Culture Working in Korea

What’s It Like to Work in Korea? Your First Day Might Start at a Training Camp!

CONTINUED FROM Why do Koreans work so darn hard? What is the “Miracle on the Han River 한강의 기적”? Why do Koreans say “Because of IMF” / “IMF 때문에”? What is the Gold-collecting Campaign 금모으기 운동? Why do Koreans love SPAM? Who are the chaebols 재벌? Understand the history behind Korea’s economic development!


According to statistics from the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), the average annual working hours per person in Korea was 2,024 hours, second only to Mexico’s overwhelming 2,258 hours (hats off, I mean, sombreros to our hard-working Mexican friends!). Considering that the average annual working hours in 36 OECD countries is 1,746 hours, Koreans work 278 hours more annually than the OECD average, the report showed.

Respect! 갓 gat’s off to our hard-working Mexican friends.
(Source: From a Korean periodical drama. Please tip us if you know where this is from)

RELATED : Oh My Gat 갓! What are the cool hats ancient Koreans wore?

But does sitting in front of a study table longer mean you will score higher on a test? Not necessarily. Although Koreans work more hours, the productivity score of Korean workers is not high compared to other OECD countries. Korean workers’ productivity score ranks 29th among 36 countries. Ireland, the top scorer, has hourly productivity of $86, more than double that of Korea. Korea’s hourly productivity of its workers has been growing slightly since 2011 when it topped $30, but it is still lower than that of other advanced countries. Analysts say that longer working hours are hurting the average.

What adds to the working hours? Mostly it’s yageun 야근, or working overtime at night. While Korea has a statutory working week of 40 hours and 12 hours of paid overtime on weekdays and 16 hours on weekends, many old-fashioned workplaces force their employees to work overtime because they have the wrong perception that working overtime means “working hard.” In places with poor working conditions, people often work overtime and stay up all night without getting properly paid. Moreover, the fact that you shouldn’t punch out before your superiors do is another contributing factor of the long working hours. But with people demanding better “work-life balance” and companies prioritizing efficiency over more working hours, the overall working conditions are constantly improving.

Misaeng 미생 Trailer w/ Eng Sub – Amazing K-drama portraying the office life in Korea.

But don’t forget – You might not be off work even if you punch out – WHAT is HOESIK 회식 – The dreaded company event aka “company (un)happy hour” or “office boot-camp” everyone wants to avoid?


For many large Korean companies, your first day at work doesn’t start in the office cubicle. Instead, as a new recruit, you will be put in a training camp and go through an intensive team-building program! More commonly known as OT (orientation) or OJT (On-the-Job-Training), new employees will stay together for a few weeks at a training facility and learn about the company – the founding ideology, history, main service & product line, values, and the company anthem! At the successful completion of the program, you will have transformed into a perfect piece for the system!

What's It Like to Work in Korea? Your First Day at Work in Korea Might Start at a Training Camp!
New hires going through a “team building” game.

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