'HOT ISSUES & NOTICE'에 해당되는 글 177건

  1. 2017.11.10 [Forum for the presidential election agendas; Let Us Overcome Misogyny and Remodel Women's Work and Life ④] For the Society of Equal Work and Equal Care(May 4, 2017)
  2. 2017.11.10 [Forum for the presidential election agendas; Let Us Overcome Misogyny and Remodel Women's Work and Life ③] "Justice of Redistribution and Recognition" to Close the Gender Gap(Apr. 28, 2017)
  3. 2017.11.10 [Forum for the presidential election agendas; Let Us Overcome Misogyny and Remodel Women's Work and Life ②] The 'Candlelight Election' calls for feminist politics (Apr. 20, 2017)
  4. 2017.11.10 [Forum; Let's Remodel Women's Work and Life ①] Cold, unescapable reality for the temporary workers (Apr. 13, 2017)
  5. 2017.11.10 〔Declaration at the rally 'Stop at 3 o'clock!' on Mar. 8th, International Women's Day〕Gender wage gap, a clear index of sexual discrimination!(Mar. 14, 2017)
  6. 2017.11.10 [International Women's Day on March 8th] A rally 'Stop at 3 o'clock!' (Mar. 13, 2017)
  7. 2017.11.08 〔Interview〕"Decreased gender wage gap will also benefit the men workers", said the organizer of a rally 'Stop at 3 o'clock!'. (Mar. 8, 2017 / The Hiffington Post Korea)
  8. 2017.11.08 [Commentary] Part­Time Jobs, 'Coercion' in the Disguise of 'Preference' (Feb. 22, 2017)
  9. 2017.11.08 [Lecture by Professor Seo, Bokgyeong] Recent protests geared by people's anxiety about the future-the social change in South Korea calls for political support for the younger generation from those in 50s. (Jan. 17, 2017)
  10. 2017.11.08 [The 25th Annual Meeting in 2017] Let Us Introduce Our Leaders and Core Projects for the New Year!(Jan. 1, 2017)

For the Society of Equal Work and Equal Care - A Discussion of Labor Policy and Care Work



※ On Feb. 23, 2017, a forum titled "Let Us Overcome Misogyny and Remodel Women's Work and Life" was held in the National Assembly of South Korea. It was jointly held by Korean Women Workers Association and Korean Women's Trade Union, along with six members of the National Assembly (Insoon Nam, Chairman at Gender Equality and Family Committee / Mihyuk Kwon and Okjoo Song, Democratic Party of Korea / Samhwa Kim and Yonghyeon Shin, People's Party / Jeongmi Lee, Justice Party). Through the five articles on OhmyNews, an online news website in South Korea, we Korean Women Workers Association will report on this forum. In this article, we will cover the presentation by Professor Ja-young Yun (Department of Economics at Chungnam National Univ.), titled "A Discussion of Labor Policy and Care Work."


'Employment rate 70 %' was an agenda for all economic and social policies as one of the major projects in former President Park's government. The agenda's main target group was the women. The assumption of the labor policy that all adult women and men in a family should participate in the labor market trivialized families' demand for care and labor reality under the name of 'socialization' and 'support for 'work-family balance', and thereby made care work invisible and marginalized.

Professor Ja-young Yun started her presentation emphasizing that it was needed to point out the limitations of 'adult worker model' which today's labor policy assumed and to set out the directions and strategies for both genders' equal participation in paid labor and care work. 



▲ Professor Ja-young Yun (Department of Economics at Chungnam National Univ.) in her presentation ⒸKorean Women Workers Association



Adult Worker Model


In many welfare states in Europe, the way both genders contribute to family economy is based on 'adult worker model' in which all adults in a family are expected to participate in full­time paid labor, instead of 'male breadwinner model' where men earn family's main income while women take care of family members. This is based on a belief that participation in labor market will realize equal employment and citizenship for both genders. However, today it is widely considered that the 'adult worker model' has failed. In many European countries, as a result of the model, women became to participate in labor market as part­timers while men worked full­time. 


Then, why did the 'adult worker model' fail? The answer can be found in a way the model handled with care for family members, which had been traditionally done by women. The model considered the best to incorporate care work into the public realm through its commercialization. However, it is impossible to 'completely' commercialize 'care' because of the difficulty to perfectly outsource private and emotional work attached to it. Along with the commercialization of care work, it is needed to think about the ways care work can be shared by women and men, and individuals and society. Under the assumption that individual's 'independence' and 'choice' is valuable, the 'adult worker model' encouraged participation in labor market as an expression of such 'choice'. The problem is whether the rights of choice can be truly guaranteed. Both genders' equal participation in care work is not possible until individuals can be given 'true' freedom to choose care work. Also, given that citizens' participation in paid labor was emphasized as their responsibility for the nation in welfare reform based on the 'adult worker model', it is needed to emphasize not only responsibilities but also rights of care work, including rights to participate in and receive care. 


The adult worker model's labor policy considers the labor market as the realm of 'appropriate' activities. For labor policy based on the welfare to work program, which encourages escapes from poverty through labor, any kinds of paid work, no matter how poorly it is paid, can be regarded as an appropriate activity. In this context, care work is merely seen as an obstacle to women's paid labor, not as the critical resources and processes for human beings' development and social reproduction. While independence is emphasized as the principle of life, care is dubbed the negative meaning of dependence rather than universal values to construct human life and ethics to build alternative society.



▲ Participants at the forum for the presidential election agendas ⒸKorean Women Workers Association



The Invisible, Devalued, and Stratified Care Work 


Increasing part­time jobs, encouraging the use of paid leave, and commercializing social service have been carried out as the ways to support work­family balance. However, paradoxically, it made invisible not only care work in the market, companies, and the other public areas, but also many workers' double responsibility of paid labor and care work. Although the labor market does not prevent women's participation in paid work on the surface, workers are asked to individually solve the problems with responsibilities and rights of care. This can be seen as a dilemma as the policy for work­family balance has helped to  marginalize and undervalue care work in a family, and to reproduce the devalued status of family care and care work in the market.


Part­time jobs, which many women were encouraged to participate in under the former President Park's government, presupposes women's role as a primary care giver for their family members. Through the ideology of work­family balance, not for the women to gain equal socioeconomic status as the men, it reinforces the model of male breadwinner­female secondary income earner. In addition, given that it is needed to ask companies to internalize workers' costs of family care, women's part­time jobs externalize such costs, and thereby do not so much help to support work­family balance not only for the women, but also for the men workers. 


   The parental leave system also helps to make invisible workers' care work and related responsibilities in the workplace. Not all the workers are guaranteed the rights to return to work after their parental leave, and some temporary women workers are excluded from using parental leave. Child care facilities are used to excuse companies from responsibilities for work­family balance, such as to guarantee the employees that they can reduce their working hours, leave work at the regular time, or use working hours more flexibly, if needed. The parental leave system does not contribute to fundamentally changing the working culture and system for the companies to share their responsibilities of care.


