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Republic of Korea - Third periodic reports submitted by States parties under articles 16 and 17 of the Covenant [2008] UNCESCRSPR 5; E/C.12/KOR/3 (4 February 2008)



Economic and Social
4 February 2008
Original: ENGLISH

Substantive session of 2008


Third periodic reports submitted by States parties
under articles 16 and 17 of the Covenant


[27 June 2007]


Chapter Paragraphs Page

Introduction 1 4 3

General comments 5 22 3

Article 1 23 6

Article 2 24 40 7

Article 3 41 58 10

Article 6 59 114 16

Article 7 115 148 27

Article 8 149 175 36

Article 9 176 233 41

Article 10 234 273 53

Article 11 274 319 62

Article 12 320 371 74

Articles 1314 372 426 85

Article 15 427 472 98


1. The Republic of Korea (hereinafter referred to as “Korea”), as a State Party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) (hereinafter referred to as “the Covenant”), submits this Third Periodic Report pursuant to Articles 16 and 17 of the Covenant. In accordance with the revised General Guidelines (E/C.12/1991/1) and in response to the Concluding Observations (E/C.12/1/Add.59) of the Committee on the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) (hereinafter referred to as “the Committee” at the time of examination of the Second Periodic Report (E/1990/6/Add.23), the Third Periodic Report outlines measures taken by the Korean Government following the submission of the Second Periodic Report.

2. This report describes measures adopted in Korea to implement the Covenant from June 2001 to June 2006, after the examination of the Second Periodic Report under the Covenant.

3. Since the submission of the Second Periodic Report in 1999, the Korean Government has made significant efforts to improve the economic, social and cultural rights of the Korean people, including the rights of minorities, and has taken action to deal with the issues raised in the Concluding Observations on the Second Periodic Report. Most noticeably, the Government amended the Civil Law to abolish the Family Headship System in March 2005. According to the amended Civil Law, the surname and origin of children can follow those of the mother following consultation of the parents, and the surname and origin may also be modified in order to promote the welfare of children. The new law will take effect in 2008. Also, the Government Officials Labour Union Establishment and Operation Act, which was amended on 27 January 2005, guaranteed Government officials the rights to organize and to collective bargaining which had previously been limited. The Government organized the National Human Rights Policy Council to establish the National Action Plan for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (NAP) in accordance with the recommendation by the National Human Rights Commission in January 2006. In the meantime, Korea has been expanding its recognition of refugee status since 2003, as it granted refugee status to 47 persons, including 2 persons recognized of refugee status prior to 2002, and had granted humanitarian status to 32 persons by the end of April 2006. The Korean Government is continuing its efforts to guarantee persons recognized with refugee status and foreign residents rights equivalent to those of Korean citizens.

4. The Korean Government has been seeking various measures to close the social divide and improve the economic, social and cultural rights of socially vulnerable groups, including the poor, the elderly, and children. In some fields, however, Korea has not yet complied with the requirements laid down in the Covenant. Nevertheless, it is committed to doing its best to improve economic, social and cultural rights to the extent that available resources permit.

General comments

Establishment of the Human Rights Bureau of the Ministry of Justice

5. In May 2006, the Korean Government established the Human Rights Bureau within the Ministry of Justice. The Bureau is responsible for establishing and enforcing national policies on human rights, including the formulation and implementation of the National Action Plan for the

Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (NAP), investigating human rights violation cases, improving human rightsrelated institutions, and providing protection and remedy for victims of crimes.

6. In particular, the Bureau makes efforts to prevent human rights violations during the entire process of law enforcement, including investigation, correction, protection, and the immigration process. In the event of a case of human rights violation during law enforcement, the Bureau would take on the responsibility of carrying out prompt investigation and providing remedies for the victims.

National Human Rights Commission of Korea

7. Pursuant to the Principles Relating to the Status and Functioning of National Institutions for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights (The Paris Principles), the Korean Government established the National Human Rights Commission on 25 November 2001 as an independent institution in charge of human rights affairs. Related facts were described in the Third Periodic Report of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR/C/KOR/2005/3).

8. The National Human Rights Commission has been undertaking various activities, including making recommendations for the improvement of policies and laws, expressing views on current human rights issues, drafting and proposing recommendations on the NAP, conducting a widerange of investigations into human rights conditions, improving the institutions and practices of the State authorities, investigating and providing recommendation on discriminatory practices, and carrying out human rights education and awarenessraising activities.

9. From the time of establishment of the National Human Rights Commission up to 31 December 2005, policy and law improvement, remedy for victims of human rights violations, and remedy for discrimination as a result of recommendation and acceptance of the National Human Rights Commission are shown as follows:

Table 1
Status of recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea
and their acceptance

(Unit: cases)

Total number of recommendations
Acceptance (including alternative acceptance)
Not accepted
Acceptance rate
Under consideration
Improvement in policy and/or law
Remedy for victims of human rights violations
Remedy for discrimination

Basic plan for human rights policies

10. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (hereinafter referred to as the “Committee”) requested the Korean Government to establish a National Action Plan (NAP) for human rights policies in its examination of the Second Periodic Report (E/C.12/1/Add.59, paragraph 44).

11. Accordingly, procedures for the drafting of the NAP have been established: the National Human Rights Commission will submit a draft recommendation for the NAP, which will be undertaken by the relevant ministries. The National Human Rights Commission drafted the recommendation plan for the NAP and forwarded it to the Government on 6 February 2006. The Government is currently studying the draft by organizing the basic plan for the National Human Rights Policy Council under the direction of the Ministry of Justice.

12. The Government plans to establish human rights policies that suit the reality of Korea, while taking into consideration political, cultural, and historical implications in the country as well as the standards put forward by the international community.

Validity of the Covenant under domestic law

13. When reviewing the Second Periodic Report, the Committee raised questions with respect to the effects of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on domestic laws (E/C.12/1/Add.59 para. 15).

14. This matter was already addressed in the Third Periodic Report of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR/C/KOR/2005/3 para. 1011).

15. Article 6.1, of the Constitution of Korea provides that “Treaties duly concluded and promulgated under the Constitution and generally recognized rules of international law shall have the same effect as domestic laws of the Republic of Korea.” Thus, according to this provision, it is generally held that the Covenant has the same legal effects as the domestic laws. In relation to this, the Committee expressed its concerns about the possibility of legislating new domestic acts to invalidate the Covenant. However, since domestic legislation requires prior review through the deliberation of the Ministry of Legislation and the National Assembly during the enactment stage, including on whether the new law would be in conflict with international agreements ratified by Korea, there is almost no chance of enacting a law in conflict with the Covenant.

