South Korea’s Yoon orders revision in planned work-hour system

2023. 3. 16. 14:24
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South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol [Photo by Yonhap]
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol has instructed the government to revise its controversial plan to extend the maximum weekly work hours to up to 69 hours, stating that working even 60 hours or longer per week would be unreasonable, according to Senior Presidential Secretary for Social Affairs Ahn Sang-hoon on Friday.

The proposed revision to the working hour system has been a contentious issue, with critics arguing that it may result in overwork and exacerbate existing problems in the labor market, while proponents say that it would enhance flexibility and increase competitiveness. Korean employees can currently work a maximum of 52 hours per week, 40 regular hours and another 12 hours of overtime.

Regarding the background of the government’s overhaul of the working hour system, Ahn said that it has long been pointed out that the rigidity of the 52-hour week system needs improvement in the local labor market.

The government has worked to introduce a bill to allow labor and management to choose the time they work not only on a weekly basis but also on a monthly, quarterly and yearly basis, giving them the option to work up to 69 hours in a week, provided they work fewer hours in other weeks.

This was intended to ensure the right to choose working hours, the right to health and the right to rest in accordance with labor-management agreements, but the bill raised concerns that the new system can encourage longer working hours, Ahn explained.

The government will listen more carefully to diverse opinions from onsite workers, including young generations, non-unionized workers and those in small and mid-sized enterprise, and will work to come up with a more reasonable plan for improvement, Ahn said.

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