   It is regular women workers in the large companies who mainly benefit from the increased availability of the parental leave. Whether the parental leave can be actually used or not largely depends on the labor relations and environment of the company, beyond an individual worker's choice. This is why we cannot dismiss the criticisms that the parental leave system will only benefit relatively more affluent families unless removing the obstacles to using the parental leave at the company level. The low income replacement rate of the leave is criticized as only increasing disadvantages from the use of the parental leave for the low­income families.



For the System of Labor­Care


   To establish the system of labor­care in which both genders equally share paid labor and care work, we need strategies for the 'universal care giver model' as suggested by Nancy Fraser. She insists that care work should be considered to have equal value and status to men's 'paid productive labor'. According to the 'universal care giver model', care work that has been regarded as 'women's work' should be included as the essential requirements for citizenship, thereby should be redistributed as the basic civil activity regardless of one's gender. 


   For the 'universal care giver model' to be successfully established in South Korean society, Professor Yun insists it is stable equity in carrying out care work which should be first guaranteed, especially between genders and classes. It is needed to systematically reinforce the sharing structure of child care, between support for the workers' child care and child care service at the facilities as the former's alternative. Also, it is needed to improve the working conditions at the child care facilities as well as parents' rights to choose and access the child care service. According to Professor Yun, it is also needed for the state to financially support the citizen's family care regardless of his/her participation in paid labor, and to adopt the basic income which guarantees universal income regardless of one's employment likelihood and status.


   Secondly, Professor Yun emphasizes the importance of strategies for the redistribution of time and equal participation in labor market through working hour reduction. It is working hour reduction, she insists, which could serve as a long­term, fundamental strategy for both genders to equally participate in paid labor and care work. In a system which forces working long hours, women's participation in labor market leads to nothing but intensifying women workers' time poverty and pressure. To reduce working hours, she points out, it is needed to change the structure of income incentives which supports  the present system of long working hours. For instance, the rate of overtime pay needs to be increased up to higher than 50%, so that both employer's and employee's incentives for overtime work could be blocked. 

 

  Thirdly, Professor Yun emphasizes the importance of flexible working hours. It is needed to make working hours more flexible, according to the reality of workers with the responsibility of family care. It is working hour reduction which should be emphasized first in a system of working hours reflecting the family responsibility and labor reality. Five­day six­hour work, rearrangement of working hours, and restrictions on night or holiday work could be an example. To reduce the standard working hours for every worker could be an effective way to support  family care work.


   Lastly, in order to supplement working family's decreased income due to working hour reduction and the paid leave, she suggests policies for less dependence on family for welfare so that individual family's spending could be decreased. This is because, she argues, in a society where the costs for education, housing, and health care are largely dependent on individuals, workers have few options but to voluntarily overwork. 


   At the end of her presentation, Professor Yun points out the meaning of 'economic democratization', which is derived from the second statement of the 119th article in the constitution of Republic of Korea. According to her, 'economic democratization' is based on the capability of nation state which helps the balanced growth and stability of the nation's economy, sustains the redistribution of income at the appropriate level, prevents market's dominance and abuse of economic power, and regulates the balance between economic agents. Given that care work carried out in family is part of the 'economy', it is the spirit of the constitution to support the balanced growth and stability in the economy of both the market and unpaid care work, to help the redistribution of income at the appropriate level, to prevent the market's dominance and abuse of power upon the family and care, and to guarantee the harmony and equal participation for the agents of paid labor and care work.



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"Justice of Redistribution and Recognition" to Close the Gender Gap

- Women's Labor Policies Which We Can Practice Right Now



※ On Feb. 23, 2017, a forum titled "Let Us Overcome Misogyny and Remodel Women's Work and Life" was held in the National Assembly of South Korea. It was jointly held by Korean Women Workers Association and Korean Women's Trade Union, along with six members of the National Assembly (Insoon Nam, Chairman at Gender Equality and Family Committee / Mihyuk Kwon and Okjoo Song, Democratic Party of Korea / Samhwa Kim and Yonghyeon Shin, People's Party / Jeongmi Lee, Justice Party). Through the five articles on OhmyNews, an online news website in South Korea, we Korean Women Workers Association will report on this forum. In this article, we will cover the presentation by Jiyeun Chang (Research Fellow at Korea Labor Institute) titled "The Direction and Issues of Women's Labor Policy: From the Perspective of Equalitarianism." 


   In South Korea, on the news of South Korea's worst gender wage gap among the OECD countries, many reply on the internet, "it is no wonder as women's job is much easier to do than men's job." Disrespect and harassment of the women is rampant, and successful women often become the target of jealousy and hatred. Although South Korean government claims to tackle low birthrate problem with work­life balance policy, it turns a blind eye to South Korean men's patriarchal way of lives which they rigidly keep and just suggests the policies promising to give material incentives to the women. 


   To account for all these problems, Dr. Jiyeun Chang suggests 'gender equality' as a keyword, and starts her presentation with a diagnosis that South Korean society cannot be called as an egalitarian society. South Korean women's monthly average wage reaches only 62% of South Korean men's. For this huge gap, some explain that it is 'rational market's choice' which rationally assesses men's and women's work and rewards them based on the assessment. However, such explanation is groundless unless proving that women in South Korea are especially inferior to men compared to those in the other OECD nations. It is also problematic that regardless of their capability South Korean women are given fewer job opportunities than men, and once luckily employed, they are often unfairly rewarded for their work. In South Korea, working women are always suffering from lack of time and given unfavorable reviews for their performance no matter how hard they work at the company. This is because many women are burdened with the duties of caring their family members, and such burdens are hardly decreased even when they are working for wages.


▲Dr. Jiyeun Chang during her presentation


   As the main factor for South Korea's huge gender wage gap, Dr. Jiyeun Chang points out the problem of 'gender discrimination' at the labor market and 'women's burden of care work'. Therefore, she suggests, for the policies for gender equality, we need to first discuss 'what kinds of' equality our policies should be based on. We need theory, not only to persuade the public fighting with social prejudice and discrimination, but also to carry out policies as a means for social change. 



A philosophy to Close the Gender Gap: Justice of Redistribution and Recognition


   According to Dr. Jiyeun Chang, it is strategically useful to make the women treated equally with the men through 'prohibition on gender discrimination', but it has limitations as it cannot change the structural factors such as difference in environment and initial resources each individual is given. Even when we recognize these limitations and make both men and women start at the same line by narrowing down the gender gap especially in their education level, Dr. Chang points out, we cannot solve all the problems women are now facing. To relieve gender inequality, for some occasions women could be treated equally with men while for the other occasions they could be differently based on their uniqueness. As a theoretical framework to realize this ideal, Dr. Chang suggests 'redistribution' and 'recognition', the two dimensions of justice. This is because, she insists, 'gender' is the prototype of a problem which Nancy Fraser called 'the dilemmas of redistribution­recognition.'


