South Koreans work more hours than any other developed nation but the country's production is lagging, a grim reality the government is trying to upend by forcing civil employees to take more of their allotted vacation days. A recent study shows that the average government worker takes just six of a possible 23 days; a new directive requires each take at least 16 days. The state hopes the push will be taken up in the country at large, where the average work year is 2,316 hours, compared to just 1,794 in the US.
One hurdle is South Korea’s workplace culture, the Wall Street Journal reports, where higher-ups set the example for proper behavior. If top government officials can’t or won’t follow the directive, it could be dead in the water. “I want them to take more time off,” says a cabinet minister. “But as for me? I don't know.” And unions smell a fishy deal, designed perhaps to save money. “I would say it violates human rights in a sense,” says an official.