Horrible bosses Daegu-styleKorea has been notorious for its ultra-low birthrate — below 1.3 per 1,000 of its population in a year — for 15 years in a row. The figure went down to 1.21 last year. Although there are many reasons, a key factor is a social environment hostile to women’s economic activities, particularly after their marriage.
That’s why the government last year came up with various measures to fight the low birthrate and slow down the aging of our population. For instance, the government set a goal of raising the birthrate to 1.5 by 2020 after systematically helping women maintain a proper balance between work and family, which calls for a 200 trillion won ($174 billion) budget.
However, an anachronistic employment policy at a local company has caused outrage in Daegu after Kumbokju, an iconic local brewer in the fourth-largest city in Korea, forced a woman worker in her 30s to leave her job ahead of her marriage. Angry women in Daegu started a campaign to boycott the brewery’s products by distributing leaflets and stickers in subway stations in the city, and 63 civic groups in the nation set up a headquarters for the campaign.
According to those advocacy groups, the worker, who was hired in 2011, informed her boss of her marriage plans two months before her wedding in December 2015. Instead of receiving congratulations from the boss, she has been under constant pressure to leave the company.
Even after getting married, she has been ostracized by her colleagues at the company. After tolerating unbearable stress for the past two months, she sued the company’s CEO in January on charges of violating the labor law before submitting her resignation to the company in March.
Women’s rights groups say Kumbokju has fired all women workers who get married for the past 58 years and that its 10 current female employees are all single. The company is not contrite. After posting a short apology for dismissing the woman worker on its website, the company insisted that all women employees voluntarily left the company after getting married. They must have gone through intolerable distress working for such a company.
Our labor law stipulates that employers must not discriminate against employees based on their gender. We urge the Daegu office of the Ministry of Employment and Labor to thoroughly investigate what really happened. As long as we have companies like Kumbokju, Korea cannot solve the dilemma of one of the lowest birthrates in the world.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 31, Page 34