A woman in 1970 and a woman in 2017 met together

Kim Kyung-suk Award where I met women in books




※ This article is written by KWWA Volunteer Jung, Seunghee.


  On 21 Dec. the strong wind stopped as if it cheers women workers’ fights. On the day I joined the 4th Kim Kyungsuk Award-women labor movement award for the year- and the Solidarity Night of Women Workers as a volunteer of Korean Women Workers Association. As I am a just a student and had a short experience of working, women labor movement is merely something in the book and newspapers. While I moved to the event site, I was a bit exited to listens from women labor movement activists directly and at the same time I was a bit nervous doubting I would be a help for the events.

  While I prepared for the event finding what I should do, many people came in the event site. Before the opening, there was a session where participants took photos in solidarity with women crews dismissed by Korea Train Express(KTX) with supportive messages and I was in charge of taking the photos. I was confident to see most participants readily taking solidarity photos.







  This year's winners are dismissed workers at KTX (KTX crew branch of Korean Railway Workers' Union), who have continued to fight against deceiving in recruitments and unfair dismissals for more than 4,300 days. I hadn’t known their stories in detail but I had a chance to learn their stories from a magazine closely. In 2004 they came through a tough competition to become the first crew of Korail. I can imagine how much they were happy as I am now in the same age of them at the time of their joining in KTX. And I became more sympathetic to their sufferings for the same reason



  In the talk show following the award event, we listened stories from Kim, Seungha, the KTX branch chief and Jeong, Mijung, secretariat of the branch, and Lee, Chonggak, the branch chief of Dongil Textile. I am a student majored in Business you can easily meet anywhere and have little knowledge on the labor movement in 1970s. But I had a chance to read 'Korean Workers: The Culture and Politics of Class Formation' written by Koo, Hagen in a class on labor this semester. The book is written for the students in the US. So it was easy for me as well even though I didn't have much background on labor movements. The book is mainly about women in 1970s who played crucial role in the movement. While reading, I was astonished to learn how the government and employers exploited them and repressed the movement cruelly.


  The most shocking two stories were about Kim, Kyungsuk who died during the sit-in of YH Trading company trade union at Shin Min party's headquarters and that Dongil textile workers’ strike where the company throw feces on them. It was inhuman and I was almost loosing sense of humanity. I had a fit of anger and resentment while listening from the person who was at the scene. When Lee, Chonggak couldn’t control her rage and said she has had trauma after the strike, I was shedding drops of tears out of anger.


- Screening of 'the flowery (documenting YH trade union fights)' at the beginning of the event





  What made me sad was that women workers in 2017 still have the same experience with those who were in 1970-80s. I was frustrated at how long the women workers’ suffering lasted until today but Lee Chong-gak's speaking consoled us and gave a hope. Lee was one of the woman who had bitter fights in the past and she told us that she realized the fights were for herself in the end. Out of respect and inspired by her speech I was able to overcome frustration and to have a will fight to the end.

  In the end of the event participants made circles and sang by changing lyrics together. I took photos of them hanging around them. I found strong energies coming from somewhere when I see them as a whole picture. I might be overwhelmed by their collective experiences.



- Picture of circling and singing by changing lyrics






  When the world is seen from a distance, we cannot find it changing. But when you look at it closely, we can see the world changing slowly. We must remember sweat and tears which made progresses in the history. I enjoyed the moment of sharing experiences and pains and finally reconfirming the will of solidarity. That made the day meaningful and beautiful for a student who will be a woman worker in the future.


- Jung, Seunghee, volunteer having time with Korean Women Workers' Association activists and women labor movement activist in 1970s





2017. 12. 28



Posted by KWWA


Measures to boost jobs for women in the perspective of gender equality at work must be effective  - in a response to the government announcement of measures to boost jobs for women




  The government announced measures to boost jobs for women today (2017.12.26.). The measures have shown that the government is concerned about jobs for women and gender discrimination. But it's still lacking philosophy of gender equality at work. The new government strategy is to build a fair society without discrimination by achieving gender equality and respecting labor. Despite, it fails to see women as labor who must be respected and regards them as labor force merely to be used, which has been mistakenly repeated in the past regimes. Now it must correct the view. Women workers should not be something to be used but citizens working independently and to be respected. This is the point to start with.


  The measures are lacking integrated thinking. They start with preventive measures for career breaking. The measures diagnose women's pregnancy, childbirth and child rearing as the cause of carrier breaking and focus them to solve the problem. The measures may be fairly said as preventive measures for carrier breaking women. But women are devalued in the whole process from job opening, recruitment, roles and duties at work, promotion to retirement. Women actually experience carrier breaking caused by low wages and poor working conditions. This is why the government measures should cover from the recruitment process to the measures for aged women. As raised as a social issue several times in the past, it is urgent to come up with measure for discrimination against gender in recruitment process and downgraded employment. To solve the problem, job division by gender must be considered. Many companies run business separating jobs by gender. This leads workers to face difficulties in redressing discrimination. Women take disadvantages because of downgraded employment, restrictions in promotion and wages caused by job division by gender and suffer damages in the form of employment. The government must take consideration of these problems in the measures.


