SEOUL, May 2 (Korea Bizwire) — The Screenwriters Branch of the National Union of Media Workers conducted a survey of 580 screenwriters in South Korea, which showed that majority of them are usually hired as freelancers, leaving them exposed to the blind spots of labor law.
Most of the screenwriters could not take leaves of absence.
“I worked until the ambulance came, and I wrote down subtitles at the emergency room,” one of the screenwriters said.
“I had to attend a funeral for a family member, but I couldn’t take a single day off. So, I wrote my script at the funeral in my mourning clothes.”
The screenwriters union conducted an online survey of 580 screenwriters from April 22 to 26. Respondents included head writers (23.1 percent), sub-writers (43.8 percent), and new writers (33.1 percent).
Most of the screenwriters, while hired as freelancers, have been going to work every day. At 93.4 percent, the vast majority of the respondents said they were freelancers, 72.4 percent of whom said they went to work every day.
Out of 134 head writers, 66 also went to work every day, while 79.4 percent the of sub-writers and new writers went to work all week.
“Broadcasting and production companies hire writers as freelancers who somehow have to show up at work all week,” said the screenwriters union.
The union showed that out of 317 job opportunities posted at the KBS Writers Association, only 20 of them allowed work from home.
The majority of the writers surveyed said they worked between 40 and 52 hours per week (28.6 percent), followed by 52 to 68 hours per week (26.4 percent), and 15 to 40 hours (25.7 percent). Another 7.9 percent said they worked more than 68 hours per week.
Roughly 10 percent of the respondents worked fewer than 15 hours per week, which legally deprived them of various insurance benefits, weekly bonuses, as well as severance pay.
Other writers who worked more than 15 hours a week still could not receive insurance benefits.
Only 3.1 percent of all writers said they were receiving insurance benefits, only 2.8 percent said they received overtime pay, and only 1.8 percent received severance pay.
At 48.1 percent, less than half of the writers were paid for food expenses, and only 8.5 percent were able to take leaves of absence, while 6.8 percent were provided with subsidized transportation.
Some writers weren’t even being paid properly. More than half of the writers said they had experienced a situation in which they were not properly paid for work.
“What’s concerning is that 76.1 percent of the writers couldn’t do anything when they weren’t paid for work,” said the screenwriters union.
“This perception that nothing can be done when payments are not made is rampant in writing circles, because the practice of engaging in a verbal contract is common among freelancers.”
H. M. Kang (firstname.lastname@example.org)