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South Korea Leave Laws & Holidays

Paid Time Off, Annual Leave, Sick Leave, Maternity Leave, Paternity Leave, Bereavement Leave, Jury Duty Leave, Military Leave, and Voting Leave

Table Of Contents

Last updated on February 20, 2024.

Paid Time Off (PTO) in South Korea

At least 15 days after one year of service.

Annual leave entitlement in South Korea is somewhat more complicated than leave laws in other countries. Employees are granted statutory vacation days that directly correlate with their duration of service at their current employer and their attendance rate.

The short answer for South Korea’s annual leave days is 1 to 11 days in less than one year of work; 15 to 25 days after one year of work. Details are below.

South Korea’s Annual Leave Days

We will go through three possible cases.

  • 1. Less Than One Year of Employment or Less Than 80% Attendance:

From 1 day to 11 days.

Employees without one full year of service or having an attendance rate below 80% during the year receive 1 day of vacation per month of work. (They receive this 1 day of vacation only in months in which their attendance is above 80%.)

Example 1: Ye-jun started to work for the company on February 15. How many days of vacation is he going to have if he wants to use it all on June 15, if he has worked all the months between with an attendance rate of 100%?

For February, he will not receive a vacation day because his attendance was 50% for that month (15 days). The requirement for attendance is more than 80%.

For March, April, and May, he will receive 1 day of vacation = 3 days.

For June, he will again not receive a vacation day (attendance is less than 80%).

Ye-jun has 3 vacation days earned on June 15.

Example 2: Seo-hyeon was employed for the whole duration of 2023. However, she actually worked only from January 1 until August 15, with an attendance rate of 100%.

How many days of vacation has she earned in 2023? She will not have a full 15 days of vacation as her attendance is below 80% (she did not work from August 15 until December 31).

She will receive 1 day of vacation for January, February, March, April, May, June, and July = 7 days.

For August, she will again not receive a vacation day as she worked only 15 days (attendance is less than 80%).

Seo-hyeon has earned 7 vacation days in total for 2023.


  • 2. One Year of Employment with 80% Attendance

15 days

Employees in South Korea are entitled to at least 15 days of vacation after completing a full year of employment. Still, their attendance rate must be a minimum of 80%.


  • 3. More Than One Year of Employment with 80% Attendance (Increasing the Number of Vacation Days by Tenure)

From 16 days to 25 days

After the first two years of employment, the additional vacation day is awarded at two-year intervals starting from the third year of employment, up to a max of 25 days. (The Labor Standards Act caps the statutory number of vacation days at 25 days.)

Therefore, an employee receives 1 additional vacation day starting in the 3rd year of employment, with this increase occurring every two years thereafter, as follows:

Years of Service with at least 80% Attendance Days of Annual Leave
1st and 2nd full year 15 days
3rd and 4th year 16 days
5th and 6th year 17 days
7th and 8th year 18 days
9th and 10th year 19 days

This continues to increase for 20 days in the 11th year; 21 days in the 13th year; 22 days in the 15th year; 23 days in the 17th year; 24 days in the 19th year; until it hits the ceiling of 25 days in the 21st year of employment. The simple formula for the number of additional days based on years of service is: (Years of service - 1 year)/2 (discarding the remainder).

Example: Min-jun has six years of service in the company. How many days of paid annual leave would he have? He would have 16 days in the 3rd year of employment and 17 days in the 5th and 6th years of employment. Therefore, he would have 17 days of annual leave.


The periods listed below are also counted as attendance:

  • The time an employee can’t work because of job-related illnesses or injuries
  • Maternity leave taken by a pregnant woman
  • The duration an employee is on parental leave for child care.

Carry Over

Not specified by law.

In contrast to other countries in Asia (such as China and Japan Leave Laws) South Korea has no specific rules for carrying over vacation days from one year to the next. Therefore, if this matter is not specified differently by company policy or employment agreement, employees lose all their unused vacation days by the end of a given year. Basically, the use-it-or-lose-it policy is left to the discretion of each employer or is subject to agreements between the employer and the employee or their representative.

However, six months before all unused vacation days are lost, an employer must inform each employee about the number of their unused days of annual leave and encourage them in writing to plan to use their remaining vacation days. This requirement is designed to ensure employees are aware of their remaining vacation entitlements and are given a fair opportunity to use them before they are automatically forfeited.

Payment of Unused Vacation on Termination

Upon termination, any vacation days they haven’t used will be paid out in cash.

The rules about South Korea annual leave days at termination or resignation (when someone is let go or quits) are:

If an employee doesn’t use their vacation days within a year of getting them, they lose the chance to take the time off. Instead, they get the right to be paid these days. Employees can avoid losing these days if their employer lets them carry them over to the next year.

If an employee leaves their job, they will be paid for any vacation days they didn’t take. This means that the vacation time you haven’t used will be turned into money, but only when you resign or are fired.

Sick Leave in South Korea

Not required by law.

Sick leave in South Korea is not required by law. Therefore, employers have no legal obligation to provide employees with paid sick days. However, this benefit is sometimes offered as an additional perk, and some employees might be entitled to paid sick leave. This is settled either in the employer’s company policy, an employment contract, or through collective bargaining agreements.