   In order to relieve injustice of redistribution, we need to call for the abolition of the economic system which helps keep certain group's vested interests, based on the emphasis on the 'sameness.' To relieve injustice of recognition, we need to call for the different treatment of the women based on the affirmation of gender uniqueness. In this context, recognition should be treated as a problem of 'status', not that of 'identity.' This is because what needs to be recognized is not the identity of certain group, but the status of each group member (as an equal partner in social interaction). Within this theoretical framework, Dr. Chang suggests, it is possible to call for both the equal redistribution of resources and the gender­specific rights, without claiming that women's identity should be given special values. 


   When taking advantage of these two dimensions of justice, 'redistribution' and 'recognition' as a theoretical framework, we can more easily solve the problems in the practice of social policies. First, with this framework, it becomes possible to criticize the situations in which social policies such as tax system or social insurance programs make difficult for the women to escape from their subordinate position in a family or to equally participate in social activities by regarding 'family' as the 'unit' of the policy. As it is generally egalitarians' ideal to make equal as much as possible each social member's economic resources or well-being of life, it is problematic that social policies for this ideal give a penalty to the high­income women's earnings or lead many women to participate in part time labor.


   In addition, Dr. Chang says, a theoretical framework which emphasizes the recognition of gender status can be used as a right guide to help both genders equally participate in the work life balance policies. For instance, when child­care leave is seen from the perspective which emphasizes the recognition of women's identity, it can lead to calling for a guarantee of women's child­care leave as much as possible. However, from the perspective that 'recognition' is needed for both genders to treat each other as an equal partner, rather than asking child­care leave as gender specific rights, it is seen better to design policies to facilitate men's participation in child care. 


▲Specialists and activists from a variety of fields are participating in the forum as discussants.



Women's Labor Policies Which We Can Practice Right Now


   With this justice of 'redistribution' and 'recognition' as a philosophical basis, Dr. Jiyeun Chang suggests five policies for women's employment which can be carried out right now. First, she suggests a system for workers' right to claim the temporary reduction of their working hours. Instead of part time labor with low income and unstable employment, she suggests a system in which workers can choose their work type between full­time and part­time when needed. She sees this system will help to better workers' work life balance and to increase women's employment at the same time.


   Second, she suggests to expand the role of the counseling office for equal employment so that the office can carry out diverse activities including prevention of employment discrimination, beyond just supporting the employment discrimination cases though counseling. She also suggests to appoint the labor monitoring officials for equal employment so that they can work with their professional and continuous administrative power for equal employment. Third, for more effective Affirmative Action, she suggests a wage disclosure system. By relating this system to public enterprises' management assessment and private companies' public supply, we can lead companies to actively participate in the wage disclosure system. 


   Fourth, Dr. Chang suggests to expand the beneficiaries of the childbirth leave to all. For this, it is needed to have the finances for the childbirth leave wages from public health insurance, so that all women who gave a child birth could be the beneficiaries of the childbirth leave. Last, she suggests to expand partner's childbirth leave and to increase men's use of child care leave in order to relieve the division of gender roles. More specifically, we can gradually increase the length of partner's childbirth leave from two to four weeks, and relate partner's wages during childcare leave to the length of leave. For instance, we can increase income replacement rate for a short period of leave while decreasing it for a longer period. In addition, as the other policies to practically support equal employment, she suggests increase of minimum wage and living wages, decrease of non­regular workers, reduction of working hours, and reinforcement of employment safety net.


   Based on discussions in this forum and many women workers' lives and wishes, we Korean Women Workers Association made a list of the women's labor agendas for the upcoming 19th presidential election. We suggest six directions and 20 agendas to change women's labor policy which has been nothing but the policy to utilize women's labor, into the one for gender equality.


   After this presidential election, South Korean society should be a different one. In our new society, respect for workers and gender equality must be upheld as the norm at work.



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The 'Candlelight Election' calls for feminist politics: Politics for all needs women's voices!



※ On Feb. 23, 2017, a forum titled "Let Us Overcome Misogyny and Remodel Women's Work and Life" was held in the National Assembly of South Korea. It was jointly held by Korean Women Workers Association and Korean Women's Trade Union, along with six members of the National Assembly (Insoon Nam, Chairman at Gender Equality and Family Committee / Mihyuk Kwon and Okjoo Song, Democratic Party of Korea / Samhwa Kim and Yonghyeon Shin, People's Party / Jeongmi Lee, Justice Party). Through the five articles on OhmyNews, an online news website in South Korea, we Korean Women Workers Association will report on this forum. This article will cover the forum's first presentation by Professor Nayoung Lee (Sociology Department at Chung-Ang University), titled "Standing between revolution and negotiation: How do we the citizens intervene in the state affairs? The need of feminist politics in this time of politics."


   President Park was dismissed and South Korean citizens' 'candlelight protests' won. However, this is not the end, but the beginning of rebuilding South Korean society. Soon, through the election, South Korean citizens will choose their new president. The citizens are now debating what they will ask of a new president, from their passion of solving all the deep­rooted social problems.


   As declared at a rally 'Stop at 3 o'clock!' on last International Women's Day, it is groundless to say these days women are placed above men in South Korea. South Korea's gender wage gap of 100:63 (men vs. women), which has been for long the biggest among the OECD nations, does clearly show the reality of South Korean women workers. This gap implies there exist various kinds of gender discrimination in South Korean society, from lookism, glass­ceiling, and discrimination in job placement, to all care work which women are burdened with as their 'natural duties' at home. 


   However, politics, the very area which women should actively participate in, is hardly open to the women. The proportion of women in the public sphere is still meaningful in social statistics in South Korea as the public sphere is mostly filled with men. In the politics under the men's power, women's issues are just one of the options for the policy. Women citizens have been for long angry at the patriarchal environment of South Korean politics where it is commonly said 'we should handle this first, so let's discuss the problem of gender inequality or feminism later, not this time.'


▲Professor Nayoung Lee (Sociology Department at Chung-Ang University) in her presentation ⒸKorean Women Workers Association


   How would such recent dramatic experiences in South Korea as the dismissal of President Park, candlelight protests, and the upcoming presidential election change women's political and social status? How could women's voices influence policies by intervening in the 'men's business', politics? At the forum for the presidential election agendas, which was held on Feb. 23, 2017 in the National Assembly Library, Professor Nayoung Lee (Sociology Department at Chung-Ang University) discussed some clues to answer the above questions. 



Gender, as a 'Socially Constructed' Dividing Line


   After Western societies experienced the second feminist movement in the 1970s, it became generally understood that gender was social and cultural construction. By sharing their own oppressive experiences as the unprivileged, the women as a social group has been formed. 


