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Q: I heard that women working in South Korea are given “menstruation leave” each month. What’s up with that?

A: That’s right — South Korea’s Labor Standards Act gives women one day off per month during the period of their … period.

Until recently, that was a paid day off — but in 2004 the law was amended to give businesses the option of making the leave unpaid. Since that change, thousands of women have sued their employers to demand paid menstrual leave, and labor unions have taken up the cause as well.

According to an October article in the Korea Times, the government and many businesses have resisted calls for paid menstrual leave, saying it would be too much of a financial burden in light of recent improvements to maternity and paternity benefits. The law allows new mothers and fathers to take up to a year off work, with monthly payments during that leave set to increase to 500,000 won (about $530) sometime this year, according to the Korean Ministry of Labor.

Menstrual leave isn’t unique to South Korea — it’s on the books in Japan, too, though it works differently. According to Japan’s Labor Relations Act, “women workers can request leave when they find it extremely difficult to work during their menstrual periods. … You yourself determine whether it is difficult to work; a doctor’s certificate is not required.”

Got a question about goings-on in the Pacific? E-mail Stacy Chandler at:


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