Nearly 30% of Korean office workers experienced some form of workplace harassment last year, compared to 23.5% in a similar survey in March, according to an online survey conducted in June of 1,000 respondents across the country.
The latest survey, released on Sunday, was conducted by research group Embrain Public, commissioned by Workplace Gapjil 119, an organization that helps victims of office abuse. Respondents reported problems such as sexual harassment by superiors, verbal and physical abuse.
One employee said he felt threatened when his boss angrily cursed at him. Another reported receiving offensive and sexually offensive text messages from her boss late at night after he drank.
Others have faced exclusion from office groups and abuse from superiors in front of colleagues.
Some said they were punished for reporting harassment by being sent to a new job or forced to leave their company altogether, but most respondents chose not to take action, instead ignoring the issue. Many also chose to quit, fearing that reporting the abuse would hurt their future career prospects.
The report found that women and part-time workers were more likely to be targeted, while bosses and managers were the most common perpetrators.
Many survey respondents said their mental health had deteriorated due to abuse, although few sought treatment or counseling after developing depression, insomnia, lack of motivation, and other problems.
Gapjil, the Korean word for those in power who command their subordinates, has long been a common problem in the country, especially among the elite families that dominate South Korea’s business and politics.
During his tenure, former South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who left office in May, has repeatedly vowed to fight Gapjil, which he called “the leading evil in the workplace.”
And it’s not just workplace bullying in Korea that’s a problem — gender discrimination also remains deeply ingrained, especially during job interviews when women are often asked about their plans for marriage or children.
Reports of in-office harassment have declined since the passage of the law, and even more so during the pandemic, when employees mostly worked from home, according to a report Sunday. But in recent months, messages have resumed as people have returned to the office.