Busan Teenagers Face Human Rights Violations In The Workplace

Busan Teenagers Face Human Rights Violations In The Workplace
Convenience Store. Source: riNux/Flickr, 2006.

Jasmine Velasquez

East Asia and Human Rights Researcher 

Global Human Rights Defence

On the 14th of November, the Busan Labour Rights Center presented the findings of their survey on part-time jobs, conducted on 8,292 middle to high school students (Kim Y, 2022). The main finding was that where 1 out of 10 youth in Busan have experienced working part-time, 47% of the respondents were found to have suffered unfair treatment or human rights violations at their workplace (Kim Y, 2022). Unfair treatment includes the sudden demand for overtime work or demand to leave early, leading to wage reduction (23.2%), delayed wage payment (17.2%), no break time (13.4%), unpaid wages (10.4%), nonpayment of overtime work (9.5%) to list a few things (Kim J, 2022). Sexual harassment and verbal abuse were also found to be common experiences from the surveyed youth. 15.2% of the survey participants said they had experienced verbal abuse or sexual harassment from customers, and 12.9% of students were verbally abused or sexually harassed by employers or managers (Kim J, 2022). According to the South Korean Labor Standards Act, working hours for youth between the ages of 15 and 18 are a maximum of 7 hours a day and 35 hours a week (Kim Y, 2022). Despite this, 34% of students answered that they worked an average of more than 7 hours per day (Kim Y, 2022).

In a separate survey, the Busan Labor Rights Center surveyed 52 teenagers working part-time for delivery jobs in October (Hyun, 2022). More than half of this survey’s participants who work part-time in delivery work more than 6 days a week, with 30.8% saying they worked more than 9 hours a day and 23.1% having worked more than 7 hours a day (Kim J, 2022). 

It was further found out that there was a lack of support for these youth to report their unfair working conditions. About half of the students worked through unfair treatment, and 21.8% of the students quit their jobs because of their working conditions (Kim Y, 2022). Only 17% of students complained to their employer or reported to the local government or labour office (Kim Y, 2022).

Labour rights are protected under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which South Korea ratified in 1990 (Ratification Status by Country). Article 7 of the ICESCR recognizes the “right of everyone to the enjoyment of just and favourable conditions of work”, including fair wages, safe and healthy working conditions, rest and reasonable limitation of working hours. Furthermore, Article 10 presents special attention to children, stating that “Children and young persons should be protected from economic and social exploitation. Their employment in work harmful to their morals or health or dangerous to life, or likely to hamper their normal development should be punishable by law.

Therefore, it can be concluded that the unfair working conditions experienced by these Busan youth and students are a violation of the above international human rights laws. 

Sources and further reading:

Hyun J, “‘청소년 아르바이트생 절반 '부당대우 겪어봤다'"” (부산 MBC, November 15, 2022) <https://busanmbc.co.kr/article/JcmvQ9Xtxntxtuix7z_>; accessed November 16, 2022 

“International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights” (OHCHR) <https://www.ohchr.org/en/instruments-mechanisms/instruments/international-covenant-economic-social-and-cultural-rights>; accessed November 16, 2022 

Kim J, “부산 아르바이트 청소년 절반이 부당한 대우 겪어” (연합뉴스, November 14, 2022) <https://www.yna.co.kr/view/AKR20221114133800051?input=1195m>; accessed November 16, 2022 

Kim Y, “부산 청소년 아르바이트 실태는?” (KBS News, November 15, 2022) <https://n.news.naver.com/article/056/0011374807?sid=102>; accessed November 16, 2022 

Kyungmin N, “아르바이트 한 부산 중·고교생 47% ‘부당대우·인권침해 당해’” (뉴스1, November 14, 2022) <https://www.news1.kr/articles/4863542&>; accessed November 16, 2022 

“Ratification Status by Country” (United Nations Human Rights Treaty Body Database) <https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/TreatyBodyExternal/Treaty.aspx?CountryID=141&Lang=EN>; accessed November 8, 2022