South Koreans Say No to Being Workaholic

March 15, 2013

Unlocking Word Meanings
Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

1. workaholic 
[wurk-uh-HAW-lik] (adj.) – relating to someone who is addicted to work or chooses to work a lot
Example: He tends to skip meals because of his workaholic attitude.

2. unprecedented [uhn-PRES-i-den-tid] (adj.) – never done, known or experienced before
Example: Many were shocked at the CEO's unprecedented decision to make English the official language of the Japan-based company.

3. graveyard shift [GREYV-yahrd] (noun phrase) – a work schedule beginning late at night and ending early in the morning, usually from midnight until 8 a.m.
Example: Filipino call center agents need to work on graveyard shifts because of the time difference between the Philippines and the clients' country.

4. engaged [en-GEYJD] (adj.) – fully involved or drawn into something
Example: Employees who are highly engaged in their work are more efficient and productive than those who view their tasks as boring.

5. slackening [SLAK-uh-ning] (n.) – a decrease or decline
Example:  The economic recession caused a slackening in the country's economy.

Read the text below.

South Korean companies are now rejecting long working hours that is typical of the country's workaholic culture. Changing priorities and values have encouraged employers in South Korea—Asia's fourth-largest economy— to rethink their workplace policies.

In 2009, the Industrial Bank of Korea (IBK) introduced the unprecedented measure of turning off office computers at 7 p.m. so employees could go home early. Thirty-five other companies plan to apply this rule by the end of 2013. Automaker Hyundai Motor Co. is also set to remove its graveyard shift and shorten working hours of 30,000 factory workers.

Many South Koreans once thought that overworking was necessary. However, recent findings revealed that being workaholic is unhealthy and unproductive.

In 2011, the country had the second longest working hours among the 34 countries in the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). However, South Korea ranked only 28th when it came to productivity. In addition, a consulting firm revealed that only 17% of the country's workforce was highly engaged in working, much lower than the 35% average of other developed countries.

Long working hours have also caused a slackening in the country's birthrate due to people’s lack of time for their families. With more elderly people to support, the country may experience great pressure on its economy.

According to Lee Sam Sik, a researcher at the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs, Koreans need to immediately eliminate the workaholic attitude in order to increase productivity and competitiveness and to have a better quality of life.

South Korean president Park Geun Hye has promised to lessen the working hours in the country before 2020.

Viewpoint Discussion
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

·         What are the effects of overworking on an individual?
·         Why do you think some employees tend to be workaholic?

Discussion B

·         Do you agree that economic growth is the only measure of a country’s success? Why or why not?
·         What, for you, is the best measure of a country’s success? Please explain your answer.


March 15, 2013