SEOUL, South Korea — Lee Yunju has poked her head in the feminism aisle of the library at her university in Daegu, South Korea. The U.S. ally, which ranks 99th out of 146 countries in the World Economic Forum’s global gender gap report, is debating whether to abolish the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. A summary of global news developments with CFR analysis delivered to your inbox each morning.Most weekdays. CFR fellows and other experts assess the latest issues emerging in Asia today.1-3 times weekly.

The share of women in the National Assembly has increased in the last decade but is still low compared to other countries. On the surface, Korean women often appear docile, submissive, and deferential to the wishes of their husbands and in-laws. Yet behind the scenes, there is often considerable “hidden” female power, particularly within the private sphere of the household. In areas such as household finances, South Korean husbands usually defer to their wives’ judgment. Public assertion of a woman’s power, however, is socially disapproved, and a traditional wife maintained the image, if not the reality of submissiveness.

“If you find gender equality and feminism so important, you can do it with your own money and time,” said one lawmaker in his party. President Yoon Suk-yeol, elected last year, has suggested feminism is to blame for blocking “healthy relationships” between men and women. But he’s got it backward — gender equality is the solution to falling birthrates.

  • After revealing her identity, she agreed to advise Lee Jae-myung, the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate, on women’s issues.
  • Opinion pieces, interviews and blogs from across the business and human rights movement.
  • The situation began to change with the opening of the country to the outside world during the late 19th century.
  • At the same time, 29.1 percent of participants said they would vote for the male candidate even if the female candidate had a resume just as good as his.
  • The Division was enlarged into the Women’s Information Center in 1996 to try and meet the country’s critical need for data on women.

The economic participation rate of women also has increased steadily since industrialization from 34.4 percent in 1965 to 48.1 percent in 1999. Behaviours such as stereotyping, discrimination, demeaning or contemptuous speech, regarding women as sex objects, focusing on appearance and age, and replacing women with body parts or genitals, have become commonplace in South Korean online culture. These can be disregarded as the acts of malicious people, but the production and distribution of online hate speech can nevertheless reinforce stereotypes and lead to generalization.

A witch hunt against feminists — or any woman who speaks about gender issues

The DP party leader apologized to the public but declined to investigate the matter. Progressive alternatives, such as the Justice Party, have also struggled with sexual harassment. In January 2021, its party leader was dismissed following allegations of sexual harassment. Work With UsIf you are talented and passionate about human rights then Amnesty International wants to hear from you. It was a horrifying demonstration of how discrimination and patriarchal patterns that cause gender-based violence in South Korea are reproduced and amplified in the digital world. There’s little escaping suffocating gender norms, whether in pregnancy guidelines to arrange clean undergarments for your husband before labor, or the dayslong kitchen drudgework for holidays like the Chuseok harvest festival. Married women are saddled with the lion’s share of chores and child care, squeezing new mothers so much that many give up professional ambitions.

After being proposed for revision in October 2020, the law was not voted upon by the deadline of December 31st, 2020. The organization also surveyed 909 Koreans aged 19 or older on women’s presence in Korean politics as well as the results of the 20th general election held in April. While the 20th National Assembly has the highest proportion of seats held by women in its history, at 17 percent, gender disparity was still prevalent during the general election in April, a study showed on June 21st. Since the inauguration of the compulsory education system in 1953, the educational opportunities for women have greatly expanded, which was then accompanied by an increase in female enrollment at the elementary, secondary and higher levels of education. The Labor Standard Act was enacted in 1953, which guarantees basic equality between men and women in employment and special protection for women during pregnancy and maternity. And the discrimination between the sexes in favor of the male-based, as it was, on feudal Confucianism-dominated all aspects of women’s lives. The number of women whose careers were cut off for reasons such as pregnancy, childbirth, childrearing and caring for other family members was 1,847,000 in 2018, a 0.8 percent increase from the previous year.

Even in dual-income households, wives daily spend more than three hours on these tasks versus their husband’s 54 minutes. Making life fairer and safer for women would work wonders toward reducing the country’s existential threat. Yet this feminist dream seems increasingly far-fetched, as Mr. Yoon’s conservative government champions regressive policies that only magnify the problem. Young Koreans have well-documented reasons not to start a family, including the staggering costs of raising children, unaffordable homes, lousy job prospects and soul-crushing work hours. But women in particular are fed up with this traditionalist society’s impossible expectations of mothers. With an increasing number of women entering professional jobs, the government passed the “Equal Employment Act” in 1987 to prevent discriminatory practices against female workers in regard to hiring and promotion opportunities. The situation began to change with the opening of the country to the outside world during the late 19th century.

South Korea’s Constitutional Right to Abortion

Nevertheless, LGBT people in South Korea have continued to face hostility and discrimination. When approximately 13,000 members and supporters of the LGBT community assembled for Seoul’s first LGBT Pride festival in three years, they were outnumbered by 15,000 anti-LGBT protesters who assembled nearby.

Gender-based violence is widespread in South Korea – digital sex crimes are prevalent, with almost 90 percent of the victims being women. In 2019, the Korea Women’s Hotline estimated that a woman was murdered every 1.8 days. South Korea is rare in having a homicide rate equal for men and women; globally, 81 percent of homicide victims are men. Domestically, the government continued to lag in addressing rampant discrimination against women and girls, migrants, foreigners, older people, people with disabilities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. In early 2022, the National Assembly considered a draft anti-discrimination law introduced by the previous president but did not adopt it. Lee said the gender ministry’s duties would be shifted to the health and employment ministries, adding that the government planned to establish a new agency in charge of population, family and gender equality issues. Mr. Yoon’s government is removing the term “gender equality” from school textbooks and has canceled funding for programs to fight everyday sexism.

As South Korea’s leader, Yoon must show that he firmly believes the empowerment of women contributes to the growth and development of a free and just society — something he has until now failed to do. Eliminating these stereotypes will take more than enacting new laws and setting up task forces. It means working toward changing the mindset of an entire country toward women. 6.1.1 Proportion of population using safely managed drinking water services, by urban/rural. Discrimination against working mothers by employers is also absurdly common.

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