South Korea

Overview

South Korea has the fourth largest economy in Asia and the 11th in the world. Over the last 40 years, South Korea has accelerated remarkably on the economic growth path to become a tech-driven and industrialized economy.

Trade is an integral part of South Korea’s economy. The country is a global leader in smartphones, consumer electronics, and mobile broadband services. The accumulated value of imports and exports is nearly 85% of GDP.

The rule of law is fairly institutionalized in South Korea and supports vital pillars of economic freedom such as market openness and regulatory efficiency, which promote innovation and entrepreneurial endeavors. The rules concerning business formation and operation are favorable.

Currency: South Korean Won

Principal language: Korean

Government: A democratic republic with 3 principal branches of government: executive, legislative, and the judiciary.

Capital City: Seoul

Major Cities: Gyeonggi, Jeju, Gangwon, South Gyeongsang

Employment Contracts

Employers must enter into work contracts with their employees that specify:

  • Work hours
  • Wages, and
  • Working conditions

Contracts must specify the minimum conditions mandated by law. The labor law doesn’t make any distinction between contracts, be it for part-time, permanent, or temporary employees.

Work/Time Regulations

The standard work schedule is 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week, though the law also has provisions for flexible work hours. Employers can ask employees to work beyond the normal work hours without paying overtime, provided that the average weekly hours over 2 weeks don’t go beyond 40 and that no workweek goes beyond 48 hours. Work hours can exceed 52 hours a week or 12 hours a day if workers' representatives agree and the average weekly hours over 3 months don’t exceed 40. The law has provisions for increasing the flexible work - from 2 weeks to 1 month (under employment rules) and from 3 months to 1 year (under a workplace agreement).

Under a Working Hours Savings System, employees can take leave in lieu of compensation for their night shifts or an extended holiday. They can also work on an extended holiday or do night shifts to make up for time used for leave. Workers’ representatives and employers can come up with work arrangements based on a particular company’s situation.

Overtime
Overtime is hours worked beyond the standard work schedule of 40 hours per week. When work hours are averaged over 2 weeks or more under a flexible work schedule. Employees receive 1.5 times of regular wages for overtime work or compensatory time off if workers' representatives agree.

Employers can’t ask employees to work more than 12 hours of overtime in a week. Women are not allowed to work for more than 2 hours of overtime each day or 6 hours per week.

Leave

Leave due to Sickness
Employers need to pay employees for sick leave only due to an occupational injury or illness. Many employers offer paid sick leave for after receiving proof of illness from a doctor.

Employers need to provide 1 day of menstruation leave per month to a female worker upon request.

Child Care Leave
Women with children less than 3 years old qualify for 101/2 months of child care leave that is paid by the Employment Insurance Fund and maternity leave.

Benefits are 40% of normal wages and must be a minimum of 500,000 won/month and a maximum of 1,000,000 won/month.

Every worker, regardless of sex, qualifies for child care leave. If both parents work, combined leave cannot be more than 2 years, i.e., 1 year for each parent. Any employer that refuses to provide child care leave may be penalized up to 5 million won. Childcare leave should be given to eligible employees and must be registered in each employee's work record.

Paternity Leave
Fathers can take 3 days off within the initial 30 days after childbirth.

Military Leave
South Korean men are required to serve 2 years of military duty, and complete periodic training conducted later on. Employers can’t penalize employees for work days missed due to military service. A skills-retention subsidy is provided to companies that assist veterans with high school diplomas to develop their vocational skills.

Maternity Leave
Pregnant women get 90 days of maternity leave, a minimum half of which should be taken after delivery. Employers are required to pay standard wages to a worker on maternity leave for the first 60 days. Thereafter, the Employment Insurance Fund covers the remaining wages if the woman has contributed to the fund for a minimum of 180 days by the end of the leave. These benefits also apply to women who go through stillbirths or miscarriages with slight adjustments.

Employers must give employees who are pregnant with 2 or more fetuses 120 days of paid maternity leave that can be used after or before birth.

Women with children aged less than 1 year can take 2 paid nursing recesses of maximum 30 minutes each workday.

Benefits

The current legal retirement age is 61 and will rise to 65 by 2034. The National Pension Scheme is a social insurance program that receives equal contributions from employees and employers. Maximum contribution that can be made are 9% that is divided equally between the employee and the employer.

National Pension
Both employers and employees contribute to state pension service. The national pension scheme is administered by the National Pension Service (NPS). All employees whether Koreans or foreigners aged between 18 and 59 who work or live in South Korea are required to contribute to the NPS. A company with 5 or more employees must begin making contributions to the NPS. Otherwise, employees need to manage their own contributions individually.

Health Insurance
Employer contributes 2.995% of regular monthly wage.

Employment Insurance
Workplaces and businesses employing 1 or more regular workers are required to subscribe to employment insurance.

Both employers and employees contribute 0.65% of the total wage individually. An additional contribution called ‘occupational ability development’ ranges from 0.25 – 0.85% based on the company’s size.

Accident Insurance
Workplaces and businesses with 1 or more regular workers are required to subscribe to industrial accident compensation insurance.

The employer contributes from 0.6 to 0.34% of the total wages, depending on the business type.

Workers Compensation
Employers are required to subscribe to the Industrial Accident Compensation Insurance system, which offers benefits to workers who sustain work-related diseases or injuries. Premiums are decided by the Ministry of Employment and Labor on the basis of employers' accident records.

Proof of negligence on employer’s behalf is not required for granting compensation, but additional damages can be demanded in civil court in cases related to negligence. Any compensation awarded in civil court will be drawn from worker’s salary.

How GPS can Help

With our Global PEO/Employer of Record services, companies can expand into South Korea and hire their employees without having to establish a branch office or subsidiary in South Korea.

  • Your candidate is hired via our South Korea PEO. If needed, we can also help you find the right talent in any country with our comprehensive global staffing services.
  • Your new employee begins work quickly as we take care of employment contracts, statutory and non-statutory benefits, and running their payroll - all in full compliance with South Korea laws.
  • Global PEO Services experts manage all day-to-day operational issues such as employee expenses, and severance/termination if required.
  • With no contractor risks, pass on the compliance burden to Global PEO Services.

Spin Off/M&A Support

  • Ensure continuity of payroll, benefits and HR support when acquiring or spinning off a business with employees overseas.

24/7 Support in 100+ Countries

  • Empower your teams with 24/7 support and a single point-of-contact model in which experienced client services directors are in continuous communication with information and advice.
  • We are backed by a mix of 300+ multidisciplinary experts from HR, Payroll, Finance, Tax, and Legal domains who are ready to respond to the expected and unexpected needs of your business on the shortest notice.

Easy Visibility into Your Employee Time & Attendance and Benefits Data
With our Global PEO, you get access to Mihi, our proprietary SaaS solution for time and attendance, vacation, leave management and benefits enrollment and managements. Mihi enables clients to have easy access to employee data in real time. It is designed specifically for companies with a global workforce, especially when working in multiple countries with low headcounts.

Ready for Growth When You Are
When ready, we can seamlessly transition you from the PEO/EOR model to your own legal entity and provide ongoing international HR, finance, legal, compliance and staffing support. Lean more about our end-to-end international expansion services.