A growing number of businesses are spying on their staff to discover how they spend their office hours after the government capped the working week at 52 hours.
The main targets of tracking services are sales and marketing staff who spend a lot of time outside of the office. Employers place GPS trackers on their cars or use smartphone apps that do the same trick.
One staffer at a software company said, "We've seen a three to fourfold increase this year in businesses asking us about GPS programs. Some even made additional demands to create a database function to store workers' whereabouts."
Employers claim that their aim is to ensure that staff do not work beyond the mandatory limit and to protect their company cars and smartphones. But workers believe they are being spied on and the trackers constitute an invasion of their privacy.
One company that trains workers at superstores tried to force staff to install tracker apps on their smartphones but gave up in the face of fierce resistance from employees.
Some companies have gotten into trouble after secretly installing GPS trackers. Last month, one manager of an IT company grew suspicious when his boss seemed to know his whereabouts too well and paid a service to have his car swiped for bugs. The search revealed a device hidden in the rear door of his car.
"I think my employer installed the device due to suspicions of company secrets being leaked," he said.
According to law, gathering and sharing information on the whereabouts of others without their consent can result in up to three years in jail or a fine of up to W30 million (US$1=W1,138). The number of people caught violating the law rose from 53 in 2015 to 206 last year, police statistics show.
A police officer said, "In the past, it was often jealous spouses who were caught spying on their husbands or wives, but recently we have seen an increase in the number of employers being reported by their staff."
Lee Sang-hyuk, a labor attorney, said, "Management and unions must agree when the company wants to set up surveillance cameras in the office, but there are no specific regulations yet when it comes to tracking staff using smartphones or other devices. The issue should be dealt with as soon as possible."