1. Background for the Establishment of the Action Center
The economic crisis since the late 1997 has made unemployment an open social issue. Women suffered the most from the resulting unemployment due to massive layoffs of workers. It was difficult for women, in comparison to men, to get reinstated after dismissal from the workplace. As many as 62.7% of women worked in work sites with less than 5 people and so received no unemployment benefits. Women who were dismissed from work faced a great of difficulties in maintaining a living.  
However, the public view of unemployment was that it was predominantly a male-centered problem and the outdated discriminatory ideology of “women return to your homes" raised its ugly head, rationalizing priority dismissals of women workers. The labor rights achieved by women workers through years of struggle were at risk of collapsing. Women's unemployment was not recognized as a social and political issue and governmental measures on unemployment did not include measures to counter women’s unemployment.
Faced with such a situation, the Korean Women Workers Associations United (KWWAU) started taking up active measures to counter the continuing trend of unemployment and to achieve the rights of women workers in temporary work and in small worksites.
There was an increase in counseling in the Hotline for Equality ) on unpaid wages and priority dismissals by women workers who had lost their jobs.  The KWWAU Incheon Branch (IWWA) even set up a `special counseling center to eradicate unpaid wages and priority dismissals and to promote women’s employment’ and in the process, learnt about the heartbreaking stories of dismissed women workers.
The KWWAU Incheon Branch (IWWA) realized the unfairness of priority dismissals undertaken against women workers and pursued an active media campaign to publicize such unfair dismissals. The KWWAU Seoul Branch (SWWA) registered a free employment agency and actively undertook a media campaign in March on the status of women’s unemployment during the IMF era.  
Furthermore, in 1998, activities concentrated on further encountering the increasing trends of unemployment and the fight to preserve the rights of women workers. Counseling matters by the Hotline for Equality were shared with the KWWAU headquarters and media campaigns escalated. Meetings of representatives from different branches of the KWWAU were held regularly and measures were discussed to counter women’s unemployment. After a few coordinating meetings, the Action Center for Women’s Unemployment was eventually launched.
A working committee meets regularly every month to discuss effective project exchanges and project dissemination. Also, information on the situation of women’s unemployment was exchanged and various projects were initiated. These included research and the holding of public debates.
Due to such activities, the Action Center grew from five to eight branches (Seoul (SWWA), Gwangju (GWWA), Incheon (IWWA), Ansan (AWWA), Masan-Changwon (MWWA), Jeon-buk (JWWA), Bucheon (BWWA), Busan Women’s Association) in December 1998. The Action Center has succeeded in making unemployment a social issue and was effective in helping unemployed women and pressuring the government for effective measures.

2. Main Activities of the Action Center
The year 1998 saw the organizational growth of the Action Center and the establishment of diverse projects. The projects include counseling and education, life support measures for unemployed women workers, campaigns and research, policy measures through debates and petitions, mutual-aid organizations for unemployed women workers, education and regular meetings of counselors, etc. - all efforts aimed at expanding the organizational structure of the Action Center.
In mid-1999, formal statistics stipulated the decrease in the high rate of unemployment. However, middle-aged women who visited the Action Center still complained of difficulties in finding employment. Activities undertaken in the previous years accelerated in the year 2000 and many efforts were undertaken to create and organize an education model for unemployed women.
In 2001, the Action Center expanded its activities to include the Self-support Center, set up to help women with low-income (introduction to jobs and education, work-related and other comprehensive services), to help irregular women workers achieve their rights, to act as the counter for undertaking government-sponsored public works projects and job introduction services, etc.

1) Direct Support Services for Unemployed Women Workers
The Center provides employment services and counseling, education services such as “employment day” opportunities, skills training, life and medical support, etc. These projects were undertaken together with the self-support organizations.

(1) Counseling
Counseling on employment matters remains an important part of the Action Center. The counseling offered at the Action Center was received well by unemployed women due to the kind reception from the counselors, provision of comprehensive information, comfortable surroundings, etc, distinguishable from other public offices for job seeking. Many women visited the Action Center for such advantages.
Job-seeking campaigns were held once a monthly and leaflets were distributed by job seekers in areas where there were many enterprises, shops and restaurants in case that they looked for workers. The leaflet contained information and contact numbers of Action Center. The campaigns attracted a great deal of public attention to the plight of unemployed women workers by linking up with the media. The unemployed women workers also learnt to become more confident and realized that unemployment problems could be more effectively handled together with other people facing similar circumstances.

Programs in 1999
==========================================================
Counseling work was expanded to include job searches as outlined below.  
① opening of three computer networks on job searches (for job seekers as well as those looking for new workers)
② job-seekers campaign (distribution of leaflets, posters, street campaigns, etc)
③ distribution of press releases in regional information papers
④ pasting of posters in public offices & provision of information data
(employment department of the local government offices /social welfare department, employment safety centers, agencies for the promotion of employment for the disabled, local district offices, daily employment information centers of the local labor offices, etc)
⑤ information on employment from the website of the Labor Office (worknet)
⑥ enhancing job-seeking by linking campaigns with TV and other broadcasting media
⑦ direct communication with employers  
⑧ introduction of other worksites by employers who had already employed people through the Action Center

=========================================================
As in the past, unemployment counseling, job introduction, counseling on daily matters, medical support, job training, and provision of diverse information continued. And after counseling and subsequent job application, in the case of unemployed women with grown-up children, job applications were also received from the children because finding more jobs would help such households become financially independent. A newsletter containing relevant information for unemployed women is also released with information on job opportunities, prospective jobs, information on skills training, unemployment policies, public works, information on the National Basic Livelihood Security System, unemployment trends, etc.

The Action Center has helped unemployed women with realistic information on government policies as well as family and life counseling, providing job opportunities and has also accepted applications for public works, skills training and temporary registration for welfare of women householders. Also in the year 2000, actions were taken against the government for unfairly omitting people from receiving the benefits of the National Basic Livelihood Security System and for the relaxation of guidelines for the recipients.

Due to such diverse roles, the KWWAU became an important counter for unemployed women to directly voice their demands. The KWWAU was designated by the Korea Research Institute for Vocational Education and Training (KRIVET) in 2000 to undertake a survey on middle-aged unemployed women as part of its research on  “The Measures to Establish a Training Program System for the Unemployed According to Target Groups”.

(2) Educational Projects
Many diverse educational programs are underway at the Action Center. The programs are carried out to meet the different needs of the job seekers. These needs depend upon whether they have recently lost their jobs or have been without work for longer periods, their marital status, their status in the homes (the role of women householders). All the women face different circumstances and programs have been designed to cover all these needs. The Action Center has become an important place for workers to receive detailed and abundant information relevant to them.

