Stop the labor exploitation

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Stop the labor exploitation

Part-time workers in Korea have been exploited by their employers. In its recent surveillance of workplaces that hire young workers during the last winter break, the Ministry of Employment and Labor discovered that eight out of 10 employers violated labor regulations.

Most of the employers did not make labor contracts with part-time workers, and those that did often refused to give copies to employees. In addition, many employers failed to pay minimum wage or record overtime. Many also did not go through compulsory sexual harassment training. This means that our teenagers and university students are working in restaurants or other workplaces that deprive them of basic rights.

In August, a female student worker in Seosan, South Chungcheong, killed herself after she was sexually assaulted by the owner of the pizza shop where she worked part time. The government announced a set of measures to improve work conditions for part-time workers following the tragic incident.

It vowed, for instance, to enhance its monitoring of work conditions in shops and other workplaces that employ part-time staff on a regular basis. Yet the government actions have stopped short of easing the troubles and pain felt by teenage and student workers across the country.

At the same time, decent-paying part-time jobs are getting harder to find. Students who have to earn a living are putting up with injustice in order to keep whatever jobs they can find. Employers often prefer to stretch working hours and adjust pay at their discretion because most of their young employees are not familiar with labor rights and laws. As a result, they are some of the most victimized in the labor pool.

The Employment and Labor Ministry has reiterated that it will extend the scope of workplaces subject to regular surveillance and continue to watch them throughout the year instead of only during summer or winter breaks. It also vowed to toughen penalties on workplaces that violate the same labor regulations within six months.

But the problem is that many employers are not intimidated. Many have squeezed their way out before by cooking up documents when they receive warnings from labor authorities. In fact, government officials rarely revisit to check up on them. According to government data, only two employers were penalized in a recent crackdown. The Ministry of Employment and Labor must first increase the number of supervisors to keep a close watch over suspicious workplaces. Otherwise our cash-strapped students will continue to be victimized down the road.
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