SEOUL, NOV. 22 (Korea Bizwire) – A survey of salaried employees revealed that more than half held after-work company dinners – a staple of South Korean work culture – in low regard, listing reasons like “loss of personal time” and “having to spend time with those I feel uncomfortable with”.
In May, jobs site Saramin asked 989 employed members a list of questions on their perspectives regarding after work social events. The results were on average negative: 56.6 percent replied that company get-togethers were “discomforting”, 54.9 percent stated that such occasions were a source of stress and 63.9 percent responded that dinners had interfered with their work at least once.
Besides the reasons mentioned above, other commonly given reasons for their dislike of company dinners was “because I am a poor drinker” and “having to be the life and spirit of the party”.
A preference for avoiding “hwesik” – the Korean term for company meal – is nearly as strong in the public sector. Among 873 public employees surveyed by the Chungcheong provincial government earlier this month, 44 percent stated that company dinners and in particular the culture surrounding them was dissatisfactory.
Of the civil servants polled, 38.4 percent said the supposed team-building gatherings revolved around the highest-ranking supervisor. Complaints about alcohol, from forcing underlings to drink to excessive intake, and being pressured to join after-work meals were also raised by 25 percent and 21.3 percent of the dissatisfied employees, respectively.
On ways to fix and improve company dinner culture, 86.9 percent were in favor of ending the evening after the meal, and 48.6 percent said ending the festivities by 9 in the evening would be ideal.
Company dinners are notorious for lasting deep into the night. Somewhat akin to barhopping, groups frequently make pit stops at a variety of establishments, starting with dinner and moving on to bars, karaoke parlors and restaurants open until the wee hours of the morning.
After collecting the survey data, Chungcheong Province has encouraged public and private entities to adhere to a “119 Policy” (1 type of alcohol, 1 meal, until 9). The province has also recommended that supervisors only hold after-work functions when necessary and to let employees know about plans for social events at least three days in advance.
Some companies have gotten creative with staff events by swapping out awkward and uncomfortable booze-fueled dinners with activities like going to the movies or a night out at a bowling alley.