On Friday, South Korean lawmakers passed a bill that gives heavy punishments to companies in the event of serious workplace disasters.
The legislation aims to curb the number of worker deaths by upping criminal punishment if business owners are found to have neglected safety measures.
Under the current law, only low-ranking company officials have been brought to justice for workers’ deaths, making it hard to ensure a safe working environment.
Under the new bill, business owners and CEOs can face at least one year in jail as well as up to 1 billion won some 920-thousand U.S. dollars in fines for a deadly incident on worksites.
Corporate entities or institutions can also face a penalty of up to 5 billion won or 4.5 million dollars.
Companies with fewer than 50 employees will get a 3-year grace period.
There’s also an exemption for entities with fewer than five employees as well as for civil servants.
However, labor circles condemned the exclusion of small companies, which make up 80 percent of businesses, which they said, tarnishes the purpose of the law.
Other bills passed on the same day aim to prevent child abuse.
One of the legislations erased the last-surviving civil code in South Korea that allows those with parental rights to physically punish their children.
Further bills order police and officials to investigate suspected cases of child abuse immediately after they are reported and separate children from suspected abusers right away.

“With the bills enacted, child welfare agencies now have greater investigative powers. But there are still calls for an overall improvement in the post-adoption care system as well as a more active role from the government in ensuring the well-being and safety of children. Choi Jeong-yoon, Arirang News.” Reporter : jychoi@arirang.com


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