A survey concludes that as Korean employees return to the office, so does “gapjil” harassment in the workplace.
Nearly 30% of Korean office workers experienced some form of workplace harassment in the past year, according to an online survey in June of 1,000 respondents across the country — up from 23.5% in a similar survey in March.
The latest survey, published on Sunday, was conducted by research group Embrain Public and commissioned by Workplace Gapjil 119, an organization that helps victims of office abuse. Respondents reported issues including sexual harassment from superiors and verbal and physical assault.
One employee said they felt threatened when their supervisor angrily swore to them. Another described receiving text messages late at night from her boss, containing abusive and sexual language, after he went out for a drink.
Others faced exclusion from work groups and were humiliated by their superiors in front of their peers.
Some said they were punished when they reported the harassment, by being sent to a new job site or by being forced out of their company altogether – but most respondents chose not to take action, instead ignoring the problem. Many also chose to resign, fearing that reporting the abuse would hurt their future job prospects.
The report said that women and those working part-time or temporary jobs were more likely to fall victim, while supervisors and managers were the most common culprits.
Many survey participants said their mental health had deteriorated due to the abuse, although only a few sought treatment or counseling after experiencing depression, insomnia, lack of motivation and other issues.
Gapjil, a Korean word for those in power who control their subordinates, has long been a prevalent problem in the country—particularly within the elite families who dominate business and politics in South Korea.
During his tenure, former South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who left office in May, has repeatedly promised to address the generation gap, which he called “the main evil in the workplace.”
And it’s not just bullying that is a problem in Korean workplaces—gender discrimination remains deeply entrenched too, especially during job interviews, when women are frequently asked about their plans to marry or have children.
According to Sunday’s report, reports of office harassment decreased after the law, and even more so during the pandemic when employees were largely working from home. But reports have resurfaced in recent months as people return to the office.