Saturday, December 12, 2009

More Holdays Coming?

By contract, I do not work on Saturday or Sunday. Except, apparently, during camp. But that's a subject for another post.

In addition to weekends, I also get off the national holidays in Korea, like Christmas, Children's Day, Sam-Il (Independence Movement Day), three days of Chuseok, etc. If one of these falls on a Saturday or Sunday, however, that's all you get. The Dong-A Ilbo explains:
Korea has 14 national holidays designated under law. When Saturdays and Sundays are added to those holidays, the number of days off for those under the five-day workweek system is 118 per year. Since three to eight of the holidays fall on a Saturday or Sunday, the number of days off can be as low as 110 or as many as 115 per year.
The number of days off this year, however, is just 110 and that of next year will be 112, smaller than 120 days or more in Taiwan and Hong Kong; 119 in Japan; 118 in Russia; 116 in France; and 114 in the U.S. and Germany.

I once mentioned this to a Korean friend, and pointed out that in America, if a holiday falls on the weekend, we get Friday or Monday off--the beloved 3-day weekend, as compared to nothing at all! He shook his head in wonder, and admitted ruefully that it will never happen in Korea.

Well, never say never:
In Korea, seven bills on raising the number of days off through the introduction of alternative holidays have been submitted to and are pending at the National Assembly.
If the system is introduced, the number of three-day holidays from Friday to Sunday or Saturday to Monday will increase. This is expected to raise leisure activity among the people, which will in turn expand the domestic consumption base, including tourism. [...]
A senior official at the Strategy and Finance Ministry said, “To figure out how a reshuffle of the holiday system will affect the national economy, including GDP, we will commission a study to an external think tank.”
“Because of mixed views on the reshuffle of the system even within the government, we judged it wise to make a decision based on the results of an objective study.”

Why seven different bills are needed is not explained in the story, but this country is desperately in need of a few more days to chill out a little and stand down. In fact, one of the big proponents of the change is the Culture, Sports and Tourism Ministry. Part of this law, in my opinon, should be a requirement that hagwons which serve children close for the day also.

Of course, what the government gives, the government also taketh away. At the end of the story, we find this:
In a related move, the government is considering reducing the number of official public holidays from 14 to 12 in return for assuring the number of holidays through alternative days off.

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