On Dec 27, 2000, it was confirmed that the Ministry of Gender Equality will be set up as a central administrative branch. Women's groups in Korea have continuously demanded the establishment of a Ministry of Gender Equality that can address the still widespread problems of patriarchal culture and gender discrimination and take charge of supervising and implementing policies related to women.
It comes as no surprise that women's groups such as the Korean National Council of Women and the Korea Women's Associations United unanimously released statements welcoming the inauguration of the Ministry of Gender Equality, a long-denied dream of the women's movement.
As a central administrative branch, the Ministry Gender Equality will exercise legislative rights such as proposing regulations and ordinances, as well as voting rights in state affairs.
The Women's News hosted a symposium in step with the inauguration of the Ministry to discuss the direction that the new Ministry should take. The following is a summary of the pending issues the panelists thought the Ministry will have to deal with.
First and foremost is the abolishment of the family headship (Hoju) system, followed by the revision of laws related to women such as the Basic Act for Women's Development and laws preventing prostitution. And the Ministry should be granted actual authority if it is to oversee and coordinate relevant policies in other ministries. To this end, several measures are called for, such as the formation of a committee to review women's policies, the authorization to control the budget needed for implementing policies. and the appointment of officers in charge of women's affairs in every ministry. For these officers to effectively monitor women's affairs, they should be authorized to preview bills, examine and evaluate policies, and review budgets. Also, it is important that the Ministry has the power to order government agencies and public and private companies to carry out their duties stipulated in laws prohibiting gender discrimination.
There is a need to step up efforts to resolve women's poverty and their lack of rights to work and life. More data has to be collected on issues such as wage differences and unbalanced sex ratio. Also, in order to facilitate women's participation in society, the maternity protection system must be improved, working women should be accorded favorable treatment, and reasonable standards should be set to assess the economic value of household labor. Active publicity campaigns should be launched to heighten women's awareness and interest. Lastly, it is crucial to secure and nurture more professionals who are equipped with both a feminist viewpoint and actual administrative abilities.
The inauguration of the Ministry of Gender Equality is a dramatic turning point in Korea's feminist movement, and is expected to pave the way for enhanced women's rights and greater gender equality. However, the Ministry is the smallest among the 17 ministries and faces considerable public opposition, meaning that the road ahead is far from smooth.