Tuesday, March 11, 2008

International Women's Day

Here's a story from a few days ago about Int'l Women's Day.

Gender Equality Still Has Far to Go in Korea

By Bae Ji-sook
Staff Reporter

In Korea, just the fact of being a woman already implies several disadvantages one has to bear, an official of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), said.

There are still countless problems facing female employees in the country and they aren't just fighting for perks ― they are just asking for basic living rights, said KCTU spokesman Oh Moon-sook.

``In some small-sized companies, a 10-year-experienced female gets paid a million won a month despite having to work extended hours and sometimes being forced to work under bad working conditions resulting in poor health conditions often leading to a miscarriage. In many cases, they are outsourced workers who aren't guaranteed basic insurance or medical care,'' she said.

Today marks the 100th International Women's Day designated by the United Nations.

In 1908, 15,000 woman workers cried out for women's rights on the streets of New York when 146 female workers died in a fire that occurred at a clothing company. It ignited calls for a better working environment and social treatment for women.

However, 100 years later, there are still in many countries women suffering maltreatment at the hands of men in workplace and home. They say though the economy as a whole may have risen, social prejudice toward women is only being diminished very slowly.

The KCTU as well as some other civic groups said women are hired mostly in non-permanent positions and get promoted less than their male peers.

The groups plan to hold protests in downtown Seoul requesting the government and society to acknowledge the problems they have. Attention will be drawn to such matters as KTX bullet train attendants' employment, where a lot of woman are employed on a part time basis, E-Land clerks' repositioning, and the poor treatment of cleaning ladies.

According to the Seoul City government, the wage gap between the sexes is quite large. Women get paid only 64 percent that of men while they put double the time in home management.

Further research by the Democratic Labor party showed that female non-permanent workers get paid a mere 40 percent of that of male permanent workers.

The reality lets women down and makes it hard for them to live an ``ordinary'' life. ``Being sandwiched among the soaring market price, high education fees, hectic working schedule and others puts me off from having children and other ordinary family life some times,'' Park Chung-wha, an English teacher at a private institution, said.

Another married woman Chung Sun-ae had to give up getting a job because she was married and ``had the possibility of having children.'' She actually had a child later, which kept her occupied all day long. ``I have a master's degree. I hope I can use it some day,'' she said.

There are some signs of improvement however. The Ministry of Labor said the employment rate of females between 15 and 64 has gone up about 10 percentage points in 12 years, from 43.6 percent to 53.1 percent.

The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family was established in 2005 and survived the Lee Myung-bak administration's government reorganization plan, thanks to public understanding that gender equality in the country still has a long way to go.

To mark the International Women's Day, a commemorative event will be held at Seoul Plaza. The event will feature plays and concerts.

``We will work till both genders are treated equally ― no more domestic violence or sexual violence, childcare problems and others. We are pretty positive that we can find our way there,'' one of the organizers said.

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