Justice Minister Kang Kum-sil has promised to take the lead in resolving women's issues such as abolishing the hoju system and legislating the Anti-Prostitution Act, drawing attention to the outcome of her promised efforts.
Minister Kang said that a Family Act Revision Committee with participation from progressive figures is in the making, and mentioned that if needed, the Ministry of Justice will come up with a bill for the revision of the Anti-Prostitution Act. Kang also revealed plans to form a strategic planning team (task force) to look into the added disadvantages that victims of prostitution face in the course of police investigations. The minister revealed all these plans at the 'Let's Meet Kang Kum-sil' event organized by The Women's News on June 2, where she also emphasized that she would "concentrate efforts on resolving issues related to women." The event was organized with the aim of getting Minister Kang to meet leading women activists to widen their scope of mutual understanding on women's issues.
hoju system abolishment "an irreversible trend"
▲ Abolishment of the hoju system = Asked by representative Lee Oh Kyung-sook of the KWAU "how the Ministry views the abolishment of the hoju system," Minister Kang answered, "The Ministry's duty with regards to the hoju system is streamlining laws and regulations. We are looking to revising the Family Act in the long run, and the dominant trend within the Ministry since my inauguration has been moving towards hoju abolishment." When it was pointed out that the Ministry had said it was too early to eliminate the patrilineal enforcement clause, Kang acknowledged the point, but added that "ultimately, the clause will be eliminated." Kang also predicted that the Special Committee for the revision of the Family Act, which has the participation of numerous progressive figures, will "reap considerable results regarding the Family Act."
Task Force to protect women victimized by prostitution
▲ Legislation of the Anti-Prostitution Act = Co-representative Lee Kang-shil of the KWAU pointed out "the urgent need to legislate anti-prostitution laws," to which Minister Kang replied, "The Ministry's Women's Policy Office is also of the opinion that such laws are needed. I am aware that women groups have petitioned for the legislation of such laws, and if needed, the Ministry can come up with the draft to revise relevant laws."
The minister also revealed "plans to form a task force to look into the disadvantages faced by victims of prostitution in the course of police investigations." She explained that "the task force will concentrate especially on child victims," and asked women groups to "recommend people who can work on the task force."
▲ Active support for women groups = Minister Kang repeatedly confirmed her "active support" for the women's issues brought up during the meeting. Asked for her opinion on expanding women's political participation by President Lee Chun-ho of the Korea Women Voters' League, Kang replied, "As this is the domain of the National Assembly, I can't give you a detailed answer, but I am personally very supportive of women's political participation. More women have to join politics for the conservative bureaucratic community to change."
▲ Social issues
Known to be relatively reticent since the launching of the Participatory Government, Minister Kang was quite vocal during the meeting in expressing her views on not only women's issues but various other issues including the controversial Saemangeum project, her philosophy in running the Justice Ministry, and the Hanchongnyeon students' political outlaw status.
Personally against the Saemangeum Project = Regarding the Saemangeum development project that has recently become a controversial issue once more with the month-long national protest tour by well-known figures from civic society, Minister Kang revealed a rather unique opinion, saying, "Personally I'm against the Saemangeum project, but as a government official, I'm hardly in a position to be vocally against it."
"Ministry of Justice needs more women officials"
Minister Kang also shared her thoughts on how she wanted to run the Justice Ministry. Explained Kang, "It's not just the system that makes the Ministry conservative. There needs to be a channel with feelers out for reform and changes, and like the consultative committee run by the Prosecutors' Office, the Justice Ministry also needs a channel for civilian exchanges. I've given instructions to increase the number of women employees as much as possible."
▲ Legalization of Hanchongnyeon = Regarding the legalization of the currently outlawed Hanchongnyeon (Korea Federation of General Student Councils), Kang said, "The legalization of Hanchongnyeon and amnesty for its members wanted by the police are closely related. The militant attitude shown recently by the students during the Gwangju Uprising commemoration event has worked against them. Since the current administration is looking into solving their problem, the students should be cooperative on their part. My opinion that they should be given legal status has not changed, and I'm still looking into it."
Asked her feelings about the 100 days since the inauguration of the Participatory Government, Minister Kang responded, "More than half of the public servants are outstanding people of unquestionable capabilities and moral character. But government officialdom continues to receive criticism and is unable to part with bureaucracy, and that's the challenge it will have to face from now on."
The event comprised of a diverse program including a dinner talk, performance and Q&A. The Minister showed an honest and open attitude in talking with the participants, even revealing personal matters that she had hitherto been reluctant to comment on, and responding with gusto to a request to sing a song. The 50 participants included The Women's News executives, politicians, businesswomen, and women from the academia and women groups.