Asia-Pacific employment law bulletin 2022
Developments in the light of COVID-19
As of January 2022, approximately 85% of the population of South Korea has received their first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine while approximately 46% of the population has received a third (booster) dose.
There is currently a 10-day mandatory quarantine period for people travelling to Korea from overseas. The Korean government has introduced a vaccine pass system that allows greater freedom for those who have completed vaccination. The vaccine passes are valid from 14 days of completion of vaccination until 6 months, after which booster shots are now required.
Since 10 January 2022, the Korean government imposed a vaccine mandate in order for people to enter department stores, supermarkets, and bookstores that are larger than 3-thousand square meters as well as 16 types of multi-use indoor facilities such as movie theatres, concert halls, private scholastic academies, study cafes, museums, libraries, and internet cafes. However, on 14 January 2022, a Korean administrative court struck down the mandate against department stores, supermarkets and bookstores as being too restrictive. In line with the Korean court’s decision on the vaccine pass mandate, in addition to the department stores, supermarkets and bookstores, the Korean health authorities have decided to drop the vaccine pass mandate for five additional types of facilities such as study cafes, libraries, museums, private scholastic academies and movie theatres. Accordingly, with effect from 18 January 2022, the vaccine pass mandate only applies to 11 types of the indoor facilities, including cafes, restaurants, entertainment facilities, indoor sports facilities, etc. The vaccine mandate may continue to be adjusted depending on various factors in the future. Other offices or standalone stores which do not fall under the above categories are not subject to the vaccine pass mandate.
Companies cannot mandate their employees to be vaccinated in Korea, but they can make it a policy that vaccination is a requirement to work in the office. Employees that refuse to be vaccinated cannot be disciplined for their decision. Rather, the company can only require them to work remotely.