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Young workers are not tools for greed

July 26,2017
“A young seller who sells the ‘passion of youths.’” A representative of a restaurant business called “Sell Our Passion” used to describe himself this way. The 31-year-old man, however, was recently embroiled in controversy for abusing young workers.

He is an icon of success among young entrepreneurs, as he found success when he was in his 20s. His restaurant chain has grown huge, recording 3 billion won ($2.69 million) in annual revenues. The figure, however, was not what people praised him for — it was his sincere attitude toward youth. He always said he serves people — the youth the most. But his working environment was just the opposite from what he said.

From 4 p.m. to 4 a.m., his employees worked for 12 hours in his restaurants everyday. They barely took a rest due to the hectic work schedule. They should have received more than three million won in monthly salary according to the minimum wage law, but they were given less than half of it. Days off were rarely given. When some employees complained about their unfair wages, he fired back at them. “You will eventually meet me in this field,” he said. This story has startled so many as he was chosen as a member of Presidential Committee on Young Generation in 2013 thanks to his passion for the young generation.

In fact, stories of poor working conditions are nothing new. The miserable death of a 28-year-old repairmen at Guui Station last year and the regrettable suicide of Lee Han-bit, a former television producer, are recent examples of wage exploitation. According to the Ministry of Employment and Labor, 77.1 percent of the surveyed stores did not follow wage guidelines, and 35.9 percent delayed their payment of wages. Many stores violated the law by skipping signing employment contracts.

Even though the minimum wage will be raised — and the new wage law would guarantee paid leaves for the workers — it can hardly help ease the pain of youths in the blind spot. They are not willing to take risks when threatened with being fired.

Immoral business owners must not forget that young workers are not tools for satisfying their greed, but a main driver of our economy.

*Senior student at Sungshin Women’s University.

Son Min-young