16. There have been many instances where the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights has been quoted as a norm of adjudication, along with domestic law, and several of these cases were described in the Third Periodic Report following the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR/C/KOR/2005/3 paragraphs 1214). However, there is no precedent as yet for applying the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as a norm of adjudication.

Human rights education

17. When reviewing the Second Periodic Report, the Committee expressed its interest in human rights education to officials who worked on promoting economic, social and cultural rights (E/C.12/1/Add.59, paragraph 31).

18. Detailed information on human rights education is provided in the Third Periodic Report of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR/C/KOR/2005/3, paragraphs 124125) and the Second Periodic Report on the Convention against Torture (CAT/C/53/Add.2, paragraphs 3949).

19. The Ministry of Justice published a text on human rights education for government officials in charge of prosecution, correction, immigration control and other areas in 2004. Also, the Judicial Training Centre is expanding its human rights education for government officials as well as law enforcement officials. In addition, the Human Rights Bureau, recently established within the Ministry of Justice, is devising plans for systematic human rights education for law enforcement officials.

20. The police have established the Basic Plan to Strengthen the Human Rights Education requiring all police officers to complete 10 hours of human rights education per year. The police are jointly developing human rights education programmes with the National Human Rights Commission and training police human rights lecturers who are responsible for human rights education in the police. A course on human rights has become obligatory at each level of police education and job training.

21. In order to raise public awareness of human rights, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea included human rights education in its NAP recommendation plan, and it is expected that the Government’s final draft will include plans on human rights education targeted for government officials.

22. The National Human Rights Commission of Korea has been undertaking various activities aimed at facilitating human rights education in schools, including the development and dissemination of human rights education programmes that can be incorporated into curricula, and implementation of human rights education for teachers and managers. The Commission has run courses designed to train human rights instructors to teach human rights programmes at all levels of police officer training centres. With human rights protection in the military emerging as a social issue, the Commission has carried out approximately ten rounds of human rights education for the generals in the military and provided training for the personnel in charge of human rights in the military. In addition, to improve and promote awareness of human rights in our society, the Government has produced human rights movies, human rights animation, human rights cartoons, among others, and has also produced and disseminated human rights photo collections, human rights story series and other related materials.

Article 1

23. As described in the initial Periodic Report, Second Periodic Report and Third Periodic Report of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR/C/68/Add.1,

paragraphs 2122, CCPR/C/114/Add.1, para. 1718, CCPR/C/KOR/2005/3, paragraphs 2123), the Korean Government has been doing its utmost to realize the right to selfdetermination of all people at home and abroad.

Article 2

24. Korea has been making gradual efforts to achieve full realization of rights under the Covenant. More detailed information is included in the relevant paragraphs of this report dealing with each right.

25. A substantial part of paragraphs 2 and 3 has already been described in the Third Periodic Report (CCPR/C/KOR/2005/3 para. 2459) under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Efforts of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea with regard to relief from discrimination

26. In order to comprehensively improve and prevent discrimination in our society, the Government has grouped together various institutions, partly responsible for remedies for discrimination, which were formerly dispersed among many organs. As a result of such efforts, the Gender Discrimination Improvement Commission and the Commission on Equal Employment for Gender were merged into the National Human Rights Commission of Korea in 2005.

27. The National Human Rights Commission of Korea investigates and recommends remedial measures for cases in which discrimination has occurred. As of December 2005, it had recommended remedies for 135 cases, among which 92 cases were accepted, 12 cases were rejected, and 31 cases are still under consideration. The acceptance rate for recommendations stands at 88.4 per cent.

28. The major recommendations by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea regarding discrimination are described in detail in the Third Periodic Report of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR/C/KOR/2005/3, paragraph 53).

Measures to guarantee legal equality for foreigners residing in Korea

29. In April 2002, the Government decided to grant permanent residence visa (F5) to foreign residents who held a “residence” visa (F2) and had stayed more than five years. In September 2005, the amended Immigration Control Act shortened the minimum period for acquiring permanent residence visa (F5) from five years to two years for foreign spouses who are married to Korean nationals and hold a residence visa (F2). Foreigners who hold a permanent residence visa (F5) have almost no restrictions on their employment.

30. When a foreign spouse (F2) married to a Korean wishes to seek employment in Korea, he/she is required to obtain a work permit. However, as of September 2005, the amended Immigration Control Act allows foreigners in the lowincome bracket to seek employment without obtaining a work permit.

31. Since the Act on the Employment of Foreign Workers went into force in August 2004, the Government and public institutions have taken full responsibility for the introduction and selection of foreign workers in all fairness and transparency. Legallyhired foreign workers are governed by labour laws, including the Labour Standards Act, and the four major insurance systems (Industrial Accident Compensation Insurance, Employment Insurance, National Pension, and National Health Insurance). As a result, they are treated on a par with domestic workers and are able to work for up to three years. Furthermore, the Industrial Trainee System that was being implemented along with the Employment Permit System for the benefit of industry and technology cooperation with developing countries will be abolished on 1 January 2007.

32. After implementing the Employment Permit System in August 2004, the number of foreign workers hired up to April 2006 amounted to a total of 106,333. Among them, 50,228 were hired under the General Employment Permit System, and 56,105 were recruited under the Special Employment Permit System (for overseas Koreans entering into Korea with the visit and residence visa (F/1F/4) who found work in Korea). The number of employees for each country under the general Employment Permit System is shown as follows:

Table 2
Number of employees for each country under the General Employment
Permit System

(Unit: cumulative, persons)

Sri Lanka
Number of employees
50 228
12 442
10 838
10 122
7 646
5 033
4 147

33. Work contracts with foreign workers are based on average working hours of eight hours a day and 44 hours a week. Also, the average wage for foreign workers on labour contracts is 700,822 won for Mongolians and 681,449 won for Indonesians, with slight differences between countries. In the meantime, when it comes to payment in arrears for foreign workers, as of 2005, the payment of 5,172 million won in 1,343 workplaces was in arrears, of which 4,092 million won in 1,126 workplaces was settled. The Government is making every effort to prevent payment in arrears in order to improve living conditions for foreign workers.

