[Press Conference] Ministry of Justice and Prosecution Service Should Thoroughly Investigate the Sexual Violence Incident within the Organization and Take Action! —Simultaneous press conference in the sixteen regions across the country urging the investigation of the sexual violence incident in the Prosecution Service

 

 

 

In January 29th, 2018, Prosecutor Seo Jihyun disclosed that she had suffered sexual violence eight years ago by a high-ranking executive in the Ministry of Justice, but had never been apologized but rather disadvantaged in promotion. We wholeheartedly support Prosecutor Seo who took her courage on behalf of all of us.

 

In February 1st, Korean Women Workers Association and regional branches, in company with Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center, United Korea Women’s Association, United Korean YWCA, and Committee of Women’s Rights of the Lawyers for a Democratic Society, held simultaneous press conferences in front of the Supreme Prosecution Service and sixteen regional Prosecution Services to urge the investigation of the intra-organizational sexual violence incident. Korean Women Workers Association made a speech at the press conference held in front of the Supreme Prosecution Service.

 

 

 

 

[Speech] Gender Equal Justice for the Prosecutor Seo Jihyun!

Lim Yunok (Standing Representative of the Korean Women Workers Association)

 

Everyone must have seen the prosecutor’s interview. I was in tears watching her putting stress on every word. I could tell how difficult it was for her to take heart to speak out and how brave she was to burden the responsibility to speak out. She has heard a lot of resigned voices, such as “It is easy to fabricate you as a crazy bitch. Just be quiet and work hard.” “If you want to live as a prosecutor for a long time, you had better get good evaluation from your bosses.” But prosecutor Seo stood up. I truthfully appreciate her courage to make all the women to witness the power of a dignified survivor and to voice ourselves with our own courage.

 

Prosecutor Seo said in the interview: “Even though I was the victim of the sexual violence, I have blamed myself for the eight years. I thought I was suffering the shameful incident because I might have done something wrong. Thus, I am here today to tell the victims that it is not their fault. It took me eight years to realize that.”

 

Yes. The perpetrator Ahn Taegeun, the then Director of the Office of Policy Development of the Ministry of Justice, insisted that “I don’t remember. It was a long time ago.” The Ministry of Justice articulated that “There was no problem in the personnel system.” While the perpetrator has promoted to the Director of Criminal Affairs Bureau and enjoyed power, the victim had to spend eight years to realize that it was not her fault. We all know that the eight years must have been an ongoing torture for her.

 

How gruesome it is. As a taxpayer, as a citizen who expects the Prosecution Service to be righteous, and as a social activist who has claimed for years that sexual assault is violence, I am miserable. What is the Prosecution Service for? It is a state organization which is meant to actualize justice. It is the Prosecution Service that investigate and penalize sexual violence. The incident happened in a funeral. There was the Minister of Justice right nearby. And many other prosecutors were witnessing the scene. However, that sexual violence has been concealed for eight years. I am miserable.

 

That’s not all. Prosecutor Seo hesitated to disclose this incident concerning it might cause trouble to the organization. Moreover, she has received not an apology but disadvantages within the organization, including anomalous administrative inspection, warning from the Prosecutor General, deprivation of prosecuting discretion, and unusual personnel appointment. She had twice earned achievement awards as an excellent prosecutor, but after the incident she has suffered all these disadvantages by male high-ranking executives who wanted to conceal this violence.

 

What is the problem? What made the organization of the Prosecution Service decay as such? What or Who gave the right to them to overrule the Constitution, Labor Standards Act, Gender Equal Employment Opportunity Act?

 

I think it is the unbreakable power of the upper 1%. “I have received the achievement award twice, which is hard for anyone to receive even once in a life time. My service has been selected as an exemplary case once every few months and got rewarded. But these achievements have not really been reflected in the personnel assessment. I have seen a lot of cases, in which incapable male prosecutors get awarded or promoted to good positions in spite of female prosecutors’ better performance.” As prosecutor Seo said as such, if personnel system and reward system are not transparent, it could always be easy to manipulate the organization and disadvantage the powerless people. The personnel assessment system itself is sexist. Sexism at work cannot be removed until the personnel system becomes righteous and transparent, tearing down the mutually-protecting male power structure.

 

Prosecutor Seo said that now she knows there is no other way to voice herself to the people who ignore the powerless and patron-less prosecutor’s cry.

 

Now we declare. Prosecutor Seo, you are not alone. We hear you. We sympathize you in solidarity. We will fight for the end of sexual violence at work to help out women lacking patrons and power within state institutions like the Prosecution Service.

 

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Press Conference]

In response to the sexual violence within the Prosecution Service,

We support prosecutor Seo’s courage!

We urge the investigation without any sanctuary!

 

  

In October 2010, one female prosecutor was sexually harassed by an executive of the Ministry of Justice in a funeral. After the incident, she had not received any apology from the perpetrator but rather received unconvincing disadvantages at work, such as anomalous administrative inspection, warning from the Prosecutor General, deprivation of prosecuting discretion, and unusual personnel appointment. The victim disclosed this incident to the press in January 29th, 2018. Her interview exposed the judicial institutions’ unjust attempt to conceal the incident and to suppress her by disadvantages in the personnel system.