   In this vein, gender can be one of the many socially constructed dividing lines. According to Professor Lee, through such various socially constructed dividing lines as class, race, and sexuality, society has divided and excluded some groups of people, and justified unequal treatment of them, which leads to reproducing unequal distribution of resources. 


   These various socially constructed dividing lines, which are intersecting with one another in one's life, play an important role in deciding one's social place. 'The minorities' could be those who have the inferior social position, based on the intersection of these socially constructed dividing lines. However, the status of the minorities is not being equally shared. For instance, a white, heterosexual woman CEO and a black, lesbian woman laborer would not have everything in common in their rights.


   Then, how could citizens, who are placed at the different social positions under the intersecting dividing lines, live together in one society? First, we can think of erasing each group's difference, but this is impossible, and unjust. According to Iris Young, to voice 'freedom' and 'equality' ignoring each group's different social position can make the more privileged forget about their own privilege. Also, it can not only make those outside the mainstream more disadvantaged, but also lead to their self-depreciation.


   According to Professor Lee, justice is to acknowledge and affirm the difference between the groups. It is the duty of a democratic state to provide the system which acknowledges and represents the interests of the socially disadvantaged. Iris Young insisted that representative democracy should treat people as a member of the social group, not a single individual. 


   However, Yuval-Davis criticizes Iris Young's approach. Each member of the group is different from each other, and the line between the groups is flexible. Individual difference is already related to the public sphere. When the flexibility of difference, the relationship between the differences, and the possibility of restructuring such relationship is not considered, identity politics will homogenize their own group and become exclusive to the other groups. 


   As an alternative to the identity politics, Yuval-Davis suggests "transversal politics." Universalism which assumes homogeneity as a starting point has risks of excluding the others. Relativism, which regards difference between the groups or individuals as a starting point, has risks of assuming that it is impossible to share the common interests or to have a genuine conversation with one another. 'Transversal politics' is different. According to Yuval-Davis, a transversal journey with the others is "to be with the others who share values and goals with us despite their difference in origin."


▲The plaza was a place for solidarity among 'the excluded'. ⒸShin, Sanga



The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house


   "Is this a nation?" This question from people's anger and despair made them hold up the candles and gather at the plaza to protest. Although monopoly of government affairs by Sunsil Choi and her daughter was certainly momentum of the protests, South Korea citizens' 'candlelight plaza' was not a mere place for expressing their anger over the incident. The 'candlelight plaza' was a place for solidarity among those who had been excluded by the social system which disrespected human dignity. Their experiences of diversity and difference made South Korea citizens have  'creative tension' at the plaza.


   Social minorities including feminists, LGBTs, and the disabled voiced equality and justice against discrimination and hatred, in the midst of 16 million citizens' 'candlelight protests'. Although at every moment the protesters had conflicts, beyond such conflicts, they strived to learn maturer awareness of citizenship and human rights. In the citizens' public sphere and  political battlefield, the discussion of such socially constructed dividing lines as gender, sexuality, and disability attempted to realize the politics of coexistence at the most historical moment in South Korean society. 


   However, still women's voices are not treated as the universal issues in real politics. Certainly there are tons of people who are asking the citizens to 'line up' for someone, with a promise that all problems will be solved once the government could be changed in the presidential election. But with a mere change of the government, patriarchal and heterosexual­oriented cultures ingrained in South Korean society, and political corruption which has placed South Korea in the depth of unjustice will be hardly overcome. Only when economic, social, and political power relations, diverse socially constructed dividing lines, and people's life and pain  influenced by those factors are considered, we could solve the remaining problems with 'radical revolutionary language' for the structural change. 


   "What we have to do now is to convert the protesters' candlelights to the language of revolution and to the momentum of social change. This is because the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house."


   In this second article on the forum's first presentation, starting from the question on the women as a gender, we discussed the gender as a 'socially constructed dividing line' and doing the politics with the recognition and affirmation of difference which clearly exists among the social members. In the next third article, the topic of "women's labor policy and discussion of care work" will be presented by Professor Yun, Jayeong (Economics Depart. at Chungnam National University).



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Cold, unescapable reality for the temporary workers: Women workers told their stories right before the presidential election



※ On Feb. 23, 2017, a forum titled "Let's Remodel Women's Work and Life" was held in the National Assembly of South Korea. It was jointly held by Korean Women Workers Association and Korean Women's Trade Union, along with six members of the National Assembly (Insoon Nam, Chairman at Gender Equality and Family Committee / Mihyuk Kwon and Okjoo Song, Democratic Party of Korea / Samhwa Kim and Yonghyeon Shin, People's Party / Jeongmi Lee, Justice Party). Through the five articles on OhmyNews, an online news website in South Korea, we Korean Women Workers Association will report on this form. In this first article, we cover the voices from women workers who attended this forum as well as the survey result on the women's work issues and policies.


   First, Younok Lim, standing representative of Korean Women Workers Association, presented the result of a recent survey reflecting 563 respondents' thoughts on the women's work issues and policies in South Korea. For the respondents, today's most urgent problem for the women workers was low pay (24.2%, 162 respondents). Such issues as discrimination based on working status (13.1%, 88 respondents), unstable employment (10.1%, 68 respondents), sexual discrimination and harrassment (8.7%, 58 respondents), and long working hours (6.9%, 46 respondents) were also pointed out by the respondents as the urgent problems for today's South Korean women workers. 


   During the survey interviews, respondents described in detail the cold reality they lived as women workers in South Korea. "An unstable job which could be lost anytime", "low pay just to barely pay the bills", and "temporary position which cannot be escaped no matter how hard I work." These survey respondents' answers well reflect today's reality of low pay and unstable employment. The low pay of the women workers caused another problem as in the below answer; "I was cornered into so low­level jobs, that I had to work many hours just to earn a small amount of money. When I urgently needed money, I had no choice but to accept any job, even the one with much risk of sexual violence." This is the reality of many women workers in South Korea, where they have few options but to take jobs no matter how inferior their working conditions are. 


   Included in the answers were respondents' concern about various types of sexual discrimination at the workplace. At the job interviews, the very beginning of one's work life, women are already the target of sexual discrimination. "Men job seekers are advantaged just based on their gender", "interview questions on the marriage plan or child­rearing for the women interviewees", "job requirements only applied to the women, such as makeup and feminine behavior." "At the get­together, I was sexually harassed. I wanted to complain about it, but my coworkers stopped me saying 'at the workplace, that's the way it is.'" At the workplace, women experience not only the serious 'gender wage gap', but also the 'glass­ceiling' and 'alienation at the decision­making process.' Below is expressed one respondent's criticism at South Korea's labor market, where there is no place for the women workers to stand. "Companies exist only for men; most managerial positions are filled with men, and companies' culture itself is macho." 


