My goal to learn something new every day
When I first arrived in Korea in 2007, I remember seeing signs posted in shop windows looking for employees. The advertised wage was usually around 3,500 KRW (about $3.24 today according to xe.com). It has of course risen since then, and every year, the government raises the minimum wage. You can see a history of the increases in minimum wage here (sans 2015).
The mimium wage in South Korea this year is 5,580 KRW ($5.17) an hour. According to the Korea Herald, a person working an 8-hour day can expect to earn 44,640 KRW ($41.33) a day or 1.16 million KRW ($1,074) a month.
English teachers, like me, who are paid on an hourly basis, are of course lucky enough to be earning considerably more than that. But the Korea Herald claims that there are around 2.66 million people struggling with low income. In contrast, the current minimum wage in the UK is £6.50 ($9.87) an hour.
Why is this important to me? Well having lived in Korea for the last 7 years, and now with a family here, I think it is important to be aware of what goes on in the country. The majority of the students (in fact probably all) I teach at a private academy come from relatively affluent families, and as such, I think this can skew my opinions of the overall wealth of people living in Korea. I only really get to meet a small subset of the population on a day-to-day basis.
However, digging around the government’s official site (same link as above), I was quite shocked to come across this:
Those excluded from the coverage
Those whose ability to work is apparently low due to their physical or mental disabilities, so long as their exclusion from the coverage is permitted by the Minister of Empolyment and Labor
In other words, disabled people are not guaranteed to earn the minimum wage, because of a ‘low ability to work’. This of course was what one politician in the UK tried to suggest a few months ago. Most in the country were shocked at his remarks and many other politicians tried their best to distance themselves from the comments.
I really wonder whether Koreans in general are aware of this blatant discrimination, and if they are, is it something that concerns them? You may have seen this story about the ‘disabled slave’ islands in the news in the last week or so.
For a country that claims to be (and is in many cases) so advanced, I can’t help but wonder why vulnerable people are not looked after as well as they could be.
Featured image courtesy of kalleboo on Flickr.