 

After the sexual harassment, the victim naïvely thought she could keep working in the organization without any problem if she worked hard. However, the continuous disadvantages at work have her blaming herself for not officially filing a complaint and realizing that no reform can be initiated if the victim keeps silenced. She said, “I am here today to tell the victims that it is not their fault.” We need to think about how our society should comprehend the prosecutor Seo’s courage. We argue as below.

 

First, thoroughly investigate the incident.

Ministry of Justice made a remark in January 29th, 2018 that it was difficult to grasp the details of the sexual harassment incident of eight years ago, and that there was no problem on paper about the personnel assessment of the victim. We raise questions how the comprehension of the details of the sexual harassment incident of eight years ago can be done as quickly as such, whether they thoroughly and sincerely investigated the incident or not, and how much the victim’s testimony was reflected in the investigation. In response to the critical public opinion, the Ministry of Justice articulated on 30th that they would carefully examine the issue and take measures, and created an investigation team on 31st. However, we think the investigation team consisting only of prosecutors is not enough for righteous inspection. We urge the establishment of the Committee for Special Investigation including civilian experts. Furthermore, we urge the establishment of the High-Ranking Public Officials’ Corruption Investigation Agency, which would be the foundation for righteous investigation procedure.

 

Second, no more re-victimization.

We clearly remember the Supreme Court’s sentencing remarks in December 2017 on the sexual harassment incident in the Renault Samsung Motors. It says, “What victim experienced should be admitted as disadvantage, if there were the circumstances which reflect the company’s intention of oppressing the victim’s official complaint.” It is a declaratory warning towards the re-victimization, including counteraccusation, retaliation, disadvantage, and ostracizing/bullying. If “there was no problem on paper” as the Ministry of Justice insisted, we need to delve into what makes it possible that there was no problem. There work conventional biases against victim, such as “the victim must have induced the incident,” or “the victim slanders male rival to get promoted or to dig some money.” We need to think hard to eliminate these sorts logic of exclusion of women at work.

 

Third, we urge deep introspection and concrete efforts for gender equality within the Prosecution Service.

Korean Association of Sexual Violence Relief Centers’ 2017 evaluation on “facilitators and obstacles” of righteous inspections on sexual violence concludes that the Prosecution Service occupies 6 obstacles out of 10. It reveals the Prosecution Service’s general attitude and perspective toward sexual violence cases and victims. According to Korean Sexual Violence Relief Center’s 2003 research on the gender awareness and gender equality education of the people in the legal profession, 80% answered “Yes” to the entry “Sexual violence cases have more false accusation for the purpose of money.” In comparing these two researches, we can see that the misunderstanding of sexual violence and sexual victims has not been improved over the last fifteen years. Prosecution Service should be responsible for the detailed measures to improve gender awareness within the organization, such as gender equality education and exhaustive inspection on the sexual violence incident among the members. It is indispensable not only for no more such incident in the Prosecution Service but also for righteous inspection and prevention of sexual violence in the entire Korean society.

 

Over the last thirty years, Korean society has witnessed sexual victims’ speaking as well as the resulting changes in law, institutions, and social consciousness. However, many victims are still forced to choose to keep silenced, to conceal the incident, or to leave the communities. Only in a mutually-trusting society where victims do not have to leave the communities because of their official complaints can sincere change begin. The victim prosecutor Seo might have taken her courage based on her trust of the changing society represented by the so-called feminist president and the Prosecution Reformation Committee. Victims publicly break the silence not only because they realize there is no personal or institutional way to resolve their suffer, but also because they trust the members of the society to help them. Now we declare our wholehearted support for the prosecutor Seo who bravely stood up on behalf of all of us. We will stand on her side. We will monitor and urge the Prosecution Service to recover trust from the powerless people in the society and to actualize justice.

 

Now we demand:

 

Prosecution Service should thoroughly investigate the incident with a Committee for Special Investigation including civilian experts!

 

Ministry of Justice should establish the High-Ranking Public Officials’ Corruption Investigation Agency and thoroughly inspect the high-ranking public officials’ offences!

 

Prosecution Service should come up with the detailed measures to improve gender awareness within the organization, such as gender equality education and exhaustive inspection on the sexual violence incident among the members!

 

Prosecution Service should improve its member’s competency to investigate sexual violence incident by gender equality education!

 

Stop suspecting and blaming the victim and prevent re-victimization!

 

2018. 2. 1.

Posted by KWWA

 

[Recollection] “For Gender Equal Labor in 2018”: The 26th General Assembly of the Korean Women Workers Association

January 23rd, 2018

 

 

 

The 26th General Assembly of the Korean Women Workers Association was held in January 19th at Daejeon NGO Support Center.

 

Representatives from eleven regional branches and other affiliated organizations attended.

