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Father speaks about son’s suicide due to overwork

Oct 18,2017
The father of a Seoul public officer who committed suicide on Sept. 18 after working 170 hours overtime the preceding month opened up about the need for the government to improve working conditions.

Public office jobs are highly sought after by many Koreans for their security and stability. When the late Seoul Metropolitan Government employee, surnamed Kim, passed the difficult seventh-grade civil service examinations in 2014, both he and his father were overjoyed and hopeful for the future. But the workload became unbearable when Kim was transferred to the budget department last January.

According to the “History of Officer Kim’s Overtime Work in 2017,” submitted to the Seoul Metropolitan Council for review, the 28-year-old Kim worked 170 hours overtime in August alone. Two days before his suicide on Sept. 16, he worked past 2 a.m. on a Saturday. Though he had to be in the office on Sunday, Kim did not show up for work and kept his phone turned off. When he complained he did not want to go on Monday, his mother prodded him. But instead of heading to the office, Kim jumped off the rooftop of his apartment instead.

Kim’s father has come forward to promote a “public service culture that .?.?. doesn’t take for granted the murderous work environment it demands of employees in return.”

He added, “I don’t want any other civil servant ending up like my son.”

Kim’s father has worked as a civil servant himself for 22 years. He emphasized the need for the government to “assess whether there are enough workers in each department and whether anyone is given an unreasonable workload.” Kim’s father has also met Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon to discuss working conditions of public officers following his son’s death, and was reportedly told by Park that the latter “did not realize the employees were working to that extent.”

Since the start of Park’s mayorship in 2011, seven Seoul public officers, including Kim, have taken their own lives. After two people committed suicide in December 2015, the Seoul government announced the “Proposal to Create an Employee-focused Work Culture.” Though the proposal did not prevent Kim’s death, Park has promised to improve work conditions by creating “diverse frameworks for discussion as well as a new working culture.” Kim’s father said he will “wait and see if Mayor Park follows through on his promise.”

BY LIM SUN-YOUNG AND HONG JI-YU [kim.eunjin1@joongang.co.kr]