Central, local gov’ts to handle harassment

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Central, local gov’ts to handle harassment

Five government ministries, including the Gender Equality and Family Ministry, announced Tuesday that the central government or local governments will now directly handle sexual harassment cases from public institutions involving senior managers.

Heads of public organizations will also be penalized for failing to handle such cases adequately.

In a press conference co-hosted by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, Ministry of Strategy and Finance, Ministry of the Interior and Safety, Ministry of Employment and Labor and Ministry of Personnel Management, government officials announced that public institution employees involved in such cases will be strictly disciplined, while appropriate legal revisions will be made next year.

The announcement follows recent media coverage of public and private companies embroiled in harassment cases and President Moon Jae-in’s urgings to deal with such incidents sternly. One of the biggest changes proposed was to have senior government organizations handle cases involving senior managers in public institutions. Institutions will be required to write reports of their measures to prevent recurrences and follow-ups, and submit them to at least two central government bodies including the Gender Equality and Family Ministry.

The government will also require all public institutions to educate their heads and senior managers on workplace violence prevention, or face the consequences of having their institutions being branded as “stagnating.” Those identified as such have to submit additional reports of measures being taken to prevent such problems.

To minimize collateral damage from such cases, victims will be able to request physical separation from the person via transfer to another department or leave of absence. Institutions will be responsible for containing malicious rumors about victims.

Institutions or their heads will be made responsible for any unfair treatment that the victim or whistleblower may receive. Employees who face charges will face the same degree of disciplinary action as public officials, regardless of their position.

“We are in urgent need of organizational restructuring so that victims of workplace harassment may report incidents without fear,” Gender Equality and Family Minister Chung Hyun-back said. “We will focus on improving management and supervision so as to prevent cover-ups of sexual harassment and collateral damage towards victims and whistle blowers.”

The government is also planning to open an online reporting system, and allow victims to report incidents directly to the Gender Equality and Family Ministry.

BY JEONG JONG-HOON , KIM EUN-JIN [kim.eunjin1@joongang.co.kr]

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