Moon, parties agree on flexible workweeks

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Moon, parties agree on flexible workweeks

President Moon Jae-in and political leaders agreed to be flexible about the new 52-hour workweek during a consultative meeting at the Blue House Monday.

The agreement came as businesses struggle to adapt to the shorter work week, which brings the maximum number of hours down to 52 from the previous 68.

The new workweek went into effect for workplaces employing 300 or more people starting July 1. The goal was to reduce Korea’s notoriously long working hours to help people find a better balance between work and leisure - and to encourage companies to hire more workers.

“To help alleviate difficulties companies face, we shall complete supplementary legislation expanding the flexibility in working hours,” read a joint statement issued by five political parties that participated in the Monday meeting.

Kim Sung-tae, floor leader of the opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP), told reporters after his meeting with Moon that such flexibility could be allowed for a year. “The Blue House agreed to pass legislation on it by the end of this year,” he said.

Companies may be allowed to increase or decrease working hours depending on the amount of work needed at a given time.

For instance, a company that makes air conditioner parts could increase working hours more than 52 hours a week during the summer season while decreasing them during the winter.

The working hour agreement was one of several reached among Moon and the floor leaders of five political parties Monday. In August, the Blue House and the parties agreed to hold such consultations every three months in an attempt to reach middle ground on a wide range of policy differences.

Touching on a series of corrupt employment practices in both the public and private sector, the government and the parties agreed to pass preventive and punitive laws.

They also agreed to give bipartisan support to enhance the country’s competitiveness in the nuclear energy sector even as the Moon government attempts to phase out nuclear energy production in Korea.

“With the government’s energy policy as a basis, we agree to actively pursue the maintenance and development of the country’s global competitiveness in nuclear energy technology,” read a joint statement.

The Moon government wants to reduce the number of active nuclear power plants to 14 by 2038 from the current 24, and yet it is still trying to export Korean nuclear technology. Moon wants to raise the amount of power generated by renewable sources to 20 percent by 2030 from the current 4 percent. Korea currently depends on nuclear energy for a third of its power.

Moon and the party floor leaders also agreed to expand benefits for couples having or rearing children to raise Korea’s notoriously low birthrate and to cut red tape affecting innovation in industry. They also agreed to strengthen punishments for drunk driving and filming people secretly and without their consent.

Other agreements include bipartisan efforts to achieve complete denuclearization of North Korea and the establishment of a permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula through the alliance with the United States, though it remains to be seen whether the LKP will agree to the ratification of the Panmunjom Declaration, the product of Moon’s first summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in April, as repeatedly demanded by Moon.

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