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New rules, regulations bring changes in 2018

The new year will usher in a slew of new rules and regulations. From public toilets to schools and churches, the changes will affect South Koreans’ daily life. Here is a look at some of the new rules to come into effect in 2018.

Bye-bye toilet trash cans

Starting from Jan. 1, all public bathrooms are required to do away with trash bins and provide rapid dissolving toilet paper, hopefully resolving one of the most common complaints of foreign visitors here. 

Yonhap
Yonhap

The move comes as part of changes brought by the Cabinet, which in May passed a revision to the implementation ordinance of the Public Toilets, Etc. Act, the law governing public toilets.

Under the amendment, garbage cans inside all bathroom stalls for both male and female restrooms will be removed. Bins with covers will be installed instead for the disposal of feminine hygiene products.

Also, janitors and cleaning staff will be asked to place signs at the entrance of bathrooms when cleaning facilities for opposite genders. Among other changes is the introduction of bigger bathroom dividers -- 40 centimeters in width and 60 centimeters in length -- between urinals for men.

“We hope other privately owned restrooms catch up with the newly introduced changes such as public restrooms without toilet trash bins, signs for cleaners of a different sex, more enclosed restroom designs and barriers between urinals,” said Yoon Jong-in, a senior official at the Ministry of the Interior and Safety.

Taxes on clergy

Effective Jan. 1, priests, pastors, Buddhist monks and clergy of other religions will be levied income tax. 

A group of activists from the Korea Taxpayers` Association hold a protest rally in front of the State Affairs Planning Advisory Committee building in central Seoul on May 31, 2017, demanding that clerical workers pay taxes like all waged workers. (Yonhap)
A group of activists from the Korea Taxpayers` Association hold a protest rally in front of the State Affairs Planning Advisory Committee building in central Seoul on May 31, 2017, demanding that clerical workers pay taxes like all waged workers. (Yonhap)

Among the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s 35 member countries, Korea was the only allowing exemptions for religious leaders.

A related revision in the nation’s tax code passed the National Assembly years ago, but its implementation was delayed due to opposition from religious circles.

The clergy group’s tax burden, however, is envisioned to be just about half of that shouldered by ordinary wage earners, according to a Financial Ministry plan to be finalized Friday.

A religious leader with a three-person household who earns 28.85 million won ($26,700) a year and has one child under the age of 20 would pay a monthly withholding tax of just 1,330 won. The 28.85 million won is the average annual income of pastors, according to a 2015 survey conducted by the Labor Ministry.

For an annual income of 50 million won, a clergyperson leading a four-person household would shoulder 50,730 won in monthly income taxes, whereas nonclergy would pay 90,510 won.

The Finance Ministry estimates roughly 16-20 billion won will be collected annually from around 50,000 religious leaders.

No English for grades 1-2

Starting from March 1, elementary schools are banned from running English courses for first- and second-graders under the motto “No study burden on young kids.” 

After-school teachers stage a protest in front of the Gwangju Metropolitan Office of Education on Friday, demonstrating against the government`s decision to ban after-school English classes for first- and second-graders. (Bak Se-hwan/The Korea Herald)
After-school teachers stage a protest in front of the Gwangju Metropolitan Office of Education on Friday, demonstrating against the government`s decision to ban after-school English classes for first- and second-graders. (Bak Se-hwan/The Korea Herald)

Currently, English is taught from the third grade onward, but schools offer first- and second-graders after-hours courses in English. The global language is by far parents’ favorite among all extension programs.

A law banning advanced learning to normalize the competition-driven education culture was adopted in September 2014, but after-school English curriculum remained intact due to strong demand from parents.

Parents and thousands of English instructors, who are set to lose their jobs, are protesting the looming shutdown, but the Education Ministry appears firm this time.

Some critics say the ban would deprive students of access to affordable English education and benefit private institutions.

Minimum wage, vacation days and jobs

The minimum wage for 2018 is set at 7,530 won per hour, up 16.4 percent, or 1,060 won, from a year earlier. This is the first time for the bottom limit of wages to rise by more than 1,000 won at a time. 

President Moon Jae-in, having proclaimed a doctrine of “income-led economic growth,” aims to raise the rate to 10,000 won during his presidency, which ends in 2022, but said he would adjust the pace of the wage increases after watching how this year’s spike affects labor cost-sensitive sectors and SMEs.

From June, newly hired employees will be entitled to 11 days of paid leave in the first year. So far, workers have become entitled only after completing a full year of service.

Also there will be 24,300 job openings in the public service through 2018, including for teachers, police officers, firefighters and central and provincial government employees. The hiring scheme compares to previous years’ average of around 8,000.

What’s a gift and what’s a bribe

Since September 2016, civil servants, journalists, teachers and their spouses have been banned from receiving gifts, free meals and congratulations or condolences of certain monetary values, under the Improper Solicitation and Graft Act. 

123rf
123rf

The price ceilings are to be adjusted before the Lunar New Year holiday in February, a traditional gift-giving season, although the exact date of its implementation has yet to be determined.

As for gifts, the cap is unchanged at 50,000 won, but there is a new exception: Up to 100,000 won is OK when the gifts are agricultural, livestock and fishery goods.

The ceiling on gift money on occasions like weddings and funerals is down to 50,000 won from the previous 100,000 won.

By Lee Sun-young, Kim Da-sol, Bak Se-hwan & Jung Min-kyung (milaya@heraldcorp.com)(ddd@heraldcorp.com)(sh@heraldcorp.com)(mkjung@heraldcorp.com)
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