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[Case Report] Attorney Wonil Chung Wins for Expat’s Korean Severance Entitlement – Foreign Employers Cannot Circumvent Severance Liability through a Contract Manipulation

There are so many foreign expats working in Korea.  As you know well, Korean labor law recognizes a severance liability of all employers in Korea regardless of the size of their business and also the nationality of the employee(check here as to how the the severance pay under Korean law is recognized and operates).  This also applies to the foreign employers such as Korean branches of foreign companies.  The problem is that some foreign employers are ignorant of their severance liability under the Korean law.  Even further, some foreign employers try to evade from their severance liability.  Sometimes they provide wrong information such as “foreigners are not entitled to the Korean severance” to their staffs, designate a foreign law as the governing law of their labor contracts, and have their staffs in Korea enter into the employment contract with their non-Korean entity such as a head office in the U.S. or a Singapore branch.  Those attempts, however, are all meaningless in a sense that regardless of those, they are still liable for the severance pay.  Actually, we have represented foreign employees for their Korean severance claim against the Korean branch and recently we won the case.

This case involved the expats working as ship inspectors in Ulsan Gorgon project.  We filed the severance suit on behalf of Continue reading


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[Q&A: Labor Law] Is There a Legally Binding “40 Working Hour a Week Limit” in Korea?

Q) Please could you clean up this question that nobody seems to be willing to answer. Is there a legally binding 40 working hour a week or not in Korea?

A) Yes, there is a 40-work-hours clause in Korean labor law.

The Labor Standard Act of Korea provides that “Work hours shall not exceed 40 hours a week, excluding hours of recess”.

However, in case of workers who are not less than eighteen years of age and women workers who are not in pregnancy, an employer and a workers’ representative can legally agree to extend work hours in excess of 40 hours a week to the extent that Continue reading


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Severance Payment Plan & Retirement Pension Plan under Korean Labor Law, and Government’s Proposal to Amend Current Sevrance Payment System

Recently we got a question from a gentleman asking what the exact meaning of the below, an Internet post he’d found:

“It is possible that as of 2011, what was severance pay will be vested in the country’s pension plan. This means that workers (including teachers, etc.) will no longer receive one month’s pay for every year worked at the end of their contract. The legislation is set to discuss/vote on this in 2009.”

He was worrying that he might lose his right of severance payment under Korean law.  But the above article is quite misleading.  The severance payment is the property right of workers.  It can not be vested to anything without workers’ consents.  If the article says the amended law will give the employer or any party but the workers the power to vest the severance payment to country’s pension plan (or whatever) without workers’ consents, it definitely violates Continue reading


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Introduction to the Severance Payment Under Korean Labor Law

We’ve been frequently asked about the severance payment under Korean labor law.  Basically, the severance payment is being regulated by the Guarantee of Workers’ Retirement Benefits Act(“GWRBA”), not by Labor Standard Act(“LSA”).  (Some Korean law related sites refer to LSA as it regulates the severance payment matters, but it is not correct).  GWRBA provides for the minimum amount of severance payment which the employer shall be required to pay to a retiring or resigning employee.

With that said, then what is the statutory severance payment under GWRBA?  Under GWRBA, an employee is entitled to receive a severance payment at the rate of 30 days’ “average wage” for each “continuous year of service.”  Of course, this is the statutory minimum amount of the severance pay.

In calculation of the “average wage”, a base salary and other payments such as overtime payment, position allowance, incentive allowance paid to all employees to Continue reading