Substitute holiday system of Korea

Unlike other advanced countries such as United States, Japan and Australia, Korea never had substitute holidays system. That means when a public holiday overlaps with Sunday, the holiday was just lost for employees.

This changed with the passage of a bill for substitution of overlapping holidays at the National Assembly in 2013.  “A Regulation on Closure Days for Public Offices” was amended accordingly based on the bill.

The substitute holiday system in the regulation stipulates that the substitution is not for all overlapping holidays but only for Lunar New Year’s Day (Dec.31, Jan. 1 and 2 of the lunar calendar), Korean Thanksgiving Day (August 14, 15 and 16 of the lunar calendar), and May 5 (Children’s Day). As a result, in 2014, there was only one case of substitution, which was taking a day off on September 10 instead of September 7 (Thanksgiving day) that fell on Sunday.

The regulation stipulates that overlapping of Lunar New Year’s Day (three days) and Korean Thanksgiving Day (three days) with Sunday or other public holidays shall make next working day after the successive holidays as a substituted holiday. As for Children’s day, overlapping of the day with Saturday, Sunday, or other public holidays shall make the next working day after May 5 as a substituted holiday.

There is one thing to remember about the relationship between the above-mentioned regulation and actual holidays at private enterprises.  According to the labor-related laws, there are only two types of legal holidays that employers should allow to employees. They are paid weekly holidays (usually Sunday) and Workers’ Day (May 1). Public holidays in the regulation are not mandatory holidays for private enterprises. It is up to employers of those companies to make those public holidays days off for employees or not. If they choose to adopt public holidays as holidays for their employees in their workplaces, which most companies in Korea do, they should insert a relevant article in the rules of employment or in the collective bargaining agreement.

For example, an employer may stipulate holidays like this in the rules of employment.

1. weekly paid holidays
2. worker’s day
3. holidays based on the Regulation on Closure Days for Public Offices

In this case, the substitution system will also apply to the workplace.

On the other hand, an employer may just enumerate holidays without mentioning the Regulation.

1. Weekly paid holidays
2. Worker’s day
3. Lunar new years’ days
4. Korean Thanksgiving Day
.. and so on.

In this case, the substitution system does not apply to the company.

In closing, here is a list of holidays based on the Regulation on Closure Days for Public Offices for 2015.

1.  Jan.1 (New year’s day)
2. Feb. 18 to 20 (Lunar new years days)
3. March 1st. (Independence movement day)
4. May 5 (Children’s day)
5. May 25 (Buddha’s birthday)
6. June 6 (Memorial day)
7. Aug 15 (Independence day)
8. Sept 26 – 29 (Thanksgiving days: Sept 27 overlaps with Sunday hence a substitute holiday on Sept 29)
9. Oct 3 (National foundation day)
10. Oct 9 (Korean Alphabet day)
11. Dec. 25 (Christmas day)

** The year 2015 has only one substitute holiday on September 29.