Visas and Work Permits — 9 min
South Korea continues to have one of the world's most advanced and fastest-growing economies, with a steadily increasing GDP. The country is renowned for its highly educated and skilled workforce, particularly in the areas of technology, electronics, and telecommunications. As a result, many global companies are starting to employ remote workers in South Korea.
However, South Korean labor laws tend to change often as the country works on providing better benefits to its workers. This can create a burden for employers, many of whom don’t have the resources to stay abreast of these changes and remain compliant. Furthermore, competition for talent is high, leading many organizations to offer supplementary benefits packages as an incentive.
While international hiring can present many challenges, especially in the realm of benefits, staying compliant and competitive with your employment packages is possible with the right resources.
This guide will cover every aspect of South Korean employee benefits, broken down into the following sections:
Who is entitled to benefits in South Korea?
Statutory and common employee benefits
Supplemental benefits to consider for South Korean employees
How to set up and manage benefits for international employees
In South Korea, all employees who have worked for a company for more than six months are entitled to employee benefits, and employers are required by law to provide them.
An employee is defined as an individual who has entered into an employment contract with an employer, either written or verbal. The contract must specify the terms of employment, including work hours, salary, and benefits. The individual must be performing work under the control and direction of the employer, and must receive compensation.
Keep in mind that South Korea, like many countries, classifies independent contractors and employees differently. While independent contractors do not receive the same benefits as employees in South Korea, you can still offer supplemental benefits on behalf of your company.
South Korea's Labor Standards Act of 2005 lays out protections and benefits that all of the country's employees are entitled to. In recent years, new labor changes have been introduced to further protect the well-being of both full-time and part-time workers. These include reduced workweek hours and a rise in the country's minimum wage.
Here are the mandated employee benefits that you must offer your remote workers:
There are multiple insurance responsibilities for both employers and employees in South Korea.
All South Korean residents are automatically covered by the country's National Health Insurance Program. The program is funded by employer and employee contributions, government subsidies, and tobacco surcharges. The rate of employer and employee contributions sits at 3.43%. Still, many employees choose to enroll in private health insurance through their employer.
South Korea offers employment insurance for those who find themselves unemployed, funded by employer and employee contributions. The employment insurance contribution rate is between 1.05% and 1.65% for employers, and 0.8% for employees.
Employers must also contribute 0.7% to 1.9% of the worker’s salary for work accident compensation insurance. This insurance covers employees in the event of an accident that takes place at work.
Employees who have worked full time at your company for one year must receive 15 paid days off a year. Furthermore, for every two subsequent years that they work for you, they must receive an additional day off, up to a maximum of 25 paid days off per year. The number of paid days off drops to 11 for employees who have worked for less than a year.
There are also 12 paid public holidays in the country, including:
New Year’s Day
Korean New Year
Independence Movement Day
National Liberation Day of Korea
National Foundation Day
Female employees are entitled to 90 days of maternity leave. This amount increases to 120 days in the event of multiple or complicated births. Employers cover the first 60 days of maternity pay, while the government will provide financial support for the remaining 30 days. In the case of multiple or complicated births, employer pay coverage extends to 75 days.
Male employees are entitled to 10 days of paid paternity leave within the first 90 days of birth.
In addition, employees may request a parental leave extending for one year for a child under eight years old. The government provides compensation for this leave of around ₩1.7m (roughly $1,290).
South Korea has several other types of leaves of shorter duration and lower pay rates, including:
Family-care leave: Employees are allowed a 90 day leave of absence for family care that must be used in increments of 30 days at a time. Alternatively, they can take family care leave for up to 10 days. Note that both care leave options are unpaid.
Fertility treatment leave: Employees can use three days per year with only the first day paid.
Menstrual leave: Employees can request unpaid menstrual leave once a month.
Employees and employers must contribute equally to South Korea's pension scheme. The pension rate currently sits at 4.5%.
The minimum wage is currently ₩8,720 (roughly $6.60) per hour, or ₩1,822,480 (roughly $1,385) per month.
