Lawsuits complicate set dates for retirement

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Lawsuits complicate set dates for retirement

Mr. Kim, who requested that his real name not be used for this story, was scheduled to retire next year. But now, the 57-year-old is engaged in a legal battle against his company to postpone his retirement.

The case arose after Kim changed the birth year on his family relations certificate, which had originally been misstated as 1957. The court later allowed him to correct it to 1958.

When he asked if he could delay his retirement, however, his work place refused it because the demand was unprecedented. Following much consideration, he filed a lawsuit against his company.

And Kim is not alone. Lawsuits have drastically increased among those in their 50s who are close to retiring and seeking to correct their dates of birth.

Last year, 384 cases involving retirement postponement were brought before the Seoul Family Court. As of April, 141 suits have been filed; and last month, a 58-year-old man surnamed Lee, who works at Seoul Metro, was approved by the Seoul High Court to work until 2017, after he corrected his birth year from 1956 to 1957.

Such cases are usually brought by those in the baby-boomer generation, who were born between 1955 and 1963. Many of their parents registered them late or did not immediately report the birth due to the country’s high infant mortality rate at the time.

Sim Jung-gu, a lawyer who typically handles two or three retirement cases each month, said a sense of loss was a strong motivator for baby boomers to wage these kinds of suits against their employers.

“A big motivation would be finances,” Sim said. “But they could be more seriously concerned that they won’t have anything to do since they are the hardest working generation.”

These cases, said Hyeong Taek-su, a former sociology professor at Korea University, show “how much people have become eager and desperate to work.”

Most of the cases were filed by civil servants, school teachers and workers in institutes operated by state-run companies, where workers in those positions retire at an age set by the government to facilitate opportunities for new, younger employees to come in.

Workers in the private sector are also anticipated to begin waging retirement suits once a new law goes into effect next year that sets 60 as the mandatory retirement age.

However, such lawsuits aren’t always favorable for the employees involved.

One salaried worker, who requested anonymity, lost his suit against his company when the court ruled that one’s retirement date should be determined by the birth year given at the start of employment.

Still, Jang Jin-young of Central Legal Service Center at the Federation of Korean Trade Unions noted that an increasing number of relevant cases have pushed some companies to change their regulations to dismiss retirement extensions for workers who belatedly change their dates of birth.

BY BAEK MIN-JEONG [nam.yoonseo@joongang.co.kr]

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