A South Korean labor union is blaming overwork as the cause for the recent death of a 48-year-old parcel delivery worker in Seoul.
The man, identified only by Lee, was found dead inside a cheap rental room located in southeastern Seoul called “gosiwon” over the weekend, reported Yonhap News. Lee is reportedly the 17th person to die of such circumstance in the country since the COVID-19 pandemic spread last year.
According to Taekbae Union, a labor group that represents couriers, Lee had talked “about the difficulties of late-night work” with his wife.
The union revealed Lee was employed by e-commerce company Coupang Corp., where he made around $2,480 per month, which is just above the minimum wage. Delivery drivers like Lee usually work between 13 to 16 hours every day.
Originally from the provincial city of Changwon, Lee moved to the capital to work as a contract worker for the company.
Lee’s wife reached out to authorities on Saturday after failing to contact him over the phone. The police found his lifeless body in the rental room shortly after.
These kinds of deaths during the pandemic were found to have been due to over-exhaustion, except for one worker who committed suicide after leaving a note lamenting about the difficulty of his job, reports Reuters.
An autopsy will be conducted Monday morning to determine the cause of death, according to the Seoul Songpa Police Station.
Handling an overwhelming surge in deliveries, couriers are among service industry workers who have been working extended hours amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Labor unions say Lee is the eighth courier employed by Coupang Corp. to have died from being overworked.
Coupang Corp., which is seeking a possible $50 billion valuation heading toward an IPO, has since publicly addressed the deaths attributed to the company’s work culture.
“We express our deepest condolences and sympathy to the deceased’s family, and will continue to provide support to relieve the pain of the bereaved families,” a representative from the company told Insider.
The company said Lee worked around “4 days a week on average and worked about 40 hours per week over the last 12 weeks.” He had also been “on annual leave” seven days before his death.
It further noted the hours fell “below the 60 hour-per-week work advised by the Committee on Societal Corporatism for Prevention of Overwork Death of Delivery Workers.”
The company said it is currently “actively cooperating” in police investigations to determine the exact cause of death of its employee.