Delivery drivers pay the price of South Korea’s online shopping spree

The demands on the nation’s delivery drivers are immense, but even after the death of a worker, few expect change.

Seoul, South Korea – In the middle of last month, a delivery driver for Coupang, South Korea’s biggest online marketplace, was found dead between the fourth and fifth floors of the apartment building where he was supposed to be delivering a package.

The man, known only as Mr Kim, was in his 40s and had only been doing the job for a month.

The official cause of death was heart disease, but the tragedy convinced Ha Woong, a 34-year-old delivery worker at the same company, to step up his campaign for better pay and shorter hours.

“I think he died from overwork and the pressure to deliver packages quickly,” Ha said. “I think poor working conditions led to this … I always knew something like this would happen.” 

South Koreans jokingly call their country “delivery nation” and its citizens “delivery minjok” – which translates roughly to “delivery race” or “delivery people”. 

Sometimes for no fee at all, South Koreans can get meals delivered to campsites, park grounds or their homes in less than an hour and with a minimum order as small as $8. Coupang’s “Rocket Wow” delivery service promises customers their packages by dawn and people can often return items they bought by simply leaving them in front of their door. 

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