Table 3
Average wage for each country

(Unit: won)

Sri Lanka
Average monthly wage
700 822
692 043
694 541
681 449
687 091
699 080

Table 4
Current state of wages in arrears related to foreign workers

(Unit: companies, persons, million won)

Under way
No. of workplaces
No. of workers
No. of workplaces
No. of workers
No. of workplaces
No. of workers
1 343
2 133
5 172
1 126
1 742
4 092
1 080

Expansion of recognition of refugee status

34. Since Korea adhered to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees in 1992, two persons were granted refugee status by 2002. However, by the end of April 2006, as many as 870 persons had sought refugee status. Of the total, 47 persons were granted refugee status and 32 persons were granted humanitarian status, while 188 persons were denied refugee status, 91 persons withdrew voluntarily, and 73 persons petitioned for appeal. A total of 439 cases are still under deliberation.

35. After the inauguration of the present Participatory Government, there was a slight rise in the granting of refugee status (12 persons in 2003, 18 persons in 2004, 9 persons in 2005 and 6 persons by April 2006). Moreover, a new category (humanitarian status) was established for asylum seekers who do not qualify for refugee status but are authorized to stay in Korea for humanitarian reasons. In total, 32 persons were granted humanitarian status.

36. The reason for the delay in review procedure for recognition of refugee status is that the number of petitioners for refugee status has drastically increased over the past one to two years (the number of asylum seekers up to 2004 totalled 399 persons). However, 410 persons applied for refugee status in 2005 only, giving a total of 809 persons). Accordingly, there is a shortage of specialized divisions and personnel to handle refugee matters expeditiously.

37. Accordingly, the Ministry of Justice has been making a considerable effort to expedite the refugee recognition procedure. On 3 February 2006, the Ministry established the Division of Nationality and Refugees to deal with nationalityrelated work and refugee affairs, previously handled within the Division of Immigration Control. The new Division’s work was strengthened by the recruitment of specialists on refugee affairs.

38. According to Article 23 of the Enforcement Decree of the Immigration Control Act, recognized refugees must be treated favorably with regard to employment. In addition, as far as public remedy and public aid are concerned, they are granted equal treatment with Korean nationals.

39. The criteria that the Korean Government uses to grant refugee status are established according to the relevant articles of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees. On 1 June 2005, the Council for the

Recognition of Refugee Status expanded the participation of private experts and enhanced fairness in the refugee status recognition process by readjusting the composition of the Council to make the ratio between government and private members equal.

40. In February 2005, the Ministry of Justice organized the Research Committee on the Enactment (Amendment) of the Refugee Act composed of prosecutors, lawyers and professors for the improvement of the refugee recognition system to protect the rights and interests of refugees. Through five meetings, the Committee has drafted a development plan on the following: (1) extension of the application period for objection (from 7 to 14 days); (2) guarantee of the status and treatment defined in the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees for persons recognized as refugees; (3) granting of humanitarian status to foreigners in special circumstances, even if they have not been recognized as refugees by the Convention; (4) permission for employment activities under specific conditions for applicants for recognition of refugee status, including those who have been granted humanitarian status; and (5) granting of refugee status to the spouse of the person recognized as a refugee and to children under the age of 20. On the basis of this plan, the Ministry is currently in the process of revising the law to protect the rights and interests of refugees.

Article 3

41. The efforts made by the Korean Government for the promotion of gender equality are described in greater detail in the Third Periodic Report (CCPR/C/KOR/2005/3, paragraphs 6098) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Revision of the Family Act, including the abolition of the Family Headship System and others

42. The Korean Government concluded that the Family Headship System, a traditional familycentred system with the male head of household, does not satisfy the dignity and value of individuals and gender equality which the Constitution guarantees. For the purpose of establishing a more equitable family system, the relevant Korean civil law was amended in March 2005, abolishing the concept of the household (in Korean, Ga) and the Family Headship System. Moreover, the surname and origin of children can follow those of the mother. The surname and origin may be modified by obtaining a permit from court, if necessary for promoting the welfare of children. The amended law will be implemented from 2008. The abolition of the household system has great historic implications, as it has had the effect of eliminating a major gender discrimination which has dominated Korean society for so long.

Improved representation of women in politics

43. The election laws, including the Political Party Act, were amended on 7 March 2002 before the third regional election. As of 7 March, with regard to proportionate representation in cities and provinces, women representatives must now account for 50 per cent or more. As regards the nomination of candidates, one woman candidate must be nominated for every two nominations. In the event of violation of this provision, the National Election Commission

reserves the right to prevent candidates from registering. As such, the quota system for women has gained practical strength. Accordingly, among the proportional representatives of municipal and provincial assemblies, women representatives accounted for 67.1 per cent (49 persons out of a total of 73 persons) in 2002 and 73 per cent (57 persons out of a total of 78 persons) in 2006.

44. On 15 April 2004, the revision of the Election Act was passed before the 17th election for representatives of the National Assembly. As a result, the pool for female nomination has been enlarged to 50 per cent or more of the total candidates for proportionate representatives, as is the case in local assemblies, and one woman has to be included for every two candidates nominated. Also, when regional representative candidates for a certain political party are nominated, 30 per cent or more of the nominations should be set aside for women. Through this institutional reform, 39 women representatives were elected in the 17th general election.

Expansion of women’s participation in the process of policy decisionmaking

45. The Government Advisory Committees, established within the Government system, make up a private participation system for reviewing and giving advice on major policies of government ministries. These bodies enable Government to develop effective gender equality policies by reflecting the views and demands of women in national policies. In order to expand the participation of women in the Committees, the Women Representatives’ Participation System was established. As a result, women’s participation rate of 6.9 per cent in 1993 had increased to 32.2 per cent by 2005. Various systems are being promoted to increase women’s participation rate in the Government Advisory Committees to the 40 per cent range by 2007.

Table 5
Participation status of women committee members

(Unit: committees, persons, %)

No. of Committees
No. of Commission members
No. of women members
Participation rate in 2005 (A)
Participation rate in 2004 (B)
Rate of fluctuation (AB)
1 434
19 968
6 470
Central administrative institutions
7 742
2 157
Local governments
1 069
12 226
4 313

(As of the end of December 2005.)

46. In order to further reflect female perspectives during the course of policymaking, efforts are made to accelerate the advancement of women into public positions. The target hiring system for public position examination undertaken from 1996 to 2002, is a system to hire a certain quota of women (1030 per cent) in accordance with the target hiring rate. As a result of the target hiring system for women, the passing rate for women in the public service examination rose from 19.9 per cent in 1998 to 42.9 per cent in 2002.