▶ “Meeting Day” For Job-seekers
It is mainly the middle-aged women who are on the fringes of the labor market who participate in the `meeting day’ for job seekers. The program has been specially designed to meet the needs of this section of women. The education program in these sessions was aimed at broadening the outlook of the women and took the form of group sessions, different from the normal counseling sessions.
The sessions included facts on the reality of women’s unemployment, information dissemination on job training, types of public works available and the application process, information on medical support for unemployed women, information on temporary recipients of welfare, introduction of the Action Center, and all necessary information relevant to unemployed women.
The sessions became opportunities to share information on jobs, working experience and to monitor problems and difficulties in job-seeking processes. The women were able to share and understand their experiences. They were able to overcome their disappointment and increase social adaptation skills through “Meeting Day” programs.
  “Meeting Day” programs were held differently according to districts but they were held once every week at the headquarters. The regional branches hold educational meetings twice a month. In 2000, about 3000 women participated in the “Meeting Day” programs held nationwide. Participants showed the initiative of applying for jobs at the local government or labor offices and also took part actively in public works and skill training programs.  

▶ Re-employment Education for Unemployed Women
Re-employment education sessions were held once every month for married, single and newly unemployed women at the Action Center headquarters, Incheon, Gwangju, Masan, and Busan.  Education was provided on the reality of women unemployment, recent employment trends, job planning, and interview pointers – all information necessary for re-employment.
While regular “Meeting Days” were held in pleasant and friendly atmosphere concentrating on group counseling, re-employment education sessions were focused on education on attitudes, job awareness, interview pointers through mock interviews, prospective jobs and job planning, state sponsored licenses, job aptitude tests, etc.
About 30% of the participants were found to attend additional education held in the Action Center headquarters. In 2000, about 80 education sessions were held in the headquarters and 5 regional branches with 3,238 women  participating.
Also in the headquarters, creativity enhancement workshops were held from January to March once a week for 8 sessions for single women without jobs. This workshop helped to train women to view themselves in a more positive manner.

▶ Monthly Meetings
Monthly meetings were also held for women householders once a month. Monthly meetings were aimed at increasing interpersonal relationships and provided information on how to open businesses, on economic trends as well as good family communication, enhancement of self-esteem, health information through yoga classes and other health programs. Information on legal matters was also provided. One of the biggest successes of the monthly meetings was the formation of mutual aid groups. (see p. 21 for detail about the mutual aid groups)
This program was successful in enhancing the self-esteem and confidence of unemployed women and helped them to plan their lives and jobs. A network of unemployed women was also formed through monthly meetings. Organization of unemployed women became stronger through such activities and the program was evaluated by many activists in other organizations and researchers in academics as a model education program for unemployed women. In the year 2000, 96 monthly meetings were held with a total of 4,334 women participating.

<Monthly Meeting Program in 2000>
No. Title Contents Sequence of Programs Things Needed
1. Nice To Meet You  Self-introduction,Nicknaming, life-stories, Difficulties & hopes        
   1) significance of monthly meetings
   2) self-introduction (nicknames)
   3) sharing time Crayons,sketch books, job info leaflets,snacks
2. What kind of help can I receive? Government measures on unemployment, regional programs on unemployment, intro to networks        
   1) lecture on government measures
   2) sharing time
   3) info on jobs Booklet on government measures, job info leaflets,drinks & snacks
3.  Raising Healthy Children Communication Methods with Children        
   1) Communication Methods & role playing
   2) Sharing time
   3) info on jobs  Lecture notes,things needed forrole play, info leaflets, snacks
4. Creating a healthy family _ Understanding family & home        
   1) lecture
   2) plans for a healthy family life
   3) sharing time
   4) job info_ Lecture notes,info leaflets snacks
5. Secrets of living a healthy life 1 _ Ways of Overcoming Stress        
   1) Lecture
   2) Diagnosing stress & ways of overcoming stress
   3) Job info        Lecture notes,info leaflets snacks
6. Secrets of living a healthy life 2 _ Ways to maintain family health
   1) lecture
   2) Simple exercises to do with family members
   3) sharing time _ Space for practice (with mats), snacks
7. Special: How to Open One’s Business _ Conditions for Business  
   1) lecture
   2) items & info
   3) sharing time _ Lecture notes,info leaflets snacks
8. Easy Everyday Economics _ Economic trends      
   1) Lecture
   2) Sharing time: job info _ Lecture notes, info leaflets Snacks
9. Reality & Issues of  Women’s Unemployment _ Trends of Women’s Unemployment        
   1) Lecture
   2) Sharing time: job info _ video,info leaflets snacks
10. Communication Training for Better Interpersonal Relations _ Communication Training    
   1) Lecture & Practice
   2) Sharing Time _ Lecture notes, things needed for practice, snacks
11. Evaluation _ Follow-up activities    
   1) evaluation2) personal hopes _ Evaluation paper, snacks
12. End-of year party _ My plans in 2000    
   1) Life Plan in 2000
   2) sharing time _ White paper, video, snacks


▶ Group Counseling (consciousness awareness) Program
Members of mutual aid societies participated in the group-counseling program. This was an intensive program compared to the monthly meetings. The discussions in group counseling related to common problems within a group. They were undertaken by a moderator with the participation of a group of women. A person got to talk about her problems within the group and through interaction with other women, came to a common understanding of her problems.
Group counseling was carried out 4 times in a session and programs were designed in order to give boost to the organizational capacity of the mutual aid groups. The programs included self-discovery, ways of opening up to people, stress and anger management, fostering group consciousness, future planning – all important for increasing the organizational capacity of the group. In 2000, a total of 32 such sessions were held nationwide in 8 different regions in which 497 women participated.

Case Study of a Woman Householder-----------------------------------------------
Personal details
Divorcee after 6 years of marriage; has three children.
In the beginning, it was difficult for her to maintain her standard of living after her divorce. She had to take a job and had to leave her two children at a daycare center from 8 in the morning to 7 in the evening. She had to leave the children by themselves if there was overtime work. It was always heartbreaking to leave the children.
She changed jobs and began to work as a part-time assistant cook to spend more time with her children, as it was more important for her to spend time with her kids than to get more money. She started work at 10 am and returned at 5 pm and was happier as she could look after her children. But it was a hard life with barely enough to eat.  
However as the days passed, her responsibility towards her family grew and she realized that she needed skilled expertise and took the initiative of getting a state-recognized skill certification.
She first came to the "House of Working Women" operated by the Seoul Women Workers' Association (SWWA) in August 1999 and started learning Korean cookery and food catering everyday from 2 to 5 pm. She later received her certificate as a cook for Korean cuisine.  After completing her training course in April, she participated in a group counseling program for women householders undertaken by the Action Center for Women's Unemployment operated by  KWWAU (see program attached).

Changes After Program Participation
Through direct participation in these activities, she was able to re-discover herself, her potential and feel once again as a woman. The biggest change was the surge in the confidence she felt again in herself through programs organized by the Action Center. Becoming a Durea (mutual-aid society) member also helped her emotionally as she now had a support group she could rely on. She also listened to lectures regarding women-related laws and ways to become independent. She participated in various cultural programs such as hikes, watching movies, end-of-year parties, etc, learning about community spirit and group consciousness.
 
Through programs for single parents, she realized that her own life must be devoted to the lives of her children and also managed to free herself from the doubts about single parenthood. Anger management programs also helped her to control and regulate her emotions. The last part of her education concentrated on looking 10 years into the future and on realizing her dreams. She wanted to be a restaurant manager and she drew a mental picture of her dreams every day.  

