2.2 Million Koreans Work in Gig Economy

  • By Lee Joon-woo

    August 15, 2022 08:18

    An ever-growing number of young Koreans work in the gig economy of short-term contracts and freelance jobs as stable, long-term employment gets harder to come by. But increasingly this is also a lifestyle choice.
    Job search portal Saramin asked 2,848 people in June if they are willing to be gig workers, and 58.6 percent said yes. Of those, 79.2 percent cited the freedom to choose their working hours as the top reason, followed by 40.7 percent who liked the freedom from corporate culture and relationships. They were allowed multiple choices.
    One 25-year-old who graduated from university last February makes money subtitling Netflix and other streaming content and also serves coffee three days a week. "A permanent position in a company would be more stable, but I didn't want the stress of being part of a large organization and wanted to do what I like," he said.
    Another 25-year-old who graduated from art school last year now works as a freelance illustrator creating online graphics and also as a motorcycle deliveryman. Those gigs earn him a respectable W3 million a month (US$1=W1,302).
    "I don't have to get stressed by work and there's nobody to boss me around," he said. "I can work as much as I want and rest whenever I want to."
    The rising popularity of smartphone platforms has fueled the gig economy. Freelance positions offered online range from delivery, cleaning and babysitting to translation, thesis search and home appliance repairs.
    Subscriptions to Kmong, an online marketplace for services, has risen from around 100,000 in 2019 to more than 300,000 now. A Kmong staffer said, "More than 70 percent of our members are in their 20s and 30s. A total of 73,000 freelancers who signed up over the last three years were 24 to 33."
    On Soomgo, another service marketplace, the number of freelancers has risen from 340,000 in 2019 to 1.04 million this year.
    The Ministry of Employment and Labor says 2.2 million Koreans found jobs through online platforms in the last three months and 55.2 percent of them were in their 20s and 30s.
    The trend has prompted the government to think about ways to protect the rights of gig workers, who get no benefits, insurance or severance pay. According to the ministry, only 29.1 percent of freelance workers at platforms signed up for employment insurance and only 30.1 percent for industrial accident insurance. Twenty-two percent said they had been paid late or not at all.
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