  As of 2017, 52.4% of women workers are irregular workers and 21.6% are part time workers. It is urgently needed to provide a measure specifically focused on women irregular workers. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women recommend to lower the rate of irregular women workers which is seriously high. However, we cannot find any measures on the problem, which is serious problem itself. In addition, the quality of employment has dramatically deteriorated in the past regimes. The average wage of irregular women workers has been below the minimum wage since 2016. Against this backdrop, the government announced that it will expand flextime system, which seems to be very risky. The government policy reflects gender discriminated way of thinking, which put both responsibilities of work and family caring on women. The priority must be to check working conditions of short-hour workers and to improve their working conditions. Extremely short-hour workers those who work less than 15 hours in a week are not protected by Labour Standard Act including four social insurances, severance pay, leave and 2 year of duty of employment. Companies manipulate prescribed working hour contract standard by chopping down contract terms of regular workers. The government must consider how to cope with the problem.


  There are several measures we welcome but we still have doubts on its effectiveness. We welcome deployment of labor supervisor in charge of equal employment but it would not be effective with 1-2 supervisors by provincial offices. The government need to set up women employment division in the provincial offices which was removed under Lee Myungbak administration and secure sufficient number of labor supervisors to monitor equal employment. This only can lead to build infrastructures to implement labor policies in the perspective of gender equality. To secure effectiveness, detailed standard must be provided to incentives for companies including customized consulting support for vulnerable small and medium sized companies and National Pension Services investment on companies with good performance in women employment. The policy on domestic work service can be effective only when substantial measures including support for the four social insurances back up the policy.


  Furthermore, improvements in the process of applying maternity leave and monitoring the process are required in the environment where pregnancy means dismissal. But there's no measures on it. Support for paternity leave would be useless because we are at the moment that quota system for father's childcare is required. Expanding remote working system needs systemic complement. This is because the system would make blind areas of Labour standard act by employing workers as special employment status. The government measures are also lacking strengthening penalties on sexual harassment at work contrary to the government previous announcement.


  There's no measure to break up glass ceiling which is the strongest among OECD countries. We cannot find any strong measures such as female executive quota system, which was successfully implemented in countries including Norway. Despite the fact that Affirmative Action lacks form of employment, compensation for companies and penalties, the policy only tries to expand the coverage of companies without correcting systemic problem.


  We welcome creating official domestic work service market, disclosing gender equal wage information, newly establishing gender discrimination redressing process in the Labour Relations Commission, introducing punitive damages, ensuring contract workers maternity payment, expanding paternity leave, nurturing work-family balanced culture and enhancing gender equal education. But It is serious problem that the measures are lack of philosophy of gender equality at work and lack of countermeasures covering the whole life of women.


  Realizing gender equality at work is not an easy task. Policies must result in changes in life. The will of government and its implementation and changes among member of the society are prerequisite for it. We call for the government stronger following measures.



2017. 12. 26


Korean Women Workers Association and Korean Women's Trade Union

Posted by KWWA


Beyond discrimination and hatred, gender equality toward democracy

:Nothing justifies discrimination and hatred




  The government born out of candlelight revolution should make policies reflecting "candlelight" citizens' voice and pursue them. They demanded a genuine democratic society where no one is discriminated and marginalized and where everyone is respected and their voices are respected. We are concerned that the National Assembly and the government do not reflect candlelight citizens’ voices. They even show moves to accept demands from hatred groups.


  Recently some hatred groups distorted the meaning of 'gender equality’ and incite and foster discrimination and hatred. These groups interrupted discussions about constitutional reform which were held around the country under the pretext to block a constitutional reform for gender equality. They even almost canceled a public hearing for Master Plans for Gender Equality Policies on 16 Nov., which is indisputable violence having broken democratic principles in public sphere. The groups aggravated discrimination and incite hatred in the name of religion and this is just like insulting their own religion. Religions fundamentally aim for humanity but they damage their reputations and values by themselves.


  What is more problematic is that the government moves toward accepting voices from the hatred groups. In the plenary session of the Special Committee for Constitutional Reform in the National Assembly in late November, some lawmakers demanded to change the term ‘gender equality’ into ‘gender equality between man and women’ in the Constitution, which was followed by media reports of the announcement from the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family on 15 December 2017. Media reported that it would change the term 'gender equality' into 'gender equality between men and women' in Master Plans for Gender Equality Policies. Korean Women's Association United and other women's organizations announced statements in protest against the move and the MoGEF said it uses gender equality mixed with gender equality between men and women.


  The MoGEF's mixed use of both terms, ‘gender equality’ and ‘gender equality between men and women' goes against the spirit of candlelight protests where people demanded redressing discriminations. Therefore, the government born out of hope of women who kept defending the candlelight must change the name of the act 'Framework Act on Gender Equality between Men and Women' into 'Framework Act on Gender Equality' and use the term 'gender equality.' The term 'gender equality between men and women' used by the hatred group is to exclude sexual minorities and condone discriminations against them. 'Gender equality' policies are measures to address gender inequality and discrimination, hatred and exclusion. 'Gender equality' is a basic human right in the perspective of individual right which is enshrined in the Constitution and must not be violated by any reasons.


  The National Assembly should push ahead with the unwavering constitutional reform for gender equality faithful to the spirit of popular sovereignty and representative system. The reform must be to reduce gender discrimination for the sustainable society. The MoGEF, as a responsible department for gender equality policies, must clarity fundamental principles and related contents and keep its own way to gender equality. This is the way to remove deep rooted evils in women polices while it does meet its obligation.


 We will keep close eye on the announcement of Master Plans for Gender Equality Policies expected on 20 Dec 2017.



2017. 12. 18


Korean Women's Association United and Seven sections and 28 member organizations affiliated with it

Posted by KWWA

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