E-Land apologizes for stiffing restaurant staff

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E-Land apologizes for stiffing restaurant staff

E-Land Group, which manages over 300 restaurants across Korea, apologized on Wednesday for withholding nearly 8.4 billion won ($7 million) in wages from its part-timers this year.

The apology came after the Ministry of Employment and Labor revealed Monday that E-Land failed to pay 8.37 billion won to 44,360 part-time staff.

“We deeply apologize for having failed to provide a favorable working environment for our employees,” the restaurant giant said in a statement. E-Land promised to return the unpaid wages to all its part-timers.

The group’s food and leisure subsidiary, E-Land Park, runs 20 restaurant chains. Their most well known is Ashley, the country’s top family restaurant chain in terms of revenue.

The investigation found the company withheld wages through illegal practices, including failing to pay for overtime and annual leave. The ministry booked E-Land Park’s food business CEO, Park Hyeong-sik, and said it would refer him to prosecutors for investigation.

The issue first came to light during a parliamentary audit in October, when lawmaker Lee Jung-mi of the Justice Party brought up cases of Ashley violating labor laws. In one case, the company calculated work time in 15-minute intervals instead of hour by hour. Other violations included denying breaks and failing to compensate for overtime.

The revelations sparked public outcry because most part-timers working at family restaurants are teenagers and young people in their mid-20s. Lee criticized E-Land for skimming off small unnoticeable amounts from multiple part-timers and called the practice a “new form of ‘passion pay,’” where employers take advantage of passionate youth by underpaying or not paying them at all.

The ministry’s report on Monday moved many on social media to call for a boycott of E-Land. People shared lists of the group’s restaurants and said they could not buy from a company that “steals from part-timers.”

BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr[
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