A long way to go to close gender gap

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A long way to go to close gender gap

Korea’s level of gender equality is on par with Islamic countries, according to the World Economic Forum’s last Global Gender Gap Report. The annual report measures the gap between men and women in four areas: economic participation and opportunity, education, political influence and health. Korea ranked 111th out of 136 countries. The United Arab Emirates is No. 109, and Bahrain is No. 112.

Men are not the only ones skeptical of the ranking. I personally feel offended that the status of women in Korea is comparable to those in Arab nations. Nowadays, parents don’t discriminate against their daughters in providing educational opportunities, girls tend to perform better and just as many female applicants pass various civil service exams as their male counterparts. In the last two decades, women’s social status has enhanced drastically, and some men even complain that they are being alienated.

The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family must have been upset about the report. In the policy briefing, the ministry claimed that the index only indicates the gap between men and women, not the level of each area, and does not properly reflect Korea’s circumstances. When Minister Cho Yoon-sun visited the World Economic Forum in May, she addressed the issues with the index and is preparing a plan to improve the statistical index. In addition, the Park Geun-hye government has made the enhanced status of women a prime administrative task and is making policy efforts to address that goal.

So I downloaded the 397-page report, and after reviewing it, my initial embarrassment subsided. The report points out that the government needs to protect women’s rights and civil society, and educators and media should also make efforts to enhance women’s rights in order to have men and women compete solely based on competency at workplaces and communities.

Achieving an equal social status between men and women could be hindered by age-old male chauvinism. The realization of true equality cannot be attained without looking at the gap and making sincere efforts to overcome it.

The Economist named Korea and Turkey, in 120th place, as the “most notable outliers.” Yet the Philippines and Cuba are ranked fifth and 15th, while Korea and Turkey, which have “already graduated from emerging market status,” have such low rankings. Also, it’s especially peculiar that Japan, with the world’s third-largest economy, is No. 105.

Korea, Turkey and Japan are all based on patriarchal cultures, and these countries did not get good marks as their economic development was not enough to change their cultural foundations. Changing the statistical methods for the index is not likely to change Korea’s scores very much. If we truly want to close the gender gap, we need to begin by deconstructing the deep-rooted patriarchal mind-set rather than changing the statistics.

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

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