Gen­der equal­ity

Will woman power drive Moon Jae-in ad­min­is­tra­tion?

The Korea Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Kim Ji-soo ja­nee@ktimes.com

The fo­cus should re­ally be on diver­sity, rather than gen­der alone, as Korea strives to be­come a more equal so­ci­ety.

Last weekend, Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in nom­i­nated Kim Young-joo, a three-term leg­is­la­tor for la­bor min­is­ter, mak­ing her the sixth fe­male min­is­ter in the new ad­min­is­tra­tion if ap­proved.

Af­ter the on­set of his ad­min­is­tra­tion, the Pres­i­dent restruc­tured the govern­ment to 18 min­istries and 22 govern­ment agen­cies. Of them, the Pres­i­dent pledged dur­ing his cam­paign to fill 30 per­cent of the min­is­ter posts with women. Kim, a for­mer bas­ket­ball player whose political ca­reer be­gan with her par­tic­i­pa­tion in fi­nan­cial unions, will have to pass muster through a par­lia­men­tary hear­ing. If and when she does, fe­male cabi­net mem­bers will com­prise 31.6 per­cent of the to­tal in this fast-chang­ing so­ci­ety whose roots are, how­ever, still Con­fu­cian. An­other Cabi­net po­si­tion, that at the newly minted Min­istry of Small-and Medium-sized Com­pa­nies and Star­tups, is still va­cant.

The other five are For­eign Min­is­ter Kang Kyung-wha, En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Kim Eun-kyung, Land Min­is­ter Kim Hyun-mee and Gen­der Equal­ity Min­is­ter Chung Hyun-back and Pi Woo-jin, min­is­ter of Pa­tri­ots and Veter­ans Af­fairs.

The in­creas­ing num­ber of se­nior fe­male pol­i­cy­mak­ers are a wel­come boon in Korea where, de­spite ad­vance­ments, there needs to be more rep­re­sen­ta­tion in ev­ery field.

There is slight im­prove­ment at the Na­tional Assem­bly and in the political arena. Out of five political par­ties, three are headed by women. The three are Jus­tice Party Chair­woman Lee Jung-mi, Bareun Party Chair­woman Lee Hye-hoon and Demo­cratic Party of Korea Chair­woman Choo Mi-ae. The num­ber of fe­male law­mak­ers has been ris­ing steadily to now ac­count for 17 per­cent in the cur­rent Na­tional Assem­bly. The fig­ure is an in­crease from the pre­vi­ous years, but not close to the OECD av­er­age of 29 per­cent. And the in­crease is partly due to a re­cent law that man­dates half of pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion seats have to be filled with women.

Whether more women in govern­ment de­ci­sion-mak­ing posts can grad­u­ally spread to other fields re­mains to be seen.

“Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in keep­ing his cam­paign pledge to fill that 30 per­cent quota of Cabi­net mem­bers is en­cour­ag­ing. There will be a mes­sage ef­fect as state com­pa­nies and large con­glom­er­ates will be watch­ing the govern­ment’s moves,” said Lee Na-young, a pro­fes­sor of so­ci­ol­ogy at Chung-Ang Uni­ver­sity in Seoul. “But the govern­ment should follow it up with spe­cific mea­sures to ad­dress gen­der equal­ity in other job sec­tors and in terms of wages and qual­ity of jobs for women,” she said. As for some con­crete mea­sures, the Korea YWCA has called for found­ing of a pres­i­den­tial com­mit­tee on gen­der equal­ity and ex­pand­ing on the role of the Min­istry of Gen­der Equal­ity and Fam­ily, whose bud­get stands at 0.18 per­cent of the Korean govern­ment’s 2017 bud­get.

“We also wel­come the 30 per­cent ap­point­ment of women in the Cabi­net,” said Lee Joo-young, di­rec­tor at the Korea YWCA. “We will be fol­low­ing whether this can lead to Pres­i­dent Moon’s other pledges to in­crease the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of women in man­age­ment in state-run com­pa­nies and at cen­tral and lo­cal gov­ern­ments.”

Also, the ex­pec­ta­tion is that the “sheer” pres­ence of more women in de­ci­sion-mak­ing roles may well have cre­ated a chink in the old boys’ “win­ing and din­ing” cul­ture still preva­lent in so­ci­ety, Pro­fes­sor Lee said.

Both Pro­fes­sor Lee and Di­rec­tor Lee sug­gested the Pres­i­dent should go one step fur­ther — fire Cheong Wa Dae of­fi­cial Tak Hyun-min who is in hot wa­ter for ex­treme sex­ist re­marks made in pub­li­ca­tions — to show he is gen­uinely com­mit­ted to ad­vanc­ing women’s rep­re­sen­ta­tion in Korea. Tak has apol­o­gized for the com­ments and con­tin­ues to work at the pres­i­den­tial of­fice.

And even­tu­ally the pre­dic­tion is it will spread to the cor­po­rate sec­tor where women in board­rooms are not a fa­mil­iar sight. The gen­der equal­ity min­istry an­nounced Wed­nes­day that in last year’s busi­ness report of the top 500 com­pa­nies by sales, there were only 406 women ex­ec­u­tives in to­tal, ac­count­ing for 2.7 per­cent, al­though it was an in­crease from 2.4 per­cent in 2015.

The lack of women in Korean cor­po­rate board­rooms com­pares in­ter­na­tion­ally, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent report by Cor­po­rate Women Di­rec­tors In­ter­na­tional (CWDI). The por­tion of Korean fe­male CEOs, the CWDI said, stood at the low­est among 20 na­tions in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion in 2016.

“The fact that the num­ber of women in these posts is ris­ing should not be cause for cel­e­bra­tion. It re­ally comes down to what re­sults women in those posts can achieve,” said Yoon Sung-won, a pro­fes­sor at Su­won Uni­ver­sity.

“The fo­cus should re­ally be on diver­sity, rather than gen­der alone, as Korea strives to be­come a more equal so­ci­ety,” Lee of Chung-Ang Uni­ver­sity said.

For­eign Min­is­ter Kang Kyung-wha

Land Min­is­ter Kim Hyun-mee

Pa­tri­ots and Veter­ans Af­fairs Min­is­ter Pi Woo-jin

Gen­der Min­is­ter Chung Hyun-back

La­bor Min­is­ter-nom­i­nee Kim Young-joo

En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Kim Eun-kyung

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