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Court recognizes 65 as retirement age for physical workers

With longer average life expectancy, courts are increasingly recognizing 65, instead of 60, as the retirement age for physical workers.

Until recently, courts have followed a Supreme Court precedent in 1989 that saw 60 as the retirement age for laborers.

The Seoul Central District Court said on Tuesday that it ruled in favor of a traffic accident victim who appealed that he should receive more compensation as he could have worked until the age of 65 had it not been for the injury.

A lower court had calculated the indemnities based on the assumption that he would have earned wages until the age of 60. 


The appellate court ordered a federation of bus operators nationwide to pay 388.6 million won ($358,000) to the plaintiff whose spleen was ruptured and ribs were broken when his car collided with a bus. The plaintiff was 29 at the time of the accident.

The court said in its verdict that the average life expectancy in Korea reached 77.2 for men and 84 for women in 2010, and that many security guards and construction workers are in their 60s.

The court also noted how the age at which people can start receiving basic pension payments has been raised to 65.

It would be contradictory to say one can only work until the age of 60 when the state has officially excluded people below the age of 65 from the basic pension payment as they are believed to be capable of earning income, the court said.

“There have been cases in the past where the court accepted, based on the insurance terms, that claimants who died after or shortly before reaching the age of 60 could have worked another two to three years,” a court official said.

“The latest ruling is meaningful as it acknowledged a 29-year-old victim’s ability to work until the age of 65.”

If the plaintiff or the defendant appeals by the end of this month, the case will go to the Supreme Court. Should the top court uphold the lower court’s ruling, a new judicial precedent will be set on the work life expectancy of laborers.

In December last year, the Suwon District Court acknowledged that a domestic helper could have worked until the age of 65.

A domestic helper who was hit by a car at the age of 60 filed a damages suit against an insurance company claiming for the wages she could have earned had she not suffered the injury.

The court ordered the insurance firm to pay 6.9 million won to the plaintiff as she could have worked another five years. The ruling was finalized as the insurer did not appeal.

By Kim So-hyun (