Employees in South Korea have started returning to the office, and with that has been an uptick in workplace harassment from gapjil — those in power over subordinates.
According to an online survey by Embrain Public, 30% of Korean office workers reported experiencing some type of workplace harassment over the past year.
Women and part-time or gig employees were more likely to experience this type of harassment, with managers or supervisors typically found to be the offender. Most respondents said they did nothing to take action and ignored the abuse, but others chose to quit instead of reporting the harassment.
Respondents also noted a decline in their mental health due to this abuse, with many seeking counseling for depression, insomnia, and other issues.
In 2019, issues of toxic workplace culture in South Korea came to the forefront after the matriarch of the Korean Air dynasty Lee Myung-hee was accused of physical and verbal abuse by staff. However, she was only given a suspended sentence in 2020, allowing her to skip jail time if she avoids other crimes over the next three years.
As a result, former South Korean President Moon Jae-in enacted a law that prevents bosses from unfairly firing workers, or face up to three years in prison or a nearly $26,000 fine.
While office harassment dipped after the law was passed, the return to the office has caused an uptick in reports, indicating a need for an overhaul on workplace culture.