Think over your raison d’êtreThe idea of getting rid of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family from the opposition front has stoked a heated debate online. The ministry has poorly responded to sex scandals of influential people such as former mayors of Seoul and Busan due to political reasons. The ministry must reflect on why its viability has come to be questioned once again.
The idea was floated by former lawmaker Yoo Seong-min and Rep. Ha Tae-keung, both running in the primary for presidential candidacy of the opposition People Power Party (PPP), and seconded by PPP chief Lee Jun-seok. Yoo pointed out that women-related policies have been handled by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the Ministry of Employment and Labor and the Ministry of Justice. He pledges to do away with the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family and support servicemen with the extra budget. Lawmaker Ha said that the ministry has aggravated the gender conflict instead of helping promote equality. He proposes to shut the ministry and instead install a presidential committee on addressing gender conflict.
Justice Party Rep. Jang Hye-young opposed the proposal and argued that the ministry needs a better power and environment to work proactively. Reacting to the criticism that presidential-hopefuls are making the proposal to woo male votes and trigger a conflict, Yoo argued it was the Ministry of Gender equality that has been worsening the conflict.
Regardless of the political debate, the ministry must reflect on how it has become the center of such controversy. The ministry has been working for 20 years, but its service was questioned a number of times. Former Minister Lee Jung-ok was criticized for her comment about the sex crimes related to former mayors Park Woon-soon and Oh Keo-don. She said Park’s scandal gave “an opportunity for the people to learn about gender sensitivity.” The ministry was silent when Lee Yong-soo, a comfort woman survivor, exposed wrongdoings of former activist and ruling party lawmaker Yoon Mee-hyang.
Although renamed to the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family after the launch of the liberal Moon Jae-in administration, the office still mostly focuses on women’s rights. It must also pay heed to discrimination against young men under gender equality policy and changing times. Thanks to balanced policy and culture, there is no gender difference in Sweden. The ministry must become free of political bias to regain public confidence. It must overhaul itself to meet broad public expectations.