The National Assembly passed an amendment of Equal Employment Opportunity and Work-Family Balance Assistance Act (Equal Employment Act) reinforcing employer's duty on sexual harassment at work on 9 November 2017. It's been 18 years since a new article on sexual harassment was included in the law. Despite, sexual harassment has not been rooted out in work places and a recent sexual harassment at Hanssem Inc. demonstrated the seriousness of sexual violence and harassment in the society. Although the amendment has been belatedly passed in the National Assembly, it has significance in a sense that it reaffirms sexual harassment at work is not a personal problem but a problem that a company has official responsibility for. It has importance in that the law reinforces employer's duty on sexual harassment as well.


  The amendment stipulates that anyone can report an occurrence of sexual harassment on the job to the employer, and the employer is obligated to verity what is reported upon receiving or recognizing it, while taking measures to protect the victim including changing working site and paid leave. When a case of sexual harassment is verified, the employer has an obligation to take measures to protect the victimized worker and to take a disciplinary action against the perpetrator. It also bans any disadvantageous action on the victim. When an employer takes disadvantageous actions on a victim, the employer shall be punished by imprisonment with labor for not more than three years or by a fine not exceeding 30 million won and when an employer neglects to verify the harassment, to protect a victim or to take a disciplinary action against a perpetrator, the employer shall be punished by a fine not exceeding 5 million won. It also stipulates the employer's obligation to change working place on the request from the worker when a sexual harassment is committed by a customer. The employer is also obliged to provide paid leave on demand. And an employer shall be punished by a fine not exceeding 3 million won when an employer violates the obligations.


  The law before amendment had loopholes as it had poor regulations on the employer's responsibility for verification, a follow-up process and ban on disadvantageous actions, which led to poor protection on the victims. It was rampant that victims suffered secondary and further victimization and damages such as bullying at work and disadvantages in employment, which was well illustrated in the survey on victims by sexual harassment conducted by Seoul Women Workers Association in 2016. The survey found that 57% of the respondents experienced disadvantages at work after raising sexual harassment issues and 72% of them left company. The law lacked in articles by which workers were protected from sexual harassment committed by a customer and this led to frequent sexual harassments by customers.


  Only one out of 552 complaints in regards to sexual harassment at work submitted to the Ministry of Employment and Labor was prosecuted and 26 cases were dropped. 453 were ended as administrative closure. There are complains that courageous complaints would result in little effects because of narrow interpretation despite the fact that these sexual harassments take place among working relationships.


  The number of counselling about sexual harassment at work via Hot Line for Equality & Counselling for Equal Employment has increased every year and women labor movements have continuously made efforts to amend the law to reinforce employer's obligation to protect victims of sexual harassment at work. The amendment was desperate and urgent as sexual harassment was in violation of equal rights for women and right to work with dignity.


  The employer's obligation including protection on victims must be effectively reinforced by taking the amendment as an opportunity. It is not a victim’s personal problem. This is why employers must carry the responsibility for verifying the case, taking disciplinary actions, and making efforts to prevent the recurrence of sexual harassment. The Ministry of Employment and Labour must have stronger responsibility to enact the amendment effectively. If it neglects its roles despite the fact that the law is amended, we cannot expect effectiveness of the amended law. Every corner of the society including employers and the government must continue to make efforts to make our workplace safe with gender equality and no sexual harassment.



2017. 11. 10


Posted by KWWA

<Press conference statement>

 “For women, all of corporation are Hanssem” Brave women,

vicious corporations and a broken system





We, coming together here, have been accusing and fighting for gender discrimination in the labor market. We have demanded fair treatment for women’s labor who are forced to marginalized work and urged the need of decent jobs from the start for youth women. In line with this, we have made efforts to dissolve gender pay gap, to abolish discrimination on placement and promotion, to remove unfair labor practice in regard to child-care leave, and to eliminate sexual harassment/violence at work that women suffers routinely. Testimonies of survivors from sexual harassment at work have been requesting the disciplinary action to perpetrators and prevention measures, together with redressing measures, for sexual harassment at work, gradually resulting in outcomes to some degree toward reinforcing corporation liability and social responsibility.