   It was the 'change of non­regular workers' temporary positions to the permanent ones' which the survey respondents voted as the first agenda of the upcoming presidential election in the area of women's work policy (22.6%, 150 respondents). Such other issues as abolishing discrimination (19.0%, 126 respondents), raising minimum wage to 10,000 Korean won (16.3%, 108 respondents), reducing working hours (9.5%, 63 respondents), and creating decent jobs (5.9%, 39 respondents) were also mentioned as the important agendas to be discussed in the election. 


   It was many women workers' low positions as temporary workers which the survery respondents thought as the cause of their low pay, unstable employment, and discrimination based on the working status. At the workplace, sexual discrimination is often justified in the disguise of difference in the working status. While the proportion of temporary workers among the women workers is 53.8%, among the men workers, it decreases to 36.0%. From the point of recruitment, often women and men are given  different working statuses, temporary and regular positions. 


〔사진〕Women workers at the forum are telling their stories.

ⒸKorean Women Workers Association



   On this day, four women workers attended the forum and told the audience their own stories. 


〔사진〕Ms. Sejeong Kim, a job seeker

Ⓒ Korean Women Workers Association


   Ms. Sejeong Kim introduces herself as a job seeker, who is preparing the job interviews while working part­time for a living. Her job's hourly wage is very low, so she has to work long hours. In the midst of women workers' severe unemployment, her male friends are more easily passing the screening than her, although their GPA and English test scores are not as good as hers. When she luckily gets a chance for the job interview, she is asked a series of questions on her marriage and childbirth plans, and even whether she would keep working for the company once married. She is questioning how she could survive as a woman in South Korean society, where mothers are being ridiculed as the 'insects' while women without children are being criticized as the selfish. She asserts she would vote for a presidential candidate who promises to raise the minimum wage and to set a quota for hiring the young, with the equal ratio between the genders. 


〔사진〕Ms. Sojeong Park, a woman temporary worker Ⓒ Korean Women Workers Association


   Ms. Sojeong Park, who has been a temporary worker for twenty years, recalls her life as below; "I was always a temporary worker, both when I was not married and when I returned to work after childbirth." She wants to let others know there exist in this society those who called the 'temporary workers', and asks why they exist. From her point of view, it is the temporary position held by many women workers that has prevented them from getting married or having a baby. She tells that many women temporary workers in South Korea cannot say a thing when sexually harassed, in the fear of losing their jobs. "I want to live in a society where women temporary workers are equally respected as the others. I would vote for a presidential candidate who would try one's best to abolish employment instability as well as wage and employment discrimination based on gender", she asserts. 


〔사진〕Ms. Jeongi Lee, a care worker

Ⓒ Korean Women Workers Association


   A care worker, Ms. Jeongi Lee has pride in her job. To her, it is a very crucial and meaningful job, especially in this era of aging population. However, her such pride does not guarantee her a living. Her monthly pay only reaches 700,000 Korean won although she works five to six hours per a working day. When her old customer suddenly dies, she also suddenly loses her pay. She says, "I would vote for a candidate who would try her/his best to help all the underprivileged citizens to live their lives with dignity." 


〔사진〕Ms. Hyesuk Lee, a vocational counselor and a working mother Ⓒ Korean Women Workers Association


   A career counselor, Ms. Hyesuk Lee starts her story telling jobs which she helps women to get are mostly low-paying jobs. No matter how good one's educational background is, once she experienced a career break, she has few choices but to accept the job whose first monthly pay is 1,500,000 Korean won. If the same person's wage could be very much different depending on what kind of job s/he gets, there is something wrong with the society, she thinks. She insists when decreasing the wage gap between the occupations, we can change today's education system, in which students are being driven into the extreme competition for a high-wage job. She has been a working mother for the recent five years, and feels angry about the reality in which it is mostly women, but not men who have to juggle work and family. "If the women workers are given enough pay, they would not give up their jobs so easily", she says. In this context, she urges society and family members to share housework and care responsibilities. For this, it is needed to make care workers' employment more stable and to require all workers with young children to use child­care leave, she insists. 


   Politics should start from listening to people's real voices. Listening to their voices, we can find what is a problem in our society, and how to solve it. And the ears for these voices always have to be toward the most unprivileged. 



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   The time under President Park's government, which will be remembered as one of the most distrusted government by many South Korean citizens, was especially tough for the women. Five out of six women workers are now struggling with their minimum­wage level  income. Once women experience career breaks, they are given few career options but the unstable, temporary jobs with low pay. But in South Korea, this is not the first time the women workers became the most vulnerable to the entire social risks.


   In the 1970s, despite their huge contribution to the economic development of South Korea, South Korean women workers suffered from their low income and unstable working conditions. In the late 1990s, at the time of the IMF crisis, the women workers were the easiest target of dismissal for the companies. And this year, the young women workers are in the midst of recent unemployment crisis. These young women had been taught to dream big, and they believed they could make it. However, entering the labor market, they experienced various types of discrimination, such as employment discrimination, lookism discrimination, and violence based on gender. Strikingly, all these types of discrimination were being so openly committed. In this unequal society, where women can hardly compete with men in the labor market, recent talks on empowered women's status are nothing but the lies to cover up today's gender inequality. 


   So­called 'decent jobs' are hardly open to the women. Once women came through extreme competition and succeeded in landing a job, they have to struggle with a glass ceiling. At the workplace, women workers are often disadvantaged for the promotion, paid less, and given the unstable working status. The higher the rank in the company, the lower the percentage of women workers holding the position. The burden of child­rearing is another obstacle for the women workers. Although they are given almost all the child care responsibilities, their rights to care their young children are hardly protected. Men workers are also hardly guaranteed rights to look after their young children. To many workers in South Korea, whose fertility rate is the lowest among the OECD countries, child­care leave is the option for only a few who are 'very brave'. 


   During their time of pregnancy and child­rearing, many South Korean women experience career breaks. When they re­enter the job market later, the quality of jobs available to them is much lower than that of their previous jobs, both in the income and in the working status. The elderly women workers are, in general, placed at the bottom of the labor market in South Korea. Many elderly women are working either as the subcontracted workers, who are the most vulnerable group even among the temporary workers, or as the care workers, who are being 'publicly exploited' by the government. Their pay is considered just 'additional' to their family income, and their role at the workplace is  regarded as just 'ancillary'. This tells us women in this country have been long suffering from discrimination and exploitation, regardless of their age and generation. 


   All this absurdity and inequality in South Korean society can be summarized as the numbers, '100:64'. This is South Korea's gender wage gap, twice of the OECD nations' average and the biggest among them for the recent 15 years. This means women are paid only 64 while men are paid 100 for their work. This is as if after 3 PM women work without pay everyday. This is the reason why today on International Women's Day, we women workers came together to shout "Stop at 3 o'clock!". We South Korean women workers are on the edge of a precipice, as we are underestimated, treated as cheap labor, and deprived of our opportunities at the workplace. 


