Netizens Frustrated over Minimum Hourly Wage


Convenience store clerk

Not all part-timers are so happy

With college tuition fees soaring and stable jobs dwindling, many Koreans in their 20s and 30s are depending more and more on part-time or contract jobs. Especially for those not living with their parents, they hope for their paycheques to cover rent fees, food, bills and hopefully save some for tuition fees. However, there are growing voices that the minimum wage is by no means enough to compliment such a regular lifestyle.

A netizen wrote a post regarding the hourly minimum wage on one of most popular internet community, the Age of Women. She is one of the many exhausted part-time workers, trying to making ends meet. Most netizens agree that the minimum wage is too low, but some of them say they would be content with it; given the fact that they have seen enough cases paying even less than that. To get a glimpse of what they are dealing with, take a look at the statistics below:

Minimum hourly wage and CPI of Korea

The first table is the minimum hourly wage and its year-on-year growth rate during 2005-2012. And the second table is the increase rate (year on year) of CPI (Consumer Prices Indices) during 2005-2011. The meaning and method of CPI index is explained here. As the numbers show, while 2008 saw the biggest increase overall, ‘Agricultural, fishery, and livestock products’ price has been jumping up and up up since 2009.

university tuition fees from 2000 to 2010

This graph shows the increase rate (%, base year=2001) of university tuition fees and annual household income during 2001-2010. According to the figure, the average public tuition fees hiked from 2.44 million to 4.37 million won(79%), while the average private tuition fees went up from 4.80 million won to 7.23 million won(51%).

From Daum:

Minimum Hourly Wage: 4580 won, is it enough?

'Horny Bus Couple' were publicly shamed on the internet by a fellow passenger for allegedly getting up to no-good snogging and touching on the back of a Busan bus

Bus (Adult): electronic transit card 1050won/cash 1150won

Get on the bus 4 times, and kiss your hourly wage good bye.. Thank god we have a free transfer system. [The system connects all public transport system in the Seoul Metropolitan Area so that a passenger can switch from one vehicle to another without additional fare.] But it still is 2100 won for a round trip, which is half of the minimum hourly wage.

the seoul metro map

Subway: 1150won

The minimum hourly wage is not enough to use the subway system 4 times. You need 20 won more.

starbucks americano

Starbucks Americano: 3900 won

Cheaper brands (Americano): 1500~2000 won

You can drink away the minimum wage with two cups of Americano.

samgak gimbap

At convenience stores

Samgak Gimbap: 800~1000 won

Sandwich: 1500~2500 won

Lunch Box: 2500~3000 won

Three Samgak Gimbaps, three sandwiches, or just one lunch box.

gimbap heaven

Gimbap: 1500 won

Three Gimbaps = one hour labour

These are going prices where I usually go.. I eat triangle gimbaps or sandwiches. I used to drink coffee, but not anymore since the public transportation fare went up.. Hey what do you guys think? Doesn’t it look like consumer prices aren’t in line with what we get paid for an hour? ㅠㅠㅠㅠㅠㅠㅠ

Comments from Daum:


I have to accept the public transportation fare…But my mobile phone bills are outrageous..


They are not paying fair wages… I’m in Japan now and when I talk to my friends in Korea about how much I earn for a part-time job, they are taken aback: I earn 1110 yen for an hour, which is enough to pay for two hamburger set meals or two Frappuccino. -_-;; Japan’s consumer prices aren’t expensive at all..


My cousin once said that she worked at an internet cafet in Gangneung for 2300 won so I urged her to report it to the Ministry of Employment and Labor, but she said that’s a normal practice in the city;;; And my friend from Gangneung works late night shifts at a convenience store for 5000 won, and she LOVES it. You stupid, late night shifts wages should be at least 6000 won;;; Is it really what happens in the city? ㅠㅠ

진 케이먼:

Some of you are saying that Korean public transportation fare is cheap.. But so are the wages, which do not keep up with consumer prices.. ㅠㅠ


I watched a foreign soap drama the other day, and the leading man said that ‘Hey, what did you expect me to do with 30 bucks an hour?’ ke ke ke ke I was stunned to first hear that… He was also a alba, a fucking lazy one ke ke ke.. Hey, nobody pays 30 dollars for alba, even Hagwons [private institutions] don’t pay that much.


To be honest, I don’t think Korean consumer prices are abnormal. Many say that how a cup of coffee equates to a meal though; the abnormality lies in the frikin‘ meal, not the coffee. Small restaurants barely charge for recipe costs because what the workers are paid is near to nothing. I think coffee prices reflecte well all the cost from wages to recipe cost and value added taxes; although it’s an irony that even franchise cafes don’t pay their employees well.. However, I would rather see wages going up than slashing the prices any further. The labour cost is unbelievably cheap, compared to consumer prices.


Ah fuck.. I earn 3900 won for all the errands and so on that I do while putting up with my boss’s nitpicking comments. Ah~ I’m going to quit this fucking job in 6 months! And when officers from the Ministry of Labor confronted my boss for paying below the minimum wage, he threw them out, yelling shamelessly. ke ke ke

은시경은 이름도 은시경:

I would be grateful if they could pay even the minimum wage..pff ㅠㅠ


That’s why I skip meals as many times as possible.. Even paying for food is becoming unbearable.


ke ke ke ke ke if an employee grabs something to eat, then he may not have enough money to go home ke ke ke ke ke


Minimum wages should be a guideline for easy jobs such as managing convenient stores or comic book cafes: yet we are barely paid the minimum wage for painful jobs, even less for easy jobs.


ke ke ke ke ke… I met an internet café owner who proudly said, ‘we pay the highest in this town’ for 3500 won ke ke.. And it really was a well-paid job. I heard ‘3000 won’ at another internet café. ke


This is SO trueㅠㅠ The minimum wage is too low.. But come to think of it, when a small business is not doing well, the owner may barely earn one million won. Only Chaebols are getting richer. Ah.. fuck.. I really hope consumer prices go down.