In recent, sexual violence occurred in Hanssem and Hyundai Card, leading companies, shows how women are used for sexual objectification in a corporation. What outrages us is that the incidents were committed by bosses who have power to make decision on victims’ employment, and the corporations, which is supposed to be liable, is irresponsible in redressing, rather producing other harms against the victims. The fact that the distorted prejudice, which frequently spoken against victims in sexual violence cases, such as ‘Ggotbaem, false accusation, being in love relationship, misunderstanding, and etc, are encountered in cases of sexual harassment at work shows that workplace, for women, is not different from our society which be packed with misogyny.


Above all, the sexual harassment cases occurred in Hanssem and Hyundai Card are not exceptional but represent the actual faces of all of companies and workplace in which women in our society work. more than 53% of women workers of LG Household & Health Care, carrying on a strike for 52 days, experienced sexual harassment, and 72% of them didn’t make a complain about it. They appeared not to trust redress system of the corporation on sexual harassment and testified that they faced employment disadvantage when they disobeyed. We have witnessed, once again, the damage of sexual harassment women undergo at work through the bold testimony of the sexual harassment victim of Hanssem. And we are outraged that the company and society don’t recognize it nor do they make efforts to redress legitimately, rather they use vicious media manipulation to return the responsibility to the victim.


Often women in low occupational status, in non-standard employment, and in young age are victims of sexual harassment but it occurs in any workplace where power relation exists including old ages, managerial positions, professionals. At the Equal Employment Counseling Center, counseling on a sexual harassment case has been skyrocketing over the years. Sexual harassment is not only damaging individual human right of the woman worker but also results in crisis in employment by disadvantageous treatment and dismissal. Therefore it is a serious violation of labor rights.


A notable case is the case of Samsung which violates the article 14 (2) of EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY AND WORK-FAMILY BALANCE ASSISTANCE ACT which prohibits disadvantageous measures against a victim of sexual harassment, rather incites bullying, exclusion from work, and giving low grade on the performance. The judgment of the court and decision of the Ministry of Employment and Labor on this case has been delayed for 4 years. In the meantime, more damage has occurred. It is the delinquency of duties of the court and the Ministry of Employment and Labor, and an organized violence against victims of sexual harassment who has accused, with bold courage, a large conglomerate, Samsung. 


Bold women corrected the broken system.

Yesterday, at National Assembly, the EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY AND WORK-FAMILY BALANCE ASSISTANCE ACT has been amended with contents to reinforce the employers liability on sexual harassment at work and to strengthen prohibition of disadvantageous treatment against a victim. It is one of the achievements brought by our action to testimony vigorously of, fight and be in solidarity against sexual harassment.


There should be no longer any woman who surrenders or leaves workplace because they are not able to cope with alone. We would stay with bold witnesses to alter the environment of corporations and our society so that corporations and social system all together never tolerate any sexual violence and gender discrimination.





2017. 11. 10.


KCTU Women committee, Woman labor law support center, Korea Women’s Trade Union, NGA/SF, Seoul Women Workers Association, Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center, Korean Women Workers Association, Korean WomenLink, United Korea Women’s Association, United Kyeonggi Women’s Association, Daejeon Women’s Association for Democracy, Deagu Women’s Association, United Daegu&Kyeongbuk Women’s Association, National solidarity to solve the problem of prostitution, Jeju Association for Women’s rights, Jeju women’s Association, Pohang Women’s Association, Women Migrants Human Rights Center of Korea


Posted by KWWA


demand government of a comprehensive measure

to eliminate sexual violence and harassment at work!


The anger and frustration of survivors from a sexual violence and harassment at work is outpouring day after day. KWWA has been operating ‘Equal line’, a hotline for women workers since 1995. What we have learned in the process of resolving the received counseling cases is the views of the corporate and government bodies on the side of perpetrator.


When violence occurs, corporations try to conceal it by regarding it as a matter of the relationship of sexes or as a personal matter. There are few cases in which actions were taken to remove the perpetrator from the victim or to punish the perpetrator according to legitimate procedure. Rather, rumor about the case spreads out in the workplace, bullying and harassment toward the victim arise. The stigma such as a ‘Ggotbaem’ ‘you have been coming on to the guy” is always tagged along. There are even cases in which to take disciplinary action against victims or to dismiss victims. As perpetrators are in higher position in corporations, victims find it difficult to fight against these secondary victimizations.    


