Few report workplace bullying in S. Korea despite legal protections

Many employees, despite experiencing workplace harassment, choose not to file formal complaints against their bullies.
By: | June 25, 2024

Employees in South Korea who become victims of workplace bullying are less likely to file formal complaints with their HR departments or their employers.

This is the result of a survey conducted by Gabjil 119, a civic group that assists victims of workplace abuse. The survey, which had 1,000 respondents, found that only 10.3 % of respondents filed reports of workplace harassment. Of those who sought outside help, only 8.1% reported such cases to their employers or the labour union. Only 2.2% filed a report at government agencies such as the National Human Rights Commission of Korea or the Ministry of Employment and Labour.

Other respondents chose to refrain from making formal complaints, with 27.2% admitting that they have instead chosen to complain to their colleagues about any workplace bullying they have experienced. Most of the respondents, 60.6%, shared that they have chosen not to respond to the bullying at work.

The implications of this trend are grave, with a significant majority of respondents (68.7%) reporting that their supervisors failed to address their concerns, leading to nearly a quarter of the respondents (23.1%) quitting their jobs as a direct result of the harassment.

The number of workplace harassment cases in South Korea, especially gapjil, or bullying from managers or those of higher authority, has risen since the South Korean government started tallying figures in July 2019. Data by the Ministry of Employment and Labour in April 2023 showed 10,028 cases of workplace bullying, surpassing the 10,000 mark.

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Article 76 of South Korea’s Labour Standards Act prohibits workplace harassment and stipulates countermeasures for violations, reported The Korea Herald. These include an objective investigation by the employer and protective measures provided by the employer, such as allowing victims to work at a different location or giving them a paid leave of absence during the investigative process.

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