South Korea

Currency CurrencySouth Korean Won (KRW) Working Time Work Week40 hours Employer Taxes Employer Taxes 10 - 13%

Hire in South Korea

Get the best talent in South Korea. Let Lano do the heavy lifting. We’ll help you hire the best full-time employees or contractors, saving you from the pain of establishing a legal entity. No need to worry about complex local laws or tax requirements. From compliant contracts to global payroll, we’ve got you covered. 

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Home to global brands like Samsung, LG, Hyundai and KIA, South Korea is a great hiring destination for multinationals searching for fresh talent. According to the OECD, South Korea is the country with the most educated youth in the world – measured by the percentage of people aged between 25 and 34 with a completed tertiary education degree. A particularly high number of students graduate in science and technology.

However, many graduates find it challenging to find a position as there aren’t enough local job opportunities. This shortage of employment positions plays in favour of overseas employers who thus have a large number of highly talented professionals to choose from.

Basic Facts about South Korea

  1. official state name Republic of Korea
  2. capital Seoul
  3. population 51.71 million
  4. languages Korean
  5. currency South Korean Won (KRW)
  6. time zone UTC +9

Employment Contract

Employment contracts only have to be in writing for part-time employment arrangements. However, it is mandatory to provide employees with a written note containing the most important employment details such as salary, working hours, annual leave and more. As for the contract language, it is possible to draft the contract in a foreign language. 

Both indefinite and fixed-term employment agreements are possible. The latter cannot be concluded for a period of more than 2 years. If the employment relationship continues after the end of the 2-year period, the employee gains the status of a permanent employee.

Probation Period

Although not explicitly stated by law, the first 3 months of employment count as a probation period. During this time, employers can end the employment relationship without giving notice.

Working time

Working Hours and Breaks

A normal work week is 40 hours, with 8 hours being a full working day. During an 8-hour day, the employee must have a 1-hour rest break. Furthermore, every employee must receive at least one rest day per week which is usually Sunday. 

Overtime

Any working hour which exceeds the 40-hour standard counts as overtime. Usually, overtime work is paid at a rate of 150% of the employee’s normal wages. Overtime mustn’t exceed 12 hours per week

Payroll

Employees in South Korea usually get paid once a month. 

Minimum Wage

The national minimum wage in South Korea is currently fixed at KRW 8,720 per hour and KRW 1,822,480 per month. 

Sick Pay

There is no obligation to provide sick pay nor sick leave to sick or injured employees unless the injury or illness is work-related. In that case, the employer must pay 70% of the employee’s normal wages during a 3-month period. 

Bonuses

There is no law that mandates the payment of a 13th month’s salary or a similar bonus. 

Taxes and Social Security Contribution

Employees and employers in South Korea are subject to the following tax and social security contribution rates (rates valid for 2021):

Taxes
Employers

Corporate tax rate: 10% – 25% 

Local tax: 1% to 2.5%

VAT (standard rate): 10%

Employees

Individual income tax rates:

6% to 45%*

There also is an additional local income tax. **

social security
Employers

10.075% – 28.575% of employee salary: 

4.5% national pension (capped at KRW 235,800 per month)

approx 3.825% health insurance (includes long-term care insurance)

1.05% – 1.65% unemployment insurance (depending on the number of employees and industry type)

0.7 – 18.6% industrial injury compensation insurance

Employees

9.125% of employee salary: 

4.5% national pension (capped at KRW 235,800 per month)

approx. 3.825% health insurance (includes long-term care insurance)

0.8% unemployment insurance

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* Individual income is taxed progressively based on the following tax brackets:

– Up to KRW 12,000,000: 6%

– KRW 12,000,000 to KRW 46,000,000: 15%

– KRW 46,000,000 to KRW 88,000,000: 24%

– KRW 88,000,000 to KRW 150,000,000: 35%

– KRW 150,000,000 to KRW 300,000,000: 38%

– KRW 300,000,000 to KRW 500,000,000: 40%

– KRW 500,000,000 to KRW 1 billion: 42%

– Over KRW 1 billion: 45%

** Local income tax is charged by the provinces at a rate of 10% of the national income tax rate, i.e. 0.6% on income up to KRW 12,000,000 and so on.

Employee Benefits

Annual Leave

During their first year of employment, employees are entitled to one paid day off for every month they worked with the employer. Upon completion of their first year of service, PTO increases to 15 days. After 3 years with the employer, the annual leave entitlement increases by 1 day for every additional 2 years of service. The maximum is 25 days

In addition, the country observes 12 public holidays – depending on the year, the government might declare additional public holidays. However, there currently only is a legal obligation for employers with more than 30 employees to provide pay on these days (expected to change in 2022). The sole exception is the 1st of May which is a paid public holiday for all employees, no matter the size of the company they work for.

Maternity Leave and Paternity Leave

Maternity leave is 90 days, i.e. 45 days before and after birth. During the first 60 days, the employee receives her full wages. The other 30 days are paid at a lower rate by Social Security. In case of multiple births, maternity leave is extended to 120 days, with 75 fully-paid days. 

Fathers are entitled to 10 days of paternity leave.

Parental Leave

Parents are allowed to take one year of parental leave until their child reaches the age of 8. This leave is paid by Social Security at a rate of 40% of the employee’s usual salary. 

Additional Leave and Benefits

There are several types of additional leave employees can claim, including: 

  • 90 days of leave to care for a family member
  • Education leave which allows them to reduce their working hours during 1 year for educational purposes

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Employment termination

Once the initial 3 months of employment are over, employers need a valid reason to dismiss an employee, such as misconduct, dishonesty or negligence. Fixed-term contracts automatically end on the date on which they expire. 

The notice period for employers is 30 days. Pay in lieu of notice is possible. No notice must be given during the first 3 months of employment, or in case of unexpected business disruption resulting in liquidation (e.g. after a natural disaster), or in cases of negligence or intentional offence. 

There is no severance pay as such but employers must either create and pay into a corporate pension scheme or pay a retirement bonus when the employment relationship ends.The latter must equal 30 days’ pay for each year of service.

Hiring in South Korea?

Not sure if you should start with a contractor or go ahead and hire a full-time teammate in South Korea? The Lano platform makes it easy to go from freelance to full-time employee. Get expert guidance from the Lano team to compare your options and keep growing.