Hiring/Terminating an Employee/Contractor in Korea: Employment Law in Korea

One of the largest areas of Korean law that we consult on is labor & employment law.  Because of, inter alia, the lack of the conception in Korea of an “at-will” worker – many non-Korean employers get their feet into hot water when structuring agent, consultant, employment and even distribution agreements with Korean individuals.  Some of these arrangements – lead to us needing to defend employers in court.  An expense – that would have, typically, not been necessary.

The reality is that the most important aspect of ensuring that you will not have a large employment liability is to:

  1. Adequately vet the anticipated hire.  This does not, simply, mean having a call and meeting the person. A Korean “old hat” is, normally, necessary in flagging issues that, often, do not seem to be issues by those not, deeply, familiar with Korean employees and Korean realities;
  2. Don’t trust “salary tables.”  In our opinion, they, are way too high for most employees;
  3. Don’t use foreign employment, distribution, agency, and consultant agreements.  Typically, these will lead to issues in Korea – that lead to litigation;
  4. Don’t hire a headhunter when a headhunter is not necessary.  The best way to hire is through the grape vine and foreign “old hat” consultants and lawyers are the best at finding appropriate individuals through the grapevine.  If they fail – seek a headhunter.  Many headhunters in Korea are interested in making the placement -not making the proper placement, because of the, often, lack of appropriate compensation for not making a placement.  Additionally, foreign headhunters, often, are just outsourcing services to affiliated agencies with little oversight.
  5. Korea is not China or Japan.  Realities in Korea, are, often, not realities in China and Japan.  

Other articles on Korea’s Labor & Employment Law that may be of interest to the readers of the Korean Law Blog:

Sean Hayes may be contacted at: SeanHayes@ipglegal.com. Sean Hayes is co-chair of the Korea Practice Team at IPG Legal. He is the first non-Korean attorney to have worked for the Korean court system (Constitutional Court of Korea) and one of the first non-Koreans to be a regular member of a Korean law faculty. He is ranked, for Korea, as one of only two non-Korean attorneys as a Top Attorney by AsiaLaw.

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