A new law aimed at preventing harassment in the workplace took effect in South Korea on July 16, bringing the widespread but overlooked issue of bullying at work into the legal domain.
A revised law on labor standards, commonly called the workplace anti-bullying law, went into effect after a six-month grace period.
Under the new law, workplace harassment is defined as an act of incurring physical or mental suffering or a worsening of the work environment by employers or workers using their status or power to behave beyond the scope of working norms.
If workplace harassment is reported, employers should immediately investigate it and take proper action, such as preventing victims from working with perpetrators in the same place.
If retaliatory or discriminatory measures are taken against victims or those who report abusive conduct, employers could face a maximum three-year jail term and a fine of up to 30 million won ($25,420). But the law does not stipulate the punishment for a perpetrator.
A separate law, which also went into effect, says that stress from workplace bullying is subject to the rules on industrial accidents and compensation.
The anti-bullying law is expected to help root out workplace “gapjil,” a newly coined word referring to abusive conduct by people in positions of power toward those under their influence.
“In the past, there was little awareness that sexual abuse was a wrongful act, but these days, people think there should be no sexual harassment. We expect workplace bullying will gradually be resolved with the implementation of the law,” an official at the Labor Ministry said.
By Ram Garikipati and newswires (firstname.lastname@example.org)