The Korea Herald


Nosy interviewers: crossing the line is still legal in Korea

By Choi Jeong-yoon

Published : April 13, 2023 - 15:26

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"What do your parents do for a living?"

"Why did you not go to high school?"

"Were you ever a victim of school bullying?"

These are some of the questions an employment candidate may still encounter while seeking for a job in South Korea.

According to data collected by the Ministry of Employment and Labor, 84 cases of privacy violations during the employment interviews have been reported in the past two years. Job applicants were asked questions irrelevant to their abilities to perform the job, such as their marital status or where they are from.

While South Korea stipulates that a job applicant is not required to provide information that is irrelevant to their performance of the job, this regulation only applies to the collection of basic examination materials during the initial screening process. Under the current Fair Hiring Procedure Act, asking such questions during a job interview is not technically considered the same kind of "collection of basic examination materials," therefore creating a blind spot that allows employers to ask potentially discriminatory questions.

The labor ministry provides guidelines that state the means to protect one's personal information during the recruitment process and while working. However, as they have no statutory force, it has been pointed out that it is difficult to prevent applicants from having their privacy invaded during job interviews.

The guidelines state that information about a job applicant's physical conditions such as their height and weight, place of origin, marital status or property, as well as the education, occupations or property of their immediate family members and siblings, should not be collected.

Some lawmakers are demanding the government actively encourage companies to comply with the guidelines. "If such behaviors are not eradicated and only the guidelines remain in place, the labor ministry should discuss the issue with the Personal Information Protection Commission and amend the legislation so that it can protect privacy," Yoon Ju-keyng from the People Power Party said.