Korean Economy

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It’s Official: UNDP Says Korea Now Feminist Paradise (NOT April 1 Joke!)

 

(Source: unknown)

If there was only one statistic that best sums up contemporary Korean society, then that would be its “Gender Empowerment Measure” (GEM). Calculated by the UNDP, it is:

…an indicator of women’s degree of participation in political and economic activity and the policy-making process, using for its evaluation factors such as the number of female legislators, the percentage of women in senior official and managerial positions, the percentage of women in professional and technical positions, and the income differential between men and women (source).

Or, to put it graphically (see here for more details):

And why Korea’s GEM is so revealing is not just because of its abysmal ranking, which, at 68th out of 179 countries surveyed, is bested even by developing countries such as Kyrgyzstan, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, Vietnam, Moldova, Botswana, and Nicaragua. Rather, it’s because that rank is so out of sync with its other rank of 25 in the Human Development Index (HDI), which measures a country’s  standard of living. Surely, as I explained two years ago, there is no greater testament to the palpable gender apartheid here, than the fact that Korea does such a good job of educating and taking care of the health its citizens, only then to effectively exclude fully half of them from political and economic power?

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Sexual Harassment in the Workplace & the 2001 Equal Employment Opportunity Law: What Still Needs to be Done

 

(Source)

With thanks very much to Marilyn for the translation of the following article from Ildaro (일다), I’ll quickly let it speak for itself:

>고용불안 속, 직장내 성희롱 위협 커져

In the midst of employment instability, the threat of workplace sexual harassment increases

고용평등상담실 10년, 여성노동의 현실과 미래를 말한다(2)

10th year of the Equal Employment Counseling Office, discussing female employees’ present and future

[편집자 주] 2001년 남녀고용평등법 4차 개정으로 고용평등상담실 지원제도가 도입된 지 10년이 되었습니다. 민간단체들의 고용평등상담실은 그동안 여성노동자들의 실질적 보호장치로 기능해왔으며, 여성노동자들이 처한 현실을 사회에 고발하는 창구역할을 해왔습니다. 일다는 여성노동자회와 함께 고용평등상담실에 접수된 상담사례를 통해 IMF 경제 위기 이후 후퇴 일로를 걷고 있는 여성노동의 현실과 과제를 살펴보고자 합니다. 필자 황현숙님은 현재 서울여성노동자회 회장을 맡고 있습니다.

우 리 사회의 성폭력 문제는 온 국민이 알게 된 끔찍한 아동 성폭행, 유명 정치인의 성희롱 등으로 자주 언론에 오르내리는 이슈가 되었다. 직장내 성희롱으로 고용평등상담실의 문을 두드리는 여성들의 호소 또한 가벼운 성적 농담이나 접촉을 넘어서 심지어는 강간에 이르는 경우조차 발생되고 있다. 직장내 성희롱은 그 자체가 미치는 정신적․신체적 악영향, 노동환경의 악화뿐만 아니라 일자리 자체까지 위협받게 된다는 데에 그 심각성이 있다.

[Editor’s note] It’s been 10 years since the Equal Employment Counseling Office support system was introduced through the 4th Amendment to the 2001 Equal Employment Opportunity Law.  During that time, the Equal Employment Counseling Offices of private organizations have been functioning as female workers’ practical safeguards and have acted as liaisons that report to society the realities that female workers encounter. Through the case consultations received in the Equal Employment Counseling Office, Ilda and the Women Workers Association intend to look at the realities and problems of women workers, who are losing ground after the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis.   Author Hwang Hyun-sook  is the current head of the Seoul Women Workers Association.

Through incidents of horrible child molestation, a famous politician’s sexual harassment, and others of which the entire nation is aware, our society’s problem with sexual violence has become an issue that often comes up in the press.  According to the complaints of women workers who’ve knocked on the Equal Employment Counseling Office’s door because of sexual harassment, there are also cases occurring that surpass light sexual jokes or touching to go as far as rape.  Workplace sexual harassment itself not only has bad mental and physical effects and worsens work environments, but is even of such a magnitude that jobs themselves [of victims] may be threatened.