At the present, she has been designated as a conditional recipient of the National Basic Livelihood Security System. She now leaves her children in an after-school program and is working hard to make a living for herself. She has become confident and independent.
It can be seen from the above example how effective the Action Center has been in helping unemployed women overcome their personal difficulties and to make a new start. Concrete programs carried out like skills training and group counseling helped women to find new jobs and to handle emotional stress. Women who participated in such programs asked for more such women-specific organizations to be set up.
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<Contents of program>Group Counseling fostering Emotional Stability and a Spirit of Self-rehabilitation Contents: Empowering women-householders who are suffering from the pressures of maintaining a household, depression due to work dismissal, desperation, lack of resourcefulness and social prejudice in their roles as householders by understanding of their inner needs and the reality they were facing through conversations with other women and assertively finding the strength to overcome their difficulties.  <Purpose>Week 1: The status and reality of women’s unemployment (sharing the reality and difficulties related to unemployment with members of the group)   Week 2: Discovering good character traits and life story (discovering good character traits in order to overcome inferiority complexes, sharing pain with others within the group and realizing that other people are also undergoing similar difficulties-group counseling leading to common solutions to a problem)Week 3: Anger Management (learning ways to handle and release stress from dismissal, desperation due to financial problems, anger at people who look down on them, etc)Week 4: Life & Job Planning (life and job planning to overcome unemployment)<Program Details >Week 1Time: 10:20 am - 1:00 pmProgram: Self-Discovery 1* My Life Story (past & future dreams, looking inward)  - Self-introduction     (making name tags, making up nicknames based on childhood dreams)  - Drawing the Cycle of Life (using white paper)    Week 2Time: 10:20 am - 1:00 pmProgram: Self-Discovery 2 (stage of self-rehabilitation)* Discovering My Good Points  - recognizing individuality and personal good points and recovering self-confidence     through encouragement from other participants   - recovering self-confidence & discovering things that the participant can do  Week 3Time: 10:20 am - 1:00 pmProgram: Analysis of Programs of Previous Weeks         (& how these have affected the life of the participant in the previous week) * Analyzing My Life  - looking at one's life from a social perspective and discovering common problemsWeek 4Time: 10:20 am - 1:00 pmProgram: Analysis of Programs of Previous Weeks         (& how these have affected the life of the participant in the previous week) * Finding My Dreams/Obstacles (setting up concrete plans for the future to overcome                                 inertia and false expectations)  - discovering the obstacles in my life and ways of overcoming them  - things that I have always wanted to do & how should I prepare to realize them?  - when would I achieve my dreams?

Unemployed women were able to share their problems and find ways to overcome them through regular monthly meetings with other women and “Meeting Days” for job seekers. They were able to exchange their thoughts and experiences with other women and come to common solutions to problems. Women received hope and courage to overcome their emotional inertia and to build up stable relations with their children and other family members. Through such a process, women recovered their resourcefulness and actively went about looking for work. Women made efforts to adapt themselves to whatever forms of employment they were able to find, stable or otherwise. Their ability to adapt to situations was seen to highly increase.
In 1999 in first session of January for women householders, most of the participants were unemployed but after the third quarter of the economic year, there was an increase in employment of the participants despite frequent worksite changes due to poor and unstable working conditions. This was due to active job seeking and the enhanced spirit of independence of women householders.
The monthly session of unemployed women householders gave women the unique experience of being understood and accepted by other persons, mainly women. This experience was valuable in releasing the tension arising from past relationships and allowing women to be more flexible in dealing with the situation they were facing and in coming up with alternative choices. As such, women now could look inward which had been impossible before, as they had to scrimp to make a living. This behavioral change was applied to problems with children and other circumstances where the women were seen to be more pro-active in dealing with issues they were facing. Women were becoming more confident in investing in themselves and in setting and carrying out future plans.

Women who participated in various regular meetings at the Action Center came to realize that how much they have been suffering emotionally and were under much stress, keeping their objects of anger and oppression, the desperation and hopelessness within them. The women learnt ways of releasing such heartache and stress.
Group meetings were especially good for women as they had the opportunity to release their anger regarding people or events they had found hard to forgive and forget. It was a time to see oneself clearly through self-expression and self-evaluation. The women were also greatly encouraged by learning through various programs that social support programs existed to help them. It was an opportunity of learning about the importance of social relationships. Through the program to find out the supporting social network the participants, who had thought to have nobody helping them, realized that they have invaluable relationship around.

In the Regions…. ---------------------------------------------
In the Incheon region, unemployed women workers participated in the self-support farms operated by the Action Center. These women shared their farm produce (cabbages) with other women. The women made kimchi (Korean pickled cabbages usually prepared in winter due to the delicious cabbages in season) and shared them with sick and single women householders, creating a common bond between women.
In the Ansan region, some members of mutual-aid societies who had once been aid-recipients, made monthly contributions to help other women in difficult circumstances, showing community consciousness.
It was one of the important purposes of the monthly meetings to give the information of diverse employment opportunities, which helped women to overcome financial difficulties. Since the enactment of the National Basic Livelihood System in 2000 Action Center has helped women to realize that  they could enjoy the support from the government as well as the community and to have self-confidence and independence by giving information on the support given by the Department of Women-related Policies under the Ministry of Labor and the changing welfare policies favorable to women. Especially after operating as the counter for the recipients of the National Basic Livelihood System enacted in October 2000, the Action Center was able to help women who had been omitted as recipients, by providing necessary aid to relieve financial difficulties. The Action Center had asked the relevant authorities for reconsidering the women who had been omitted as welfare recipients and most women were later re-designated. This had been possible because the Action Center had carried out the role as a counseling counter for unemployed women and been recognized by public as the steady activities making unemployed women’s voice heard.

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(3) Skills Training
It often appears as if there were many agencies responsible for skills training programs but since many of them are available for the people joining employment insurance. Most unemployed women worked in places with no employment insurance so they were excluded from such primary benefits as skill training. But according to the report released in 1998 on  ‘Work Training for Unemployed Women Workers’, there was a high demand for such training among women workers who were not giving benefits from employment insurance. Though the main reasons were that women receiving training were given living and family support another reason was because of the increasing rate of unemployment. Furthermore, women realized that they would not be able to find work due to lack of skills as well as age limits.

Skills training programs were not the ultimate alternatives for overcoming women’s unemployment but helped to lessen the shock of unemployment. It was an opportunity for the participants to look for their new ways. The programs increased employment opportunities for women who otherwise would be without any significant skills.
In 1998, the KWWAU was designated by the Ministry of Labor to be the agency to hold `training programs for women householders’. The KWWAU was also designated by the National Campaign to Overcome Unemployment to hold a ‘training campaign for unemployed women workers’. The `House of Working Women’ under the Busan Women’s Association (Busan branch) also held a skills training program (for women workers with employment insurance). The KWWAU Seoul Branch (SWWA) also organized a skills training program for women who leaf the labor market for a long time and wanted to enter it again. There were a total of 20 such training sessions in which 410 women participated nationwide for 6 months in 1998.
In 1999, these programs were expanded and the `House of Working Women’ was designated to carry out the programs as well as operating as a welfare center for women workers. In 2001, the KWWAU had two `House of Working Women’ in Seoul and Busan and two women welfare centers in Ansan and Bucheon. At the skills training centers, women learnt sewing, hair-dressing, secretarial skills, skills needed to open a side-dish shop, telemarketing, skills needed to be helpers for mother and newborn baby, clothes repairing skills, skills needed to be guides, skills needed to help teach reading, home computer programs, dress-making, etc.

