Korean workers are entitled to an average of 15.1 days of paid holidays but in fact use only about half or 7.9 days, a survey suggests. One in every three workers cannot afford to take more than five days off a year and 11 percent cannot afford even a day's leave.
The findings are based on a poll of 1,000 workers aged 20-59 who have worked in their jobs for more than a year by the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade.
Some 44.8 percent blamed a suffocating working environment for forgoing their leave, and 43.1 percent a heavy workload and lack of substitutes. But forgoing their holidays led to unhappiness (49.9 percent), stress and low efficiency (38.5 percent) or health problems (33.3 percent).
Workers in major OECD member states enjoy an average of 20.6 days of paid holidays a year, and most take over 70 percent of that.
The institute estimates that the country's 14 million employees would spend W16.8 trillion if they took all of their annual leave (US$1=W1,129). That is almost equal to the entire tourism revenue in 2015 of W17 trillion.
On the campaign trail, President Moon Jae-in promised to shorten working hours and create more jobs by making it mandatory to use up annual leave. And since he was sworn in he has encouraged government workers to use up their holidays.
"Holidays are an opportunity for everybody to recharge and also contribute to boosting domestic consumption," the Culture Ministry said, and promised to come up with policies to encourage workers to take their leave without pressure and promote domestic tourism.