More urging, 'Bombs away!'

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More urging, 'Bombs away!'

The Web site of Womenlink, an advocacy group for working women's rights, has on its bulletin board various comments from men who support the group's campaign against the male-centered culture of office parties.

"The most serious problems of office parties for men is the pressure to drink, and for women it is sexual harassment," said Kim Chang-sik, a member of the online community. "It would be much better if co-workers could talk soberly with each other and respect each other at office parties."

Another member, Park Gun-u, said, "Though I'm a man, I'm also tired of office parties, in which 'bomb' drinks are passed around. This office party culture should be changed."

Womenlink, whose Web site is at http://bagguza.womenlink.or.kr, said it aims at creating a petition this month with the names of 1,000 men who declare that they will support the campaign. The group held a street campaign in Myeong-dong in Seoul on July 10 and attracted about 140 men's declarations. The group had also collected another 170 men's declarations through the Internet as of Wednesday.

The campaign presents some guidelines for "healthy" office parties: never put pressure on others to drink and never yield to such pressure; discourage sexual harassment, such as when male workers force female co-workers to dance with them; never go to "decadent" places such as room salons with hostesses.

Last December, the Ministry of Gender Equality polled 1,000 men and women about the problems of the Korean office-party culture. About 30 percent of the respondents said the excessive focus on drinking was the most serious problem. About 22 percent said that the pressure to drink, especially the bomb drinks, was the most serious problem. About 4 percent mentioned sexual harassment.

Bomb drinks, or boilermakers, consist of a shot glass of a strong drink like whiskey placed in a larger glass of a weak drink like beer, and are drunk in a single gulp.

"Since the pressure to drink at office parties causes pain for men as well as women, men will also benefit from the campaign," said Jeong Sung-lim, an official at Womenlink. But the campaign is, in fact, focusing on women's hardships, she added, because it is a part of the group's wider campaign to promote equality in the office culture.

According to Ms. Jeong, about 40 percent of the requests for advice Womenlink gets from working women is related to sexual harassment in the workplace, and about half of the sexual harassment cases occur during office parties.

Ms. Jeong added that going to the room salons for office parties is a very serious problem not only because such places tend to degrade women, by treating their barmaids as sexual objects, but also because female workers cannot go to office parties in such places.

"Then the female workers become isolated from the sense of solidarity among the male workers and it can hurt the ability of women workers to succeed in the office," she said. "Actually, many female workers have asked for our advice regarding such problems."

by Moon So-young

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