 

 

 

Six key values of the Korean Women Workers Association—Respect, Solicitude, Equality, Self-Determination, Open-mindedness, and Growth with Each Other—and twelve promises to systematically implement these values had been resolved in the last headquarter meeting.

 

 

 

Each branch has printed the reified promises and exhibited them in the assembly room. We hope these resolutions could help our Association growing into a more equal and harmonious organization.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before the General Assembly, Choi Eunsun, a long-time lawyer for victims of sexual violence and a joint representative of the Korean Women’s Association United, gave a lecture, titled “Gender Equal Constitutional Amendment Can Change Our Lives.”

 

 

 

 

In comparing the political situations around constitutional amendment in 1987 and 2018, she argued that the amendment in 2018 after the Candlelight Revolution should overcome the limits of the amendment in 1987. By introducing Recall, Initiative, and Plebiscite by the people and by expanding direct democracy, the constitution should be revised in the direction of extending the fundamental rights of the people, she argued.

 

Moreover, Choi emphasized that gender equality should be one of the national objectives in order to actualize democracy. Gender inequality and gender division of labor prevailing in every sector in the society have not been overthrown over the past thirty years, when Korea has witnessed magnificent developments institutionally as well as socially. Choi pointed out that the voice of gender equality can be heard in the society by the gender equal constitutional amendment.

 

 

 

 

 

After the lecture, Secretary General Neuti hosted the self-introduction of the regional branches. They introduced their own six values and twelve promises by acrostic poem.

 

 

 

 

Korean Women Workers Association composed a poem with the value Growth with Each Other.

 

 

 

 

 

Two new activists in Seoul branch introduced themselves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All the branches enjoyed the time with interesting poems.

Then the 26th General Assembly started by the two representatives’ opening speeches.

 

 

 

 

Standing Representative Lim Yunok opened her speech with the three scenes of the last year. First, Stop at 3 O’clock March on the International Women’s Day in Gwanghwamoon Square, in which the issue of gender wage gap was first brought up to the national political discourse. Second, the resolution of the six key values of the Korean Women Workers Association. Third, the establishment of the Feminist Worker Academy as a forum for regional feminist discussion. Lim said that we did a lot, but we were not done.

 

 

 

Joint Representative Bae Jinkyung added that Korean Women Workers Association is not an organization only for social activities but also for relaxation and life of the members. To achieve gender equal labor in 2018 and to move forward, we need to work hard, but we also need to rely on each other and become relaxation to each other.

 

 

Chairperson of the Korean Women’s Trade Union Na Jihyun attended and gave a short speech.

 

 

General Assembly moved on to the reports of the last year’s projects and finance, and to the approval of this year’s projects. Below is the Korean Women Workers Association’s keynote of the year 2018.

 

Keynote for Year 2018 (the fourth-year plan)

1. As a new paradigm for woman labor policy, we propose “Gender Equal Labor Policy” and develop activities and movements for the realization of gender equality at work.

2. We try to realize future plans for sustainable movement for gender equality at work.

 

 

Key Projects

1. Removal of the Gender Wage Gap

1) A road map for the removal of the gender wage gap

2) International Women’s Day

3) Removal of the Gender Wage Gap Day (May 11th)

4) Campaign for observance and realization of minimum wage

 

 

2. “Change and Growth”: Realization of Future Plans for Gender Equality at Work

1) Evaluation of “Equality Hot Line” project and pursuit of reorientation of KWWA’s project

2) Settlement of feminist organizational culture (Attractive organization)

3) Expansion of the female worker generation

4) Recruitment and reproduction of activists

5) Organization of 10,000 members and establishment of regional branches in 16 provinces (long-term plan) 

 

 

We ask for your support and participation of the Korean Women Workers Association’s activities for removal of gender wage gap in 2018 and the Association’s sustainable growth towards better future.

 

After the meaningful (but less funJ) General Assembly, we held an award ceremony for regional branches and activists. The newest activists from each branch helped awarding the prizes.

 

 

 

Breaking up the Year 2018 Award: Seoul Women Workers’ Association

 

 Increasing Power of Feminism Award: Masan-Changwon Women Workers’ Association

 

Busking with Female Workers Award: Kwangju Women Workers’ Association 

 

I am the Heroin of the Equality Hot Line Award: Kyungjoo Women Workers’ Association 

 

Let’s Restart from Here from Now Award: Puchon Women Workers’ Association

 

“We Can Speak” with Female Workers Award: Daegu Women Workers’ Association  

 

Activity, Is It True? Award: Korean Caring Cooperative Council 

 

Domination of Female Labor in Busan Award: Busan Women’s Association

 

Great Job This Year Award: Suwon Women Workers’ Association

 

We Met the Lives of Female Workers in Small Workplace Award: North Cholla Women Workers’ Association 

 

Do Whatever You Want! We support You! Award:  Ansan Women Workers’ Association

 

 

The 26th General Assembly came to an end as such. Let’s go for the realization of gender equality at work! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by KWWA

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