47. From 2003, the target system for women employment was converted to the gender equality hiring system: in the event that the number of people of one gender who passed the exam does not reach the target hiring rate (30 per cent), applicants of that gender who have the next highest grades are qualified to fill the remaining spots in the given quota for the examination. This system is to be fully implemented by 2007. In addition, in order to facilitate the advancement of women into managerial positions, the FiveYear Plan for the Expansion of Women Managers has been in force since 2003. With the introduction of this system, which has a target of 10 per cent by 2006, the ratio of grade 5 or higher female Government officials, which was 4.8 per cent in 2001, had risen to 7.4 per cent by 2004.

Genderequal employment

48. In addition, in order to correct the employment discrimination against women, equal employment instructions have been implemented in the workplace. The Government is working hard to remove gender discrimination in employment by checking on the status of sexual discrimination and harassment prevention education in companies where women make up a high percentage of the workforce and issuing corrective orders or judicial disposition as necessary.

49. Gender discrimination in employment has been greatly reduced, but there remain discriminatory factors in core areas such as wages, promotion, etc. As gender discrimination on the job is closely related to the burden of housework and childcare, practical improvements would be more effective if they were accompanied by the necessary social and cultural changes.

Table 6
Inspection results of gender equal employment for each year

(Unit: workplaces, cases)

Subjects of inspection
1 066
1 026
1 192
Corrective orders

50. In order to eliminate structural and customary gender discrimination in employment, the Government decided to take affirmative action, and surveyed the status of gender employment for public corporations and Governmentaffiliated institutions. Starting in 2005, public corporations and companies with 500 or more employees are now required to submit the state of employment to the Government every year (companies with 500999 employees have until March 2008 to comply). As for companies whose women workers do not meet the numerical standards, submission of an employment improvement plan report is required. Since March 2006, the Government has evaluated companies’ planning and performance and provided rewards and incentives for leading companies.

51. Active employment improvement actions that the Government is pursuing are expected to increase job opportunities for women, especially women wishing to ascend to senior positions. This effect is expected to have a positive impact on companies not subject to active employment improvement action, expanding female employment in the long run and improving chronic gender discrimination in hiring.

52. Although women’s participation in the labour force has steadily increased, the quality of women’s employment is much lower than that of men, with a higher percentage of temporary and daily employment. This is attributable to structural problems in female employment: sharp disadvantages in career opportunities due to pregnancy and childcare and worsened working conditions in the case of reentry into the labor market. The Government is seeking ways to resolve the problem of unreasonable discrimination against nonregular workers through the adoption of laws on the protection of nonregular positions and to protect labour conditions by establishing a support system for job stability and maternity protection for nonregular female workers. Furthermore, the Government is making every effort to create more decent parttime jobs by shortening working hours during the childcare period and increasing social service jobs.

Prevention of victims of sex trade and support for those leaving the sex trade

53. As the AntiProstitution Law in force since 1961 was not very effective in preventing prostitution, it was abolished and replaced by the Act on the Punishment of Procuring Prostitution and Associated Acts and the Act on the Prevention of Prostitution and

Protection of Victims thereof as of 22 March 2004. The new laws have been in force since 23 September 2004.

54. The recently adopted sex trade preventionrelated laws stipulate that prostitution continues to be illegal and that brokering activities in sex trade should be punishable. This holistic approach provides a systematic framework for substantially reducing the size of the sex industry in Korea. In addition, these laws have introduced the new concepts of victims of sex trade and human trafficking for the purpose of sex trade. These laws exempt victims from criminal punishment, thereby enhancing the protection of human rights, and establish a more active role for the Government by defining its responsibilities in supporting the independence and rehabilitation of victimized women.

55. On 31 March 2004, the Government established the Comprehensive Action Plan to Prevent Prostitution to support the rehabilitation of former prostitutes. It also set up a Task Force to Review the Implementation of the Comprehensive Action Plan to Prevent Prostitution under the Prime Minister with the participation of the 14 central administrative agencies to monitor implementation of the Action Plan. Currently, there are 40 support facilities for victims of forced prostitution: 29 counseling centres for victims of forced prostitution; two support facilities for foreign women; two rehabilitation support centers; four group homes; and one central support centre to prevent prostitution. These facilities help women in prostitution return to society by providing rescue, protection, medical support, legal relief, vocational training, startup business support and other various rehabilitation services for victims of prostitution. With the strengthening of protection and rehabilitation support services, 313 persons gained employment, 282 persons obtained 362 licenses, and 43 persons started up 34 businesses in 2005.

Table 7
Support facilities and counselling offices for victims of sex trade and others

(Unit: offices)

End of 2002
End of 2003
End of 2004
End of 2005
Support facilities for sex trade victims
Counselling office for sex trade victims
Group home
Rehabilitation support centre
Foreign women support facilities
Central support centre for sex trade prevention

Table 8
Support of startup business for women breaking away from sex trade

(Unit: persons, million won)

Number of supporting companies
24 companies for 31 persons
10 companies for 12 persons
34 companies for 43 persons
Amount of support
879 million won
366 million won
1 245 million won

Table 9
Status of qualifications acquired by members of supporting facilities for
victims of sex trade

(Unit: persons)

Acquired persons
Acquired cases
Hair salon
National exam for high school
Each subject

Table 10
Status of employment and college advancement for victims of sex trade

(Unit: persons)


Table 11
Medical service, legal service, educational advancement, and vocational
training support provided through support facilities and counselling
offices for victims of sex trade

(Unit: cases)

Medical support
Legal support
Employment training
5 856
2 530
1 261
11 005
24 077
1 061
1 204

56. Furthermore, in order to strengthen support for the rehabilitation of women in need, a pilot project was initiated specifically for women involved in prostitution at brothels in two areas in 2004 and expanded to 12 areas as of March 2006. The Government provided housing in consultation with the Ministry of Construction and Transportation (MOCT) to meet the housing needs of victims of forced prostitution and former prostitutes. In addition, it set up a rehabilitation support system in consultation with the Credit Restoration Committee, to help victims overcome their credit delinquency.

Table 12
Support for victims of sex trade through rehabilitation support

(Unit: cases)

Outreach (times)
Support of livelihood
Medical support
Legal support
Job training
13 417
2 707
2 930

Table 13
Support for credibility restoration for victims of sex trade

(Unit: persons)

Action taken
Interest exemption
Defer for repayment
Lifting of credit delinquency

57. In particular, from 2004, additional financial resources have been available to provide the victim rehabilitation programme with 40 psychological counseling facilities for restoration from mental shock and criminal damage, play treatment, art treatment, restoration camp and other rehabilitation mechanisms. As a result of such efforts, in 2005, a total of 971 persons were provided with a total of 3,914 service sessions.