(4) Projects for Life and Medical Support
Faced with the reality of unexpected unemployment, women workers had to find ways to earn their livelihood. The life support project was set up to provide aid to the women-headed household who had no access to rice or fuel to overcome the hardships of winter in 1997. Life support projects were continued to 2000.

▶ Life Support Project
The life support project named ‘Support Project for Wintering for the Unemployed Women-headed Household’ was carried out with the support of Korean Women’s Associations United (KWAU, a umbrella organization of women’s organizations) and the National Campaign to Overcome Unemployment in the KWWAU headquarters and 7 regional branches (Seoul (SWWA), Incheon (IWWA), Masan Changwon (MWWA), Gwangju (GWWA), Ansan (AWWA), North Jolla (JWWA) and the Busan Women’s Association (BWA)).
The project provided 2,258 women householders with bags of 68kg of rice and fuel coupons. A shelter for unemployed women was operated on trial at the KWWAU Incheon branch. In the shelter of all the women who came for counseling, 10 women with low income were chosen monthly and provided with 20 kg. of rice.
And also group counseling was one of the programs of the shelter, which was targeted at physical and mental crisis management to relieve the shock of unemployment. The contents of group counseling program consisted of “self-opening” (life stories), drawing the picture of my role-satisfaction, life evaluations, discovering personal advantages, setting up future plans, etc. In other regions, similar projects acted as counters for providing childcare support and life support for winter survival.
In August 1998, KWWAU joined the ‘hope’ project that was initiated by Korean Women’s Associations United to help unemployed women householders. The project was carried out in the headquarters and in 6 regional branches (Seoul (SWWA), Incheon (IWWA), Machang (MWWA), Gwangju (GWWA), Ansan local office, Busan Women’s Association) and it provided financial support of 500,000 won (about 420 USD) to 28 women.
In 1999, the winter project was expanded nationwide to support unemployed families. The Action Center acted as counseling, registration and transmission counters and provided unemployed families with food coupons amounting from 50,000 to 100,000 won (about from 42 USD to 83 USD). The project provided support for unemployed families who were not eligible for support given by the government.
In the Machang region, “One Person for One (unemployed) Family” relationship campaign was held to provide support for women householders. Also in 1999, Friends of Love (a welfare foundation) and Open Children (an internet venture enterprise) provided support for unemployed women workers and in 2000, the Women’s Foundation provided financial support to single mothers with low income. Such public interest had been possible because the Action Center had actively publicized the problems faced by unemployed women workers. The role of the Action Center as a counter for helping women householders can be evaluated as effective judging from the high public recognition of the Center’s activities.

▶ Medical Support Project
From August 1998, the Action Center started a medical support project with other medical and health organizations to provide much needed medical aid to unemployed women. The Action Center made it possible to ask the organizations to help unemployed women householder and families in June 1998. Unemployed women and children of less than 18 years received 30-50% discount in medical insurance payments. A total of 559 medical clinics and pharmacies participated in the medical project in the Action Center headquarters and 7 regional branches and until November 1998, 726 medical cards were issued, providing medical benefits to 726 women householders and their children. Also in December, free medical checkup was provided for unemployed women.
In 1999, medical cards were also issued. However, in 2000, “the card of hope” issued by the local communities was found to serve a better purpose. The card provided discounts to unemployed women or women with low incomes in hospitals, pharmacies restaurants or beauty parlors. The Action Center also participated in the regional currency project.


(5) Creating Jobs and Self-help Projects
With the decrease in employment due to the economic crisis, the Action Center realized that counseling was not enough to overcome the problem and took active steps to create work for women workers. The KWWAU Seoul branch (SWWA) started first with its operation of a common room for sewing work and dispatching teachers’ assistants to teach children from low-income families.
The common room for sewing work called “Fox’s Skill” was started by the KWWAU Seoul branch (SWWA) in September 1998 with an average of 25 women participating monthly. Some of them were skillful and others not. For unskillful women the room became a kind of training course as well as a job. At present, preparations are underway for the common room to progress into a cooperative.
Five regional branches (Seoul (SWWA), Incheon (IWWA), Ansan (AWWA), Gwangju  (GWWA), Busan Women’s Association) of the KWWAU also participated in the public works project undertaken by Korean Women’s Associations United, dispatching 152 people as teachers’ assistants to teach children of low-income families in 101 different day-care centers and after-school facilities.  For the success of the project, the KWWAU organized meetings with the heads of daycare facilities, regular monthly meetings of teachers’ assistants, education of teachers’ assistants, situational survey of facilities, etc.

Details of Projects
In 1999 and in 2000, regional activities of the KWWAU concentrated on creating more jobs for unemployed women workers. These activities were due to the increase in government-designated public works and the support given to organizations working with women workers in self-supporting projects.
From 1998, the KWWAU Seoul Branch (SWWA) has operated a common room for sewing work, the Incheon Branch (IWWA) has been designated to carry out public projects (dispatching teachers for after-school classes to elementary school, self-supporting farm project), operating its own self-supporting center (cooperative to make lunch-box, self-supporting farm, helpers for the patients with low income).
The Bucheon Branch (BWWA) also undertook designated public works projects (after-school teachers for young children, helpers for the patients with low income), and established a special self-support center for women only (helper project-domestic helpers, baby sitters, helpers for mother & newborn baby, private nurses, skills training and projects to help women open their own business).
The Ansan Branch (AWAA) also carried out designated public works (after-school teachers for young children), a self-supporting cooperatives project (helpers’ association), and a common room for sideline work (preparing to become self-supporting) while the Gwangju and Machang branches carried out designated public works projects, dispatching librarians and undertaking a recycling program for baby products.

The KWWAU has especially developed a one-stop service for the participants based on the results and experience of the Action Center for Women’s Unemployment. The one-stop system is a comprehensive welfare system concentrating on overcoming the obstacles of self-supporting efforts due to the unique life cycles of women and helps women to successfully adapt to the labor market on a step-by-step basis. The effectiveness of the system is clearly illustrated in the example below.

Case Study-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ms Kim, a member of the Bucheon Self-Supporting Center, was a conditional recipient of the National Basic Livelihood Security Act. She was a college dropout and young divorcee with no children. She lacked self-confidence and showed little enthusiasm for life and avoided meeting people.
At the Center, Ms Kim was advised to take part in skills training programs and was introduced to jobs with the purpose of overcoming the psychological, economic and social barriers as a woman householder. She was also encouraged to participate in conscious awareness programs to increase her self-esteem and also in club activities to find mental support. Ms Kim has now opened her own after-school program and is working as a full-time teacher. The services provided to Ms Kim by the Center were as follows:

● Skills Training
- Received three months’ training as a ‘reading teacher’.
- Participated in group counseling during training to achieve emotional stability and enhanced self-confidence.

● Introduction to worksites
- After training, worked briefly for an educational institute as a home-visiting writing teacher but left due to emotional stress.
- Worked as a dispatch teacher in an after-school program designated as a public works project by Bucheon city.
- Participated steadily and received education. After training, she has started her own study program with a colleague who had also participated as a dispatch teacher.