Employees who do not have a right to paid sick leave typically use their paid vacation entitlement as sick days.


The employer does not pay for sick leave. However, employees who have Korean National Health Insurance Service (NHIS) coverage might be qualified for paid sick leave or financial support during a period of prolonged illness or hospitalization. This government benefit is different from employer-provided sick leave.

Leave paid by the employer.

Although sick leave for common illnesses is not a statutory requirement for employers in South Korea, employers are obligated to provide paid leave for employees who suffer work-related injuries or illnesses.

This includes covering the cost of medical treatment. During the medical treatment period, the employer must also pay the employee compensation of 60% of their average wages. Some employees benefit from coverage under a government insurance scheme.

Nevertheless, if the work-related injury or illness is a result of the employee’s own serious negligence, the employer is not required to pay wages or medical treatment.

Long-Term Family Care Leave

Up to 90 unpaid days.

Employees are entitled to up to 90 days of unpaid leave per year to provide necessary care for an immediate family member who suffers from a disease, injury, accident, or senility. This may be taken in shorter blocks on multiple occasions, but each block of time must be at least 30 days.

Short-Term Family Care Leave

Up to 10 unpaid days.

Employees can also take up to 10 days of unpaid leave per year to provide necessary care to close family members, including for reasons of illness, accidents, and old age; this is similar to long-term leave. However, this short-term leave also includes childcare, and it involves caring for grandparents or grandchildren. This 10 days’ leave is part of the total 90 days’ unpaid leave entitlement. Therefore, if an employee takes 10 days of leave for short-term caregiving, they would have 80 days of longer-term caregiving leave remaining for that year.

Maternity and Paternity Leave

South Korea’s birth rate is so low that it ranks among the lowest in the world among OECD countries. Paid leave benefits for parents are increasing each year so that the birth rate can rise again.

Paid benefits include:

  • Maternity leave: 90 days,
  • Paternity leave: 10 days,
  • Childcare leave: up to 1 year.

Maternity Leave in South Korea

90 days (compensation is shared between the employer and the government).

A pregnant employee in South Korea has a right to 90 days of paid maternity leave. At least 45 days must pass after childbirth. This means that usually 45 days are taken before birth and 45 days following birth.

Maternity leave is 120 days long in the case of:

  • complicated birth;
  • multiple births (twins, triplets, etc.).

Maternity leave grants employees a job-protected status, prohibiting employers from ending an employee’s contract during maternity leave or within 30 days after the leave period ends.

Parental Examination Leave

An expectant mother has the right to take leave from work for routine prenatal health examinations.

Breastfeeding Breaks

After returning from maternity leave, a mother has a right to a break for nursing (either breastfeeding or pumping). She is entitled to two paid breastfeeding breaks every working day until the child reaches one year.

Payout of Maternity Leave

A mother on maternity leave receives 100% of her salary. The way this payment is divided depends on the size of the company.

Payouts in Big Companies

The employer and the government each contribute a portion to maternity leave compensation in big Korean companies. Therefore, maternity pay is divided into two parts:

  • The first 60 days are paid by the employer;
  • The remaining 30 days are paid by the government (social security system).

Social security payments are capped up to a certain amount set by the government. In that case, an employer may top-up this payment up to an employee’s full salary.

Payouts in Small Companies

The government pays the entire 90 days of maternity leave through social security payments for small companies.

Eligibility for Maternity Pay

All employees, including part-time and full-time employees, are eligible for full maternity leave entitlement. However, in order to receive full maternity pay for 90 days, an employee must have at least 180 days of service before the beginning of their leave. An employee who doesn’t fulfill this condition is compensated only for the first 60 days of maternity leave (part of which is paid by the employer).

Miscarriage or Stillbirth Leave

If a pregnant employee experiences a miscarriage or stillbirth, she is entitled to take leave upon her request, as specified by South Korea leave laws. This does not apply if the miscarriage results from a deliberate abortion procedure.

Paternity Leave in South Korea

10 days

A father of a newborn child is entitled to 10 days of compulsory paid paternity leave. This leave must be taken within 90 days after childbirth. Also, 10 days of leave may be divided into two separate periods.

Payout of Paternity Leave

Similar to maternity leave, paternity leave is co-funded by the government and the employer, each for five days.

Parental Leave in South Korea

1 year per parent of partially paid leave (paid by the government).

Employees who are parents of a child younger than 8 years (or attending the 2nd or lower grade of an elementary school) are entitled to full-time or part-time child care leave. Employees should submit a leave request to their employer at least 30 days before the leave’s intended start date.

The maximum period of this leave is 1 year, and each male and female worker can use it for 1 year per child.

Payout of Parental Leave

The employment insurance fund is responsible for paying the parental leave. During this leave, 80% of the regular monthly wage is paid as a parental leave benefit, with a minimum of KRW (South Korean won) 700,000 [$530] per month and an upper limit of KRW 1,500,000 [$1130] per month.

