Understanding the South Korean Minimum Wage and Professional Salaries

Understanding the South Korean Minimum Wage and Professional Salaries

South Korea’s minimum wage is a hot topic these days. The issue sparked debates and protests after the government announced an increase in 2021, which has further exacerbated concerns about employment and economic growth in the country. However, understanding the minimum wage is not enough to gauge the South Korean labor market accurately. We need to examine professional salaries as well. In this article, we will explore the South Korean minimum wage, professional salaries, and answer some frequently asked questions.

Minimum Wage in South Korea

The minimum wage in South Korea increased from KRW 8,590 ($7.40) per hour in 2020 to KRW 9,160 ($7.90) per hour in 2021, up by 2.8%. However, many Koreans argue that it is still too low, especially when compared to the increasing cost of living. According to some reports, the minimum wage in South Korea is around half the level of Japan or the United States.

The South Korean government has set a goal of increasing the minimum wage to KRW 10,000 ($8.60) per hour by 2022. However, some people are skeptical about the government’s ability to achieve this goal, as it could negatively impact small and medium-sized businesses.

Professional Salaries in South Korea

Professional salaries in South Korea vary significantly depending on the sector and the level of education and experience. The most significant factor that affects salaries is the industry in which one works. For instance, the finance and tech industries pay the highest salaries, while the hospitality and retail industries pay relatively low salaries.

According to reports, the average salary in South Korea is around KRW 2.8 million ($2,400) per month. However, this figure includes part-time jobs and low-paying sectors. The average salary for professionals in finance and tech could range between KRW 4 million ($3,440) and KRW 7 million ($6,020) per month. While the salary for professionals in the medical and legal industries could range between KRW 3 million ($2,580) and KRW 5 million ($4,300) per month.


1. What is the poverty line in South Korea?
The poverty line in South Korea is defined as living with less than 50% of the median disposable income. According to Statistics Korea, the poverty rate in South Korea was 14.7% in 2020, up from 13.8% in 2019.

2. How does the South Korean government calculate the minimum wage?
The South Korean government calculates the minimum wage by taking into account the following factors: the average cost of living, the average wage increase, and the level of economic growth.

3. How do professional salaries in South Korea compare to other countries?
South Korean professional salaries are relatively lower than many other developed countries, including the United States, Canada, and Japan. However, they are higher than many countries in Southeast Asia, such as Indonesia and Vietnam.

4. How can I negotiate a better salary in South Korea?
Negotiating a better salary in South Korea can be challenging, but it is possible. It is essential to do research on the industry and the company to understand the typical range of salaries. It would help if you also considered your level of education and experience. When negotiating, it is best to be confident and professional, and to have a clear expectation of your salary range.


In conclusion, understanding the minimum wage and professional salaries in South Korea is crucial to gaining insight into the country’s labor market. While the minimum wage has increased, it is still considered relatively low when compared to other developed countries. Professional salaries vary significantly depending on the industry, with finance and tech paying the most. It is essential to understand these factors when considering working or living in South Korea.

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