Experts say 2-year-old anti-bullying law has limitations, loopholes

SEOUL-- Two years have passed since the so-called anti-bullying law went into effect at domestic workplaces, but there are still many loopholes in the application of the law depending on the business size or type of employment, labor experts said Sunday.

Under the revision of the Labor Standards Act that took effect in July 2019, if workplace harassment is reported, employers should launch an immediate probe and take proper action. Employers could face a maximum three-year jail term and a fine of up to 30 million won (US$24,750) should retaliatory or discriminatory measures be taken against victims or those who report abusive acts.

At that time, the revision was hailed as a new law to stamp out "gapjil," a Korean term meaning abusive attitude and behavior by those in positions of power.

But the law has exposed many limitations in rooting out the gapjil practice at local workplaces due to many exceptions allowed for small-sized companies with fewer than five employees, workers of special employment types and family companies, said experts in an online debate organized by Gapjil 119, a civic group dedicated to stamping out power abuse by people in higher positions.

"The gapjil prohibition law has clear limitations in realizing the purposes of the legislation, such as realization of workplace democracy and respect of workers' human rights," Kim Yu-kyung, a certified labor attorney, said during the online debate.

"In all cases, at least more than half of domestic workers are unable to take legal action against workplace bullying," Kim said, urging the Ministry of Employment and Labor to resolve the problems by implementing active administration and revising the law's enforcement decree.

Specifically, the attorney asked that the labor ministry conduct direct investigations into all suspected acts of bullying regardless of the type of employment and employees' legal status and the enforcement decree be amended to apply the anti-bullying law even to small firms with fewer than five employees.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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