‘3+3 parents’ parental leave scheme provides increased parental benefits. If both parents use parental leave for the same child within 12 months of birth, the parental leave pay for each parent for the first 3 months is increased to 100% of the normal wage. Both parents can receive childcare leave support of 100% (up from 80% → 100%) of their regular wages for the first three months, up to a maximum of KRW 3.000.000 [$2260] per month.

However, employers who grant their employees more than 30 days of childcare leave will receive a ‘childcare leave subsidy’ of 300,000 won per month for up to one year.

Adoption Leave in South Korea

Same benefits as for biological parents.

Employees who have adopted a child are entitled to the identical parental benefits as those granted to biological parents.

Bereavement Leave in South Korea

Not required by law.

Bereavement leave is not required by South Korean leave laws, and there are no specific regulations regarding bereavement or compassionate care leave. An employer is free to decide whether this leave is included in company policy.

Nevertheless, it is the practice of many companies to provide leave for bereavement and arrange a funeral. The duration and other specifics of this leave vary according to company policy, but this type of leave is always offered on top of the regular vacation days.

Jury Duty Leave

There is no legal definition of jury duty leave in South Korea.

Military Leave in South Korea

It is prohibited for employers to punish employees for being absent from work due to military duties.

Voting Leave in South Korea

An employer must allow employees the necessary leave and time to fulfill their voting duties. The next of Korea’s legislative elections is set for April 10, 2024 (provisional date). The official elections in South Korea occur on National Assembly Election Day, when regional representatives are chosen to represent their districts.

Marriage Leave in South Korea

Marriage leave is not demanded by South Korea leave laws. However, most companies provide paid leave for an employee’s wedding.

Public Holidays in South Korea for 2024

11 public holidays

South Korea officially celebrates 11 public holidays, during which private employers are expected to provide leave for their employees. While Korea officially operates under the Gregorian calendar, traditional celebrations still follow the lunar calendar. On official public holidays, businesses and banks are closed, but museums, amusement parks, department stores, etc. remain open.

Three Categories of Holidays

Public holidays are divided into three groups:

  • National celebration days;
  • National flag-raising days;
  • Public holidays.

Each of these gropus is grounded in a distinct legal framework. All holidays that are National celebration days are also considered National flag-raising days.

National celebration days, considered days off, are the following holidays:

  • Independence Declaration Day, March 1,
  • Constitution Day, July 17 (not considered a day off),
  • Liberation Day, August 15,
  • National Foundation Day, October 3,
  • Hangul Day, October 9.

National flag-raising days are the following holidays:

  • All National celebration days listed above,
  • Memorial Day (half-mast), June 6,
  • Armed Forces Day, October 1.
A complete list of official holidays celebrated in South Korea for 2024:
Date Holiday
January 1 New Year (신정)
February 9,10, & 11 Seollal - Korean New Year (설날) (aka Lunar New Year’s Day - The 1st day of 1st lunar month)
March 1 Independence Movement Day (삼일절)
May 6 Children’s Day (어린이날)
May 15 Buddha’s Birthday (석가탄신일)
Jun 6 Memorial Day (현충일)
August 15 Liberation Day (광복절)
September 16, 17, & 18 Chuseok (추석) (Korean Thanksgiving Day)
October 3 National Foundation Day (개천절)
October 9 Hangeul Day (한글날)
December 25 Christmas (성탄절)

The most respected traditional holidays, celebrated for three days each, are:

  • Seollal (Korean New Year)
  • Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving Day).

When certain holidays fall on a weekend day, they are moved to the first day after the weekend or are sometimes offered as a compensatory day.

Employers must pay a rate of 150% of regular wages for all employees who work on any of the official public holidays listed below.

Note: Although recognized as a public holiday, not all companies give a day off on Labor Day (근로자의 날).

Sources of South Korea Leave Laws

  1. Local Laws & Regulations, https://www.atlashxm.com/en/countries/south-korea

  2. Payroll and Benefits Guide South Korea, https://www.papayaglobal.com/countrypedia/country/south-korea/

  3. Definitive Guide to Hiring in South Korea, https://www.atlashxm.com/en/countries/south-korea

  4. South Korea Annual Leave Days (in Korean), https://help.jobis.co/hc/ko/articles/115003127813–%EC%97%B0%EC%B0%A8-%EA%B7%BC%EB%A1%9C%EA%B8%B0%EA%B0%84%EC%97%90-%EB%94%B0%EB%A5%B8-%EC%97%B0%EC%B0%A8%ED%9C%B4%EA%B0%80

  5. Korean labor law: Application of the Vacation Savings Account System under Current Law, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/korean-labor-law-application-vacation-savings-account-bongsoo-jung/

  6. Everything about parental leave (in Korean), https://shiftee.io/ko/blog/article/2022ParentalLeaveFAQ

  7. Current leave and other employment-related policies to support parents, https://www.leavenetwork.org/fileadmin/user_upload/k_leavenetwork/annual_reviews/2023/Korea2023.pdf

Check out our Leave Laws page to learn more about laws in various countries.

All materials have been prepared for general information purposes only to permit you to learn more about this region's leave laws. The information presented is not legal advice, is not to be acted on as such, and may not be current. Please contact your local legal counsel to learn more about the leave laws in your country.

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