58. Along with the protection and rehabilitation support for victims of forced prostitution and former prostitutes, a national public awareness improvement campaign was undertaken to raise national awareness of the illegality of prostitution. As a result of the campaign, a survey conducted in September 2005 indicated that 95.6 per cent of the Korean people are aware of the fact that prostitution is illegal, a sharp rise from the 30 per cent in September 2004 prior to the implementation of the new laws.

Article 6

The labour market

59. The percentage of the economically active population increased steadily in the 1990s. However, it declined to 60.6 per cent in 1998, right after the 1997 financial crisis, down 1.9 per cent compared to the previous year. Thanks to the sustained economic recovery, this figure had risen to 62.0 per cent by 2005.

60. The size of the working population increased from 21,156,000 in 2000 to 22,856,000 in 2005. Nevertheless, the employment rate has not increased significantly (59.7 per cent in 2005). Despite recovering after the financial crisis, the employment rate has not yet completely returned to the precrisis level (60.9 per cent in 1997 and 59.7 per cent in 2005). One of the biggest reasons for such a low employment rate is the low percentage of economically active women. For example, in 2004, 53.9 per cent of Korean women (1564 years) were employed, whereas an average of 60.1 per cent of women were employed for the OECD member countries as a whole. In addition, after the financial crisis, with the rapid increase in the number of highly educated people entering the labor market, a quantitative mismatch in labor force occurred, whereby youth unemployment and a labour shortage at SMEs occurred simultaneously.

61. It is expected that Korea will move from an ageing society to an aged one in the coming 18 years, which means that the number of people 55 years or older is expected to be 14 per cent by 2018, doubling the figure of 7 per cent in 2000. Thus, Korea is experiencing population ageing at an unprecedentedly fast rate compared to Japan (24 years), the United States (72 years), and France (115 years). Furthermore, as the birth rate in Korea has fallen steadily, it is predicted that more than half of Korea’s working population will be 50 or over by 2050.

Table 14
Employment trend

(Unit: 1,000 persons, percentage)

Economically active
22 134
22 471
22 921
22 956
23 417
23 743
Economic activity
participation rate
▪ Men
▪ Women
No. of employees
21 156
21 572
22 169
22 139
22 557
22 856
Unemployment rate

* Numbers in parentheses show the percentage increases compared to the same period in the previous year.

Employment policy
(1) Action programmes to reduce unemployment

62. After the financial crisis in 1997, the Government expanded the social safety net through the expansion of employment insurance and the reinforcement of public vocational counseling. At the same time, it pursued comprehensive nationwide measures against unemployment by offering temporary jobs like public works and expanding vocational training. Action programmes to reduce unemployment included support for corporate employment maintenance, job creation, vocational guidance and training, and unemployment benefits. The framework of the measures was maintained until 2002; since then, the Government has focused on active labour market policies emphasizing vocational training, job creation and job placement, among others.

(2) Comprehensive measures for job creation

63. In 2004, the Korean Government selected “job creation” as one of the top priority tasks to overcome the socalled “jobless growth” and generate income and employment simultaneously. With the aim of creating two million new jobs by 2008, 420,000 new jobs were created in 2004, exceeding the original goal of 400,000.

64. Measures for job creation are divided into two parts: first, expanding jobcreating policy, which is spearheaded by the ministries in charge of economic affairs; second, creating social job projects, jobsharing and SME recruitment, which is handled by the ministries in charge of social issues, mainly the Ministry of Labor. Launched in 2003, social job creation projects has been expanded to increase the number of social service jobs to keep pace with growing demand for

social services, such as elderly welfare and childcare. Job sharing means generating additional employment by shortening working hours or reshuffling work schedules. To this end, the Government is providing SMEs with a subsidy for the adoption of working hour reduction and a subsidy for switching over to the shift work system. SME recruitment has been undertaken to resolve labor shortage and create more jobs, as SMEs have had difficulties in recruiting while there has been an abundant unemployed youth labour force. To this end, the Government is offering more job information and operating various incentive systems and the Clean Project to establish better working environments.

(3) Comprehensive measures for youth unemployment

65. In September 2003, the Government established comprehensive measures for youth (1629 years) unemployment, but this has remained a serious problem (8.0 per cent in 2004 and 8.3 per cent in 2005). The average unemployment rate of OECD member countries was 13.4 per cent in 2004, compared to 10.2 per cent for Korea in 2005; thus, statistically it appears as though Korea does not suffer from severe unemployment. In reality, however, the unemployment that people actually sense is measured to be at a much higher level than that provided by the above figures. This is because of the many economically nonactive youths who are not categorized as unemployed but experience actual difficulty in finding jobs.

66. The Government earmarked 788.5 billion won for managing youth unemployment, including employment in the public sector, providing 253,000 people with jobs, and job experience and training. In addition, in March 2004, the Special Act on Youth Unemployment was enacted, and in November 2004, the Special Committee on Youth Unemployment was established, composed of labour and management representatives, civic organizations, women’s associations, academics and ministers of pertinent ministries under the direct supervision of the President.

(4) Enactment and revision of laws and regulations on employment

67. With the amendment of the Basic Employment Policy Act in 1998, the Minister of Labour was given the authority to implement unemployment projects such as job training for the unemployed, subsistence allowance and medical treatment allowance for the unemployed, and incentive programmes for employers who offer job security. If necessary, the Minister may delegate project implementation to the Korea Labor Welfare Corporation. In 2005, the Act was revised to reinforce the basis for active labour market policies and support for regional employment and social job creation. In addition, with the amendment of the Employment Insurance Act in 2001, the Government began offering maternity benefits, including maternity leave benefit and childcare leave benefit. In 2004, the application of employment insurance to nonregular workers, including daily workers and hourly workers, was significantly expanded. Also, through the amendment in 2005, the extent of job security and competency development projects was duly reflected in the legislation.

Employment discrimination

68. The Basic Employment Policy Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of faith, age, social status as well as sex in recruitment and employment. Discrimination on the basis of age and clinical history was also prohibited in 2003 and 2004, respectively. In 2005, an amendment to the law was undertaken in order to eradicate all discriminatory practices by stipulating prohibition of discrimination on the basis of gender in employment security organizations and training centres.

69. Meanwhile, recognizing discrimination cases in employment, the National Human Rights Commission issued corrective recommendations in a number of cases.

