[EDITORIALS] Toward True Gender Equality
March 8 is International Women's Day. It began as a commemoration of demonstrations held by more than 15,000 women laborers in New York City's Rutgers Square in 1908 to demand universal female suffrage and the right to form labor unions.
The most remarkable changes that have taken place in our society over the past two decades have been those involving women. From the time of the Chun Doo Hwan administration, government policies have helped women break barrier after barrier. The doors to such schools as the police academy and the military academy have opened to women, and since the first female sailor boarded her ship, the range of jobs closed to women has continuously been reduced. Women who are housewives by profession are being recognized for their contribution to family assets. Now for the first time our government has a Ministry of Gender Equality, which is working to eliminate such social problems as violence in the home, sexual harassment in the workplace and prostitution by minors.
We still have a long way to go. According to a white paper on women's affairs published last year, Korea ranks 30th in the world in terms of equal treatment for men and women and a much lower 63rd in terms of women's power. The percentage of women participating in economic activities has been improving little by little, but at 47 percent, the figure still lags far behind the men's percentage, which stands at 74 percent, and average pay for women is barely two-thirds that of men. Sons and daughters are given equal opportunities for education, but highly educated women face difficulty in finding employment. Day care facilities are so inadequate that women with jobs are often forced to quit when they have a baby. Determined, relentless effort by the women's movement has managed to overturn some laws that banned marriage between members of the same clan no matter how distant their kinship and others that limited the time for filing paternity suits, but replacement laws have yet to be enacted. We must eliminate barriers to women's employment and amend such debilitating laws.
The 45th meeting of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women is now in session. The representatives of our government who are participating should glean as much as they can about other countries' policies and successes in this area to help us hasten the day when Korea will be a truly gender-equal society.