South Korean Business Community Regrets Failure to Extend Grace Period for Workplace Safety Law

South Korea's business community expressed disappointment on Thursday following the unsuccessful parliamentary negotiations to extend the grace period for the country's workplace disaster law. Discussions between floor leaders of the ruling People Power Party and the main opposition Democratic Party failed to reach an agreement, leading to the law's scheduled expansion on Saturday.

According Yonhap News Agency, The Serious Accidents Punishment Act, which allows for criminal charges against employers in cases of serious industrial accidents, will now apply to small businesses with fewer than 50 employees.

The Korea Enterprises Federation released a statement expressing deep regret over the breakdown in discussions. The federation raised concerns that the law's expanded implementation may lead to unintended consequences like workplace closures and unemployment, rather than effectively preventing future accidents. They advocate for supplementary legislation focusing on prevention rather than punishment, suggesting the conversion of criminal penalties for executives into fines or other economic punishments.

A senior official from the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry also expressed concern about the impact of the law on small businesses, citing increased management uncertainty. Despite the law's implementation, the number of on-duty disasters has not decreased, leading to questions about its effectiveness. Business owners and the PPP have criticized the law for its lack of clear criteria for punishment and the challenges faced by small and medium-sized firms in complying due to limited resources.

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