"Magic Wand" that will Transform a Male-oriented Society
"Magic Wand" that will Transform a Male-oriented Society
  • Lee Yun-sook, President of Korean Central Resident
  • 승인 2013.11.07 11:23
  • 수정 2013-11-10 13:22
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Convention of the
Elimination of All Forms of



Every year, during last week of February and the first week of March, UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, organizes Commission on the Status of Women held at United Nations Headquarters in New York, United States. During these two weeks, the Headquarters is filled with representatives from UN member states. NGO members, who flew all the way to New York from all corners around the globe in their own expense, flood public areas and meeting places around the Headquarters to join together in discussions and debates.


Representatives from women’s rights groups in New York form NGO Forum, accept applications beforehand, and create brochures with timetables of various NGO events that take place. The theme of this year’s annual UN Women and NGO Forum was “Elimination and Prevention of All Forms of Violence against Women and Girls.” The theme for 2014 annual meeting will be “Implementing the Millennium Development Goals for Women and Girls.”


Abolish Gender Discrimination and Stereotypes, Discrimination within the Family

After attending the first Commission on the Status of Women meeting, which was held in 1975 at Mexico, I rush to New York every year to understand the changes taking place in the world regarding women’s rights, create networks, and witness the women’s policy decisions being made firsthand to return home to Korea, join hands with various women’s rights groups, and spread the change the world of women’s rights was going through. Most of the expenses are self-paid. I don't not choose to attend the meetings because I can afford the luxury. I want to show how Korean women’s rights movement is developing and make sure it is not lagging behind the rest of the world. I continue to do so because I enjoy it, and I can thankfully pay for my expenses by saving most of my earnings from guest lectures.


Korea is a model country for many developing nations because it achieved tremendous economic growth and democratization despite the devastation left by the Korean War in 1950. The “Korean wave” and the popular singer Psy, who gained global stardom, is our pride. In reality, however, because of the Confucian background, Korean women’s status was almost non-existent and Korean women faced immense discrimination.


Women’s rights have been guaranteed as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the UN in 1948, and according to the Constitution of the Republic of Korea, Korean women also are given equal rights. However, there were women’s rights violations all over the world, going against what the Universal Declaration had stated. During the 22nd General Assembly meeting in 1967, Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women was written. But because a declaration could not possibly bring complete eradication of discrimination, the UN General Assembly passed and approved the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) on December 18, 1979. Korea became the 89th nation state to join this Convention on May 25, 1984. This was ratified by the National Assembly on December 27 of that same year, and the CEDAW was implemented a year after.


It has been 29 years and 6 months since CEDAW was implemented. Korea also joined the Optional Protocol on October 18, 2006, which took effect on January 18, 2007. Moreover, in order to fulfill the CEDAW, Korea has become one of the members of the CEDAW Committee located in the UN Headquarters today.


The CEDAW is an international treaty containing six parts and thirty articles. The first six articles define overall regulations. In Part 2 (Articles 7-9) are rights regarding the public lifestyle, Part 3 (Articles 10-14) discusses social rights, Part 4 (Articles 15,16) is about personal rights, Part 5 (Articles 17-22) lists regulations about the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, and finally Part 6 (Articles 23-30) lists final details.


In particular, Article 5, which covers Sex Role Stereotyping and Prejudice, and Article 10, discussing Education, emphasizes that home economics is not only for women, but for men and women alike as it teaches valuable lessons about life. Science, technology, engineering, or math should not be skewed to one particular gender. Men need to learn about home economics, and women should study engineering as well.


Article 16 highlights gender roles within the family. There should not be gender discrimination within the family. Simply put, if your son and daughter are studying for an exam, you should not make your daughter cut up some fruit for you. By taking simple actions towards democracy, human rights can be fulfilled.


In UN Women’s theme in 2011 was ‘Women and Girls in Education, Training, and Science, and Technology.” There was much discussion about teaching young women STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) under the same condition as young men, how young women will learn, and how to change prejudice against women among parents and families. Professionals advised on government policies as well. The Korean government has made significant efforts to develop science education among women. The problem is that a great obstacle still remains in our daily lives. The older generation, including teachers, has strongly rooted gender discriminatory mindset, and special measures need to be taken in order to uproot their discrimination.


Korea Establishes Women’s Development Institute, Leading to Framework Act on Women’s Development

Korea needs to cooperate with other Asian countries to transform the male-centric social structure to adapt to today’s ubiquitous generation. We need to use CEDAW, our "magic wand" in order to do so. Korea became a UN member state in 1991, and in 2007, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon was appointed as Secretary-General. Korea plays a noteworthy role in the United Nations. Korea is also a member of Commission of the Status of Women and CEDAW, gaining much international interest. In 1995, when the 4th World Conference on Women was held in Beijing, Korea sent 600 NGO representatives and government representatives, appointed then first lady Son Myung-soon as the representative leader, and accomplished remarkable results.