70. The Welfare of Disabled Persons Act prohibits any discrimination whatsoever in all phases of human life. It bans discrimination against the disabled in areas of hiring, promotion, transfer, and education and training.

Employment support for vulnerable groups
(1) Women’s employment policy

71. Since 2001, the percentage of economically active women, or the women’s employment rate, has been stagnant at around 48 to 49 per cent. However, it increased to 50.1 per cent in 2005, showing a moderate upwards tendency. To fight against gender discrimination in employment, the Government established the third basic plan for genderequal employment in 2003 under the Equal Employment Act and proposed to pursue it by 2007. Recognizing that women’s economic participation and women employment are essential in a society marked by rapidly falling fertility rates and a fastageing population, the Government set up a comprehensive plan for women’s workforce development and measures to promote women employment in 2005.

72. In order to enable women to balance their work and family lives, the Government established a public childcare system through the enforcement of the Revision Act on Infants and Childcare and is now seeking various forms of support. Likewise, it is implementing policies to encourage married women to enter the workforce by sharing the burden of childcare. Childcare facilities should be established in companies employing more than 300 women full time. As of January 2006, such facilities should be set up in companies employing more than 500 fulltime workers. Thus, the number of workplace childcare facilities will be on the rise in the future.

73. Since 2000, 2.5 billion won of loans for establishing workplace childcare facilities have been made to thirteen companies, and free repair projects for workplace childcare facilities has been supported by 3.3 billion won in 53 companies. In addition, the childcare budget in the Ministry of Family and Gender Equality, the major ministry in charge of childcare, has been increased more than fourfold, from 361 billion won in 2001 to 1335.5 billion won in 2005, and the number of childcare facilities and the children in childcare centres has increased by approximately 30 per cent.

Table 15
Expansion in childcare projects

(Unit: places, persons)

June 2002
June 2005
Rate of increase
Childcare facilities (places)
21 267
28 040
Childcare children (persons)
770 029
972 391

74. Financial support for childcare facilities has become more equitable because of a shift from supporting facilities to supporting children. At the same time, the Government facilitates childcare services at a reasonable cost. Furthermore, the number of parents given childcare benefits increased from 270,000 in 2004 to 410,000 in 2005. In 2006, basic subsidies for infants attending daycare centres were introduced. In addition, a series of new systems were implemented such as qualifications for childcare instructors and the Evaluation Certification System for DayCare Centres, in order to upgrade the level of childcare services.

Table 16
Status of childcare facilities by year

National and public child care facilities
Corporate child care facilities
Private childcare facilities
Parent collaborated
child care facilities
Family child care facilities
Workplace child care facilities
19 276
1 295
2 010
9 294
8 970
6 473
20 097
1 306
1 991
9 803
9 490
6 801
22 147
1 330
1 633
11 046
10 471
7 939
24 142
1 329
1 632
12 012
11 225
8 933
26 903
1 349
1 537
13 191
12 225
10 583
28 367
1 473
1 495
13 748
12 769
11 346

75. In 1988, childcare leave of absence was only available for women. In 2001, the Equal Employment Act was amended to allow men to take a leave of absence as well, with a view to boosting women’s employment. In 2005, however, merely 208 men (1.9 per cent) took advantage of such a benefit out of a total number of 10,700 people. To promote this system, the Government provides 200,000 won per month for employers and 400,000 won per month for employees during the leave of absence. In addition, the Government covers part of the labour costs for replacement.

Table 17
Payment of subsidy for childcare leave by year

(Unit: persons, million won)

August 2005
3 136
2 804
2 227
2 836
3 877
5 255
4 561
6 733
3 073
4 804
4 594
7 216

76. The Government provides unemployed women household heads with job training to develop their skills in finding employment. Major areas of job training include cooking, beauty salon, babysitting, flower arrangement, and telemarketing. The training fee is fully covered by the Government and 400,000500,000 won is offered as a training allowance.

Table 18
Record of training for unemployed women household heads by year

(Unit: million won, persons, %)

3 050
3 831
3 287
3 427
Trained persons
2 458
2 823
1 409
1 985
Employment rate

77. The Korean Government assists in leasing office space when unemployed female heads of household wish to open up their own shops. It limits financial support to 100 million won per person, applying the equivalent of 4.5 per cent of annual interest to the rent. As of 2005, 167 unemployed female heads of households were supported with 8.8 billion won.

Table 19
Support for unemployed female heads of households to start their
own business by year

(Unit: persons, million won)

Persons supported
Amount supported
11 900
9 963
10 632
8 814

78. The Korean Government supports highlyskilled women with startup funds. The women supported should pay the equivalent of 4.5 per cent of annual interest on the expenses for the startup funds for up to five years.

Table 20
Support of start up funds for skilled women by year

Persons supported (persons)
Amount supported (100 million won)

79. The Korean Government also assists lowincome women heads of households with office rent.

Table 21
Support for lowincome women heads of households to start their
own business by year

Persons supported (persons)
Amount supported (100 million won)

80. For those women who no longer work due to childbearing or childcare and become homemakers, the Government provides vocational education in the service sector, where it is relatively easy to find employment. Additionally, highlyeducated young women are provided with job education in new knowledge or locally specialized business areas, and employment promotion projects for young women are supported by the Government via cooperation between industry, Government and academia.

Table 22
Support for women’s vocational training by year

(Unit: persons)

20 employment competency
Support of reemployment for housewives
1 310
1 115
Support of social work employment
1 197
Support of employment for local community

81. The Government has established and supported policies for women’s resource development to facilitate the growth of the female workforce, by backing 50 Women’s Resource Development Centres across the nation. In 2003, four College Women’s Career Development Centres were established to promote employment of educated young women, and the number of centres increased to 23 in 2005.

(2) Employment promotion for the disabled

82. On 13 January 1990, the Government implemented the Act relating to Employment Promotion, etc. for the Disabled and amended the Act on Employment Promotion and Vocational Rehabilitation for Disabled Persons on 12 January 2000 to contribute to the employment promotion and vocational rehabilitation of disabled persons so that they may live decent lives through work suited for their abilities. Also, in 2003, the Government launched the Second FiveYear Plan for Employment Promotion of the Disabled from 2003 for the purpose of upgrading employment for the disabled.

83. A greater number of physically handicapped people have been recognized with the expansion of the scope of disability. However, their participation in economic activities remains quite low: the economic activity participation rate of the disabled is a mere 38.2 per cent and the unemployment rate is 23.1 per cent (even though the cause for not being employed is considered). In addition, the quality of their employment is not good because they are employed mainly in manual labor, agriculture, forestry and fishing.

