[VIEW 2035] In celebration of a 'continued career'

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[VIEW 2035] In celebration of a 'continued career'

Jeong Jin-ho
The author is a reporter of economic policy team of the JoongAng Ilbo.
It was a few days ago that I first heard the phrase “women with a continued career.” It was coined to replace “women with career breaks,” in order to remove the implication that childbirth disrupts a woman's career. 
“Women with career breaks” is a phrase worth questioning. I searched “women with a continued career” on the internet and figured out the phrase was officially used for the first time last November. The Seongdong District Office was the first to replace the expression “career break” with “continued career” and enact an ordinance to issue a career certificate. On Twitter and online communities, people welcomed the policy enthusiastically. After that, a bill to substitute the official term with “women with a continued career” was proposed.
It was Im Gyeong-ji, youth policy adviser working for the Seongdong District Office, who first came up with the idea. 
“I wanted to change the negative connotation hidden in the word 'break,'" said Im. "I once saw a statistic that a number of women in their 30s and 40s were forced to quit their jobs as the childcare gap had widened during the Covid-19 pandemic. I wanted to find a way to help women to return to work after the pandemic.” 
Im is also working on institutional reform to expand eligibility to receive a career certificate, which would make it possible for men who had given up their jobs to take care of their children to get the certificate as well.

There’s a long way to go. “Career break” is still used everywhere. In the meantime, women that are looking to continue their careers face prejudice in the job market. One woman, who is currently between jobs, said she couldn’t get an interview because it says she has a child on her resume. There’s nothing she can do, even though she is a lawyer.

Statistics show a stark reality. As of last year, the proportion of married women aged between 15 and 54 that had struggled to continue their career stood at 17.4 percent, or 1.448 million. Nearly half of them, or 42.3 percent, had to give up their job because of childcare, followed by marriage at 27.4 percent and pregnancy and childbirth at 22.1 percent.
One day, people started using “voluntary termination of pregnancy” or “ending a pregnancy” instead of “abortion.” This is because the Korean word for abortion has negative connotation in line with other terms referring to immoral behavior. Meanwhile, the Constitutional Court ruled articles that punish women and doctors for terminating a pregnancy unconstitutional. As animal rights have been strengthened, the word “pet” was replaced with “companion animal.” The latter felt more natural.

Do changes in the words we use make the world different or do changes in the world made us use different words? Just like the phrase, “which came first, the chicken or the egg,” no one knows the answer. Still, using different terms without negative implications to change reality seems to be meaningful.

BY JEONG JIN-HO [jeong.jinho@joongang.co.kr]
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