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[Newsmaker] Bus driver’s waiting time doesn’t count as work hours: court

The Supreme Court ruled that a former chief executive who was fined for making his employee work longer than the legally permitted 52 hours a week was not guilty, saying waiting time did not count as work hours.

The top court said Tuesday it has overturned a lower court ruling that imposed a fine of 500,000 won ($410) on Kwak No-sang, former chief executive of Korail Networks. It sent the case back to the Suwon District Court for retrial.


The Korail Networks employee surnamed Yoon, who drove a shuttle bus between Gwangmyeong Station and Sadang Station, pressed charges against Kwak in May 2017 after he was fired for not coming to work.

Based on a Supreme Court precedent that said “working hours mean the time a worker actually worked, and whether the waiting time counts depends on individual cases,” the court looked into the hours Yoon drove the bus and waited, and ruled that Kwak had not violated the law.

To fall within the legally allowed 52 work hours a week, a person who works every other day should work less than 14 hours and 52 minutes a day. Prosecutors found that Yoon worked 18 hours and 53 minutes every other day.

The court of first instance declared Kwak not guilty, saying that Yoon’s work hours claimed by prosecutors included the time he waited, and there was no evidence to show that Yoon actually worked during the waiting time.

The appellate court said it was difficult for Yoon to use the waiting time to rest because the bus was refueled, washed and cleaned during that period. It ordered Kwak to pay 500,000 won in fines.

However, the Supreme Court said that of the 18 hours and 53 minutes he worked on alternate days, Yoon appears to have spent at least six hours and 25 minutes freely without the company’s interference or supervision.

The top court ordered a retrial by the lower court, saying it has not proven that Yoon worked longer than the legally permitted work hours.

By Kim So-hyun (