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Webzen labor union to stage game industry’s 1st strike

Union claims average increase of 20 million won in annual salary only benefits few executives

Webzen’s labor union holds a press conference over its strike decision in front of the game maker’s office in Bundang, Gyeonggi Province, Monday. (Yonhap)
Webzen’s labor union holds a press conference over its strike decision in front of the game maker’s office in Bundang, Gyeonggi Province, Monday. (Yonhap)
The labor union of local game developer Webzen has decided to go on what will be the first strike in the country’s game industry if its planned walkout takes place on May 2 as scheduled.

“It is hard to see this incident as just an issue where employees of a company are dissatisfied with the way they are treated,” said Webzen’s labor union in a press conference held in front of the game maker’s office in Bundang, Gyeonggi Province, Monday.

“This strike is more of a willingness to solve the problem of undisclosed salary negotiations in the game industry, which has seen explosive success,” the group added.

The game maker’s management and labor union have tried to negotiate a salary raise since December, but they eventually failed to reach an agreement.

The union first demanded an increase of 10 million won ($8,100) in the annual salary of all employees. The management offered an average 10 percent increase in the yearly wage, depending on the personnel evaluation of individual employees.

As the two sides appeared to be nearing the deal, the union withdrew its first demand for an average 16 percent increase in the annual salary and an instant cash handout of 2 million won for everyone. The company required that the cash handout depend on individual grades. Then negotiations fell apart again.

The union has said that the company’s regulatory filing shows the average annual salary of Webzen employees is 70 million won, but the actual amount that employees receive is less than 50 million won on average.

“Last year, Webzen announced an average increase of 20 million won in the annual salary for all of its workers. But most of us received an increased amount of 1 million won,” said Roh Young-ho, head of the game maker’s labor union.

Underlining that the game maker is not a company that cannot earn money, the union pointed out that some 600 employees are generating 100 billion won in operating profits each year. That allowed it to set the remuneration limit for six executives at 10 billion won during its shareholders meeting last month, it added.

According to an internal survey of the union, the median annual salary was about 47 million won, which the group says is 10 million won lower than average in the game industry.

The labor union said it will take part in negotiations if the management presents an improved option for talks. Webzen told The Korea Herald that management is willing to continue to talk with the labor union.

Established in 2000, Webzen is mostly known for Mu Online, a 3D massively multiplayer online role-playing game with a setting based on medieval fantasy.

By Kan Hyeong-woo (hwkan@heraldcorp.com)
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