[Letter to the editor]Those who serve must be compensatedThe Korean Constitution forces all Koreans to render military service. But in reality, military duty is imposed only on men. If one person refuses to serve, he is sentenced to jail for up to three years. In their two years of military service, men in their twenties cannot improve themselves and are forced to live isolated, regimented lives. They have to sacrifice much more than others their age who do not serve in the military.
The country has given some benefits to those who have served in the military. They get three to five extra points when taking exams to become civil workers. But the measure was ruled as being unconstitutional. The reason cited was that it violated the principle of equality by hindering women and disabled men when they seek jobs.
Some argued that there is no reason to compensate people who are only doing their duty as citizens. Even though people who served military duty no longer get benefits, it is time to think about the necessity of compensating them.
First, we need to reconsider the meaning of military duty as it is stipulated in the Constitution. Some men cannot serve for a variety of reasons and women do not have to serve at all. Therefore, those who do their military duty should be differentiated from the rest and the country needs to compensate them.
Second, the logic of pursuing gender equality by abolishing the benefit of extra points is not constructive. To make the measure constructive, men who served their military duty should be duly compensated while other measures benefiting women should be implemented. A quota system for women or sponsorship for women raising babies can help increase women’s social status. Then, both men and women get benefits and can contribute to society.
In the current debate on implementing social services, a plan for national compensation can be drawn up for both military service and social service. Then the issue is no longer about discrimination against women, but about differentiating those who have served military or social service from those who haven’t. The size and type of compensation can be decided depending on the type of service and the degree of social contribution. It is time to think about adopting a new compensation plan.
Mok Jin-whyu, a professor of public administration at Kookmin University
Equality is not served by extra points
Extra points are a charming lure, like a comic book one gets as a free gift when buying a magazine. But if giving extra points became government policy, such points will have an influence on one’s job, not on one’s hobby.
Getting extra points is a special privilege so it should be allowed only when absolutely necessary. A variety of circumstances should be taken into account when deciding criteria for extra points.
Some people now suggest resurrecting the measure to give bonus points to those who have served in the military when they want to become civil workers or work at public companies. The measure was ruled as being unconstitutional eight years ago.
Some argue that we can make the measure constitutional by shortening the period of compulsory military service and implementing a new institution for social services that replaces military service. That means women can choose social service.
But what is the advantage of reimplementing the old measure? Is it because the employment rate for men has fallen? In some sectors, men and women are equally competitive, but women are far from dominating the social arena.
If women were entitled to extra points for serving in social service sectors, the measure will not necessarily benefit men who are seeking jobs. I assume that the measure would be a way to restore men’s authority.
In our society, some people who absolutely believe in the private property system and free markets appear to believe that such institutions are, or should be, led by men. Sometimes they explicitly announce that it is wrong if women take male roles in the economy.
When looking at women’s employment rates and what jobs they have taken, there is a long way to go to get to an ideal society in terms of gender equality.
Women who have been working have what it takes to succeed. They have not stolen jobs from men while delivering substandard performances in the workplace.
Cha Byung-jik, lawyer