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Pangyo IT firms get serious about benefits

Life in Techno Valley comes with free beer, massages and haircuts

Jan 15,2019
From left: An NCSoft employee gets a health checkup at an in-house medical center; Kakao Games operates a draft beer dispenser at its cafeteria 24 hours a day; a Pearl Abyss programmer gets a free haircut subsidized by his company at a salon near his office. [NCSOFT, PARK MIN-JE, PEARL ABYSS]
Pangyo Techno Valley in Gyeonggi is Korea’s answer to Silicon Valley, housing over 1,200 start-ups and tech giants like Naver and Kakao.

Like many tech companies around the world, firms in Pangyo often look to the likes of Google and Facebook as role models, so it comes as no surprise that a number of companies are starting to eschew the traditional Korean formal, high-pressure office environment for something a little bit more relaxed. From child care subsidies to five-star hotel-quality buffet meals, Korean IT firms are pulling out all the stops to create the ideal working environment.

Jung Yo-han is a programmer working for Pearl Abyss, a game maker best known for hit multiplayer online role-playing game (Mmorpg) Black Desert.

Earlier this month, he went to get a haircut at a salon across his office in Anyang, Gyeonggi, a 20-minute drive from Pangyo. Instead of paying the hairdresser for the cut, he simply wrote his name on a piece of paper and left.

This salon is one of several that Pearl Abyss has partnered with to subsidize employee haircuts. Around 200 of 700 employees go to designated salons for free haircuts every month.

“The stereotype that game programmers go around with disheveled, greasy hair doesn’t apply to our employees,” said Jung.

Free haircuts are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the company’s expansive welfare network. Pearl Abyss employees get three free meals a day and can sign up for 30-minute massages given by professional in-house massagers. Workers who have rental flats near the office also get 500,000 won ($447) in housing subsidies every month.

Pearl Abyss’ welfare benefits extend to the employees’ families as well. The game developer gives 500,000 won per child monthly for employees with underage children and offers 400,000 won a month per parent for those with parents in senior care facilities.

“Our welfare strategy is that employees will do the work and the company will take care of the rest,” said a Pearl Abyss business strategy manager.

Kakao Games, Kakao’s gaming arm located just outside of Pangyo Station, is another company that promises excellent benefits.

The company’s cafeteria is equipped with a draft beer tap that operates 24 hours a day, offering a cost-effective way for employees to get together or enjoy a drink alone. Around 60 glasses of beer - in this case, Stella Artois - are consumed daily by employees.

The cafeteria offers a host of other leisure activities to help workers de-stress. There, employees can play a quick game of table tennis and massage their tired fingers using electronic hand massagers.

Kakao Games employees can also borrow comics from the company’s collection to take back home, while board games and console games are also available for loan. The company even began renting out camping cars and equipment from last November.

“We have been adopting a welfare system to encourage employees to focus on work during working hours, but maintain a good balance between work and leisure,” explained a Kakao Games communication manager.

Other Pangyo companies recognize employees’ busy schedules and offer discounted health checkups and postal services right at the office.

Lineage developer NCSoft has an on-site doctor at its Pangyo R&D Center. The doctor checks for stress and work-related health problems and gives out flu shots in the winter. Office suite developer Hancom invites a doctor who practices traditional Korean medicine every month to offer consultations for employees.

Nexon, Korea’s leading game maker, has its own mini post office. Employees can send out both work-related and personal documents through the center.

Midas IT, a software developer, focuses on boosting morale by pleasing workers’ palates. Employees only have to pay 4,000 won to get their hands on a mouthwatering lunch buffet prepared by Midas IT’s talented chefs, who have experience working at five-star hotels.

A typical lunch buffet at the company consists of steak, sushi, pizza, Vietnamese pho, fried chicken and stir-fry beef noodles.

“Every month we also have the ‘secret chef’ event, where the chefs give us ready-made food to take back home and share with our families,” said Kim Eun-kyung, who works for the company.


BY PARK MIN-JE AND YI WOO-LIM [kim.eunjin1@joongang.co.kr]


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