SEOUL, Jul. 28 (Korea Bizwire) — The posthumous status of a contractor employed by a provincial government has once again raised questions regarding societal discrimination towards non-full-time workers.
Surnamed Park, the man had been employed by the North Chungcheong Province Roads and Bridges Maintenance Office for 17 years as a contractor. On July 16, the 50 year-old Park worked from six in the morning to eight in the evening without pausing for lunch. Completely exhausted and drenched from the 90mm of rain per hour pouring down, Park laid down for a brief moment to catch his breath and and never got back up.
To understand the nature of the ensuing controversy is to first know that Park was a “mid-full-time” contractor, meaning that the duration of his employment was not explicitly stipulated in his contract. In Korea, societal recognition and the ensuing benefits those who lose their lives “on the job” are eligible for are explicitly distinguish between those who are full-time employees and those who are not.
The deceased in the former category are given the title “person of distinguished service to the State” and their surviving families are eligible for benefits. Those in the latter category are not, hence the controversy.
Four days after Park’s death, the National Human Rights Commission addressed the burgeoning controversy through a public statement in the name of Chairman Lee Sung Ho.
The statement criticized the existing system of using employment status to choose whether to designate workers as having died “on the job” or classify their fatality as “death amidst occupational disaster”.
It explained that such actions may be a discriminatory violation of constitutional law and equal rights. The commission concluded its statement by urging an overhaul of existing regulations.
The government of North Chungcheong Province announced it will also push for regulatory modifications and that it will inquire with both the Ministry of Personal Management and the Ministry of Patriots and Veteran Affairs on the possibility of conferring special status to Park.
Despite growing support, reform may be still be a long way off, judging from similar incidents in the past. The only case where two non-full-time workers were posthumously honored as “person of distinguished service to the State” were the two schoolteachers who perished during the infamous sinking of the Sewol Ferry.
It took three years and three months after their passing for their deaths to be recognized as such.
by Kevin Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org)