The Korean national minimum wage for next year was set at 7,530 won(US$6.68) per hour, up 16.4 percent from this year, the highest hike rate since 2001 and the record high in terms of the amount of hourly rate increase. The decision was made with the full participation of 27 members of the Minimum Wage Commission, 9 members each representing labor, management and the public interest.
The Minimum Wage Commission decided the national minimum wage for 2018 through the voting at its 11th plenary session at the Sejong Government Complex on July 15. Labor and management members came up with their final amendments of 7,530 won(US$6.68) and 7,300 won(US$6.48) respectively, following an 8-hour marathon negotiation to narrow down the gap. Out of 27 members, 15 members supported the labor amendment rate of 7,530 won, whereas 12 members were in favor of the management amendment rate of 7,300 won.
At the 6th plenary session held on June 29, labor members demanded the hourly minimum wage raise of 10,000 won(US$8.87), whereas management members offered the hourly minimum wage raise of 6,625 won(US$5.87).
At the 10th plenary session on July 12, labor proposed the first amended rate of 9,570 won(US$8.48), while management suggested the first amended rate of 6,670 won(US$5.91). At the second amendments, it was still 8,330 won(US$7.38) against 6,740 won(US$5.97). With the huge gap remained between labor and management, the chairman of the Minimum Wage Commission finally asked labor and management members to come up with their final amendments, suggesting the limit to labor members with the highest rate and management members with the lowest rate. The final amendment from labor was 7,530 won and 7,300 won from management's final offer, with only 230 won(US$0.20) difference, before the voting to decide the rate for next year.
The Minimum Wage Commission will submit the minimum wage decision for 2018 to the Minister of Employment and Labor on July 17 and the Labor Minister will make it public in the official gazette on August 5 after 20 days of objection and re-deliberation period from labor and management.
The minimum wage rate of 7,530 won for next year will affect an estimated 4.63 million workers, which is equivalent to 23.6 percent of the total wage workers. The new minimum wage translates to 1,573,770 won(US$1,394) a month for those who work 8 hours a day and 209 hours a month.
reported by Kim Bong-seok
translated by Kim Sung-jin
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