Why Does the ‘Abuse of Power (갑질)’ Continue to Occur?
Why Does the ‘Abuse of Power (갑질)’ Continue to Occur?
  • Lee Chae-yoon
  • 승인 2020.06.20 16:42
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▲A suicide note left by a security guard Choi. (출처=일요신문)
▲A suicide note left by a security guard Choi. (출처=일요신문)

 The Ilyo newspaper said On May 10, 2020, a security guard who was suffering from the abuse of power committed suicide at an apartment in Seoul. Starting with the parking issue, residents of the apartment used abusive language and assaulted security guards. Eventually, one guard, who could not stand the harsh verbal abuse and assault, made an extreme choice. His will, which appealed for justice with clumsy handwriting, drew many people’s grief.

 This is not the first time such an incident has occurred. According to an article in News1, one of the nation's media outlets, Six years ago, in Apgujeong, Seoul, a security guard died of aftereffects after an apartment resident abused his power by verbally abusing a security guard in an open place by demanding he eat food that had expired. Expressions such as "Imgyejang”, short for "temporary contract worker senior citizen general", and "Godaja," short for "easy to choose, easy to deal with and easy to cut", which symbolizes the characteristics of "Imgyejang", clearly show the damaging situations older temporary workers, face on a daily basis.

▲ Graph of the Survey Results of Alba Cheonguk (출처= Yonhap News)
▲ Graph of the Survey Results of Alba Cheonguk (출처= Yonhap News)

 Even outside the apartment, the abuse of power has steadily been happening. Alba Cheonguk, a portal specializing in part-time jobs, surveyed 1,028 university student members on the theme of "University Discipline Culture, What Do You Think?". According to the survey, 57.6 percent of respondents said they had experienced the overuse of power, and 88.8 percent among them said they were stressed from the overuse of power. Some of the TV Chosun's reports aired in 2015 included the following incidents. “Two clerks kneeled down and apologized to a customer at a department store in Incheon. The customer pressed the clerks rudely as if they were dealing with a sinner. While a department store official said the employees had kneeled voluntarily, nevertheless many people criticized the incident as an example of power abuse.” Moreover, the so-called "POSCO Ramen Vice President Incident" shows that people with social status and authority also commit the power abuse.

 No reason can justify the abuse of power, but the results of looking at the reasons for the abuse of power were as follows. According to a survey conducted by the Office for Government Policy Coordination of 2,500 citizens aged 16 to 69 across the country to find out the public's perception of the power abuse and government's efforts to eradicate the overuse of power, 36.9 percent of the respondents said the cause of the problem was "authoritarian culture”. The opinions of experts were not much different. Many experts have come up with an analysis that immoral sense of entitlement or remnants of the social status causes problems of overusing power. Song Jae-ryong, a sociology professor at Kyung Hee University, has regarded the hierarchical and discriminative cultural tendency deeply rooted in Korean society from a long time ago as one of the major causes of power abuse.

▲ Graph of the Survey Results of Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission (출처= Korea Policy Briefing Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission Card News)
▲ Graph of the Survey Results of Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission (출처= Korea Policy Briefing Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission Card News)

 The Korean government has stepped up efforts to resolve these chronic problems of the power abuse. They sought legal solutions such as stipulating a ban on workplace harassment in the Labor Standards Act and amending the Occupational Safety and Health Act to prevent consumers from bossing emotional labor workers. As a result, 33.1 percent of the respondents in the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission survey said the problem of power abuse had improved, while 44.8 percent said the reason for the improvement was due to the government's efforts. In addition, there are various efforts such as changes in a sense of personal ethics, easing authoritarian culture, and making efforts to improve the private sector. Due to these various efforts, the number of respondents who said the survey was serious about overusing power decreased from 90 percent to 85.9 percent.

 Both the government and people are trying to eradicate the overuse of power, but the problem has not been completely solved yet and someone around us continues to fall victim to the overuse of power. We can all be either victims or perpetrators of the power abuse. Therefore, people need to pay attention and guard against the problem of the overuse of power. Some call centers operate a "compliment call system" that gives additional points to the evaluation of counselors when they receive responses such as “Thank you” or “Thank you for your kindness” from customers. It is said that a small thank-you is a great help to workers. The Catholic University Forum (CUF) hopes to save a little bit of trouble with a small act of gratitude to the workers around us who may have been victims of the abuse of power by someone. 


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