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The contemporary culture of South Korea developed from the traditional culture of
Korea, and on its own path away from North Korean culture since the division of
Korea in 1943. The industrialization and urbanization of South Korea, especially
Seoul, have brought many changes to the way Korean people live. Changing
economics and lifestyles have led to a concentration of population in major cities
away from the traditional places.
Korean people are known for their intelligence and work ethic. It is no wonder
why the country has one of the highest average annual work hours.
Luckily, law changes have dropped the maximum work week down to 40 hours
and adopted a 5-day workweek system. Most people still work late, with the end
of working day often reaching the late evening hours. According to numbers on
Koliaf.net “53.5% of the total workforce (as of August 2011) work 5 days a week.
In addition, about 21.8% suffered from unlawfully long working hours, exceeding
52 hours per week last year”.
Minors under the age of 18 are not allowed to work unless they have written
permission from their parents or guardians. In any case, minors are prohibited
from working night shifts except with permission from the Labour Ministry.
The law changes actually created more job opportunities. The limit on the
amount of hours means that there is work left to be done after employees finish
their 40-hour workweek. Therefore, more people are needed to get the job done.
Hence, more emphasis is put on working hard as well as being dedicated.
The Korean working culture is different from that of Western societies. It is
important to treat those who are in a higher position than you with the utmost
respect. Obedience is key. This is in contrast to the rather democratic work
culture of the Western world, where individuality and challenging the status-
quo are tolerated and even sometimes encouraged. In Korean culture, it is
those who are at the top who have the first and the last say.
Working environments in Korea are often more formal, and it's important to
dress appropriately. Business people often wear dark-coloured suits, even in
Teachers will often dress more casually, but it's important to note that fashion in
Korea can be quite conservative. Male teachers often feel more comfortable
wearing collared shirts and long pants while teaching, while females should not
wear low-cut tops and often won't wear shirts without sleeves to school.
Koreans escape from the stresses of work through these social encounters, and
can also resolve uncomfortable feelings with their colleagues by dining together.
These occasions provide a good opportunity to make friends with Korean co-
workers; therefore it is beneficial to attend them.