Raising women’s status in Korea

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Raising women’s status in Korea

Korean women’s social status has been greatly improved. It has elected its first female president, Park Geun-hye, and there are more chances available for women in society. However, there are still large gaps between status of women and men that we should close. The World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index last year ranked South Korea at 108th place out of 135 countries.

During the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), women were treated to be lower than men because of Confucian ideology. The role of men and women were strictly separated. Only men could have education and own private property. Also women couldn’t marry again so widow’s life was very hard during that period. Sometimes women could participate in farm work and earn money by sewing things, but it was hard to do with housework.

Then this tradition has changed since Korea took an open-door policy and accepted Western culture. The status of Korean women rose dramatically. Today about a half of Korean women graduate university, and after graduation they have more active roles in various fields in society like education, law, art, sports and so on. These seem that eventually Korean women have equal opportunities with men now. However, the gender-gap problem starts after the women get hired.

According to The Economist’s ‘glass-ceiling index’, Korea ranked the lowest out of 26 OECD countries. The glass ceiling is preventing the promotion of women in society. Because of this thick and unbroken glass ceiling, Korean women couldn’t hold their jobs after they were married.

After marriage the thing goes worse than before. In Korea, only 54.6 percent of women aged between 30 and 34 keep working because having different jobs is very hard. In Korea, less than 1 percent of top firms have female CEOs, and women held 1.9 percent of the board seats, which is the lowest among developing economies.

A few companies like Samsung Electronics announced that they will employ female at their company to some percentage of executive positions. But women’s income is still lower than men’s, and they are not treated equally in our society.

There should be more opportunities for women in our society. In Korea there are many talented women in various areas, and they will be good for the labor force. It is time for us to throw away their old culture and make a big effort to improve women’s social status more as a nation which has a female president.

by Lee Hye-min, Student majoring in English linguistics at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

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