South Korea Establishes New Anti-Harassment Law

July 19, 2019

South Korean managers guilty of harassment can now face criminal prosecution with a maximum fine of more than 30 million won ($25,000) and a jail sentence of up to three years.

Harassment in the workplace is claimed to be widespread in South Korea, with about 70% of employees reportedly affected.  Research conducted by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea found that 60% of victims of harassment today take no action and an alarming 12% of women workers say they face harassment at work every day.

Under the law, workers will be able to report unacceptable behavior.  The government has published guidelines with examples such as gossiping about colleagues or spreading personal information, as well as forcing someone to drink, smoke, or attend a company dinner.  Verbal abuse or embarrassing colleagues in front of others were also listed.  Employees are able to claim damages from their employer and are protected against victimization.

The new laws build on a global trend of countries clamping down on “managers behaving badly” in the wake of high-profile cases and the popular and viral spread of campaigns like #MeToo.