People are responsible for finding out about their workplace rights. Recently the website Albamon, a page that connects part-time job employers with employees, aired a TV commercial that contained information on the minimum wage and night work allowance for Korean workers. This riveted the underpaid employee. It was simply a well-intentioned commercial, but the topic of low-paying part-time work is a sensitive one in Korea. So what about you? Are you earning less, than minimum wage or more?
News is full of articles quoting statistics on recent graduates forced to take low-paying part-time work. However, there are always exceptions. The Dankook Herald (DKH) interviewed Lee En-joo (Senior, Dept. of the English Language and Literature) who is taking a gap year before looking for a full-time job. She currently has high-paying part-time job, teaching student essay writing. There are lots of university students that teach in private academies, known as hak-wons just like her, but they earn only a bit above minimum wage. So what makes her different from other people in her age group? Is it the name value of the school she studied at? Or is there actually something special about her that made her resume look especially appealing to her employer?
|▲ College student teaching children.|
She placed emphasis on the fact that we are in an era of competition. "We have heard enough through our lives that competition is everything. People born-and-raised in Korea are more likely to ‘embedded’ with the idea. I feel like I could never be competitive ‘enough’. Parents have told me my future would be better by studying more and sleeping less. However, on the contrary, l feel like it never is. Society makes it just as tough for me to end up better off," she told of her experiences.
She speaks five different languages fluently. She studied at one of the top three universities in Korea. She took part in lots of out-of-school activities while being a university student. It seemed impossible to manage it all. "I'm a rookie to society. Rookies compete with rookies. Retired baby-boomers also compete with others. It is inevitable," she again strongly pointed out the importance of competitiveness.
"I invested a lot of effort into being the best. I still am. I also feel great stress from student loans just like many other graduate students. I also feel stressed about the fact that Korean students often have two or three-page resumes before they even graduate, including full-time work experience," she said. Lee is just one of the students in her twenties trying to have better life. Although she makes more than five times of minimum wage per an hour, she struggles with questions about the future like others.
There are some people who are paid under the minimum wage just like there are others who earn a high paying wage. It is clear that part time workers are not guaranteed legally designated minimum hourly wage. In fact a majority of bosses do not guarantee workers the legal minimum hourly wage. To alleviate and solve this problem, the 'Ministry of Employment and Labor’ department has proposed several solutions.
First, a standardized written employment contract was developed to inform workers about proper employment agreement. Second, they developed website to acquaint people with labor laws by offering classed they can take or posting comics and online lectures dealing with labor laws and workers’ rights.
Although the department has taken such actions, some students still work in unreasonable situations. DKH interviewed two students who had trouble with their employers and their wages. Kim Ji-hye (sophomore, Dept. of Polymer Science and Engineering) worked part-time at a cafe during the last summer vacation. Before she started her job, she visited the cafe and learned many things for three days. “However, I did not receive any payment,” she said.
“While later working at cafe, the boss even paid me a wage that was below the minimum required. She just told me the wage would increase someday. I also did not receive pay for overtime,” She stated. Getting a scolding in front of the customers gave her further stress.
Ko Un (sophomore, Dept. of Polymer Science and Engineering) worked at restaurant as a waitress for four days. She did not receive fair wages because the restaurant paid for less than her actual working hours. She reported the problem to the Labor Administration Office and they sorted it out.
“It was hard to prove my real working hours because they logged it. Incorrect working hours on my duty roster, but I had taken a picture of my last duty roster where I had recorded my correct hours and used that as a proof. I was able to reach an agreement with my former employer because I took that picture, and also used my transportation card which recorded my commuting hours,” she added when explaining the difficulties she faced during the process of solving the problem. She suggested registering daily commuting hours and taking pictures are good ways to ensure you are paid your proper wages.
There are few rights that people must know before starting part-time job. Firstly, when a person work 15 hours a week, they are entitled to an extra payment of an average day payment. Secondly, before signing an employment contract, specifying a penalty in a contract is illegal because it's disadvantageous to works. If you are unsure which provisions are unreasonable, you can find a standard written employment contract form on the ‘Ministry of Employment and Labor’ website. Also it is beneficial to have a copy of your contract before working to prevent problems in the future. Thirdly, a person 15 years old or older can get a part-time job without a parent’s consent. People under the age of 20, can claim their wages autonomously. Lastly, in the case of working in one work place for a year or more, a person has right to demand severance payment when they stop working.
There are two types of students. The first type earns money below the minimum wage and the second type earns money above it. The first type of student should take actions because they have the right to receive at least minimum wage for their efforts. If they want to get higher wages, they need to improve their skills and utilize them at work. It will increase their wages and their sense of satisfaction. However, the most important thing is to defend and assert your basic rights as a worker.
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