May 28, 2022
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South Korea lifts most COVID precautions as new cases dip to two-month low

Young South Koreans dread revival of work dinners amid looser coronavirus restrictions

SEOUL — When South Korea introduced its determination to elevate most coronavirus illness 2019 (COVID-19) restrictions earlier this month, 29-year-old workplace employee Jang was extra involved than comfortable.

The top of social distancing revived the time-honored workplace ritual of after-work meal gatherings, half of a practice referred to as hoeshik in Korean. Jang was among the many rising quantity of younger staff right here who think about it an out of date firm tradition that intrudes on workers’ private time.

“Hoeshik is part of your work life, except it’s unpaid,” mentioned Ms. Jang, who lives and works in Seoul. She requested to be recognized solely by her final title in an effort to communicate candidly about her employer.

Starting final week, South Korea eliminated a midnight curfew on bars and eating places, together with a cap of 10 individuals for personal gatherings. The principles had served as tips for corporations to undertake distant work coverage and rein in non-essential gatherings, such because the off-hours consuming periods.

“The worst part about the after-work dinners is that you don’t know when it’ll end. With drinks, it could really continue well into the night until who knows when,” Ms. Jang mentioned.

Even earlier than the pandemic, an rising quantity of South Koreans, notably youthful staff, have been already souring on firm dinners and related occasions, similar to firm retreats or weekend mountain climbing with co-workers.

The pandemic might be certain that the outdated hoeshik tradition is fading for good, an skilled mentioned.

“Now that employees know what it’s like to have off-hours kept for themselves, companies won’t be able to fully restore the old after-dinner and weekend gathering culture,” Suh Yong-gu, a advertising professor at Sookmyung Girls’s College in Seoul, mentioned.

In keeping with a current survey by Incruit Corp., a recruiting web site operator, practically 80% of respondents mentioned their corporations’ meal-gathering tradition had modified in the course of the pandemic, with 95% of them expressing satisfaction over the change.

The previous two years taught Ms. Jang what hoeshik-free evenings have been like. She spent extra time to maintain her home clear, make herself a great dinner and work out.

Kim Woon-bong, 30, who started working for a metropolis authorities final yr, mentioned he felt fortunate not having needed to undergo the necessary hoeshik tradition, because of the distancing guidelines.

“I actually liked meal gatherings held during lunch hours, because I knew they would end at 1 p.m.,” he mentioned. “I am cautiously hoping the company dinner culture will change now that it has been almost gone for two years.”

Regardless of younger workers’ rising displeasure with after-work dinners, many senior staff nonetheless imagine such gatherings are needed to construct bonds with colleagues, Professor Suh mentioned.

“It will be yet another conflict between the old and new generation,” he mentioned. “But even if the after-dinner and weekend-gathering culture manages to survive, they won’t be able to be held as often as they used to be.”

Whereas many corporations are steadily returning to their workplaces, some are looking for to discover a center floor, choosing hybrid fashions as a substitute of implementing a full-fledged return-to-office scheme.

SK Telecom Co Ltd., for one, is working new workspaces to permit its workers to decide on whether or not to work from dwelling, at their head workplace, or at small dispersed work areas that the corporate has opened.

“We don’t have specific guidance on company dinners, but they will be less frequent when many of our employees are working from home,” an organization official mentioned, asking to not be named as he was not licensed to speak to media.

“The key is that we don’t mind where our employees work or how often they come to the office, as long as it helps improve their efficiency.” — Reuters

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