   We want a society where women are no longer deprived of their rights due to their gender. 

   We want a nation where sexism and the exploitation of women is taken as a deeply serious problem.

   We will fight to obtain our lost rights and 36% of 'pocketed' income. 

   Worldwide, it is women who have been the easiest target of discrimination and exploitation. However, women have power to persistently fight for their rights and to improve their society. This is how women gained the franchise and how they could stand against and criticize those of supreme power. We, South Korean women workers will also keep fighting against our society's problems. 


   In order to help make our society more just and safe for the women, today, we women workers will begin a campaign to obtain signatures from 100­thousand South Korean citizens, as a way to demand the problem of gender wage gap to be chosen as the upcoming presidential election's agenda. 

   The gender wage gap should be abolished! 


On International Women's Day, Mar. 8th, 2017


By the participants in a rally against

the gender wage gap, 'Stop at 3 o'clock!'





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On March 8th, International Women's Day, Korean Women Workers Association and women workers together held a rally to protest against South Korea's gender wage gap, which is the biggest among the OECD nations. Below are our precious

moments in the rally 'Stop at 3 o'clock!'.



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   On International Women's Day, Mar. 8th, we listened to the story from the organizer of 'Stop at 3 o'clock!', the first rally in South Korea which urged workers to leave work early to protest against the gender wage gap. Below is an interview with Ms. Younok Lim (standing representative of Korean Women Workers Association) who organized this rally. 




- Please tell us the background of the rally.


"In South Korea, it is taken for granted that women workers get paid less than men. It is a problem itself that this serious situation is not taken as a 'problem'. We, Korean Women Workers Association organized this rally as the best way to get people's attention to the gender wage gap, which we think is a clear index of gender inequality in South Korea." 


- Could you tell us more about people in today's rally?


"Today, we met many members from Korean Confederation of Trade Unions and Korean Women's Trade Union, including cleaning workers and non­regular school workers. To attend this rally, they took today off or used their allocated time for education as a union member. We also met many supporters from non-governmental organizations including women's organizations. We understand, in reality, it is not easy to leave work early no matter how much s/he supports our position. So, we asked our supporters to stand by us in the other ways, such as to stop working just for a moment at 3 PM or to take a photo of a note saying '#Stop at 3 o'clock!' if they could not leave the office for our rally."


- We have already seen similar rallies taking place in the other countries, such as Iceland, France, and UK. It was nice to watch today's rally, but it seemed somewhat late to have this rally today in South Korea, notorious for its biggest gender wage gap among the OECD nations. How did you feel about today's rally?


"I was really moved today. Despite our huge gender wage gap, it was not easy to be cleary aware of this problem in our society. People say, 'things are also tough for men', or 'these days women got more power than men.' But in reality, regardless of their age, South Korean women workers are under various types of sexual discrimination at the workplace, such as wage discrimination and sexual harassment. So far, there have been only a few supporting us in this issue, but today, here at the heart of Seoul, we freely expressed our anger and concern about this problem of the women workers. It moved me a lot, as I felt my 30 years of participation in the NGO movement for the women workers had helped to make some progress in society.〔tears〕"


- The gender wage gap of South Korea (37%), the worst among the OECD nations, is much bigger than the second biggest gap of Japan and  Estonia (26%). What do you think made the gender wage gap in South Korea so 'uniquely left behind'?


"I think it was mainly the patriarchal culture and system in South Korea. Korean women are burdened with care work for their family members, but hardly given any help from the government. It helps lower the quality of women's jobs in South Korea, as part­time jobs are almost the only option for these women, who have to juggle alone work and family responsibilities."


- You mentioned the decreased gender wage gap would also benefit the men workers.


"This is not a zero­sum game. Those who have benefited from the women workers' low income are not the men workers, but the employers. Right after the IMF crisis in South Korea, it was mainly the women workers whose working status was changed into the temporary position. Before long, the percentage of temporary employees among the men workers was also increased. This means, today's large proportion of temporary workers among the women workers is not just 'the problem of the women', but 'the problem of the entire labor market' in South Korea. When something made the women workers unhappy, it would not benefit the men workers, but harm every worker regardless of his/her gender. So, today I am asking the men workers to stand by us against the women's low income. South Korea's huge gender wage gap should not be just taken for granted, but should be overcome, so that we can make a more fundamental change in the working conditions in South Korea. If we better the most vulnerable jobs' working conditions, it will help to improve the overall labor environment in South Korean society."



* Counter­statements to the most frequent criticisms on the issue of the gender wage gap


1. 'Women workers are more likely to avoid the extra work at night or over the weekend. So, it is no wonder many companies favor men as their employees.' 


Ms. Younok Lim (standing representative of Korean Women Workers Association): I just want to ask. Who is cooking your breakfast and dinner? Who is taking care of your children and their school work? Who is looking after your sick parents? It is usually women who take all these family responsibilities. But are they really jobs only for women? Before criticizing women workers, we should first share their care work at home.



2. '37% of gender wage gap in South Korea is fair as the women workers work 37% less than the men workers in average.'


Ms. Younok Lim (standing representative of Korean Women Workers Association): Today's rally 'Stop at 3 o'clock!' was to get people's attention to the problem that women workers are paid 37% less than the men workers in average. This is as if women workers are working without pay for three hours everyday, from 3 to 6 PM. However, for the Korean women workers, this is not the only unpaid work time. After 6 PM, childcare and/or housework, their another type of unpaid work, is waiting for them at home. By the way, what's the use of arguing with the men over whose hard work should be more appreciated? It is the government and the companies which should be blamed first for the huge gender wage gap and unfavorable conditions for the work­family balance.



3. 'Bringing up the women's problems can make the gender relations more divisive.'


Ms. Younok Lim (standing representative of Korean Women Workers Association): We are not making the gender relations divisive. We just want to abolish sexual discrimination and hatred rampant in South Korean society. Regardless of their gender, all workers have rights to leave work at the regular time. During the time of pregnancy and child­rearing, both men and women workers have equal rights to shorten their working hours. Today's three days of paid paternity leave should be extended to one month, and men workers should be given equal rights and responsibilities to take leave to care for their young children. 



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   Yesterday, Korean Ministry of Gender Equality and Family issued a news release under the title, 'Women's career breaks decreased with the increase of part­time jobs, the most preferred job type for the unemployed women'. It was based on their 2016 survey on the economic activity of 4,835 Korean women aged 25 to 54. 


   The survey shows that most unemployed Korean women prefer part­time jobs, which they find relatively easy to mange with their other work at home, such as caring and educating young children, doing house chores, and taking care of other family members. This means in Korean society, care work at home is believed as the job only for women, which makes Korean women fettered by lots of responsibilities at home. They want part­time jobs because they need to make ends meet while doing care work as their primary job. This is reality for many unemployed women in Korea. 


