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About Korea

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Labor and Social Welfare System

Labor and Social Welfare System

Labor and Social Welfare System

Social Security System

South Korea operates a labor and welfare system that meets international norms. Workers’ three basic rights are guaranteed.

Public officials also have their basic rights guaranteed as workers despite some restrictions on their right of collective action. In the 1980s, the country adopted the minimum wage system in an effort to enhance workers’ rights. The country has also enacted the Equal Employment Opportunity Act and a system that assists the disabled.

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Pororo, the country’s representative character for infants, plays a leading role in the progress of the country’s future cultural industry by introducing a variety of products using educational animations and characters.



The country operates the social insurance system against contingencies relating to disaster, disease, unemployment, and death. Workers subscribe to Industrial Accident Insurance against work-related accident, disease or death. It is obligatory for all people to subscribe to the Health Insurance. As of 2014, end of June, 50.14 million people (including foreigners), i.e. 98.5% of the entire population, enjoyed the benefits provided under the staterun health insurance system. The country’s medical insurance system, which provides a high-quality medical service for reasonable service fees, has been appraised as an exemplary case by other countries.

Workers subscribe to Employment Insurance. When a subscribed worker is dismissed, he/she is entitled to half of his/ her wage for a given period of time and to job transfer training. Workers also subscribe to retirement pension and national pension plans.

All people are required to subscribe to the four social insurances (i.e. industrial accident, health, employment, and pension insurances). As regards the payment of insurance premiums, employers and the government bear part of the fees. People pay insurance fees according to their income, which leads to income redistribution.

The aim of the country’s public welfare system is “from the cradle to the grave.” A pregnant worker is eligible for 90 days’ maternity leave, 60 days of which are paid leave, she is also entitled to take a year of temporary leave for childcare, receiving part of her wage. In 2013, the government also started paying childcare allowances to parents with an infant aged 5 or less.

With the increase in the number of senior citizens, welfare for the elderly has emerged as an important social issue. The country adopted long-term care insurance for the elderly and the basic old age pension system.

*The Four Social Insurances Relevant individuals, businesses, and the government share the burden of insurance premiums for the four social insurances.


Role of Women

Samguk yusa (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms) compiled by the Buddhist Monk Iryeon in 1281 contains a very interesting myth about the birth of the first Korean woman. It says that a bear morphed into the first Korean woman after fulfilling a difficult task given by a god, of which the bear endured twenty-one days of feeding only on mugwort and garlic without any exposure to sunshine. The woman eventually married Hwanung, the son of god, and gave birth to a son named Dangun, who is the forefather of the Korean people. This founding myth of Korea illustrates the main characteristics of Korean women, which are said to be patience and tenacity.

In the 1st century BC, a heroine named Soseono played a critical role in the foundation of Goguryeo and Baekje Kingdoms. In the early 7th century, Queen Seondeok of Silla accomplished many notable deeds, including the stabilization of ordinary people’s lives, the provision of relief to the poor, and the construction of Cheomseongdae Observatory and the ninetier pagoda at Hwangnyongsa Temple. In the early 10th century, Queen Sinhye, the wife of King Taejo of Goryeo, distinguished herself by assisting the King with the establishment important national policies. Sin Saimdang of Joseon, who lived in the early 16th century, is respected as an exemplar of the wise mother and good wife. Her portrait features on 50,000won banknotes. Yu Gwan-sun lost her life at the age of 18 after being tortured by the Japanese police following her arrest for involvement in the independence movement in March 1919. She is regarded as one of Korea’s leading patriots.

Foreigners who visited Korea towards the end of the 19th century and in the early 20th century wrote that Korean women enjoyed a considerably higher social status than their counterparts in nearby countries.

In 2001, South Korea became the first country to launch a Ministry of Gender Equality; its name was later changed to the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. In 2013, Park Gun-hye became the first woman President in South Korea’s 65-year history.

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