Korean Culture

Does South Korea have a problem with women?

The recent news coming out of Korea has not been good. Aside from the prospect of Kim Jong-Un’s nuclear weapons build-up, there has been the continuing controversy of the government’s response to the Sewol ferry.

In the last two weeks there have been two articles from Western publications which have highighted the limits which women face in the workplace.

Korea has one of the lowest scores of a developed country when it comes to gender equality, being ranked 115th out of 145 countries. This means that most women face almost insurmountable barriers when it comes to working. For example, women are not employed if bosses feel they will become pregnant.

As well as the problems of employment, women have it hard at home, where they do nearly all of the housework. They also face immense scrutiny when it comes to their appearance (the amount of plastic surgery centres in Seoul shows how far theuy are prepared to go for perfection).

It seems that in a culture as seeming modern as South Korea, the old Confucian values die hard. I don’t believe that all Koreans hate women. I think that there are a number of men (as there are in this country) who resent women who show any signs of wanting to avoid a traditional path.

The article in the NY Times referred to a recent murder of a woman by a man who said he killed the woman because he felt that he had been ignored by women his whole life. The comments in the web pages that were set up for the victim were hijacked by men who left comments such as “you’re as helpless as you let yourself be.”

These comments are unpleasant but I doubt that they represent all of Korean men. One thing that will make life easier for women in South Korea is for the government to pass the anti-discrimination bill which would help reduce discrimination, create legal protections and compensation. The women of south Korea deserve much better than what they are currently given to them from their government.

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