Script for January 13, 2009 Lawyers and your legal rights

Surviving Seoul Part 1: Your Rights

Everyone, it is getting dangerously cold out so be sure to make sure you are safe. Most of the houses are warmed through the ondol floor heating system, so it’s very important that you let your water faucet drip a little so your pipes don’t freeze. If they do freeze you could look at a couple million in expenses and most landlords will foot you with the bill.

And if you have one of those thermal fan heaters, please be sure to turn them off when you leave the house and be very careful where you have them located. Do not have lots of loose paper around and also be sure that you are not too close to the heater when you go to sleep. And those heaters take up a lot of power, so be sure not to plug it into a power plug that is overloaded. It could cause a spark.

Today, I wanted to start by going into a bit about labor laws. Korea has a lot of laws on the books, and I feel it’s important to know your rights. Now if you ask your employer about the rules, they will often dissuade you from what you are entitled to. For example, yesterday I talked about how an employer will discourage you from getting health insurance by saying that you would have to back pay for all the months from January, the beginning of the fiscal year, if you want to get health insurance. Although, it might seem like they are doing you a favor by saving you money; there is an ulterior motive: the company doesn’t want to have you listed as a full time employee with rights to National Pension, Health Insurance, Employment Insurance, and the Unemployment Grant. Furthermore, they are probably not taxing you correctly; hence, you wouldn’t be able to get your full tax refund.

Oh, by the way…listeners, has anyone received their tax refund yet? I’m still waiting on mine.

Anyway, make sure that your employer is following the rules. If not, then you might question their credibility and trustworthiness. I mean if they are willing to cheat the government, then they would probably not blink before cheating an employee.

As an employee, you are entitled to all the rights that a Korean citizen has under the labor law. Now you still have these rights if you are working illegally. The only problem being that if you file an action against an employer while working illegally, you might win, but you will also face consequences.

Let’s talk about maternity leave again. If you have worked for the same company for a 12-month period, then you are entitled to maternity leave. A minimum of 45 days is given before and 45 days after for woman. For the father, he is also able to get 3 days of maternity leave. The days that are taken off are paid and if a company refuses to grant maternity leave or salary, the employer will be sentenced up to 2 years in prison or fined up to 10 million won.

There is also time given if you need to take off to take care of a child that is under 3 years of age. The company is obligated to give 30 days leave.

The purpose of the maternity leave and the Child Rearing leave is so the employee is not punished for having children. Also, the employee’s job will be protected when they are ready to come back to work.

Furthermore, with Korea’s current problem with low population growth and the aging community, I think these are great measures that will encourage more adults to have children. Let’s take a break now and when we come back, I’ll have more tips for you.

Surviving Seoul Part 2: Tips

Your rights are very important and it really peeves me when I hear of employers breaking the law because they think the foreigners won’t press for legal actions.

Just the other day, a friend of mine told me that one of our mutual acquaintances was fired in the 11th month of her contract for unexplained, reasons. It was quite obvious that the employer simply didn’t want to pay the contracted severance. I’ve also heard of people signing 2 6-month contracts because the school didn’t want to offer a 12-month contract.

Look. The law is that if you work a 12 month contract the school is obligated to pay the “toejikgeum.” If they fire you for reasons that aren’t warranted then I suggest you talk to a lawyer. Don’t worry, there are lots of free legal advice out there.

I think I’ve already mentioned that the Seoul Global center in City Hall offers legal advice on Tuesday and Thursday from 2-5, but I’ve dug up even more places.

The Seoul Bar Association, the 서울지방변호사회 offers free legal advice for foreigners on Mondays from 2-5pm. The place is easy to find. Just go out exit 8 of Seocho Station.

Plus, as soon as you get a lawyer involved most employers will just go ahead and do the right thing. They’d rather not get sued because they know that they will probably lose plus they would be responsible for the legal expenses.

O.K. Now on a lighter note, if you have a younger brother, sister, cousin, etc and you would like to bring them over for a summer or something, you could have them get an H-1 visa. This visa is called the Working Holiday Visa and it’s for people that are between the ages of 18-25 years old. This visa is for those whose main intention is for tourism, but they can also pick up some part time jobs to help pay for expenses.

I think coming to Korea would be a great place for young person with no responsibilities. They could work when you wanted and travel easily to lots of other countries. Korea really is like a hub.

Oh, one last tip that I just discovered the other day because I am always trying to go to the post office, but it’s always closed by the time I get there. I found out that the Gwanghwamun post office is open until 8pm every night. So, if you really need to get to the post office then I recommend you head over to Gwanghwamun station and go out exit 5.

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