Credit: Public domain.
On January 8, the National Assembly 국회 passed the Act on Penalizing Corporations for Major Disasters 중대재해기업처벌법, an important step forward in reducing industrial accidents. South Korea has one of the highest rates of deaths caused by industrial accidents in the OECD, at one point occupying the top spot for 23 years in a row.
Under the new law, which takes effect in 2022 generally and in 2024 for businesses with fewer than 50 employees, an industrial accident that results in a death would subject the business manager to at least one year in prison. The corporation would also be subject to fines and punitive damages of up to five times the damages. The new law does not apply to companies with fewer than five employees after a contentious debate on the point; the law, however, penalizes the contracting firm if a major industrial accident occurs at a subcontracting business.