● Awareness education
- Participated in education & campaigns on achieving the rights of working women and became aware of how to lead more a more assertive life.

● Emotional Support/ Participation in Club Activities
- Participated as a dispatch teacher or meeting with similar teachers and sharing and exchanging information in the “after-school teachers’ club”.

◆ Flowchart of Services

                Counseling Registration                
Group Counseling                ò                Volunteer work
                Skills training(reading teacher)                
                               
Women awareness program                                Formation of networks
                ò                
                         
                After-school teacher (public work)                
Professional education                                Club activity
                               
                               
                ò               
                Opened after-schoolProgram (full-time teacher)                
                               
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Such work creation activities were carried out in all the 7 regional branches and were stimulated with the designation of the KWWAU as a self-supporting center by the Ministry of Health and Welfare. As a self-supporting center, the KWWAU operated programs to help the self-supporting efforts of welfare recipients as stipulated in the National Basic Livelihood Security System.

2) Campaign for Countering Policies, Research and Policy Recommendations

(1) Movement for Unemployment Registration
In June 1998 when the Action Center was inaugurated, the female unemployment rate in official statistics was much lower than the male unemployment, which resulted in public thinking that men’s unemployment was more urgent and worse, the unemployment was the problem only for male workers. But in reality the unemployment of women workers was far from the small problem. One of the reasons of the female’s low unemployment rate was related with the structure of labor market.  Most of women didn’t feel the necessity to register themselves in official centers for employ and government agencies; usually they tried to find jobs through their private network. And most women were irregular workers dismissed from small and petty workplaces with no employment insurance, so their dismissals made no records in the centers for employment. Also many women who were searching for jobs were new comers of labor market since the economic crisis with no records in the centers.
To reveal the hidden unemployment of women workers and publicize it as a social problem, the Action Center began nationwide movement to register in the centers for employment and other government agencies.
The movement for unemployment registration took the forms of publicity campaigns (Machang branch (MWWA), group registration usually after group counseling; Seoul branch (SWWA), advice for registration in counseling, etc.)
Unemployment registration did not influence government statistical data so much but it was noticed that women who registered at the Action Center also took the initiative in registering at government agencies and so the rate of registration at governmental offices increased. Furthermore, registration forms were written by non-governmental organizations and directly submitted to the local labor offices.

(2) Research, Publications and Debates
In 1998 a common survey on the monitoring of public employment centers and agencies, was undertaken by the headquarters and by Incheon, Gwangju, and Busan regions. Based on the results of the survey, public debates were held in three regions (Incheon, Gwangju, Busan). It was emphasized that women workers should not be marginalized in the labor market and the role of the existing “counter for potential humanpower” be strengthened to overcome unemployment. The need for a separate management system for women workers in all occupations was also pointed out. As for the role of employment agencies, it was emphasized that government agencies must play a central role with the cooperation of non-governmental organizations.
There were three public debates related to women’s unemployment in 1999 and in 2000. Representatives from the government, political parties, and academia were invited to publicize the reality faced by unemployed women workers and to pressurize the government into reflecting such issues in government policy. The debates were held during the celebrations of the first anniversary of the launching of the Action Center to evaluate the activities of the Action Center for the previous year and to put forward policy proposals for the following: to bring forth countermeasures for middle-aged unemployed women workers and for the reality faced by women college graduates and in their preparations for employment to overcome unemployment and the gender discrimination faced during looking out for jobs. Representatives of the Action Center also participated in debates held by the government, political parties and NGOs to voice the reality faced by unemployed women workers and called for measures to be reflected in government policy.
After the year 2000, activities were aggressively carried on matters related to the National Basic Livelihood Security System. Although not carried out on a large scale, a survey was undertaken calling for more flexibility regarding the criteria of recipients. An analysis of the living standards of 766 recipients was also carried out (2000). Action Center representatives participated in regional debates regarding problems related to the application of the National Basic Livelihood Security System and also actively undertook the role of advisors to local government bodies. In 2001, research into living conditions of people participating in self-support programs was carried out and publicized.
The headquarters and 7 regional branches of the KWWAU started using a common registration form and this made it easier to analyze the trends of employment and unemployment per month, to be used appropriately as materials for press releases or government policy recommendations when needed.

In the Regions-------------------------------------------------------------------------
The Seoul branch (SWWA) also carried out a survey in Guro and its surrounding regions on the employment status and living conditions of 150 women householders. Results of the survey were published and the “Report on the living conditions of women householders” was also undertaken. A cultural event called “the Night for Dismissed Women Workers” was also organized.
The North Jolla branch (JWWA) also held a survey on the living conditions of dismissed workers and their efforts to find jobs and a debate was held to bring forth countermeasures on the issue.
The Incheon branch (IWWA) also published its findings regarding the counseling undertaken with unemployed women workers and monitoring of counseling in training institutes. An information booklet for women workers was released. A workshop for counselors and for people in training institutes, responsible for working with unemployed women was also organized.
The Ansan branch (AWWA) held a “Debate on Women’s Unemployment and for the Rehabilitation of Local Communities” and the Bucheon branch (BWWA) carried out a basic survey on the status of employment of married women workers (including dismissed women workers) and their demands that were later published. Furthermore this also led to the publication of the “Research on long term programs to overcome women’s unemployment – self-support programs.”
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(3) Campaigns & Policy Recommendations
The Action Center, together with the two major national centers of trade unions and the “University Students’ Alliance for Women’s Right to Work” as co-sponsors, worked hard to press for the rights of women workers and called for appropriate policy measures. With the start of the first rally on July 9 1998, 5 rallies were continuously held in front of the main office of the ruling party and National Assembly. As a result, some policy recommendations were reflected in the real policy-making process. In the regional branches, active campaigns calling for employment stability, job creation and measures for overcoming women workers’ unemployment were also carried out.
Research was also undertaken on the reality of women householders and calls were made for the policy changes as well as for the reform of the process of public work application and unemployment registration. Monitoring of public employment agencies was carried out and calls were made for policy changes in the strengthening of the functions of public employment agencies.
Policy recommendations on women’s unemployment were made at other relevant times. With the launching of the Action Center, a policy statement was released (calling for more public work creation, increase in social welfare personnel through the increase of women’s employment and priority employment opportunities for women in newly-created public works).  Also on the course of the activities the Action Center released on times many policy recommendations on unemployment registration (asking for unemployment registration received by NGOs to be submitted collectively to the local labor offices or local government offices) and on public works (calling for; simplification of papers proving the unemployment status of women workers in workplace with less than 5 workers, sub-contract work, unregistered enterprises, etc; increased opportunities for participation in public work, especially for women householders and for dismissed spouses who had low incomes; and priority employment for elderly married women) etc.. Other policy statements concerned employment of middle-aged women and the lowering of bank interest rates on loans for business openings for unemployed women workers.
From 1999, continuous recommendations were made on the proposals for women-specific self-support centers and these called for policy implementation of the establishment of a supporting organization for women-specific self-support works. The actual policies reflected many of the recommendations made by the Action Center.

