As of last year, the delivery service industry of South Korea surpassed a net value of over 6 trillion won, while courier giants such as Coupang and CJ Delivery Corporation expanded their early morning and one-day delivery services. However, behind their façade of efficiency is the death of 14 delivery workers just this past year brought on by deteriorated health conditions caused by overwork and two workers choosing to take their own lives. Despite the sharp increase in the use of delivery services due to the coronavirus pandemic, a law regarding the labor rights of delivery workers introduced in 2011 were left unattended. On October 12, a delivery man working for CJ fainted while taking a short break and passed away shortly after arriving at the hospital. The pandemic has shone a light on the hardships of delivery employees, but mismanagement and courier workers’ ignorance about their labor rights date back to long before the recent circumstances. Courier companies have been outwardly denying responsibility since the deaths of three of their workers in 2017 and four in 2018, claiming that the delivery workers are legally considered private operators and are not contracted as company employees. Over the past two years, the status of delivery workers have remained ambiguous and vague as neither the Ministry of Employment and Labor, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport nor the courier companies have shown any elaborate efforts to address the defects of the law. On October 20, CJ issued an official apology over the death of five of their delivery workers and promised to improve their employees’ working conditions. Despite the deaths in the delivery industry happening frequently every year, the deaths of laborers this year have triggered an unprecedented public outcry against the treatment of workers and the absence of labor laws protecting them. In an interview, Mr. Jeon Ju-an, a delivery worker of 11 years, claimed that there is no public knowledge on the lack of labor rights to protect delivery workers when there has been a stark, disastrous increase in work. Mr. Jeon calls our attention to government overhauls aimed at addressing working conditions and insurance for delivery laborers and ask that we maintain being informed on whether or not the future will hold an affirmation of the rights of his fellow workers.
Kim Sung-joo email@example.com