The minimum hourly wage is 4580 won, yet people say a 5000 won meal is a bargain.. ㅠㅠ


This is fucking outrageous!! I commute from Incheon to Gangnam; I kiss the hourly wage goodbye on public transportation. ke ke ke I work in Gangnam to go to Hagwon, but I’m not sure I can afford it.


Convenience stores are the stingiest! They say the work is easy, but hell no! It is a SO exhausting job with lowest payment ㅡㅡ


We’ve got the cheapest labour cost ㅠㅠ


It’s frustrating to see my hourly wage is cheaper than a cup of coffee though; but the [coffee shop] owners still have to pay a fortune for rent fee, interior design work, coffee machines and so forth… The thieves are in franchise headquarters.. ㅠㅠ


Hourly wages ARE cheap, compared to consumer prices.. But, guys, here’s the catch: when wages go up, the prices would jump even more..


Hourly wages are too low.. yet the bigger issue here is that there are too many owners who pay even less than the minimum wage.. This is a sad reality.. ㅠㅠㅠ

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  • Leipe Loetje

    They shouldn’t complain. In Europe the minimum wages are higher, but the prices are much higher as well… I wish I could buy a 5000 won meal here, but unfortunately the price for a simple meal is around 12 euro/1500+ won.

  • lonetrey

    What’s there to say. I feel like their cost of living is pretty much canceling out the value of minimum wages.

  • An anonymous boy…

    I don’t understand why Daum is comparing the price of convenience foods to the minimum wage. If you truly are poor are you not going to be rarely eating that stuff?

    Do people usually eat out in South Korea when they are truly poor? Do students?

    • James

      Eating out isn’t the same (price wise) as it is in Europe or the States. In some cases, you’d probably spend more money buying the ingredients from the supermarket than you would if you just bought the dish you were trying to make in a local restaurant.

      • Noori

        Yeah.. and those foods are also crappy, too. They are probably as nutritious as ice cream. The biggest issues here are 1)raw food prices are becoming unbearable, 2)Most Korean students can’t get scholarship and tuition fees are going up too quickly, 3)There are too many cases they get paid below the minimum wage(IF they ever get paid. The ministry of labor doesn’t have legal authority to force owners to properly pay their employees.)

        • Brett Sanbon

          Raw food prices~ Ive got it covered.

          Tuition prices~ the government is now lowering schools’ ratings for having high tuition costs. Schools are scratching to lower tuition.

          Not getting paid~ wreck the joint.

          • Noori

            I really hope your project would be successful!ㅋ What’s your secret, BTW?

          • Brett Sanbon

            After the patents are processed I will tell you. ;)

  • Brett Sanbon

    Minimum wage is high enough for now.

    Dont worry Korea. I’m working on a new project to bring raw food prices down and employment rates up.

  • Chucky3176

    You want to see how wages are raised quickly? Stop importing so many foreign workers to take these minimum wage jobs. A lot of these minimum wage service jobs are taken by Joseonjok ethnic Koreans from China, and the wages predictably have been stagnant for 10 years, as they will accept lower wages happily. They don’t care about having a high standard of living in Korea, because all they care about is saving and then mailing as much savings as possible, back to their homes in China. What happens when there are shortage of workers? Businesses will have to raise their wages or else lose their customers.

    • Brett Sanbon

      Its just not as easy as saying “stop hiring foreigners”. This isnt the employers responsibility. If (s)he hires legally than that is all anyone can expect. It is up to the government to tell employers who to, and who not to hire.

      Catch 22, because some businesses are scraping by, using only foreign workers. Higher wages would be good for the average citizen but bad for employers. Perhaps the government could implement a higher/lower minimum wage based on a business’ net income or gross profit. Employers that take a salary of more than 100million won per year shouldnt be allowed to pay workers less than ₩X,000 per hour.

  • Chucky3176

    Another problem is Korea’s inflexible labor system. Employers are not able to fire and hire as they like, as they must abide by overly strict labor laws requiring them to pay excessive lump sum severance pay, and generally act like life time social benefit case for the employer. The onus is on the companies to take care of their employers for life. In the west, the government has this responsibility. There are advantage of this for the employees, but in the long run, is it any surprise that the Korean companies are reluctant to hire full time workers and instead opt out for temporary workers who are given no benefits and less salary? Why would any business hire full time workers, when they can go just go for temp workers who are much cheaper, and easy to fire and lay off when they need to? As a result, over 50% of Korea’s working force are temporary workers – one of the highest percentage of temp workers in the world. If you look at all the countries in the world with the most inflexible labor system, they’re the ones with the highest number of temporary workers, with a poor domestic economy. If Korea doesn’t revamp the labor, the wages thus the domestic economy will continue to stagnate, as businesses keep on turning to more and more to temp workers, as well as bringing in more and more foreign workers to satisfy their short term needs.

  • more

    i wished someone could translate how much they get payed in american ??

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