The Evolution of Korean Industrial and Employment Relations
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The Evolution of Korean Industrial and Employment Relations

Edited by Young-Myon Lee and Bruce E. Kaufman

The Evolution of Korean Industrial and Employment Relations explores current employment and workplace relations practice in South Korea, tracing their origins to key historical events and giving cultural, politico-economic and global context to the inevitable cultural adaptation in one of Asia’s ‘miraculous’ democracies.
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Chapter 9: The proliferation of contingent workers

Haejin Kim and Paula B. Voos


This chapter focuses on the characteristics of contingent employment in Korea in relation to the labor market structure and the trade union movement. The explosion of contingent work followed the widespread restructuring after the Asian Financial Crisis. Contingent workers in Korea are more likely to be found among women, the less educated, those who are either aged 15–29 or those 50 and above. They typically earn low wages and are not covered by major social insurance programs. Industry, occupation and firm size are associated with contingent work, and contingent work ‘traps’ workers in a secondary labor market with little prospect of mobility. Legislation to protect contingent workers has become contentious and open to dispute, a familiar story in the global context. The chapter concludes with a discussion of how the huge gap between contingent and regular employees might be reduced.

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