Workplace anti-bullying law takes effect in S. Korea

2019.07.16 15:17:32

Members of labor rights group Workplace Gabjil 119 is campaigning against workplace bullying at Gwanghwamun Plaza in Seoul on Tuesday, the first day of enforcement of a new law aimed at preventing harassment in the workplace in South Korea. [Photo By Han Joo-hyung]이미지 확대

Members of labor rights group Workplace Gabjil 119 is campaigning against workplace bullying at Gwanghwamun Plaza in Seoul on Tuesday, the first day of enforcement of a new law aimed at preventing harassment in the workplace in South Korea. [Photo By Han Joo-hyung]

New legislation has come into effect in South Korea to prevent workplace bullying, bringing the country’s widespread abuse by those in power, or ‘gabjil’, into the legal domain.

Under the new law effective on Tuesday, workplace harassment is defined as an act of incurring physical or mental suffering on employees or a worsening of the work environment by employers or workers using their status or position beyond the scope of working norms.

The revised law puts a focus on encouraging employers to deploy a preventive and disciplinary system on their own to punish perpetrators rather than on criminal punishment by the state.

Companies with more than 10 employees are obliged to offer employment guidelines that include anti-bullying rules, such as workplace harassment examples, education for prevention, problem-solving process, measures to protect victims, punish offenders and prevent recurrence.

If workplace harassment is reported or perceived, employers should immediately investigate it and take proper action. If retaliatory or discriminatory measures are taken against victims or those who report abusive conducts, employers could face a up to three-year jail term or a fine of up to 30 million won ($25,500).

But it may take a considerable time for the law to be fully implemented due to ambiguity in judging which cases fall into the category of workplace harassment.

By Yoon Jin-ho and Minu Kim

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