Saturday, January 19, 2013

Park Achieves One of Her Election Goals Before Taking Office

"People are not robots"
President-elect Park Geun-hye has managed to achieve one of her election goals before even taking office. According to results from a survey taken this month by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, many part-time workers in Korea earn less than the minimum wage, and only 63.4 percent of part-time workers actually have a contract.

Park had campaigned on a platform of 'economic democratization' during her campaign, which had been presented as a plan to get more workers to participate in the economy by allowing lower wages, which would in turn enable companies to employ more workers for their money, increasing the number of 'economic voters'. "People who don't earn money can't vote," explained a spokesman, "so lower wages ultimately widen economic participation and therefore economic democracy."

According to the economically dictactorial Labor Standards Act, people working for four to eight hours apparently must be given 30 minutes of break time, and those working eight hours or more are entitled to an even more self-indulgent and anti-social one hour break. But to bypass these draconian laws, Korean companies have moved to what have become known as Ultra-Short-Term Contracts, or USTCs, where employees work for eight hours before being laid off for 30 minutes and then being employed on new contracts, sometimes at lower rates depending on the competition for the position.

Working conditions are especially bad in convenience stores, which hire many students as part-time staff. Some 35.3 percent of their part-time workers earned less than the minimum wage last year, and 41.7 percent did not get paid overtime. A spokesman and woman for the Mom-and-Pop Stores Association 'MaPSA' said that the students "just didn't seem to learn", before blaming the illegal practice on large so-called super supermarkets (SSMs) unfairly taking business away from them. Last year the government moved to prevent SSMs such as E-Mart, Lotte and the British-owned Homeplus from opening on alternate Sundays in a bid to protect the rights of those earning less than the minimum wage after it was discovered that the SSMs were causing wage inflation by complying with the Labor Standards Act instead of ignoring it.

In a bid to increase economic democratization, during her campaign Park had even taken the plan to its logical conclusion after it was revealed that many people from the 'general public' – the name given to those who still support her late father, General President Park Chung-hee - had worked for Park for no pay in a move that Park called an inspiration to all after her election. However, despite the massive increase in economic democratization since her election, Park's transition team say they will study initiatives such as Ultra-Short-Term Contracts to see if they will affect the calculation of Korea's unemployment statistics.

Related Links
Many Part-Time Workers Earn Less than Minimum Wage
Mom-and-pop stores to face new pressures
Most Mom-and-Pop Businesses Make Very Little Money
Court rejects bid to nullify store closings
South Korea Elects First Robot President

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