The National Assembly has passed a revision to the Labor Standards Act to lower the maximum weekly working hours from the current 68 to 52 hours.
Among the 194 lawmakers who attended the vote on the revision during a parliamentary plenary session on Wednesday, 151 voted for and eleven against, while 32 abstained.
This comes a day after the Assembly's Environment and Labor Committee approved the revision, which included Saturdays and Sundays in the definition of working days.
The revision calls for reduced workweeks to be put into practice for companies and public offices with more than 300 workers in July, firms with 50 to 299 employees by January 2020, while companies with five to 49 employees should implement it by July 2021.
Shorter work hours have become a reality five years after parliament launched discussions in 2013.
Regulations on payment for working on holidays remain unchanged. An employee working less than eight hours on a holiday is entitled to payment of 150 percent of their nominal wage, while an employee working more than eight hours is entitled to 200 percent of their nominal wage.
The rule on paid off-days for legal holidays, which until now only applied to public officials, will be expanded to the private sector in phases.
Also, the number of special types of business entirely exempt from the work hour limit will be lowered from 26 to just five, which include healthcare and transportation services.
The revised bill is expected to bring about positive changes to society such as triggering new employment in a bid to make up for the reduced working hours.
The bill is also likely to enable South Korea to shed the stigma of having the second-longest work hours among member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
However, reduced hours also mean more costs for businesses.
It’s yet another blow to small firms still reeling from the minimum wage hike.
The Korea Economic Research Institute estimates that businesses would have to pay some 12 trillion won more each year to maintain the current level of production after work hours are reduced to 52 hours a week.