According to a fact-finding research by Seoul Women Workers Association in 2016, 57% of workplace sexual harassment victims have encountered disadvantaged measures by their companies. Disadvantageous measures such as ‘a disciplinary discharge, dismissal and other penalty on their professional ranked the first, along with ‘bullying, assault, abuse, and other psychological and physical damage’. It shows that the employer’s liability on the process of investigation and discipline and prohibition of disadvantageous measure regulated by law is too loose to protect victims. 


Victims screw up their all courage and file an appeal of sexual harassment at work into labor office, but are likely subjected to another hurt due to a lack of gender sensitive perspective of labor inspector and very limited range to accept as a case.  For instance, labor inspectors don’t consider sexual harassment/violence occurred at the venue of congregate dining after work as a case at work. It is determined too narrowly, even though it occurred in an unavoidable situation due to the obvious power relation at work. In actual, the number of sexual harassment cases filed in labor office was 552 and, among these, the only 1 case was prosecuted. Apart from it, non-prosecution disposition was for 26 cases, fine was for 66 cases and closure was for 453 cases.


Victims of sexual violence at work, if the case goes to police, encounter once again frustration in the process of investigation. The police investigation, for victims who are intimidated thoroughly, is a continuation of suffering due to overbearing attitude. Even a client was told “it is because you are pretty” by police. After underwent all sorts of hardship, and privation, if it is turned over to prosecution, prosecution demands victims of being victims. It is verified finally as a victim only she is totally as broken as she can’t do anything. Also the prosecution requires a contradiction that victims should not be in calm but their statement should be consistent. If they are not meet criteria of being victims, their case would be dropped as non-prosecution disposition.


 ‘The perpetrator likes the victim, the victim responded nicely on the messenger, the victim drunk heavily, the perpetrator don’t remember anything, …’ all of this excuses work against victims. However sexual behavior is not accepted without consent of counterpart no matter whether the perpetrator likes her/him, and moreover women workers who relatively belong to lower position of the power hierarchy at work can’t help but to be kind on a messenger with the employer or bosses. It is absolutely neither ok to rape a victim because the victim is drunk, nor does it mean that the perpetrator is not guilty because he/she has no memory. Also it is possible for victims to bring the case of sexual harassment up after several years. During the time, victims have been dwelling on the case over thousands and a million times. However, with ridiculous reasons, perpetrators get away with the cases and retain their status as it was.


The fact that sexual harassment/violence at work is so prevailing and grave is strongly attributed to the status of unrespected women workers, including misogyny in our society, lower status in the hierarchy of the company, and excessive low rate of women. Overbearing and hierarchical workplace culture as well as frequent congregate dining with drinking and entertainment culture has also affect. Low level of gender sensitivity of officials at government bodies delays case resolving. The legal loopholes are too decisive. At the request of women groups including women workers association, Lee Yong Deuk, A member of National Assembly, tabled a bill to amend sexual harassment at work- related laws last August. The key of this amendment bill is to clarify the contents of disadvantageous action toward a victim and to reinforce employer’s liability by laying out concrete regulations on investigation procedure and disciplinary action as well as duty to investigate immediately once a case of sexual harassment is reported or happened to know. However, this bill is still pending before the assembly.


Last year, Marvin Zuker, a judge in Ontario, read out his verdict, “the core of sexual assault incident is the only ‘whether the other party has agreed?’.” Any behavior that the other party doesn’t say explicitly ‘YES’ is an outrage that the other party doesn’t agree with and therefore is an offence. In our society, when we could expect to have a government official, boss at work like Marvin Zucker. When dealing with sexual harassment/violence incidents, efforts should be made to resolve them, trying to resolve with victims at the center, not guessing from the perpetrators’ perspective. The awakening of government and member of society are needed. Sexual harassment/violence is an severe and direct violation against women’s rights to equality and to work with dignity. Government should be aware of the gravity of this problem and lays out a comprehensive measure to eliminate prevailing sexual harassment/violence in the workplace.


2017. 11. 9.





Posted by KWWA

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