On October 10, one day before National Women’s Conference organized by the Korean National Council of Women, President Kim Young-sam announced ten ways to enhance women’s participation within the society. Expansion of daycare facilities, deploying after-school programs, resolving school lunch issues, hiring high ranking public officials, providing incentives to public enterprises hiring more women, societal charge to protect pregnant women, broadening education and training for women’s employment, enhancing women’s information network, enactment of Framework Act on Women’s Development, and reinforcing media participation were the ten ways encouraged by President Kim.


The Framework Act on Women’s Development was the most important of all and was enacted in December, 1995. This law states that all ministries of the government gather every five years to make amends to women’s policy plans. The first (1998-2002), second (2003-2007), and third (2008-2012) five year plans have been made and the fourth (2013-2017) is currently taking place.


New attempts for gender equality are based on the women’s policy basic plan. The government also has many other policies to carry through besides women’s rights. Priorities define whether significant gains can be made or not. Ministry of Gender must participate with all governmental ministries and strongly carry forward the yearly plans within districts, counties, cities, and provinces. It is frustrating because the governing party and the president change every five years. Now that Korea has a female president, we must be even more determined to bring fruitful result.


CEDAW has been a catalyst for gender equality. Significant changes are as follows. CEDAW was first adopted in 1979 and implemented in September 1981. Thanks to the establishment of Women’s Development Institute on March 14, 1983, research and policies about women could be facilitated. On February 25, 1988, the Second Minister for Political Affairs which later became the Ministry of Gender was established and a women minister was appointed. Framework Act on Women’s Development was enacted and proclaimed on December 30, 1995 and was implemented on July 1, 1996. According to the Framework, every first week of July is the "women’s week," and this year, many events were held to celebrate the 18th anniversary of women’s week. In December 1997, the first basic plans of women’s policy were confirmed in accordance to the Framework Act on Women’s Development, and the first basic plan of women’s policy (1998-2002) and the second basic plan (2003-2007) were implemented.


The ten year achievements of the first and second basic plans are:

(1) Gender mainstreaming strategy reinforced and institutionalized

A. Gender Impact Assessment Division was set up in 2002

B. Gender Budgeting in National Finance Act 2006. Calculated the effect of the budget on men and women, reflected upon budgeting.

(2) Broader participation of women in women’s policy decision-making

A. 1998-2002 Women Civil Servant Recruitment Objective and 2003-2007 Gender Equality Recruitment Objective temporarily took place. In 2003, women professor Recruitment Objective in public universities began.

B. Revised the Political Party Law in 2002-2005.

After the ratification of Public Official Election Act, over 50% of proportional representatives recommended were women

(3) Gender equality in employment reinforced

(4) Parental leaves and child care centers expanded to accommodate both work and family

(5) Reinforced women’s rights by prohibiting domestic violence and prostitution


The third basic plan of women’s policy (2008-2012) implemented

(1) In 2010, Public Official Election Act ratified. One assembly sector must have one or more female local assembly member candidate

(2) In 2010, National Government Organization Act ratified. Ministry of Gender expanded. Receive Family and Youth functions from Ministry of Health and Welfare.

(3) National Assembly Act ratified. Ministry of Gender to Gender Equality and Family Committee.

(4) National Finance Act of 2010, effectiveness of gender budgeting secured

(5) Gender Impact Analysis Assessment Law enacted in 2011. Gender mainstreaming to improve gender equality of policies.

(6) From 2013 fiscal year, other districts besides Seoul must also Gender Budget Analysis and balance sheet must be submitted.


Female Voters Must Carefully Monitor Movements to Bring Social Change


As the nation’s operational policies changed, policies regarding safety, welfare, economic activity, family and education, and international cooperation faced institutional changes. The fourth basic plan for women’s policy (2013-2017) began in January 2013 and will reinforce financial capabilities of women, further support in care for coexistence of work and family, eradication of violence against women and guarantee of human rights, welfare for women and family and enhancement of the right of health, higher representability of women and encouragement of participation, awareness of equality and spread of culture, and reinforcement of gender equality policy capacity and public responsibility. Governmental changes must be made through policies for gender equality and social integration so that gender equality may be visualized. 


Each local autonomous entity must adhere to the basic plan of women’s policy and must set up their own action plans, making the most of their unique characteristics. More women leaders and women voters must actively and aggressively monitor the National Assembly and city, provincial, district assemblies to bring about social change. For the upcoming district assembly elections next year, women voters must gather their voting power and demand the candidates to make pledges to realize women’s policy. 

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