[EDITORIALS]More Female Senior Officials

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[EDITORIALS]More Female Senior Officials

A woman has finally been selected for the position of vice minister, the "flower of public administration." As the first appointment of a female career bureaucrat as vice minister since the establishment of the constitutional republic, we welcome it wholeheartedly.

The selection of Kim Song-ja as the new vice labor minister is meaningful particularly because it marks the first time that the expertise of a woman administrator in the public sector is being recognized. As of the end of 1999, women made up 33 percent of all national civil servants and 24.4 percent of regional bureaucrats. In 1989, the number of female bureaucrats had stalled at 8.5 percent and 15.3 percent each. The drastic increase over the decade shows how fervently women have striven to step into the public sector. Little progress, however, was made in the promotion of women to high positions. Although special policies were applied to women, leading to the establishment of new departments such as the Family Welfare Bureau and the Working Women Bureau and the introduction of an administrator for women's issues, it was extremely difficult for women to escape the confines of those offices. Female bureaucrats commented scornfully, "It is easier to become a minister than a vice minister."

Modern society demands that women and men participate together in its development. Unfortunately, our society still lags behind this ideal.

According to statistics on women in 2000 released by the Korean Women's Development Institute, Korea falls far behind Singapore, China and Japan in the ratio of women serving in public sector management jobs. If only a few women are engaged in decision-making positions, it is only natural that the female perspective is not reflected.

A system providing women in public administration with equal training and promotion opportunities should be implemented. According to the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs' annual statistics, of the 369 first and second degree positions, only one was occupied by a woman and this tendency extended to regional bureaucrats (one in 75).

If capable women are deprived of the opportunity and conditions to fully exercise their potential because of gender barriers, it is ultimately a loss for Korea. The government should pay special attention so that women are not tied to "female positions" and limited experience.
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