   Although it is well known that the working conditions of part­time jobs are poor, Korean government keeps cornering Korean women into such low quality jobs. The average monthly wage for the part­timers in Korea is 740,000 Korean won (approximately 660 US dollars). This places 24.8% of the part­time workers directly under the influence of the minimum wage, which is at the highest level among the all non­regular workers in Korea. In Korea, the ratio of the part­timers who are being given pension and overtime pay is only 16.6% and 11.1%, respectively. Those who can enjoy their paid vacation comprise 9.2% among the part­time workers, while only 15.3% of them are being covered by the national pension plan. Their average years of service is 1.7, and the ratio of the unionized workers is only 0.6%. 29.5% of them belong to the company with less than five employees, known as the most vulnerable workplace to the exploitation of labor. 


   Unlike their propaganda, Korean government failed to create the 'decent part­time jobs', which did not really exist in Korean society. In the name of their efforts to create 'decent part­time jobs' at the public sector, many full­time jobs were changed to the part­time positions while some were even fired for the expiration of  employment contract. These par­time jobs are dead­end jobs, as they do not guarantee any possibility of being given more professional tasks or promoted in the future. However, these low quality jobs are being called 'jobs for the women' by the Korean government. Already 20% of women workers are now working part­time, while the number of part­time jobs has continuously increased during the last nine years of conservative governments. 


   This cannot be called a 'free choice'. It is not even a 'preference'. This is nothing but 'coercion' as many unemployed Korean women have nowhere to go except these low quality part­time jobs. What the government should do is to help change the social system in which society and other family members share care work at home. It could be the worst abrogation of responsibility if we do nothing but burdening women alone with all the care responsibilities at home. Korean government should not cover up the reality in which many women are 'forced' to work part­time because of their burden of care responsibilities. What they really want is a job where they can use and develop their own talent expecting  better future. What is needed for them is a social system where they can share their care responsibilities with the other family members  and society especially when re­employed, as well as a social policy which helps prevent women from experiencing career breaks due to their burden of care work, but not so­called 'decent part time jobs' that do not exist in reality.



Feb. 22, 2017

Korean Women Workers Association



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   On Jan. 13th, 2017, on the day when we Korean Women Workers Association had our annual meeting, Bokgyeong Seo, Research Professor at Sogang Institute of Political Studies, gave us a lecture before the meeting's main event. Throughout Professor Seo's lecture, many assumptions about the recent monopoly of state affairs in South Korean and the citizen's protests against it were examined with empirical evidence and theories. Below is a summary of her lecture. 



   Her first point was made on a position which attributed the recent monopoly of state affairs to the gender of President Park. According to Professor Seo, who should be blamed for the recent monopoly of state affairs is not just President Park, but the whole system of South Korean government, ruling party, and some media corporations, which are mostly made up of men. Professor Seo pointed out the fact that the constitution of Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea in 1919 had guaranteed the franchise of people, regardless of their social status, class, and gender. She urged South Koreans not to be misled by some groundless position attributing the recent monopoly of state affairs to President Park's gender, as they were the citizens of a nation which had announced gender equality more than one hundred years ago. Today's breakdown of Korean government had been made possible not just by President Park alone, but by all those in power in South Korean society, Professor Seo insisted. 


   According to the survey conducted jointly by Naeil Daily Newspaper and Sogang Institute of Political Studies in December, 2016, the survey respondents who had participated in the protests against the recent monopoly of state affairs pointed out their anxiety about the future as the biggest reason for their participation in the protests. As the most severe conflict in today's South Korean society, 40.1% and 33.2% of the survey respondents pointed out class conflicts and ideological conflicts, respectively. In a  survey conducted three years ago in December, 2013, 34.9% and 39.4% of the respondents chose class conflicts and ideological conflicts, respectively, as the most severe social conflicts in South Korea. The survey result also shows how seriously the issue of class conflicts is being taken among the working-class citizens. The proportion of people who think the issue of class conflicts as a severe problem is 44.1% in the 2016 survey, while 29.1% in the 2013 survey. In the 2016 survey, only 10.7% of respondents in 20s and 8.1% of those in 30s regarded the distribution of wealth in South Korean society as equitable, and even among the respondents in their 60s, the proportion reached only 20.1%. According to Professor Seo, the main driving force which has issued the recent monopoly of state affairs is the choice South Korean citizens made in their 20th general election. As South Korean citizens found out through the election the others were also thinking of President Park's government as problematic, they began to more openly protest against its maladministration cases.



   As the cause of the recent monopoly of state affairs, 49.3% of respondents in 20's and 40.1% of those in 30's point out corrupt relationship among the conglomerates, government officials, and the prosecution. For 46.5% of respondents in 40's, 48.2% of those in 50's, and 40.8% of those in 60's, it is President Park's abnormal governing of administration which caused the recent monopoly of state affairs. This survey result shows that those in their 20s and 30s would be  satisfied only after fundamentally changing South Korean politics while those over 40 could feel okay with just changing the government. This can be also found out in the survey on the people's sense of political efficacy. 'Sense of political efficacy' measures how strongly a person believes s/he has the ability to influence politics. While the proportion of respondents who express disagreement with their inability to influence politics was 29% in a survey conducted in June 2016, it reached 53.3% in another survey conducted six months later. As before in South Korean society, when people's sense of political efficacy is low, their protests cannot fundamentally change their everyday political system. South Korean politicians knew this very well, so they used to resume their corruption once people's protests ceased. Now, however, 53.3% of the survey respondents believe their capability to change their politics. They believe they are better at making a change in the political system than the politicians. This means South Korean citizens are now less likely to overlook politicians' corruption than in the past. 



   In South Korea, it is the group aged from 35 to 44 who show the most radical positions in their political and economic issues. This might be because this generation experienced the IMF crisis in 1997 at the age of 17 through 25, which is a critical time to develop one's political opinions. They experienced a radical change in their labor environment, as many regular,  permanent positions were replaced by temporary, unstable ones after the crisis. Their anger and dissatisfaction with their labor environment made themselves have the most radical positions in the political issues. The younger generation, aged from 25 to 33, has different characteristics.  This is the first generation in South Korean society who has developed their sense of democratic rights from birth. Therefore, this group shows the most radical position in the issues of gender equality. Another interesting group is those in their 60s, as they have even more conservative positions in the political issues than those over 70. This is probably because they had highly nationalistic public education under the military dictatorship in the 1960s. 



   A graph on the age-specific sense of political efficacy shows that in every age group, sense of political efficacy is higher in December, 2016 than in June, 2016. Among the respondents in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, the proportion of people expressing their strong sense of political efficacy reaches more than 50%. 


