Five years after the global financial crisis, South Korean construction workers are feeling the pinch more than ever as they shoulder a mountain of debt from a real estate bust that has cast a long shadow on the country's growth prospects.
Facing the specter of bankruptcy, some construction firms persuaded their staff to take up loans to mop up unsold apartments.
"There was pressure. There's nowhere else in the world where there's a parallel to these practices," said a construction worker, who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter.
"Loyalty and hierarchy is still strong in South Korea and especially in the construction companies which are run like the armed forces," he said, adding that his employer Poonglim Industrial Co Ltd had asked him to buy two apartments, which meant he had to borrow 800 million won ($712,800).
A public relations official at Poonglim, which completed its court receivership in April, would only say employees had taken loans on behalf of the company and interest payments were being paid by Poonglim.