Working hours in South Korea

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Working hours in South Korea are quite long compared to other OECD countries because the working hours are related to Korean economic growth. Since the 1960s, economy of South Korea was begun to transform from agricultural economy into industrialized and high-technological economy.[1] The South Korea’s per capita GDP sharply increased from US $100 in 1963 to US $35,300 in 2014 and finally South Korea becomes the country that has 20th largest economies in the world.[1] In the process, many workers have contributed to increase GDP of South Korea and therefore working hours continuously increase at the same time. According to a research on OECD website, working hours in South Korea were 2,124 per worker in 2014.[2] The figure shows Korea ranks 3rd highest working hour country compared to 1,789 hours in U.S., 1,677 hours in UK, and even the shortest 1,366 hours in Germany.[2] In addition, the hourly minimum wage in South Korea is 6,030 won ($5.30) in 2016 and it will be increased to 6,470 won ($5.69) by the South Korean Minimum Wage Council in 2017.[3]

Long working hours[edit]

The reasons why Koreans work for long time are Korean industrial system and night cultures. Like Japanese corporate cultures that have penchant of subcontracting due to the hierarchical order of Japanese industry, South Korea has similar corporate cultures.[4] Even though Korea has a statutory working week of 40 hours and allows 12 hours of paid overtime on weekdays and 16 hours on weekends, manufacturing industries such as automobile industry have to operate 24 hours because the more subcontracting factories run, the more they can get profit.[5] In addition, night cultures of Korea make workers work for a long time. For example, cafes, transportations, pubs, restaurants, private study rooms, shopping malls, and fast food restaurants are operating 24 hours.[6] The facilities are useful, but it means workers work for long hours. Although the statutory standard work time (also called Labor Standard Act) exists, regulations of the Korean government are barely weak and employees violate the Act. In reality, therefore, Korean workers have long time working hours.

Different working hours in terms of jobs and productivity[edit]

Even though the statutory standard work time has been implementing, it has fully not. In fact, 80.7% of the Labor Standard Act is implementing based on Korea Labor Institute in 2014.[7] When it comes to implementation the 40 hour working week, manufacturing industry of 93% is more satisfying than non-manufacturing industry of 73.1%.[7] Also, implementation of public sector (99%) is higher than private sector (80.5%).[7] When it comes to overtime work hours for men, workers in manufacturing industry have 24.10 overtime work hours whereas workers in non-manufacturing industry get 10.90 hours.[7] In addition, workers in public sector work 11.06 hours overtime, but workers in private sector work overtime 5 hours more than ones in public sector.[7] Even though Korea implements the tough 40 hour working week, a report shows that workers in South Korea satisfied with their job and lives. Because higher salary has positive and significant impacts on workers’ job and life satisfaction, having longer working hours is unexpectedly related to positive job and life satisfaction.[8] Therefore, they have a tendency to satisfy with their jobs and lives even though they have long work hours. However, when it comes to productivity, long work time does not promote workers’ productivity. Even though productivity on overtime work is not satisfied with Korean businesses’ profits, they do not mind low profit because overtime pay (9,045 won/hr or $8) is not high as much as French business that are heavily taxed, around 50 percent.[9]


  1. ^ a b "South Korea Country Review". Business Source Complete: 275 – via EBSCOhost.
  2. ^ a b "Employment - Hours worked - OECD Data". theOECD. Retrieved 2016-12-03.
  3. ^ "South Korea to Increase Minimum Wage in 2017". Retrieved 2016-12-03.
  4. ^ David, Coates (2000). Models of Capitalism: Growth and Stagnation in the Modern Era. Polity Press. p. 7.
  5. ^ Na, Sean (18 July 2016). "Business fears cut to working hours - South Korea".
  6. ^ Chu-hŭi Chŏn, Yŏng-sŏn Kim, Chae-hyŏn Chŏng; et al. (2015). Uri nŭn wae irŏn sigan ŭl kyŏndigo innŭn'ga : sam ŭl sojin sik'inŭn sigan ŭi munjedŭl / Nodong Sigan Sent'ŏ kiho. Seoul: K'onan Puksŭ. p. 155.
  7. ^ a b c d e Bae, Kiu Sik (2014). Employment relations in South Korea : evidence from workplace panel surveys. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.
  8. ^ Ryu, Geunpil (2014). "The Cross-Domain Effects of Work and Family Role Stressors on Public Employees in South Korea". Review of Public Personnel.
  9. ^ Korea Times (December 4, 2014). "Explaining low productivity".