. 

Koreans share food in a local restaurant in Seoul. (Yonhap)
Koreans share food in a local restaurant in Seoul. (Yonhap)

From 2009-2017, the number had stood at around 30,000, but it abruptly rose to 45,729 last year, and to 46,563 in the first six months of this year.

Notably, 83.6 percent of those who involuntarily left their jobs in the first half of this year were day laborers or contract workers.

Statistics show there are too many restaurants in Korea. A government report last year showed that as of 2015, there were 660,000 restaurants nationwide, meaning there was a restaurant for every 78 citizens. Among them, 86.5 percent were small businesses, with a maximum of five employees.

Experts say the fierce competition in the restaurant industry, which results in many businesses closing down, as well as the latest minimum wage hike, may have been major contributing factors behind restaurant and bar workers being forced to leave their jobs.

Small business owners have been complaining that they cannot afford to pay the new minimum wage, which rose by 16 percent to 7,530 won ($6.67) an hour, starting from Jan. 1. 


By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com)
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