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Aping Amazon, Korea’s Coupang has a labor problem

SEOUL – Online delivery service giant Coupang is often likened to the “Amazon of South Korea”, but amid the good vibes and the billions raised in a March initial public offering (IPO) in the US, the firm faces potentially damaging labor abuse allegations from the sorting floor to the C-suite.

Even in a country known for generating hits – from Olympic combat sport taekwondo to industrial monsters Samsung and Hyundai, to tech players Naver and Kakao and cultural behemoths like boy band BTS and film director Bong Joon-ho – Coupang is noteworthy.

Coupang listed on the New York Stock Exchange in March, hitting a market capitalization of US$84.5 billion in his trading debut in the biggest IPO so far this year. It has since started an expansion beyond South Korea into Singapore, where the conditions that have led to its growth at home could feasibly be replicated.

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