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[NOTEBOOK] Gender Equality, Still a Long Way to Go

Feb 22,2001
Practical Management Is Important in Achieving Gender Equality

"I want to work at the Ministry of Gender Equality. What is required to be employed there?"

At the end of January, immediately after the release of a report on the launching of the Ministry of Gender Equality, a woman reader made a phone call to JoongAng Ilbo and asked the question above. She said that she had been a teacher and added that she was willing to prepare for the public service employment examination to work at the Ministry of Gender Equality.

Job applications at the Ministry of Gender Equality show that there is a great deal of expectation for this newly established cabinet agency. The competition rate for selecting positions for regular government service was 10 applicants for every job opening. And the competition between men and women applicants was encouraging, with 117 male hopefuls compared with 113 women. An associate of the ministry who served in the office of second Minister of Political Affairs and Presidential Commission on Women's Affairs, which were predecessors of the Ministry of Gender Equality, voiced surprise at the attention, saying, "Previously, the department which had 'woman' in their title was neglected."

The expectation from the women's movement is even greater. Han Myung-sook, who is the newly appointed minister of gender equality, was president of Korea Women's Association United, which is Korea's most prominent women's civic organization. Recently, at a congratulatory party marking the appointment of Minister Han, the minister confessed, "I have never felt stress and pain like this before." Her younger associates who suffered oppression with her during the democratic movement, recalled the minister saying, "Rice and briquette are all I ever need."

The coming Feb. 29 is the day the Ministry of Gender Equality will mark its first month. At the end February, the recruitment of public employees will end.. But the future of the Ministry of Gender Equality does not look rosy. On the homepage of the Ministry (www.moge.go.kr) there are the voices of men filled with anger.

"If the women want equal treatment, they should be drafted also." "Do you see what state the patriarchs are in?" These angry comments illustrates that the men of our society have a strong hostility to the pursuit of gender equality. The problem of sexual harassment is again becoming a hot issue. The legislation of "Act on the Prevention of Domestic Violence," "Special Act on the Punishment of Sexual Crime," "Act on the Prohibition and Remedy for Sexual Discrimination," and the launching of the Ministry of Gender Equality show that Korean society is making efforts to eliminate gender bias. But can gender equality be achieved by these developments? Considering that legislation cannot be a solution to every problem, the answer is "No." The law and the administration departments are important in achieving gender equality. But more effort should be concentrated on the practical management of the law. It is an assignment for all members of our society to construct the software of "Gender Equality."

The writer is an information and science news reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Lee Eun-ju




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