Korean Economy News
Korean legislative seeks to cut weekly working hours by 16 hours

By Seo Dong-cheol and Kim Tae-joon

South Korea’s National Assembly is seeking to cut the maximum weekly working hours from current 68 to 52 hours. Companies will have two to four years of grace period on criminal penalties on violating the working hour code depending on their workplace scale.

The National Assembly’s Environment and Labor Committee on Monday agreed to shorten legal working hours by 16 hours. The committee will draw up a formal outline after parties return with their inputs on Thursday.

The consensus is that working hours should be shaved to 52 hours with workplaces with 300 employees or more given a grace period of two years and those with less than 300 four years, said Rep. Ha Tae-kyung of Barun Party who chairs the committee.

The legal working hour is 40 hours with 12 hours allowed for overtime and 16 more for weekends per month.

The new work hour code would go into effect immediately, but workplaces will be saved from criminal penalties during the grace period.

The Ministry of Employment and Labor has not made any public opposition to the move, but nevertheless is concerned about the side effects as companies won’t be able to afford the spike in overtime expenditures from surcharge upon need of increased production.

The labor sector also fears a sharp drop in payroll for employees in small and mid-sized companies who rely on overtime pay to make up for their relatively small wages compared to large companies.

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