South Korea’s revision of law leaves labourers still vulnerable

The latest revision of the Workplace Harassment Prevention Law (WHPL) fails to protect subcontractors and labourers facing harassment.

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Pro-labour civic group Gabjil 119 has said that the latest revision to the anti-harassment law was only designed to further protect directly employed workers from harassment of their employers, leaving labourers and contract workers still vulnerable. 

The revision to the WHPL, passed last month, penalises employers or related personnel with a fine of up to 10 million won (US$8,872) if found guilty of workplace harassment. Employers can be fined up to 5 million won (US$4,456) for failing to protect victims of workplace harassment or failing to punish perpetrators. 

Gabjil is a form of harassment based on hierarchy and social superiority which South Korea has been struggling to curtail. In recent years, a number of anti-harassment laws have been passed, with the country slowly seeing progress in the reduction of the number of harassment cases. 

The latest revision was hailed as a progress towards a better working environment when it was passed, but Gabjil 119 has pointed out that the revision still does not provide protection that is inclusive enough. 

It argued that the revision still fails to include labourers and subcontractors that are effectively in an employer-employee relationship with contracting firms, and some service workers who are verbally or physically abused by customers. 

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A survey conducted by the civic group on 1,000 labourers last December showed that 2.3% of respondents said they experienced workplace harassment from employees at contracting companies, while another 4.4% said they were harassed by customers, complainants or vendors, according to The Korea Herald. 

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