84. The Act on Employment Promotion and Vocational Rehabilitation for Disabled Persons stipulates that disabled persons must account for at least two per cent of all employees of national and local government. Also, the disabled must represent some two per cent of the total number of workers of any private company employing no less than 50 fulltime workers. Any private companies which fail to comply must pay a levy set by the Minister of Labour every year. The number of disabled workers employed by employers to comply with these requirements increased from 17,640 persons at the end of 2001 to 46,674 persons at the end of 2004. Also, the number of disabled Government officials hired by national or local government rose from 4,420 persons to 6,079 persons during the same period.

Table 23
Current status of employment for the disabled in private companies and the
number of disabled government officials in national institutions

(Unit: persons, %)

Private companies
National institutions
No. of workers
No. of disabled workers
Employment rate
No. of public officials
No. of disabled public officials
Employment rate
1 977 928
17 640
274 488
4 420
2 035 725
20 709
281 454
4 676
2 101 610
22 718
289 158
5 421
3 550 370
46 674
297 505
6 079

85. With the amendment of the Employment Promotion and Vocational Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons Act in May 2005, the obligatory employment quota system of the disabled was expanded drastically to cover governmental positions that had previously been excluded. In addition, the exclusion rate from the obligatory employment quota system in private companies was abolished.

86. The Government pays employment subsidies to private entities which have employed disabled persons over the obligatory quota in accordance with disability level and gender. A total of 360 billion won was provided from 2001 to the end of 2004. In particular, in 2004, employmentboosting subsidies were provided regardless of whether companies had exceeded the obligatory employment quota rate in order to promote employment of the disabled.

87. Vocational training centres are operated to develop the working capability of the disabled. Besides, the Government grants assistance to public vocational training institutions, whether public or private, as well as special institutions which provide skill development training to disabled persons in the form of training expenses, training fees, training allowances, loans for facilities and equipment, and grants.

88. In order to systematically support various auxiliary facilities needed for job security and employment maintenance of the disabled, the Centre for Assistant Technologies (CAT) has been supported by the Government since its establishment in December 2004.

89. Employment of the disabled has been low due to prejudice against the vocational ability of the disabled and social indifference towards hiring the disabled. Recently, however, private companies failing to meet their obligatory employment rate have been required to pay a reinforced levy according to the recently introduced graded levy system to promote employment of disabled persons. At the same time, the Government is reinforcing various incentives for employers to implement obligatory employment quotas.

90. The Government is facilitating the employment of the disabled by diversifying from basic training to “tailored training”, with the precondition of hiring. In addition, specialized training methods are being expanded to take account of the impact of disabilities on work ability (e.g., visual or hearing disabilities and brain lesion).

(3) Employment promotion of the aged

91. Korean society is rapidly ageing, as the proportion of the elderly 65 and over is expected to increase to 14.4 per cent by 2019 and 20.0 per cent by 2026, from 7.2 per cent in 2000. Against this backdrop, the Government has continuously developed policy measures to encourage senior citizens to work in suitable positions. The Aged Employment Promotion Act defines “aged” or “senior citizen” as a person of 55 or over. As of 2004, the sectors where senior citizens mainly worked include 57.9 per cent in manufacturing and 16.9 per cent in transportation.

92. Since 2001, the Government has monitored the situation of elderly employment in companies employing more than 300 workers, urging companies short of meeting the quota set by the Government to expand employment opportunities for the elderly. The proportion of the elderly in employment in companies employing more than 300 employees has been steadily growing from 3.44 per cent in 2000 to 3.70 per cent in 2002 and 4.51 per cent in 2004.

93. The Subsidy for Employment Promotion of the Aged includes a subsidy for hiring elderly workers in large numbers, a subsidy for new hiring of elderly workers, and a subsidy for continuous employment of elderly workers after retirement age. In 2004, 266,000 people received subsidies and a total of 41.3 billion won was paid out.

94. The Government has designated organizations with specialized human resources and facilities for vocational guidance and job placement as the Manpower Bank for the Aged (45 locations), and supported the seniors with registration for jobseeking and recruitment, vocational guidance, counselling, job placement, and job counselling for the retired. The number of people obtaining jobs through the manpower agencies came to 26,935 in 2002, 24,878 in 2003, and 28,320 in 2004.

Vocational training policy
(1) Enactment and revision of vocational trainingrelated laws and regulations

95. On 1 January 1999, the Vocational Training Promotion Act to abolish the mandatory vocational training system under the Vocational Training Act; to expand training opportunities of private training centres; to establish an evaluation system for training institutions and training procedures; and to diversify training areas from manufacturing to office management and services.

96. On 31 December 2004, the Vocational Training Promotion Act was changed to the Workers’ Vocational Competency Development Act, which contains provisions for the improvement of equity and efficiency in traineeoriented vocational ability development. The revision of the Act includes setting up a vocational training system in which both labour and management participate, reinforcing support for vulnerable groups in training (e.g., SME employees and nonregular workers), expanding support for labour and management organizations and federations, and vocational ability development organizations, and enhancing support for training infrastructure.

(2) Current state of system improvement

(i) Vocational ability development of SME workers

97. Small and mediumsized enterprises (SMEs) are by nature creative and flexible. They serve as growth engines for economic development and job creation alternatives in the era of socalled jobless growth. However, the economic and social gap between large companies and SMEs is continuously widening.

98. To narrow the gap, the Government has implemented various projects to facilitate human resource development and support vocational ability development in SMEs.

99. The Government has introduced the Small & Medium Enterprise CEO and HRD Personnel Training Programme to help CEOs and workers in human resources development (HRD) recognize the importance of HRD and the need to develop abilities. It has also implemented a Small and Medium Enterprise Core Competency Improvement Project to help SME employees enhance their vocational abilities and to improve productivity.

100. In addition, the Best HRD (Human Resources Developer) was introduced to promote investment in HR, which is the core corporate competitiveness in a knowledgebased society. Under this system, the Government certifies and supports leading companies in planning, infrastructure, and delivery system and investment in education and training, while assisting companies in creating HR development system voluntarily.

101. In order to alleviate the labour shortage of SMEs and improve the job capability of workers, the Government introduced the SME Vocational Training Consortium in 2001. Under this system, the Government offers training facilities and equipment and training fees when large companies, employers’ associations, public training institutions and universities conduct vocational training for SMEs in the form of consortia utilizing their own training facilities.