The standard workweek in South Korea is 40 hours with up to 12 hours of overtime. A workweek should not exceed 52 hours. Employees who work overtime receive a pay rate of 150% of their standard rate.
As South Korean workers across all industries enjoy a wide range of statutory benefits, your business needs to focus on offering a benefits package that reinforces your remote workers' well-being.
While the benefits mentioned above are mandatory for all employers hiring South Korean workers, many companies also choose to offer supplemental benefits. As detailed in Remote's guide on the best benefits to attract top talent, offering these additional benefits helps attract the country's best candidates and gives your business a competitive edge.
Moreover, in a post-pandemic age that sees more and more hybrid or fully remote workers, it's imperative to offer supplementary benefits that meet contemporary demand. Below are some of the best supplementary benefit opportunities to provide at this unprecedented time.
In South Korea, there is currently no written law mandating sick leave, leaving the decision up to employers for now.
As a result, one of the biggest supplementary benefits you can provide South Korean employees is a guaranteed paid sick leave. To decide on how many days to offer as well as the pay rate, look at your company's budget and resources. Determine what you are able to offer and make the supplementary sick leave benefit a highlighted benefit that your company offers on job ads.
While there is public health insurance in South Korea, private health insurance often offers more cost-effective and comprehensive coverage. Furthermore, private health insurance will also subsidize the out-of-pocket payments that are typically not covered by public insurance.
If you've reviewed your budget and resources and found that you have a smaller amount to work with, you can still offer soft benefits to attract and retain employees. Remote offers a guide dedicated to value-based benefits that acknowledge and provide solutions for the current challenges faced by hybrid and remote workers. Here are a few of the most popular wellbeing benefits:
By far, one of the best benefits to offer remote employees is a flexible schedule. While employees may have had to follow a strict 9-to-5 schedule at the office, working remotely allows them to work in a way and on a schedule that brings out their best efforts. For instance, some employees may be more productive in the morning, while others thrive at night. A flexible schedule also helps with remote workers' personal requirements, such as taking care of their families. This leads to a more satisfied employee with a more satisfying work-life balance.
Another common well-being benefit to offer remote employees is home office assistance, usually through a stipend. This extra bit of money can help make an employee's workplace more ergonomically friendly. For instance, if your budget allows, you can offer to financially cover office supplies, a comfortable chair, a desk, or even technology, such as a laptop or phone. Not only can this help make workers more productive, but it can also improve their overall quality of life.
If you operate a small business with only a few employees, you can still offer appealing benefits. Remote covers small business benefits in our online guide, including food and grocery assistance, fitness memberships, and personal development budgets. Such perks demonstrate that your company is focused on the welfare and growth of your employees as well as their time and salary.
Hiring international employees requires compliance with local rules and regulations. Failing to do so can lead to legal and financial risks that can cost your company precious time, money, and resources. As a result, many companies that hire internationally choose to work with an employer of record (EOR) like Remote.
An EOR acts as an entity which facilitates the hiring of international employees while ensuring that you remain compliant with local labor laws. An EOR will hire employees, ensure they are paid, and comply with local payroll, tax, and benefit regulations.
There are other benefits of working with an EOR, too. For example, an EOR helps you avoid international complications, employee misclassification, and even intellectual property theft.
While Remote's global employment services experts handle all of the complexities of global HR operations, you have access to simple-to-use management software that allows you to:
Manage payroll and time off
Handle local employment taxes
Comply with statutory and supplementary benefits
Offer a competitive and equitable global compensation package
Scale your global team
South Korea remains a global hiring hotspot for many businesses across the world. However, the country's employment laws continue to transform as its economy advances and worker rights are brought more into the spotlight. This can make it difficult for global employers to know if they are staying compliant with the latest rules and regulations regarding employee work, pay, and benefits.
To ensure you don't encounter any legal or financial risks while hiring in South Korea, check out Remote's process for hiring and managing international employees. Not only will you save yourself time (and headaches!) with this resource, you can also put your energy into devising supplementary benefit strategies to have your company stand out in a competitive, remote-oriented world.
Subscribe to receive the latest
Remote blog posts and updates in your inbox.