A bitter pill to swallowAt a recent forum on Jeju Island hosted by the Federation of Korean Industries, Kim Sung-joo, chair of the global fashion brand Sungjoo D&D, said that “women should become strong on their own mettle, as we are living in the 21st century, when women should work hard.” Her remarks are part of her view on the new role of women in today’s society.
But some people have criticized her for saying that “Some women still choose to stay at home after graduating from college or even studying abroad” or that “women, too, should be given a chance to serve in the military.” However, we believe her remarks should be understood in the figurative sense, because a literal interpretation of her words would distort their meaning.
Last year, the percentage of women who entered college rose to 82.4 percent, exceeding that of men for the first time. However, the percentage of women above the age of 15 who participate in economic activities stood at a meager 49.2 percent, much lower than that of men at 73.1 percent. That shows the sad fact that gender equality still applies to the education field only, not to businesses, because child bearing and child rearing are still a barrier for women. These obstacles should, of course, be removed. However, if women attribute those problems to society or to men, they can hardly expect the situation to improve.
Admittedly, comments like Kim’s have long been taboo in our society.
But it would be quite difficult for someone other than Kim, who has made her own way in the world, to ask women to “become strong on their own.”
It is not an exaggeration to say that South Korea’s potential growth now depends on the contributions of women. Other developed countries are already undergoing social experiments to remove the gender barrier. Following a similar law made in Norway in 2003, France has passed a law mandating that women make up 40 percent of all executive posts at large companies. Of course, there is also criticism that such a rash decision could lead to the deterioration of the companies’ balance sheet.
However, no one can go against the idea itself. In fact, to raise a country’s status in the world, there is no other alternative but to support women’s participation in economic and social activities, and Korea is no exception.
Now is the time for women to make an earnest effort to achieve gender equality.
In Korea, too, the number of women who have climbed the ladder and eventually joined the ranks of leaders has increased.
Although Chairwoman Kim’s remarks may sound offensive to some, they are worth listening to, even if it is a bitter pill to swallow.