102. Having initially instituted a pilot operation in six institutions in 2001, the SME Vocational Training Consortium was expanded to 47 institutions as of December 2005, with the participation of 71,000 people in 33,000 SMEs. The employment rate of basic training in the consortium was 78.4 per cent in 2005.

103. The SME Learning Organization Support Programme has been implemented to upgrade vocational abilities of workers and corporate competitiveness by promoting lifelong learning.

(ii) Vocational ability development of nonregular workers

104. After the financial crisis, the number of nonregular workers increased rapidly and the issue of nonregular workers became an acute social problem. Against this backdrop, the Government introduced policies aimed at protecting nonregular workers and preventing the abuse of workers in addition to expanding the social safety net. However, there are many limitations in creating comprehensive measures to effectively address the root cause of increasing nonregular workers.

105. The current occupational training system could not fully reflect the changing training environment and various demands of vulnerable workers. Therefore, the training participation rate for nonregular workers (e.g., periodical, daily) is relatively low.

106. Accordingly, in order to encourage nonregular workers to participate in occupational ability development, the Government needs to formulate social solutions and policy measures based on comprehensive approaches by accurately analysing the issue of nonregular workers.

107. In this regard, the Government has improved the delivery system of various vocational training and employment services, and has explored and pursued new projects.

108. The Government plans to establish training courses promoting nonregular workers’ participation in vocational ability development, inter alia by encouraging them to attend vocational training anytime, anywhere. To this end, it is planning to develop and distribute elearning contents via the acquisition of certificates. Also, the SME Vocational Training Consortium focusing on collective training will be extended to include elearning and blended learning training.

109. Irregular workers do not actively participate in vocational ability development due to a financial burden or employers’ negative attitude towards training. This being so, the Government should reinforce differentiated support for the training of nonregular workers.

110. As the current support for training through corporations is not enough, the government is planning to introduce the Worker Competency Development Card System. Under this system,

the Government will provide training services for nonregular workers in order for them to select and use training services through various institutions and provide a training allowance without the intermediation of companies.

111. In addition, when employers conduct training courses for nonregular workers, the Government provides wages apart from training fees, increasing the number of persons covered by subsidies for course attendance and covering up to 100 per cent of the tuition.

112. The Government is planning to lay the foundation for establishing appropriate policies by developing various statistics indexes showing the current state of vocational training participation of nonregular workers.

(iii) Vocational ability development of the unemployed

113. For a worker who has been dismissed from a company covered by the Employment Insurance system, the Government provides assistance in training costs and allowances. As of 2006, 53,459 persons in 2,674 training courses had participated in this training.

114. When unemployed persons register at the reemployment training institution authorized by the Ministry of Labour after receiving counseling regarding vocational training, they are able to attend training courses at no cost. Rather, they receive 110,000 won per month to cover transportation and food expenses.

Article 7

Protection of working conditions

115. The Government has protected workers’ basic working conditions, including wages, working hours, holidays, leave, dismissal, etc., since the enactment of the Labour Standards Act in 1953. In order to meet the growing need for administrative services resulting from the enactment of new laws, such as the Employee Retirement Benefit Security Act and the Act on Establishment, Operation, etc., of Public Officials’ Trade Unions, the number of labour inspectors was increased to 442 in 2005 and 1,238 in March 2006.

116. The Government has gradually expanded the application of the Labour Standards Act to protect working conditions. In 2005, major provisions on working conditions, such as labour contracts, wages, protection for female workers and minors, etc., were also applied to workplaces with fewer than four employees. With the enactment of the Employee Retirement Benefit Security Act, the statutory retirement allowance system will begin to apply to workplaces with four employees or less sometime between 2008 and 2010.

117. Meanwhile, a result of the revision of the Labour Standards Act, if an employer delays giving wages or retirement pay to his/her retired worker, an obligation to pay interest at an annual interest rate of 20 per cent has been imposed as of July 2005. If a worker files a civil lawsuit to claim his/her unpaid wage, a free legal assistance programme is provided. If a worker decides not to press charges against an employer, the employer is exempted from any form of criminal punishment to protect wages more effectively.

Minimum wage system

118. The Minimum Wage Act is, in principle, applied to all businesses or workplaces irrespective of their size. The Minimum Wage Act, implemented in stages, was first applied to manufacturing companies employing 10 regular workers or more in 1988. Since 1990, the Act has been applied to every workplace with 10 workers or more regardless of whether they are regular, temporary or part-time workers. Since November 2000, the Act has been applied to all workplaces employing one worker or more, regardless of whether the worker is a full-time, temporary, or part-time worker.

Table 24
Minimum wage system and its coverage

(Unit: 1,000 persons)

Workplaces covered
Manufacturing firms with 10 workers or more
Mining and construction firms with 10 workers or more
All workplaces with 10 workers or more
All workplaces with 5 workers or more
All workplaces with 1 worker or more
All workplaces with 1 worker or more
No. of workers covered
2 267
3 053
4 386
5 031
13 216
14 584
No. of workers actually benefiting
1 503

119. In 2005, the Minimum Wage Act was amended to extend coverage to those in initial training and apprenticeship, who were previously excluded from the minimum wage system. A reduced minimum wage is now applied to apprentice workers. Full coverage was also expanded to minors, who were previously subject to a reduced minimum wage. In addition, the ratio of income distribution was added to the criteria in deciding the minimum wage to ensure that the minimum wage system can help improve national income distribution.

120. All employers are obligated to pay their workers at least the minimum wage (article 6 of the Minimum Wage Act). Any employer violating this regulation is punished by either imprisonment of up to three years or subject to a fine not exceeding 20 million won, or both (articles 28 through 30). The Government is doing its best to ensure compliance with the minimum wage at industrial sites by intensively examining workplaces prone to violating the minimum wage.

121. According to the Minimum Wage Act, the Minister of Labour requests the Minimum Wage Council to deliberate on the minimum wage for the following year by 31 March of each year. The Council must then deliberate on, determine and recommend the minimum wage to the Minister of Labour within 90 days after receiving the request. As it deliberating on and determining the minimum wage rate, the Council organizes a separate expert committee and conducts related research and discussions to decide the level of minimum wage with due consideration of appropriate criteria, such as workers’ living costs, wages among similar types of workers, labour productivity, ratio of income distribution, etc. If workers’ or employers’ representatives raise an objection after the Ministry of Labour has announced the proposed minimum wage and the Minister of Labour deems the objection reasonable, the Minimum Wage Council may be requested to conduct a re-examination. The following indicates minimum wage by year.

Table 25
Minimum wage by year

(Unit: won, %)


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