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Noncompliance with Parental Leave Provisions in Korea: Extending Institutional Research to a New Legal Context


  • This article was supported by a Graduate Research Partnership Project grant from the University of Minnesota. An earlier version of this article was presented at the Department of Sociology Workshop at the University of Minnesota (December 8, 2009) and at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association (August 17, 2010). We appreciate the comments and helpful suggestions of Elizabeth Heger Boyle, Minzee Kim, Phyllis Moen, Joachim Savelsberg, Christopher Uggen, and other colleagues in the Department of Sociology at the University of Minnesota.


We investigate Korean organizations' noncompliance with parental leave provisions. A survey of 1,750 organizations reveals that 19 percent are fully noncompliant (i.e., no policy in place) and 29 percent are partially noncompliant (i.e., acknowledged failure to implement policy). We examine whether organizational characteristics and conditions that predict responsiveness to US employment law are relevant in Korea and apply to a concrete parental leave requirement. Our results show that the predictors of full and partial noncompliance differ, suggesting different motives or processes among noncompliant organizations. Sector and size reduce the odds of full noncompliance but are unrelated to implementing parental leave policies. Having a human resources department predicts that only implementing adopted policies and gender traditionalism increase the likelihood of noncompliance. This is the first theoretically informed investigation of noncompliance with Korean parental leave laws and provides new evidence of the value of institutional perspectives on employment law beyond the US context.