Punishment Related to Industrial Accidents Excessive in South Korea

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Korean employers are concerned about the scheduled implementation of the Act on the Punishment of Serious Accidents.

The Korea Enterprises Federation said in its report on Dec. 16 that the Act on the Punishment of Serious Accidents scheduled to become effective on Jan. 27 is excessive on the part of employers and policies for preventing industrial accidents will be more effective than the act.

In the report, the federation compared a total of 12 countries in Europe, Asia and North America. “In the 11 other than South Korea, a non-fatal industrial accident is subject to an imprisonment of up to one year and the maximum pecuniary punishment in that case is 34 million won,” it said, adding, “On the other hand, the maximum punishments in South Korea amount to five years and 50 million won, respectively.”

“In the event of a fatal accident, the maximum punishments in the 11 are three years and about 10 million won, which are much more generous than those of South Korea,” it went on to say, continuing, “In addition, additional punishment applied to repeated fatal accidents is in effect only in the United States and South Korea and the intensity of the additional punishment in South Korea is 10.5 years or less or 150 million won or less whereas that in the United States is one year or less or US$20,000 or less.”

The federation also pointed out that both contractors and subcontractors are in charge of industrial safety in the United Kingdom, the United States, Japan and Germany whereas contractors are fully responsible in South Korea.

“Unlike in South Korea, a non-fatal accident is not subject to imprisonment in Germany and France and a fatal accident is not subject to imprisonment in the United Kingdom,” it explained, adding, “The cases of Australia, Canada, Singapore, and so on clearly show that punishment does not necessarily lead to a decrease in industrial accidents and most of the 11 states are concentrating on prevention rather than punishment.”

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