President Yoon Suk Yeol views a workweek of 60 hours or longer as "excessive," the presidential office said Thursday, adding that he has ordered further adjustments to be made to proposed reforms to working time limits.
The Ministry of Employment and Labor's plan unveiled earlier this month aimed to allow maximum working hours of up to 69 hours in a week.
The president expressed regrets over the plan drafted without an "adequate legal cap" on how long a worker could work during peak seasons, according to a spokesman, although the proposal would force employers to reduce working hours at other times, with overall maximum working time reduced.
"Concerns have been raised about the government proposal that could turn a blind eye on the longer working hours of employees," the spokesperson said at a briefing Thursday.
Yoon's remark, delivered before he left for a summit in Tokyo on the same day, was widely viewed as his administration backtracking on the flexible workweek policy proposal after drawing ire from the public, in a country where stubbornly long working hours have long thrown cold water on workers wanting to start a family and raise children.
Additionally, younger people here are increasingly being left displeased over the intense working culture that has long sustained the "Miracle on the Han River" -- Korea's meteoric rise from the ashes of the Korean War.
Yoon reiterated his calls for the Labor Ministry to reflect the voices of younger workers.
Labor Minister Lee Jung-sik on Wednesday met labor union representatives for the younger workers to collect opinions. Lee said he was "open to all possibilities" for changes in the proposal.
Koreans worked an average 1,915 hours a year per employee in 2021, 199 hours more than the average for Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development member nations. Working hours per year decreased by 127 over the span of 2017 to 2021 here, after maximum weekly working time was reduced in 2018 from 64 hours to 52 hours -- 40 regular hours and 12 hours of overtime.