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Do South Koreans work long hours?


South Korea is known for its strong work ethic and long working hours. However, there have been debates about whether or not South Koreans actually work longer hours than other countries. In this article, we will explore the topic of South Korean work culture and investigate whether or not South Koreans do, in fact, work long hours.

History of Work Culture in South Korea

To understand the current state of work culture in South Korea, it is important to look at its history. After the Korean War, the country went through a period of rapid industrialization and modernization. This resulted in a strong emphasis on hard work and sacrifice for the greater good of the nation. This mentality has persisted to this day and is reflected in the country’s work culture.

The Reality of Long Working Hours

According to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), South Koreans work an average of 2,069 hours per year – the highest among OECD member countries. This translates to an average of 40 hours per week, but many workers report working much longer than that.

Causes of Long Working Hours

There are several factors that contribute to the long working hours in South Korea. One major factor is the strong emphasis on teamwork and group harmony, which often leads to a culture of staying late at work to show dedication to one’s team. Additionally, many South Korean companies have a strict hierarchical structure, which can make it difficult for employees to leave work before their superiors.

The Impact of Long Working Hours

The long working hours in South Korea have been linked to a number of negative health outcomes, including high rates of stress, fatigue, and depression. Additionally, there is evidence that suggests that long working hours can lead to decreased productivity and decreased job satisfaction.

Government Efforts to Address Long Working Hours

The South Korean government has recognized the negative impact of long working hours and has implemented several policies to address the issue. For example, in 2018, the government reduced the maximum number of weekly work hours from 68 to 52, and mandated that employers provide workers with at least five days of paid vacation per year.

Resistance to Change

Despite government efforts to address the issue, there is still resistance to change within South Korean society. Many workers feel pressure to conform to the traditional work culture, and some companies have been accused of finding ways to circumvent the government’s regulations on working hours.

Comparison to Other Countries

While South Koreans do work long hours, it is important to note that other countries also have cultures of overwork. Countries such as Japan, China, and the United States also have high average annual working hours. However, the unique cultural factors surrounding work in South Korea make it a particularly interesting case study.

The Role of Technology

Advancements in technology have made it easier for workers to stay connected to their jobs outside of traditional working hours. This has contributed to the culture of overwork in many countries, including South Korea. However, technology can also be used to help reduce working hours by allowing for remote work and flexible scheduling.

The Future of Work Culture in South Korea

As younger generations enter the workforce, there is hope that attitudes towards work culture may begin to shift. Younger workers are more likely to value work-life balance and may be more willing to challenge traditional norms surrounding work in South Korea.


In conclusion, while there is no doubt that South Koreans work long hours, it is important to understand the complex cultural factors that contribute to this phenomenon. The negative impacts of overwork are clear, and it is encouraging to see the South Korean government taking steps to address the issue. However, true change will require a shift in attitudes towards work and a willingness to challenge traditional norms.

How many hours do people work in South Korea in a day?

South Korea’s existing regulations permit a 52-hour workweek, which includes 40 hours of regular work and an additional 12 hours of overtime.

Why does South Korea have long working hours?

Korean workers often have to work long hours due to the country’s industrial system and nighttime culture. The corporate culture of South Korea is similar to Japan’s, with a hierarchical structure and heavy reliance on subcontracting, both of which contribute to longer work hours.

What time do Koreans usually go to work?

The typical work hours in Korea are from 9 AM to 6 PM, which may not seem too different from other countries on paper. However, it’s important to note the potential differences in work culture and expectations.

Which country has the longest working hours?

According to the International Labour Organization in 2022, the following countries have the longest workweeks in terms of hours: Mauritania with 54 hours, Egypt with 51 hours, and Gambia with 51 hours, among others.

Is South Korea workaholic?

According to a study conducted in Korea, it was found that around 39.7% of employees may be classified as workaholics. This indicates a significant prevalence of workaholism in the country.

Is there work life balance in South Korea?

Warabal is currently seen as a desirable balance between work and personal life in Korean society, and has gained popularity among employees. However, this concept is still considered incomplete and there are ongoing discussions about how to improve it.

One potential solution to the issue of overwork in South Korea is the implementation of a four-day workweek. This has been successfully implemented in other countries, such as Iceland, where workers reported increased productivity and improved work-life balance. However, it remains to be seen whether this type of system would be feasible in South Korea’s unique work culture.

Another potential solution is the promotion of flexible working arrangements, such as remote work and flexible scheduling. This can help to reduce the need for workers to stay late at the office and can improve work-life balance. Additionally, it can help to reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality by reducing the number of commuters during rush hour.

It is also important to recognize that overwork is not just a problem in South Korea, but rather a global phenomenon. Addressing this issue will require a concerted effort from governments, businesses, and individuals around the world. By prioritizing the well-being of workers and promoting a healthy work-life balance, we can create a more sustainable and fulfilling future for all.

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