South Korea - 'Blind Hiring Act' implications for employers


New restrictions on hiring practices came into effect when the Fair Hiring Practice Act (FHPA) was amended on July 17, 2019. Lexology reported the amendments and offered tips to employers.

The Korean National Assembly amended the FHPA to:

  • Prohibit some corrupt hiring practices, like lobbying and offering gifts; and
  • Prohibit employers from requesting personal information unrelated to legitimate requirements of the job or an applicant’s merit, like information about an applicant’s physical appearance and hometown

The maximum fines for violating the new prohibitions are up to KRW 30 million for violating the prohibition on corrupt hiring practices and up to KRW 5 million for violating the prohibition on requesting personal information from. The FHPA applies to employers with 30 or more employees, smaller employers are exempt.

The Ministry of Employment and Labor (MOEL) have published a manual to help companies understand and comply with the amended FHPA - often referred to as the ‘Blind Hiring Act’ - the manual is available on the MOEL website, in Korean only.

Prohibition of corrupt hiring practices

In recent years Korea has witnessed several high-profile hiring scandals at major institutions, involving the favouring of well-connected applicants, discrimination, and more. There have been calls to ensure fair and ethical hiring practices via the law ever since.

The Improper Solicitation and Graft Act in place does prohibit improper solicitation and illegal acceptance of money, goods, or services, whether in connection with hiring or otherwise. But it only covers government officials and those private-sector workers (like teachers and journalists) who are deemed quasi-public. There has reportedly been no law to generally prohibit private companies from engaging in corrupt hiring practices that are not illegally discriminatory.

To bridge this gap the National Assembly amended the FHPA to prohibit improper solicitation, coercion, or pressure in connection with hiring decisions and to prohibit offering or accepting any gift, entertainment, or other things of pecuniary value in connection with any hiring decision. First-time offenders violating the new prohibitions face an administrative fine of up to KRW 15 million, repeat offenders may be fined up to KRW 30 million.

Prohibition of requests for irrelevant personal information

Under the amended FHPA employers are prohibited from seeking any of the following information about an applicant if it is unrelated to legitimate requirements of the job:

  • Information about physical traits (appearance, weight, height etc.)
  • Hometown, marital status, and ownership of assets; and
  • School affiliation, occupation, and assets of an applicant’s siblings and other immediate family members

First-time offenders violating the new prohibitions face an administrative fine of up to KRW 3 million and second-time offenders a fine of up to KRW 4 million. Repeat offenders may be fined up to KRW 5 million.

Implications for employers

  • Employers should ensure they are complying with the new requirements by adhering to the following advice:
  • Review your policies
  • Check your hiring history
  • Remove requests for hometown information
  • Be aware that ID photos are still acceptable
  • Limit questions soliciting personal information