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‘Crunch mode’ overwork-to-death

Posted August. 07, 2017 07:18,   

Updated August. 07, 2017 07:32


According to the "Employment Trend 2016" released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Koreans’ annual per-capita working time is 2,113 hours. Korea is the second after Mexico (2,246 hours) among the 34 countries surveyed, and Koreans’ working time is 347 hours more than the average of OECD member countries. Per-capita labor productivity is 31.8 U.S. dollars per hour, which only amounts to 68 percent of the OECD average of 46.8 dollars. It means that longer working time does not necessarily produce better outcome.


The slogan "live with leisurely evening" has repeatedly appeared in the political circle in Korea, but salaried workers are facing a much tougher reality. Workers are living with overtime work all the time. Some workers have to work overtime due to short-term excessive workload while others volunteer to work late to generate better results. Some workers stay in office to follow superiors working overtime even though they don’t necessarily have specific assignments, but even when excluding them, there are many employed people who work hard until late at night at workplaces.


Some work extremely hard up to the point of their physical and mental limitations. Workers at IT companies and game soft developers continue working and overtime work even without taking rest over the weekend, which is dubbed "crunch mode," ahead of the launch of new software and game. Crunch mode derives from "crunch time" meaning the "critical period before the deadline." We can understand this term because the word "crunch" is the sound of a hard thing that is breaking. According to a survey by the International Game Developers Association, employees work 60 to 85 hours on average per week ahead of the launch of game software. Game software is created to entertain people, but developers themselves struggle and spend a difficult time.


Last year, a 20-something man who was working in crunch mode at game developer Netmarble Neo died of overwork. His death was recognized as a work-related industrial accident for the first time among "crunch mode deaths." The young man, who sometimes worked 89 hours per week, reportedly collapsed Sunday morning after giving his company a call to inform that he would go to the office in the afternoon. It is shocking that he died of overwork in the era of 4th Industrial Revolution, but the bigger problem is the reality that the cynical expression‎ of crunch mode throughout the year is circulating in the Korean game industry.