   The point is it is those in their 50s who hold the casting vote in the elections. Although those aged from 19 to 49 make up 54% of the total voters, because of their low turnout, they only account for 40% among the actual voters. Once those in their 50s have more progressive positions on the political issues, we can make a bigger change. Those in their 50s are the most affluent among the all age groups, and among the all members of the National Assembly, the proportion of those in their 50s is the highest. It is this age group being represented more than its actual number in South Korean politics. In the last presidential election, their turnout reached 82%.




   Now, we can see this group in their 50s is beginning to act. Compared to those in the protests in 2008, participants in the recent protests in 2016 show more equitable distribution in their gender and age. This was possible as more women in their 40s and 50s participated in the recent protests. Interestingly, for more than half of the participants in the recent protests, it was their first-time experience to come out to the streets to demonstrate. It is not groundless to say that the total number of participants in the protests against the government reached ten million in 2016. 76.7% of the survey respondents in December, 2016 answered the protests against President Park's government should be continued until she entirely resigned the presidency. 



   Below are the typical survey questions which political scientists use to measure how people think of their political system; first, "democracy is always better than any other political system", second, "sometimes dictatorship is better than democracy", third, "between democracy and dictatorship, I do not mind which of them will be chosen." The below graph shows how South Korean citizens have answered since 1996 to the first question, "democracy is always better than any other political system." 


The answers to this very question can be also used to analyze how people think of social and political change. Based on the below graph, Professor Seo supposes how South Korean citizens in their 50s have felt about their governments. In 2002, they voted for the progressive ruling party as they had some empathy with the government which had been struggling with the IMF crisis. Once the progressive party came into power again with President Roh, Moo-hyun, citizens in their 50s got dissatisfied with his government as they felt his presidency did not help so much to improve their living. This is why the conservative party could come into power in 2007. One year later, in the general election in 2008, they showed the lowest voter turnout. In the 18th presidential election in 2012, they chose a five-term congresswoman Park, Geun-hye as they felt more familiar with her compared to her opponent Moon, Jae-in. However, their living got even worse, and they lost their trust in the political system, which could be shown in their responses to this first question in a survey in June, 2016. Once almost half of the respondents agree with this first question, political scientists see this as a sign of social change. After experiencing a series of maladministration cases of President Park's government, finally they came to a moment of reflection on their political situation. In the last survey in December, 2016, the proportion of respondents who agreed with the first question, "democracy is always better than any other political system" reached 75.5%, which was the highest proportion since 1996. 

  

   Citizens in their 20s through 40s will never stop. Once they experience their strong sense of political efficacy, they will hardly stand social and political system which keeps themselves poor and powerless. As our future is for this young generation, political support from those in their 50s is critical. Therefore, we need to organize the voices from those in their 50s. Most of the people participating in the recent protests are from the middle-class, who are capable of expressing their voices. However, those in their 50s, especially lower income, women workers working long hours are less capable of expressing their political opinions. They hardly have enough time to read newspapers or watch TV news. What we need to do is listen to them, not teach them, so that they can more freely express themselves on the political issues. 



   When our belongings are broken, we have two options; either repairing and reusing them, or throwing them away and buying the new ones. Unfortunately, our politics cannot be just thrown away. It should keep working with every single penny we pay for the tax. What we need to do is correct our malfunctioning politics, that is to make our public system work for its real owner, the citizens. 



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   On Friday, Jan. 13th, 2017, on the day when it snowed heavily, we, Korean Women Workers Association, had our annual meeting for the year of 2017 at Daejeon NGO Support Center. In the meeting, we talked about our new year plan as well as our achievements last year. We also elected our new leaders during the meeting! 



▲(From the left) Yongmi Kim (activist, Korean Women Workers Association at Gwangju), Myeongsuk Park (president, Korean Women Workers Association at Incheon / elected auditor), Seongyeop Lee (CPA / elected auditor), Jihyeon Na (president, Korean Women's Trade Union / elected deputy representative), Mingyeong Shin (president, Korean Women Workers Association at North Jeolla Province / elected deputy representative), Jin Kyung Bae (co­representative, Korean Women Workers Association / re­elected), Younok Lim (standing representative, Korean Women Workers Association / re­elected), Yuri Na (activist, Guro Educational Center for the Women Workers)



   Voilà! Let us introduce our new leaders chosen by voting in the meeting. Younok Lim and Jin Kyung Bae were re­elected as standing representative and co­representative, respectively. For the deputy representatives, we chose Jihyeon Na (chairperson, Korean Women's Trade Union) and Mingyeong Shin (president, Korean Women Workers Association at North Jeolla Province). Myeongsuk Park (president, Korean Women Workers Association at Incheon) and Seongyeop Lee (CPA) gladly accepted to serve as our new auditors. 



   Now, let us introduce our core projects for the new year! First, we would like to talk about Korea's gender wage gap, ranked the largest among the OECD countries. In order to help close this gap, based on our long­term strategy, we decided to take a variety of actions, such as strikes on International Women's Day, projects to raise minimum wage, and protests against gender earnings inequality.


   'Hatred' is a key word to interpret main social issues in Korea during the last couple of years. The less­privileged, including women and even the victims of a national tragedy became the easy targets of hatred. Especially last year in Korea, hatred for women was the subject of heated debate. Related to this debate, we remember such major issues as a murder case of a young woman at Gangnam Station and social media users' exposure of sexual  violence still rampant in various fields in Korean society. Facing these issues, Korea women do not suppress their anger any more. Now they try to make their voice heard in a whole society, seeing their everyday lives and experiences from a feminist perspective. 


   However, unfortunately, the issues of 'women's work' are not so much standing out amongst these vehement feminist debates. How could we help bridge the gap between the issues of feminism and women's work? In order to show to the public how closely these two are connected in reality, we are designing a nationwide lecturing tour and rallies to support women workers' strikes, along with a campaign named 'Math to Make a Difference'. 



To Make a Difference, Let's...

  (+) Raise the Minimum Wage / (-) Reduce the Working Hours / (÷) Share the Care Work / (×) Multiply our Respect for Labor



   In 2015, we decided to change ourselves to be an organization for our members and people, not just for our activists and projects. This is our decision to become more open to the public, instead of making one­way relationship with them. Our project 'Vision for Our Future', which we have worked on since 2015 to put this decision in action, has helped us to get a clear understanding of who we are and what we should do to better ourselves. Below are our main tasks to realize our vision for the future; more actively sharing and communicating with our members and the public, making secure our core values, and strengthening our leaders' ability. 



   To reach these goals, today we announced that we would try our best to realize our vision 'Change and Development for the Women Workers', as well as to help our activists and members educate themselves on the issues of women's work, with the help of our education committee.


   So far, we have introduced to you our leaders and plans for the new year, all decided at our 25th annual meeting for the year of 2017. We hope you'll like them. After the presidential impeachment motion was approved last December, Korean society has been in the midst of chaos. In addition, this year, we are expecting such weighty issues as the early presidential election. This is rocky time, but together, we will happily get over all these challenges!




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