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The Gender Politics of Smoking in South Korea: Part 4

 

( Source )

“Smoking Among Men Drops to Record Low” reads a recent headline in The Chosunilbo, with only 39.6% of Korean men over 19 now doing so: a drop of 3.5% from a year earlier, and of 17.1% from 2003. Which is something to be celebrated for sure, but, strangely, the even more amazing news that almost half of women smokers also quit last year barely gets a mention. Why not?

Of course, it may just be an oversight. But there is some context to consider: overemphasizing reductions in the male smoking rate is intrinsic to the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s (보건복지부) tobacco control policies for instance, and it also has a long track record of exaggerating its successes. Possibly then, the report just reflects the Ministry’s own emphases in its press release.

Alternatively, readers too may not have been interested in a paltry reduction of 4% to 2.2%. The rate has always been low, they may have said. And with a 2007 Gallup Korea study finding that 83.4% of Koreans thought that women shouldn’t smoke too, with some even slapping them in the street if they do, then apparently the consensus is that so it should be too.

But given that background, then as you’d expect there is chronic under-reporting of smoking by women, best estimates of their real numbers being closer to 20%. Add the absence of any dramatic social or economic changes to prompt women to give up the habit in droves in just the past year too, then it’s difficult not to conclude that these latest figures are essentially meaningless.

Was a line or two to that effect really too much to expect from a newspaper?

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Korean Sociological Image #50: The Depths of the Red Ginseng Craze

Are commercials for this product really the same the world over? Put that to the test by quickly trying to guess what is being advertised above, before all is revealed at o:10.

For non-Korean speakers, the powder shown is a combination of ganghwa-yagssoog (강화약쑥), or “medicinally strengthening” mugwort, and hongsam-paoodeo (홍삼파우더), or red ginseng powder. And surely there is no greater testament to believing in its health benefits than by being prepared to use it in the most intimate of places?

Lest my bashful euphemism for VAGINAS detract from that point however, do recall that during the 2008 protests against US beef imports for instance, many Koreans genuinely believed baseless rumors that Mad Cow Disease could be caught via the gelatin used in sanitary napkins. So it makes perfect sense for aptly-named manufacturer Body Fit (바디피트) to capitalize on the belief that what’s inside sanitary napkins can have direct effects on the wearer’s health.

Indeed, red ginseng in particular is even rumored to be an aphrodisiac too.

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Conformity and Celebrity in Korean Advertising: Some Quick Thoughts

( Source )

What? Belgian surrealist art on a blog about Korean sociology? Yes indeed; but never fear, for I’ll be criticizing something Korea-related soon enough!^^

The painting in question is Golconda (1953) by René Magritte, and I’m sure many of you have seen it before. But what did you think it was about?

Personally, I’d always assumed it was a critique of conformism. But Charly Herscovici, who was bequeathed copyright on Magritte’s works, commented that (via Wikipedia):

Magritte was fascinated by the seductiveness of images. Ordinarily, you see a picture of something and you believe in it, you are seduced by it; you take its honesty for granted. But Magritte knew that representations of things can lie. These images of men aren’t men, just pictures of them, so they don’t have to follow any rules. This painting is fun, but it also makes us aware of the falsity of representation.

So although our interpretations aren’t mutually exclusive, the painting may not be quite as drab and negative as I thought. Still, does that make the concept suitable for a phone commercial?

Not really:

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Fighting Sexual Harassment at Samsung: Part 3

( Source )

This post, about Lee Eun-eui’s successful suit against Samsung Electronics for sexual harassment by her boss and then being punished for reporting it, follows directly from Part 1 and Part 2. If you haven’t already, please read those before continuing:

소송과정에서 가장 힘들었던 점은?

What has been the most difficult thing in the whole legal process for you?

회사에서는 내가 거짓말 한다고 했다. 인권위에서나 법원에서 회사의 주 변론이 ‘원하는 부서에 배치 받으려고 있지도 않은 성희롱을 했다고 주장한다’라는 거였다. 그럴 때마다 수치스러웠다. 주로 남자들이 있는 자리에서 내가 당했던 일을 말하는 게 쉬운 일도 아니었고.

