Enforcement key in deterring abuse
The government announced a new work ethics code in an effort to prevent sexual harassment and abuse by those with seniority or authority.
Under the new measures, military or civil service officials will be dismissed even if they are not indicted, but receive lighter penalties or fines for their misconduct. Investigations will be more specialized and victim-protection programs strengthened.
The measures follow a series of sexual abuse cases on university campuses and military compounds that have occurred because perpetrators have been able to exploit their power and positions of authority.
The new code, first and foremost, is intended to toughen penalties and provide thorough investigations into abuses and the misuse of power and authority for sexual gains. It also aims to provide legal and medical help, counseling and other means of support to victims.
However, the abuse of authority for sexual gains persists, not because there weren’t enough regulations, but because they were not being strictly enforced. Women’s rights groups insist that tougher enforcement is more important than the measures themselves.
Representatives from the government, military and universities have repeatedly promised they will strengthen regulations and prevent the recurrence of such cases. But when they do occur, officials have repeatedly tried to hide them and make excuses for public officials’ misconduct.
What’s crucial is that the law and justice be on the side of the victims. If a case is reported, a thorough investigation must be carried out, and the assailant tried and punished accordingly.
Sexual harassment and abuse in the work place cannot be eradicated merely via regulations. Attitudes toward sexual abuse differ widely between men and women, and men often claim their actions were out of genuine fondness or were consensual.
Regular sex education is of little help. There may be differences in individual understanding of the pain inflicted on the other party. It could also likely be due to a lack of real respect for women in the work place.
In addition to stronger measures, a work environment that is harmonious for both genders must be built and regularly enforced. Men and women must also attempt to understand one another and talk out their differences. Punishment alone is not the sole answer to the abuse of power in the work force.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 28, Page 30