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South Korean Unpaid Work Dinner Tradition Disinterests Young Employees

Hoeshik” refers to meals-gathering activities after work in South Korea. Different from “happy hour” in Western work culture, Hoeshik is considered a traditional and crucial part of South Korean work life. However, with the post-pandemic return to the office underway, young Koreans are increasingly disinterested in reviving the practice. 

The initial intention of the Hoeshik was to build strong team bonds and personal relationships and is considered an important aspect of organisational culture. However, younger employees’ reaction to the authoritative nature of the practice has changed in recent years. In particular, the Me-Too movement exposed an uncomfortable environment for women who experienced sexual harassment and unwelcome behaviour fuelled by alcohol. The usually lengthy hours also tend to exhaust employees.  

Over the past two years, working from home has given Korean workers greater flexibility and further changed their view on Hoeshik. Many young workers are concerned that the tradition of Hoeshik will once again return to the work place when all COVID restrictions are removed. They increasingly consider it an obsolete company culture that intrudes on employees' personal time. 

Outlook – the global pandemic has changed many aspects of personal and working life, with the potential that some old practices may take years to return – if at all. Employees have experienced a new way of working and have adopted new priorities. Employers in South Korea should consider new ways to engage with their employees, when ensuring adequate personal time. 

Published on: May 11, 2022

Authors: Michelle Swinden

Topics: China, Japan & Asia-Pacific, Employee Relations

Michelle Swinden

Executive Director, Asia-Pacific, HR Policy Global

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Contact Michelle Swinden LinkedIn

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