3) Organizational Activities; mutual aid group
Of all the organizational activities initiated, the mutual aid groups of unemployed women remain the most important. First started in Incheon as a network for unemployed women workers from the monthly meetings, the mutual aid groups quickly spread to other regions. Membership was open to all unemployed women workers wishing to join the group and most of members joined the groups through the monthly meetings. Within the groups, women helped each other and worked together to come up with common and appropriate measures to overcome their problems. The names of mutual aid groups differed from region to region. Members of mutual aid groups were given priority in all projects organized by the Action Center.
The principle of the members of mutual aid groups lies in the belief that “I will help other women without work just as I have been helped once.” So some of groups have manes meaning to support each other. Members operated small group meetings such as meetings for unemployed women householders, public works monitoring meetings, meetings according to job-types, etc. Other activities were also carried out to help unemployed women and their families like “Solidarity Nights”, cultural festivals etc, to bring as many unemployed women together as possible.
In 1999 and in 2000, the one of most important activities pursued by the Action Center was the organization of mutual aid groups. Education programs like monthly meetings and group counseling were carried out actively. Education programs were also carried out for the purpose of creating an education program model for unemployed women workers. Owing to the continuous progress of programs for women householders, autonomous programs by women householders sprouted and membership increased. These members also participated actively in group-counseling sessions. Public confidence in the programs for women householders increased in the regions, leading to more visits to KWWAU offices by women householders.
Women householders who participated in regular monthly meetings received emotional support and membership in such meetings increased. The meetings also enhanced the desire of the women participants to help similar women facing difficulties. This spirit led to the growth of other independent small group meetings and spontaneous demands.
Mutual aid groups were loose and flexible but were critical in increasing the capacity of the women workers’ movements. These groups helped to enhance the participation of women workers in further organizational activities. Women in the groups became more socially aware and the Action Center became a stable organization with more human resources and more easily accessible to unemployed women workers.

In the Regions -------------------------------------------------------------------
In the case of the Ansan region, after undergoing group counseling, women created teams for opening cooperatives (clothing repairing group, 7 women; sewing group, 4 women) and carried out continuous research and participated in additional education programs to increase skill and opportunities for cooperatives’ openings. And also after receiving group counseling, 5 women underwent training as telemarketers and found work in that capacity except for one person who went into business. In the Ansan branch (AWWA), 15 women participated in the “Helpers’ Community” (dispatching helpers for house keeping) and in the lunchbox cooperative.
In the Incheon region, mutual aid groups of women householders (about 300 members) actively participated in self-support farms and as private helpers for the patients. In the Bucheon region, women participated in the helpers’ cooperative called “Durea Community” and also looked after children in after-school classes (public work). Women householders also participated in various group activities like poongmul (Korean traditional music of drumming) classes, hiking clubs etc. which have helped to increase the quality of life. In the Busan region, women householders formed a group called “Chamteo”(meaning a real and good place, 200 members) and carried out various activities. In other regions, groups according to age, interests and occupation were formed and all these activities helped to empower the members. Mutual aid groups carried out regular meetings once a month and published a newsletter.
Members of mutual aid groups participated actively in social issues such as signature campaigns calling for more employment measures, job-creation for long term unemployed people, more funding for public works as well as participating in debates on women’s unemployment, political campaigns, rallies, etc.
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4) Other Activities

(1)        Education for Counselors
The Action Center headquarters organized education and training programs for counselors working in regional branches. The purpose of the program was; developing and promoting the counselors and activists, as well as developing and spreading the programs for women workers. Each program has been carried out in the regions were adapted to meet regional demands.
The headquarters continued education on family counseling for the counselors to help unemployed women counter the worsening situation of unemployment and the breakup of families. Education was also carried out on to strengthen the role and attitudes of job counselors. In the Masan region, a model education program was undertaken to foster the growth of counselors to help unemployed women.
It is critical that counselors should provide not only information on jobs but also comprehensive information and psychological counseling. In the case of women over the age of 40 years, problems are more complex due to difficulty in re-employment due to old age, and conflict within family, mental trauma and poor health, which are mainly resulting from poverty. Accordingly, it is becoming more important that counselors understand the situations and conditions of unemployed women and receive more training to enhance their abilities to provide more in-depth counseling.
In addition to the education programs, the regular workshops for counselors were organized from May 1999. The workshops allowed counselors to exchange and share information and to discuss unemployment-related measures and the role of the Action Center. In metropolitan areas, counseling workshops were held once a month until early 2000. Analysis of counseling cases, regional program exchanges, additional education programs, etc. were undertaken in the regular workshops. A bi-annual counselors’ education program was also continued for greater co-ordination and more national level unity.

The national counselors’ meeting was organized in July 1999 to hold a policy discussion on the direction of the Action Center and in 2000, two meetings were held to begin a national evaluation on the projects undertaken, impending issues and direction of the Action Center, which were strengthening unity between the headquarters and the regions and increasing measures to counter government policies. In a meeting undertaken in the early half of 2000, counselors came to determination of an main focus of the activities and resolved to firmly support the main projects in the later half of the year. It was also agreed that the re-structuring of the Action Center be discussed in the later half of the year as the projects progressed. In the following meeting, in the latter half of the year, activities of 2000 were evaluated and project plans for 2001 were also discussed. In 2001, it was also resolved that the organizational capacity of autonomous groups be strengthened together with the ability to counter government policies and to further public relations.
This meeting brought together counselors who have been working separately at the main headquarters and in 8 regional branches and allowed counselors to share experiences and exchange information, providing the much needed feedback to the Action Center. Counselors were able to resolve problems in the group meetings and increase awareness on the issues of the movement of unemployed workers through lectures and discussions.

(2) Ways to Increase Volunteer Participation
Many people including university students, graduate students, office workers, home- makers, etc. – people from all aspects of life, volunteer themselves at the Action Center. Volunteers help out actively in various projects and hold regular monthly meetings.
In the main offices, university and graduate students volunteer themselves in finding new worksites, research work, telephone counseling, etc, and at the Seoul branch (SWWA), university student volunteers joined in the “Situational Survey of Women Householders” and were helpful in organizing the “Solidarity Night” events.
At the North Jolla branch, university students specializing in traditional Korean medicine participated in medical support counseling while at the Machang branch (MWWA), students volunteered for a whole day, helping with counseling and taking on a specific issue. At the Incheon branch (IWWA), monthly meetings of volunteers were held, stimulating participants in volunteer work.
Volunteers played a vital role in 1999 and 2000 and the valuable feedback from their work schedules added new energy to the activities of the Action Center.

