Country Information

The Republic of South Korea is located in eastern Asia. The official language is Korean with roughly four different dialects spoken regionally throughout the country. South Korea is one of the G-20 major economies and is regarded as one of the most industrialized countries in Asia. Investments in education has transformed the work force to one of the most efficient in the world.

Employment Contracts

Employment contracts in Korea must be in writing and detail the terms of employment, including the number of work hours, holidays, paid yearly leave, work conditions, salary and payment terms. Although the agreement does not have to be in Korean, it is recommended. Employment contracts can either be for an indefinite term or definite term. Fixed-term employment contracts cannot exceed two years.Employers must provide the employment contract to the employee and may be liable for penalties if they fail to do so.

Working Hours

The standard work period is 40 hours a week and eight hours a day. Employees can work overtime up to an additional 12 hours per week, with the agreement of both parties. Some industries may be able to work more than 12 hours of overtime with approval from the Minister of Employment and Labor.

Employees are entitled to a wage increase in excess of the standard rate for working on holidays, overtime work and night work. Night-time work hours are between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Employees receive a 30-minute unpaid break for every four hours worked and one hour of unpaid leave for every eight-hour work shift. Employers can also provide an employee with leave instead of overtime pay.

Sick Leave

Employers are not required to provide employees leave for non-work-related illnesses or injuries but may choose to provide sick leave. Employers must provide paid leave for work-related illnesses or injuries.

Maternity/Paternity Leave

Female employees receive 90 days of maternity leave, or 120 days for twins or multiple births. Female employees are required to use at least 45 consecutive days of maternity leave after the birth, or 60 days in the case of twins or multiple births. Employees receive 100% of their salary while on leave. The leave is paid for by the company or employment insurance fund depending on the company’s size. Generally, the employer pays for the first 60 days.

Female employees are also entitled to leave for medical appointments during the pregnancy. Male employees receive 10 days of paid paternity leave for the birth of a child. The paternity leave must be requested within 90 days of the birth.

Employees with children younger than eight years old or below second grade in elementary school can request up to one year of parental leave and, after that, up to one year of reduced working hours. Additionally, employees can choose to use part, or all of their unused parental leave to reduce working hours.

Employees can split the period of working reduced hours into separate increments of no less than three months. Female employees who are mothers to children below one year of age receive a break of at least 30 minutes twice in a workday to breastfeed. Female employees are entitled to one day of menstrual leave per month.


There is no legal requirement to provide bonuses in addition to an employee’s normal wages. Traditionally, employees received bonuses in addition to their normal wages. However, the recent trend in South Korean is to include the would-be bonuses into employees’ normal wages. Bonuses are not required.

Vacation Leave

In addition to public holidays, employees receive 15 days of paid annual leave after one year of service. Employees then receive an additional day for every two years of service, and up to 25 days after that. In their first year of employment, employees can take one day of paid leave per month, but this will be deducted from the following year’s allocation.

Public Holidays

South Korea observes the following holidays:

  • New Year’s Day
  • SeollalMarch 1 Movement Day
  • Children’s Day
  • Buddha’s Birthday
  • Memorial Day
  • Liberation Day
  • Chuseok
  • National Foundation Day
  • Hangeul Day
  • Christmas Day
Health Insurance Benefits

South Korea provides universal healthcare. South Korea provides universal healthcare, which includes the National Health Insurance Program. The program is funded by mandatory contributions from employers and employees, government subsidies and tobacco surcharges. The contribution rate is a percentage of an employee’s salary, split equally between the employer and employee. Contributions are withheld by the employer and remitted monthly, by the 10th of the following month.

Employment / Termination / Severance

An employment contract may be terminated at the end of a fixed-term contract by the employer, the employee, or by mutual agreement. Employers can only terminate their employees for a justifiable reason attributable to that employee or an urgent managerial necessity, which can include layoffs. Employers must provide employees 30 days of notice prior to their dismissal or pay in lieu of notice. The dismissal must be in writing and include the reason for dismissal and the date. The written dismissal can be provided at the same time of notice, but no later than the date of dismissal.

Local Laws & Regulations

We understand that local laws and regulations change and sourcing an accurate reference guide is not easy. Our data is researched and verified by our team of local international Employment Attorneys, HR and Benefit Professionals and Tax Accountants through our Atlas team and consultants, to ensure information up-to-date and accurate.

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