Last May, President Moon took office with a left-leaning promise to significantly raise the minimum wage in South Korea. In the past few weeks, he has been facing backlash from both liberals and conservatives regarding his minimum wage policies.
On July 16, President Moon apologized in a meeting with his aides, stating, “it has apparently become impossible to achieve the goal of raising the minimum wage to 10,000 won by 2020.”
Though he has failed to keep his campaign promise, Moon has indeed worked to create a significant raise in minimum wage. Last Saturday, the Minimum Wage Commission announced that the minimum wage will be raised to 8,350 won next year, a 10.9 percent increase from this year’s 7,530 won minimum.
However, this increase satisfied neither the work force nor the businesses. This promise was especially disappointing for some compared to the increase in minimum wage from last year, which was a striking 16.4 percent.
The Korea Federation of Microenterprise spoke on behalf of dissatisfied small businesses who said they could not accept the decision of the Minimum Wage Commission on raising the minimum wage.
“Small-business owners are at a crossroads where they cannot help but choose either business shutdowns or staff cuts,” the federation stated, according to ABS-CBN.
On the other hand, laborers who were expecting President Moon to fulfill his campaign promise were disheartened after hearing his apology. In addition to the unsatisfactory change in minimum wage, many have been critical of the slow job growth Korea has been facing this past year. According to the South China Morning Post, South Korea had a monthly increase of 142,000 jobs on average, the slowest growth the nation has seen since the financial crisis in 2008.
In response to the criticism from both parties, the Minimum Wage Commission said it would submit to the government proposals to help smaller businesses and merchants.
According to ABS-CBN, chairman of the commission Ryu Jang-Soo said, “we may not be able to satisfy both companies and workers, but after a heated debate, we proposed levels that can contribute to improving the income of low-wage workers and alleviate an income cap, without hampering the economy and employment.”
Overall, both liberals and conservatives (as well as employers and employees) are voicing their criticism toward President Moon’s unfulfilled campaign promise and his recent statements. The nation has yet to observe the implications that a 10.9 percent increase in minimum wage will bring.
E Ju Ro, Grade 11
Seoul International School