Ask Korea Law

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Specific Grounds for Disciplinary Action or Termination under Korean Labor Law – Employer’s Standpoint

When you hire an employee in South Korea, you cannot freely fire the employee.  The Article 30 of Labor Standard Act(“LSA”) requires a “justifiable cause” if and when an employer takes disciplinary actions, including termination of employment, with regard to its employees.  Korean courts have held that a “justifiable cause” refers to such causes as criminal offense, serious illegal acts, and gross negligent acts, etc. which would make maintaining of the relevant employment relationships no longer possible under generally accepted public notions.

Especially, because a termination of employment is the most extreme measure, taking away an employee’s means of making a living, Korean courts are known to be very strict in applying the above-noted criteria, when it determines whether a particular termination is justified.  Thus, unless an employee’s specific conduct is something that makes current employer-employee relationship no longer possible to continue, it would be advisable for an employer to take less severe disciplinary actions such as suspension of employment, reduction of salary, or reprimand.

Further, as regards the employment termination, under LSA, an employer may also terminate employees where the employer can establish Continue reading


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[Q&A: Labor Law] As an English Teacher in Korea, Am I Entitled to a Severance Payment, Even Though My Contract Doesn’t Provide It?

Q) I am on an F2 visa and teaching for 28 months at the same school. The contract between myself and the owner is basically a few written lines, just mention salary and final teaching date. There is no mentioning of severance payment. According to the labor law, am I entitled to severance payment even though it is not mention in a short contract?

A) If and to the extent that you are legally regarded as an employee under Korean labor law, you are entitled to a severance payment under Korean labor law.

The term employee under the Korean labor law is someone who provides labor pursuant to his or her employer’s instructions or directions in exchange for wage compensation.  The important factors for classifying someone as an employee are, Continue reading


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Severance Payment or Retirement Pension? When You’re Working for Korean Private School

Recently I got an email question from a foreign teacher working for a Korean private university.  He’s wondering why the university is insisting on retirement pension plan instead of severance payment.

There is an act called Pension for Private Teachers and Staff Act(PPTSA) in Korea, which regulates severance payment issues in private school.  As a matter of law, PPTSA is applied prior to the GWRBA(Guarantee of Workers’ Retirement Benefits Act) and it allows the private schools to set a retirement pension plan for its employees instead of severance payment.

With respect to the relationship between the employment contract and the pension plan under PPTSA, Private Universities usually, pursuant to the PPTSA, put the retirement pension clauses, instead of severance payment, in the Rules of Employment(RE) of its own.  As a matter of law, the RE is applied to all the workers in a workplace.  That means, if there exists Continue reading