SEOUL, Jun. 20 (Korea Bizwire) – Senior officials the ruling Democratic Party (DP), the government and the presidential office on Wednesday agreed to introduce a six-month grace period for a new shorter working hours system that is set to go into effect from next month.
Under a revised law passed in February, companies with 300 or more employees should reduce the maximum working week to 52 hours from the current 68 hours beginning July 1.
But corporate lobby groups have appealed for a six-month grace period for the new regulation, given the difficulty of preparing for the system in a short period of time.
After the trilateral meeting involving the presidential office, ministries and the ruling party, a DP spokesman told reporters that participants agreed to exempt potential violators from punishment during the grace period.
“The participants shared the need for flexibility to help minimize the impact of the shorter work week and allow the scheme to make a soft landing,” Park Beom-kye said at a briefing.
“They also agreed to make efforts to come up with a shorter work-week system that will reflect situations on a sectoral basis,” he added.
The new work-week system, one of President Moon Jae-in’s main election pledges, is aimed at cutting what are often called “inhumanely long” working hours in South Korea and improving work-life balance.
The participants also agreed to announce a set of measures aimed at supporting job growth and boosting income for low-income families in early July.
President Moon has put a policy priority on “income-led growth,” which calls for a virtuous cycle of increasing household income and spending.
As part of such efforts, the government hiked the minimum wage by 16.4 percent to 7,530 won (US$6.97) this year, the biggest rise in about two decades. But the move is having the unintended effect of hampering job growth as smaller firms have dismissed many part-time workers.
Government, party and presidential officials agreed to focus on creating jobs and coming up with supportive measures for those in the lowest-income bracket.
Meanwhile, the DP said it plans to seek cooperation from opposition parties to buttress a joint declaration adopted after the inter-Korean summit in April through parliamentary ratification or a supportive resolution.
In May, the National Assembly failed to adopt the resolution as rival parties differed on the wording regarding North Korea’s denuclearization.
The participants also discussed ways to seamlessly implement follow-up measures to last week’s summit between the United States and North Korea held in Singapore and two rounds of inter-Korean summits.
Seoul’s unification minister said that the government plans to draw up details about joint studies on inter-Korean cooperation to reconnect railways and roads, according to Park.