(3) Publicity
Activities were carried out to publicize the reality and the pain of women’s unemployment and the projects of the Action Center. There were over 100 cases of press coverage on the activities of the Action Center such as its launching, medical support services, lectures for re-employment as well as on the research survey undertaken on dismissed women workers, on unfair cases concerning employment, on the urgency of women’s unemployment situation, on the measures concerning women’s unemployment, etc. There was also steady coverage of the Action Center in the regional media.
The Incheon branch (IWWA) wrote a regular column on unemployment and legal counseling in the local information newsletters. IWWA also produced two videos  (‘Instability and issues of women’s employment’, ‘The harsh struggle of unemployed women workers’). These videos were distributed for publicity on the situation of women workers.
In 1999 and 2000, the Action Center carried out various publicity campaigns to increase public awareness on the issue of women’s unemployment. Press releases were sent to the media at appropriate times to publicize the reality of dismissed women workers, job-seeking campaigns by women workers and other related activities. Such efforts have led to an increase in job opportunities for women workers.
Public campaigns were also undertaken for the proper implementation of the National Basic Livelihood Security System and calls were made for government measures to counter the problem of long-term unemployed people. A more realistic implementation of the National Basic Livelihood Security System was called for. More than 60 women workers participated in the national rally opposing the downsizing of the public works projects and called for measures to help middle-aged women and long-term unemployed people. Women also participated in the anti-ASEM rally, voicing their dissent over unemployment issues.

(4) Computer Networking

▶ Development and Distribution of Job-seekers --  Data-Base Management Program and Education
Providing job opportunities for unemployed women remain the top priority of the Action Center. The need for an efficient method to satisfy both job-providers and job seekers was realized and various computer information programs were established to deal with the problem.
A simple and easily amendable database program based on MS ACCESS was set up in consideration of the computer environment in the regional branches and the ever-changing statistical data to be updated. The program induced an effective database management of job seekers and provided accurate information on the monthly survey undertaken on unemployed women workers.
Education sessions on the use of the DB program and the management of data were also held. Counselors of the Action Center also participated in these. Contents of the sessions were also published in the additional educational pamphlets.

▶ “Working Women’s Network” Opens on Website ( at Chollian and NETSGO)
Furthermore, a “Working Women’s Network” has been opened, providing direct and necessary information and counseling on website. The website is divided into a counseling part and an information part. The counseling part provides counseling on jobs and “Hotline for Equality” counseling as well. The information part consists of job information, case studies on employment instability and employment-related news.
The website guarantees confirmed job information and professional counseling by trained counselors. There is no charge involved and the website is open to all and is easily accessible.

3. Results of the Activities of the Action Center
1) Support Programs for Unemployed Women Workers
The most obvious consequence of the activities carried out by the Action Center lies in the fact that the suffering of unemployed women workers has been somewhat lessened. Many women workers have received help and direct working opportunities through programs such as job counseling, introduction to job opportunities and job information, job training, regular meetings, various types of education, life support, medical support, introduction to public works projects, etc. A woman who has found work as a dispatch teacher in an after-school program through the Incheon branch (IWWA) is a clear illustration of how active the Action Center has been. Her husband had lost his job and the family of five (three children) had been at its wits’ end. She had never expected to find work, as she had no special skills. But with the help of the IWWA, she was able to make a fresh start. Also the programs helped women, who had felt distress and suffered from desperation, get empowerment.

2) Organization of Unemployed Women
Another major consequence is the increase in the organizational capacity of women workers. The difficulty of organizing remains a big obstacle in the movements of unemployed women workers even in the West. Organizing women workers is considered one of the biggest results of the Action Center. The women were able to share and overcome their feelings of desperation through common efforts. They were also able to voice their demands and attract the attention of the media on the issues of women workers’ unemployment. Also all these activities influenced the attitudes of the press that had been concentrating only on the unemployment of male workers, which pushed the government to make measures for women.

3) Policy Recommendations
The policies recommended by the Action Center and implemented by the government are as follows:

▶ Extension of Employment Insurance to Part-time and Temporary Workers in Worksites with Less than 5 People
Employment insurance was only applied to workers in worksites with more than 5 people.  Sixty-seven percent of women workers work in places employing less than 5 workers and 60% of these women are in irregular work, meaning that most women workers are without any employment insurance benefits. The Action Center has continuously demanded the extension of employment insurance to more people and on 5th October 1998 the employment insurance benefits were extended to include workers in worksites with less than 5 people and also to part-time and temporary workers.

▶ Possible to Directly Submit Unemployment Registration
The Action Center has also made it possible for women workers to directly submit unemployment registration to non-governmental offices. This unemployment registration movement revealed the hidden facts behind women’s unemployment. The registration forms were directly submitted by the Action Center to the local labor offices. This allowed unemployed women to become more pro-active in registering themselves as unemployed workers.

▶  Introduction of Special Measures for Unemployed Women Workers
Dismissal from work and unemployment due to the economic crisis greatly affected the Korean people, especially women householders who were the chief breadwinners in the family. Most of the women were without any special skills or higher education and so there was little opportunity for re-employment. The Action Center publicized the problem of these unemployed women householders and worked for the implementation of special measures by the government for women householders.
The incentive system for employing women householders gives support (from the employment insurance) for employers who employ women householders. Half of the wages of the women householders were reimbursed for 6 months by the government. Special skills training programs for women householders were also held. Women were given a monthly training fee of 300,000 to 400,000 won (about 250 to 333 USD) to lessen the burden of living expenses. Women householders wishing to open businesses were given loans up to 50 million won (about 41,667 USD) for renting premises to start their own businesses. Also, measures were implemented to allow women to have priority in employment in public works projects.

▶ Extension of Public Works for Women Workers
From May 1998, in order to absorb the increasing number of unemployed people, public works projects were undertaken as a limited employment measure. The projects were started not as a non-conditional life support measure but as a measure by the government for creating jobs in social sector. However, early public works such as environmental maintenance or taking care of woods were often too hard for women workers. The problem was raised continuously by the Action Center and welfare-type work was extended to women workers. This included working as caregivers for children or patients from low-income families, and helpers to social workers and as teachers in after-school programs for children.
At the present moment, in 2002, unemployment is not a big social issue in South Korea. Instead, poverty has become a major issue. With the lessening of unemployment, temporary and irregular work has risen, increasing the gab between the rich and the poor. As in other countries in the world, women are most affected by poverty. Two out of every three women are in irregular employment.
Faced with such a reality, the Action Center for Women’s Unemployment took one step forward and started concentrating on activities regarding women’s poverty. In the year 2001, the Action Center was designated by the government as Self-Supporting Projects Center and worked to create work for women who have been socially left out of the labor market and to help them to become independent. Our activities will be transformed to meet the changing needs and requirements but our aim will remain permanent. The Action Center will work to represent the voices of women workers and to change the world based on the demands of women.

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Posted by KWWA
The Situation of Women Workers in Korea
kwwa  2002-10-28 14:27:18, 조회 : 437


The Situation of Women  Workers in Korea

                                                                        Maria Rhie  

Since the strict conditions of the International  Monetary Fund’s economic bailout package went into effect  last December 1997, approximately two to three million workers in S. Korea have lost their jobs. This figure represents a drastic six-fold increase in less than eight months.  For a nation with no exising social welfare system and with a domestic economy that relies heavily on foreign investment, drasticalling rising unemployment translates into extreme financial insecurity, intensified social problems and tremendous emotional dislocation across the entire nation.  For the most vulnerable sectors of the population such as women workers, particularly single mothers and women who operate as the head of their of  households, the situation is especially grave.