처음 성희롱이 몸의 수치였다면, 사내에서 가해진 왕따는 영혼의 수치였고, 그 이후 회사의 반응들은 영혼과 몸을 다 부정당한 기분이었다. 내가 나의 성을 팔아야 할 만큼 부서배치나 승진이 대단한가? 매번 그런 사실을 법원에서 인권위에서 해명할 때마다 느꼈던 좌절감이 오늘의 나를 만들어 준 것 같다. 분노로 담금질 됐다. 회사는 나를 괴물같이 보겠지. 퇴사하지도 않고 심지어 (소송에서) 이기기까지 했으니. 그렇지만 나는 이런 ‘괴물’을 만든 건 회사라고 본다. 나는 원래 그런 존재가 아니었는데, 나를 자꾸 흔들어서 내가 살기 위해 움직이다 보니까 이 자리까지 온 거다.

잠시 숨을 고르던 이씨는 신입사원 시절, 연수원에서 배웠던 ‘도덕성ㆍ에티켓ㆍ인간미’를 이야기 했다. 그는 “유치하고 뻔 한 말이지만, 그 세 가지가 지켜졌다면 없었을 일이 황유미ㆍ박지연(삼성전자에서 일하던 중 백혈병으로 사망)씨였고 나였다”라고 말했다.

Samsung Electronics saying that I was lying. Their response to the Human Rights Commission and the Court was that I was simply accusing my boss of sexual harassment in order to get the position I wanted within the department. I felt really ashamed and humiliated whenever I heard that. And it was especially difficult to talk about it when there were men around (source, right).

At first, the sexual harassment made me feel ashamed and humiliated bodily, but then when I was ostracized within the company my spirit felt that way too, and because of the company’s reaction I felt such a sense of injustice and frustration both mentally and physically. Was being promoted within the company so important that I had to sell myself sexually? Whenever I had to explain the fact of what happened to the Human Rights Commission or in the Court, I felt such a sense of frustration and discouragement, and that’s made me what I’m like today. But my anger was sated, and the company will look at me as a monster from now on. However, I wasn’t originally like that, it’s what the company made me; because they kept pressing so hard, I had to hold my ground just to survive and get on with my life.

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Fighting Sexual Harassment at Samsung: Part 2

( “What? Sexual Harassment at Samsung Electronics?? Heaven Forbid!”. Source )

This post, about Lee Eun-eui’s successful suit against Samsung Electronics for sexual harassment by her boss and then being punished for reporting it, follows directly from Part 1. If you haven’t already, please read that before continuing:

블로그에 “1 레이싱이 얼추 막이 내렸다라고 썼더라. 1 레이싱을 뛰고 소감이 어떤가.

On your blog, you wrote that”The First Round is almost over”. How do feel about that?

아직 실감이 잘 안 난다. 꿈꾸는 것 같다. 회사가 항소를 할 건지 안 할 건지에 따라 바뀌겠지만, 지금은 해묵은 숙제를 끝내고 조금 쉴 수 있는 시간이다(삼성은 “내부적으로 법률적인 판단을 거친 뒤 항소 여부를 결정할 것이다”라고 밝혔다). 판결 뒤 며칠 편하게 잠을 잤다. 사건을 겪으면서 죽고 싶다는 생각도 많이 했다. 내가 일하는 건물(수원 삼성전기 본사)에서 죽을까, 삼성 본관이 있는 강남이나 태평로로 갈까…생각하면서. 그런데서 죽었으면 신문에 한 줄이라도 날까? 결국 살아서 싸우니까 좋은 결과를 본다고 판단했다. 삼성 사건 치고는 기사도 많이 나왔다(웃음).

It doesn’t feel like it’s real yet. It’s like a dream. Of course, Samsung may yet decide to file an appeal, but for now at least I am finally able to finish all my work related to the case and take a rest (Samsung stated that it will “decide whether or not to file an appeal after discussing the legal judgment within the company”), and I’ve slept soundly in the few days since the judgment was handed down. While the case was going on, I often thought of killing myself, but wondered whether to do it at my workplace (Suwon Samsung Electronics branch), at Samsung’s headquarters in Gangnam, or on Taepyeong Road [in front of Seoul City Hall - James]…but if I did, would it even get one line in a newspaper? So, I decided to carry on and fight, and in the end I was able to see a good result. And now (laughing) there are many articles about Samsung electronics in the news!

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Fighting Sexual Harassment at Samsung: Part 1

( Source )

Extremely important for its ramifications for Korean workplaces, frankly I’m amazed that I’ve been unable to google any English-language sources on the following sexual-harassment case at Samsung. Perhaps the Korean English-language media still feels intimated by the company, let alone the Korean-language one?

