A ‘Female President’ Purportedly Committed to Women’s Issues Yet to Bring Any Changes
A ‘Female President’ Purportedly Committed to Women’s Issues Yet to Bring Any Changes
  • Kim Hyung-jun Professor of Faculty of Liberal Arts
  • 승인 2013.12.30 10:17
  • 수정 2013-12-30 10:40
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A special vehicle for gender mainstreaming must be established as she enters the 2nd year in office


President Park Geun-hye
President Park Geun-hye
A year has passed since the presidential election finished that made President Park Geun-hye the first female leader in East Asia. People expected that the glass ceilings everywhere would break now that we have a woman as the nation’s leader. Another expectation people had for Park was that she’d be a gentle and broad-minded leader who equally respect the ruling and opposition parties and eventually achieves the grand union among the public. However, no signs of any achievement related to women’s issues, a crucial part of her campaign pledges, is in sight yet. In fact, gender-related agendas have been pushed far down the administration’s to-do list due to the fierce conflict and bickering between the ruling and opposition parties.

The Swedish government that put gender equality policies ahead of everything else and succeeded in its pursuit puts our reality to shame. The fact that women are still being discriminated, suffering, and not properly represented points to a serious problem lying in our society. According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s survey this January, Korea ranked 105th out of 190 countries in terms of the proportion of women in parliament with 47 assemblywomen (15.7%). Many European nations ranked higher, including Sweden in the 4th place (44.7%). In contrast, Korea embarrassingly had a mere single-digit number of female executives in its public organizations.

To overthrow this, Chung Mong-joon, former Saenuri party representative, tabled a law amendment with 62 members of the Assembly including Democratic Party member Park Young-sun and Choo Mi-ae regarding the law on management of public institutions. The essentials are about public enterprises and quasi-government organizations to have more than 15% female member ratio in 3 years and more than 30% in 5 years.

According to a recent announcement by the Ministry of Employment and Labor, among the economically inactive population (ages 15~64) with a discontinued career, 73.1% (5.821 million) were women. The survey also showed that 8 out of 10 women looking for a job preferred flexitime jobs. The biggest reason behind such preference was for child rearing and education (40.6%). Another important reasons were to have some personal time (21.2%) and to reduce working hours (11.4%). Such result is a proof that work-life balance is an ideal still out of reach in our society.

Gloria Steinem, the posterwoman for American feminist movement said in her 2011 Seoul Digital Forum keynote speech, “the awareness that women can accomplish men’s roles has increased. On the contrary, the awareness that men can do women’s job is not prevalent.” In addition, she argued that “how well domestic labor is divided between both genders tells how democratic a society is.” The Democratic Party is claiming that democracy has been mutilated by the suspicion that state organization has intervened the election, while Saenuri Party is denouncing that the opposition party’s denying the presidential election’s result is a retreat from democracy. We must deeply reconsider what must be done first for the recovery of democracy.

Upon forming the transition committee, Park administration established 3 major goals: enhancing work-life balance, implementing tailored welfare policies according to the life cycle model, and making a safer living environment. With these goals, the administration pledged to carry out various plans such as nurturing 100K women talents, expanding female employment, reducing working hours during a female worker’s pregnancy, launching ‘Father’s Month,’ offering childcare & education for 0-5 year olds for free, providing more support for single-parent families, boosting the medical support for sexual assault victims, etc.

President Park said “no matter how good an agenda the administered policy has, unexpected side effects may come up in the scene.” “We must carefully take care of the scene beforehand and even after administration, constant inspection, assessment and improvement must take place. This kind of feedback structure for the next policy must be arranged in order to increase the effect of policies.” The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family must objectively assess whether the proposed tasks are on the move adjusting to President Park’s demand. Additionally, meeting President Park Geun-hye’s second year of rule, we must consider the installment of an organization exclusively for revising and assessing of gender mainstreaming policy onto general policy. Only in this way can women trust and strongly cheer President Park’s will and truth for a new era of women’s happiness and national happiness.


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