The average worker in South Korea works 2,316 hours per year. That is an average of a little over 44 hours per week. Compare that to 1,794 hours, which is about 34.5 hours per week, for the average American worker. The government has a plan to force its employees to start taking more than six of their allotted 23 days off each year.

The South Korean government is willfully violating the basic human rights of workers in that country. And those workers are not going to take it lying down.


They will take is sitting down, but only if they get to take it while they are sitting down at work.


The average worker in South Korea works 2,316 hours per year. That is an average of a little over 44 hours per week. Compare that to 1,794 hours, which is about 34.5 hours per week, for the average American worker.


The problem comes down from the top. In America’s public and private sectors, leaders tend to enjoy a few extra days off, and their employees are forced to pick up the slack. That mindset leads to workers taking advantage of all of their allotted days off.


I know my boss comes in early and doesn’t take many afternoons off, and that limits how comfortable I am taking time off. The harder your employees see you working, the harder they work to match your dedication and sense of urgency.


In South Korea, that holds true more than in most cultures. But that dedication has created issues. Even though South Korea leads the world in time on the job, their productivity lags behind most in the survey.


The government has a plan to force its employees to start taking more than six of their allotted 23 days off each year. The proposal’s supporters are hopeful that the government’s push will spill over into the private sector.


But many in the private sector are fearful of what the emphasis on time off could mean.


“You should be able to take a vacation whenever you feel like,” says Yoon Jin-won, spokesman for the Korean Government Employees' Union. “When the government forces you to do it, I would say it violates human rights in a sense.”


Quick, someone call the U.N.


In reality, many of the workers say they don’t know what to do with additional time off. Many would prefer to be at work rather than sitting at their home.


I know they have golf courses in South Korea. I think they play some baseball, too. Many of us could help these hardworking souls find something cheap and fun to do away from the office.


In South Korea, they have brought in an expert: Bernhard Quandt is a German who knows the value of a good vacation. He changed his name to Lee Charm when he took up residence as a language instructor in the republic.


But now he is helping to encourage workers to take time off. He pushes the “three joys” of a vacation: Joy No. 1: Planning a vacation. Joy No. 2: Taking a vacation. Joy No. 3: Remembering the vacation.


Where is Joy No. 4: Paying for the vacation?


Anecdotal reports indicate that many higher ups think the problem is that workers take spontaneous vacations and don’t plan well. That means they have more stress and have less fun being away. I think the real issue is still a top-down problem.


Even after the mandated vacation time has been instituted, many of the leaders in offices have failed to schedule even a day off until March of 2012. Workers are getting the message. Do as I say and not as I do never works.


If you want your employees to work harder, you need to work harder. If you want them to treat each other better, treat them better. If you want them to take days off, you should take days off.


It’s a strange problem to fight, but this solution is much more desirable than most.