South Korea will legally ban and penalize workplace bullying by people in higher positions and mistreatments after a series of high-profile abusive behaviors were reported throughout the year.
The National Assembly on Thursday decided to revise the labor standards law to punish abuse of higher position and power.
Upon report, employers would be required to conduct an inspection and take measures to protect mistreated workers by transferring them to other office or giving them paid leaves. A boss that takes retaliation or retribution against employees who report on abusive cases will be punished with a jail sentence of up to three years or fine of up to 30 million won ($26,843).
Although the so-called ‘gapjil’, a newly coined term referring to abusive conducts of people exploiting their power, has been causing public outrage, the workplace bullying often goes unpunished due to the lack of regulations. Recently, a widespread bullying culture of senior nurses against newcomers in hospitals called ‘taeum’, that means burning in Korean, gained special focus. Owner family members – from mother to daughters - of Hanjin Group, operator of the nation’s flag carrier Korean Air Lines, were accused of habitual abuses towards workers. The king of gapgil was Yang Jin-ho, CEO of a file storage company, put under police custody on charges of physical and verbal assaults on employees on top of other illegalities. Videos showed him forcing employees to slaughter chickens for his entertainment among other hideous acts.
The revision, however, will not add direct punishment on corporate abusiveness. The Ministry of Employment and Labor said it will toughen up crackdown on gapjil practices of each business instead of imposing penalties. It plans to come up with a list on what can be defined workplace bullying that will be subjected to the new regulations.
By Jung Seok-woo and Choi Mira
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]