Over 140 companies face fine for demanding private data from applicants

By Kuksung Nam, The Readable
May 16, 2023 7:33PM GMT+9

The Ministry of Employment and Labor imposed fines on more than 140 companies over the past three years for breaching the country’s fair hiring procedure act, which prohibits employers from requesting that applicants include personal information in their resumes, such as height, weight, and marital status.

According to the South Korean lawmaker Lee Joo-hwan on Monday, 1,199 cases were reported to the ministry from 2021 to March 2023 and 195 cases were concluded to be in violation of the fair hiring procedure law. The South Korean lawmaker disclosed the numbers based on the report he received from the Ministry of Employment and Labor.

Among the 195 cases, the government imposed a fine for 141 cases of demanding inappropriate personal information from applicants. According to the South Korean lawmaker, a software development firm faced fine of 3 million won (approximately $2,300) for requesting that candidates enter private information, including height and weight, in the application form through the company’s website.

Under article 4 section 3 of the fair hiring procedure law, companies are strictly banned from asking candidates to fill in personal information on application forms, resumes, and cover letters if it is not relevant to the performance of the hiring position. This includes information such as appearance, marital status, property, place of birth, and academic background and occupation of family members.

The South Korean lawmaker asserted that the number of illegal actions discovered by the government could be the tip of the iceberg since the law doesn’t prohibit companies from asking for in appropriate private information during job interviews and doesn’t ban employers from demanding to know applicants’ religions and blood types.

“Damages continue to occur as companies request extensive private information,” stressed Lee. “There needs to be an imminent and effective systematic improvement considering the changes in the work environment.”

The Ministry of Employment and Labor explained that they are looking into reforming the law to include prohibiting companies from requesting unsuitable personal information during job interviews.

“We are examining ways to broaden the types of information that need to be restricted under article 4 section 3,” added an official from the fair recruitment infrastructure division of the Ministry of Employment and Labor to The Readable. “This information could include sensitive information defined in the personal information protection act, such as personal opinions and beliefs.”


The cover image of this article was designed by Areum Hwang.

Kuksung Nam is a journalist for The Readable. She has extensively traversed the globe to cover the latest stories on the cyber threat landscape and has been producing in-depth stories on security and privacy by engaging with industry giants, foreign government officials and experts. Before joining The Readable, Kuksung reported on politics for one of South Korea’s top-five local newspapers, The Kyeongin Ilbo. Her journalistic skills and reportage earned her the coveted Journalists Association of Korea award in 2021 for her essay detailing exclusive stories about the misconduct of a former government official. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in French from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, a testament to her linguistic capabilities.