South Korean Workers Turn the Tables on Their Bad Bosses
A boss orders a worker to feed and clean up after his dog. An airline heiress makes a taxiing passenger plane return to the gate to remove a flight attendant who rubbed her the wrong way. The 10-year-old granddaughter of a newspaper tycoon hurls insults at her chauffeur, threatening to fire him for being spoiled.
Such behavior has become so common in South Korea that the country now has a name for it: “gapjil.”The word is a portmanteau for when “gap,” people with power, abuse “eul,” those who work for them. And in South Korea’s deeply hierarchical society, where one’s social standing is determined by profession, job title and wealth, hardly anyone has escaped its claws.
Using bullying language, offering bribes, preying on subcontractors and failing to pay workers on time are all examples of gapjil. On college campuses, students are hanging placards accusing “gapjil professors” of sexual harassment.
prey on· 欺凌，坑骗，敲诈(弱者)：to harm sb who is weaker than you, or make use of them in a dishonest way to get what you want，举个例子：Bogus social workers have been preying on old people living alone. 冒牌社会福利工作员不断坑害独居老人。
The campaigns appear to be working. Politicians, senior government officials and corporate bigwigs have all seen their reputations ruined after gapjil scandals. The public has swelled with pride — and a good dose of schadenfreude — while watching the rich and powerful fall from grace for being, well, jerks.
Gapjil became an election issue during the presidential campaign. The wife of Lee Jae-myung, a leading candidate, was forced to apologize after she was accused of treating government officials as though they were her personal servants, having them pick up takeout food and do her holiday shopping while Mr. Lee was a provincial governor. Mr. Lee lost the election by a razor-thin margin.
razor-thin victory / margin 〔选举〕险胜的/微弱的优势in an election, a razor-thin victory is won by only a small number of votes
South Korea has one of the longest workweeks among the world’s wealthier nations, and gapjil is often cited as one of the reasons behind the country’s miserable work conditions. The phenomenon takes many forms, like excessive hours with no overtime and bullying by supervisors.
Despite the anti-gapjil movement, South Korea may have a long way to go to make its work environment more fair and its society more equal. A law against workplace harassment took effect in 2019, but it mandates only disciplinary actions or a financial penalty of up to $8,000 against offenders. In a survey by Gabjil 119 last year, nearly 29 percent of workers reported abuse at work.