Working and Business > Sexual Harassment

Defining Harassment and Harasser

Defining Harassment and Ha...

According to the Gender Equal Employment Act (GEEA - Article 12), sexual harassment in the workplace refers to behaviour or language by an employer (CEO), manager or worker who through her/his position at work or who in a work-related situation causes a worker 
1. to experience feelings of sexual humiliation or aversion; or
2. to suffer disadvantages in employment for having refused a sexual approach or request.
Penalty: An employer who commits an act in violation of Article 12 shall be punished by an administrative fine of up to 10 million won.

According the GGE Act, the intent of the accused harasser does not determine whether his/her language or behaviour constituted sexual harrassment, but rather
1. the subjective feelings of the victim (how he/she felt following what was said or done)
2. how any other reasonable person would have judged and reacted under the circumstances
3. Whether or not work efficiency was impeded.

Harassers can be
1. employers, managers, workers
2. co-workers and subordinates
3. third party (not employed by the same company), including vendors and customers.
4. female or male

Victims can be
1. colleagues, workers
2. subordinates
3. job applicants
4. male or female

Sexual Harassment Incidents
Creating an environment in which sexual language or behavior result in a sense of sexual humiliation or aversion. This may include physical, verbal and/or visual acts that fall under the socially accepted norms and traditional practices of Korean society. 
Poviding disadvantages in employment on the basis of the victim’s rejection of a sexual approach or request. This would include denial of employment or promotion, transfer, suspension, pay cut, dismissal, coercion of leave of absence, etc.

Inside or Outside the Workplace
If the harasser uses her/his position or an occasion related to work to sexually harass someone, regardless of whether the incident occurs inside or outside the workplace, what was done or said may be considered sexual harassment. Circumstances outside the workplace can include inside a car on a business trip, at dinner events, year-end parties, team-building trips, business trips, karaoke, etc.

Examples of Workplace Verbal Sexual Harassment
1. unwanted pressure for sexual favours
2. repeatedly asking out a person who is not interested
3. requiring someone from work to pour drinks at a restaurant, bar or dinner event
4. calling someone a babe, girl, honey, hunk or stud.....
5. telling sexual jokes
6. making comments about a person's body or physical appearance
7. telling lies or spreading rumours about a person's sex life 
8. asking someone about her/his sexual fantasies, history or preferences
9. asking personal questions someone's social or sexual life

Examples of Workplace Non-verbal Workplace Sexual Harassment
1. hanging around or following a person
2. repeatedly giving personal gifts
3. displaying sexually suggestive visuals
4. sending inappropriate e-mail, faxes, or letters
5. making facial expressions such as winking, throwing kisses, or licking lips
6. making sexual hand gestures or body movements
7. giving a person an 'up-and-down' look
8. staring at someone (ogling)

Consequences for Victims
According to the Act, employees who have complained about sexual harassment are not to be penalised for that complaint.  Nor are they to be subject to any intimidation by the alleged harasser, her/his team, or the employer.

Some common questions/answers:
Q. If I ask someone from work on a date, is that sexual harassment?
A. Not is you ask once and accept the refusal if that is what happens. You should be careful also if the person is subordinate to you. If it is a colleague and you continue to ask her/him out, even if she/he has refused the first time, that behavior can fall under the category of sexual harassment.

Q. If a colleague and I have been dating and we break up could I find myself facing a complaint?
A. Yes, such a situation has happened.

Q. How can I avoid being labelled a harasser?
A. Lawyers suggest that you avoid calling work colleagues outside work hours, sending text message, giving inappropriate gifts, etc. and that you also refrain from asking personal questions about another worker's private life (about boy/girlfriend, honeymoon details, when she will be having a baby, why he has no children, etc.). And, be very very careful how you behave at all after-work events.

K4E note: We have done our best, with the assistance of legal experts, to provide accurate and current information However, it is possible that the laws related to sexual harassment in the workplace may be amended at any time. The above information is intended as a guideline and as a reflection of the situation as it exists at the time of posting. If you note any errors or ommissions, please advise us at

Last Updated on 2021-02-08

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