Either way, it deserves to be much more widely known, and if I’d realized that when commenter “previouslyafter” first passed it on, I certainly wouldn’t have had a month’s break from blogging immediately thereafter! My apologies for the delay then, and to make the long article from Sisain more readable, I’ve decided to split it into 3 parts, especially as there are some important questions raised by the first. Which for the sake of accuracy and context, I would really appreciate readers’ help with answering before continuing translating Part 2:

삼성에 맞선 ‘만년 이 대리’의 기적 같은 승리

A Miracle-like Victory in a Long-time Deputy Section Chief Lee’s Stand Against Samsung

by Jang Il-ho (장일호), 28/04/10

뒷목과 머리카락으로 부서장의 손이 오고갔다. 브래지어 끈을 만지작거리는 날도 있었다. 해외 출장을 갔던 2005년의 어느 날, 부서장 박아무개씨는 엉덩이를 치면서 “상사를 잘 모시라”는 말을 하기도 했다. 삼성전기 전자영업팀에 근무하던 이은의 대리(36)는 지금도 그날의 수치를 잊지 못한다.

2005년 6월, 이은의씨는 더 이상 견딜 수 없어 부서장 박아무개씨한테 당한 성희롱 피해를 회사 인사팀에 알렸다. 그러나 돌아온 것은 부서장이 아닌 자신의 대기발령이었고, 부서전환, 그리고 왕따였다.

Park, the department head, would quickly touch the hair on her back of her neck with his hand. One day, he fondled the strap of her bra. And once while on a business trip in 2005, he stroked her buttocks while telling her “You should obey your superiors”. Deputy Section Chief Lee Eun-eui (36), who worked for Samsung’s electronic appliances’ sales team, still can’t lose the sense of shame and disgrace she felt on that day.

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The Gender Politics of Smoking in South Korea: Part 3

( Korea is 4th from right; source )

Apparently, Korea is pretty unique in its huge difference in smoking rates between the sexes: up to 10 times more Korean men smoke than women. Or do they?

In short, probably not: considering that a 2007 Gallup Korea study found that 83.4% of Koreans thought that women should not smoke, then the accuracy of almost all figures are undermined by chronic underreporting by women. Moreover, it is misguided to speak of male or female smoking rates in the first place when those within each gender differ so widely by age, socioeconomic position, and/or marital status. Even unhelpful too, as low perceived rates for women overall have encouraged Korean medical authorities to almost exclusively focus on reducing smoking rates among men instead, overlooking rapidly rising rates among young women especially.

But for all their flaws, it is only natural to want to have some numbers to work with. And so, when I wrote Part 1, my original intention here was to pass on all those provided by 3 recent journal articles on the subject, hopefully providing readers with enough information to get at least a rough idea of the true numbers in the process. Numerous failed drafts later however, I now realize that that approach was a mistake, and should have paid much more attention to the following points by Lee et .al. (2009):

…the limited data available on female smoking prevalence and behaviour in South Korea must be urgently addressed. Data from the Korean National Health and Nutrition Survey (Table 2) suggests female smoking rates have fluctuated significantly between 1980 and 2003, with variations within age groups by year that are difficult to explain. There are also inconsistencies across different data sources which prevent clear understanding of smoking behaviour within specific cohorts by age, location, socio-economic group and other variables.

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Korean Sociological Image #40: As Pretty as a Picture?

( Source )

As any visitor to the country soon becomes well aware, Korea seems to be a society obsessed with appearance. And once they’re over the initial surprise of ubiquitous cosmetic-surgery clinics, then this is something both natural and very easy to criticize too: after all, where else would one hear of people bothering to photoshop passport photos for instance, or even that it’s completely legal to do so?

But if we accept that obsession as a given, then whatever its pernicious effects on women (and of course, it does primarily affect women), we should not automatically view a woman who decides to get breast-enlargement surgery for instance, as simply suffering from something like gong-ju byeong (공주병), or “princess disease”; rather, she may well be making a very rational, informed choice that has a dramatic effect on her career opportunities, more than paying back the initial investment. And indeed, short of being a social pioneer, and a poor and frustrated one at that, what else is one to do when employers require photos with resumes?

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