Women workers are disproportionately affected by economic restructuring strategies and privatization policies.  Due to severe discrimination along gender, age and marital status lines, women over forty years old, mothers, and pregnant women are dismissed immediately.  These groups of women have almost no future possibilities for wage labor employment and subsequently, drop out of the wage labor market as discouraged women workers. The only available job opportunities for other groups of women workers represent highly insecure forms of temporary employment. In Korea, 45 % of the employed pupulation are temporary workers.
As many as 65% of women workers work in very small companies which are not protected by the labor Standard Law.  Women workers are the first targets for illegal retrenchment and lay-offs, especially in periods of economic crisis. In addition, regular women workers’ status is reduced to temporary, part-time, daily and dispatched workers. This is largely due to patriarchy in Korea society. Women are viewed as secondary earners to men who are seen as breadwinners.

According to Employment Trends of May 1999, by  the National Statistical Office, the involvement rate of women in Economic activities decreased 0.6% in comparison with the first quarter of 1998, and the female population not involved in economic activities increased by about 220,000(2.2%). As of May 1999, female unemployment has increased to 559,000, which covers 32.8% of the total unemployed  population, and the unemployment rate of women has increased by 5.1% more than the rate of male unemployment.
As of May 1999, two of three employed women are temporary workers.  Only 30.8% of women workers are  regular workers while 61.4% of men are regular workers.

And only 5% of women workers belong to the union. The total rate of organized workers is 47% while that for women is only 36%.  Compared to  in April 1997, the decrease of union members as a whole is 32%, but the decrease of women union members is 47%.  The rate of union involvement by temporary female workers is 23.8%.  There are companies in which all female workers are temporary, and companies with more than 50% of temporary female workers are commonplace.  In large enterprises, the problem is more serious.  

Women  workers Employment  situation                   (Unit: persons)

(This table is the summarize of a research conducted by KWWAU, illustrates the unstable situation of women workers)

Employment of Irregular Women Workers

In September 1998, the economically active population was 21,622 in Korea .  This  represented 61.2% of the population of 35,338 above the age of 15. Compared to 62.5% in 1997, this shows a 1.0% decline. Male participation in the labor market decreased slightly in 1998.  
According to below table, the number of wage workers of 12,101,000 dropped by 1,127,000 in September 1998, compared to 13,228,000 in 1997.  The number of wage workers  decreased amongst the economically active population, but the number of unpaid family workers amongst non-waged workers increased. Additionally, regular workers decreased markedly amongst wage workers in the current economic turmoil, but the number of irregular workers such as temporary and day workers increased.
Table wage workers by forms of employment (unit; thousand, %)


Although the total population of male wage workers declined  in September 1998, the figure of 63.4% for regular male workers remained unchanged in comparison to  1997. However, in the case of women, regular workers  composed only 32.9%, temporary workers and day workers 46.6% and 20.5% respectively.  This implies that about 67.1% of wage female workers are irregular, whose employment is vulnerable.

Under the current economic crisis, many companies have discriminated against women and forced regular female workers to become irregular workers under the pretense of necessary restructuring.  In particular, married women have been illegally targeted for irregular employment; this has rendered women more marginalized and vulnerable .  In the process of restructuring, a variety of unfair labor practices have appeared with the transfer of female regular workers into irregular ones: regular workers are daid-off or vuluntary retied and then re-employed with temporary contracts. Women are also targets of this practice.  Regular women workers are dismissed and/or victims of the closure of their women-concentrated departments  and then re-employed through temporary employment agencies.  In addition, companies usually terminate female workers who attempt to resist these unfair labor practices. Since companies target female workers first and concentrate  on women for unfair  labor practices, the irregular employment of women workers has rapidly increased.
(Research conducted by the Ministry of Labor shows that about 80% of part-time workers are women.  Women among the total number of part-timers constituted 77% in 1993, 78.7% in 1994, and 78.3% in 1995)
Workers  who keep their jobs, they  have difficulties  from  the long working hours and  labor intensification, after revising labor laws. The law allowing workers to work for 44 hours a week( principle 44 hours a week) and 56 a month without  paying overtime payment.( about 12 hours a month  the workers can work without OT payment). And after pass a law on Dispatch work( about 21 work categories) many workers employed under  the dispatch work.

Voluntary retirement, prior dismissal of temporary workers
In the current economic crisis women workers have become marginalized in the labor market. In 1998, male workers accounted for 64.5% of regular workers, but women workers constituted 34.%.  The rate of temporary women workers increase from62.2% in 1997 to 66.1% in 1998.  This shows that women workers are forced and or voluntary retire from their jobs and they re-enter the labor market as temporary workers after the marriage, pregnancy and child-caring.  This also means that women are forced to work as temporary workers under the excuse of the current economic crisis.
With the structure ajustment  program , specially in financial companies the first workers dismissed were women. H Insurance Company launched a voluntary retirement scheme in April 1998 targeting those who had worked longer than seven years. 75% of the workers who volunteered to retire were women, and four out of then were married women. The key reason for this is that the company tried to encourage female workers to retire.  In the process , the branch manger encouraged female workers to retire and tried to create a difficult atmosphere for them.

Unfair dismissal, and pressure to transfer to a temporary working position
AT the first quarter of this year of KWWAU  Equal Rights Counseling Center , the proportion of callers anxious about  employment instability increased to 85.3% among the counseling cases.  Women are still targeted primarily for dismissal in a sexually discriminative manner, especially when they work at the same place as their husband.  In  public enterprises, the notification of dismissal  is given without following proper procedure or giving adequate explanation. In small companies, the workers are dismissed for unreasonable causes.  The cases related to workers’ maternity have increased: pressure to resign on pregnancy, non-payment of wages during maternity leave attempts made by employees to induce resignation after maternity leave, etc. Some companies begin to pressurize the pregnant worker immediately upon her notification of pregnancy.  Through the counseling service, we can confirm the disadvantageous situation facing women workers.  Under the banner of the IMF Economic crisis, women are discouraged from taking monthly menstrual leave or maternity leave.  
In public enterprises, large enterprises, small and medium enter-prises, and other private companies, the women workers are transferred to temporary working positions.  Even in public enter prises, female
Technicians are  transferred to temporary positions, or are forced to resign so the companies can recruit new workers on a temporary contract.  The circumstances surrounding unpaid wages very greatly.  In small companies, there are many cases of wages unpaid without any explanation.

The situation of Unemployed Women
According to our Action Center for Unemployed Women,  total number of cases , women come to 1,649. 64.9% of callers were over 35 years old, 75.3% were high school graduates, and 81.9% were married women.  It shows that those with a background of low education, the middle-aged, and married women still face the greatest difficulties in getting jobs.  40.3% of single women were fired recently and 33.5% of these women have not worked for some time.  In the case of married women, 46.5% are trying to find work and 28.8% of them have recently been sacked.  68.4% of the them have registered as job seekers.  
According to the principle of the public labor arrangement, priority should be given to female family heads.  The actual state of affairs does not allow women who are financially responsible for their family to have a greater chance of getting work.  The public labor arrangement limits the age of beneficiaries.  Those older than 60  years old have no chance of getting a job. Many of them have to pay monthly rent and the subsidy for living costs is much less than they need.  The vocational training courses are too short to enable them to get the necessary qualifications to get jobs.   In fact many of them could not get a job even after attending vocational training courses.


Resisting to the problems

But Under the worsening situation of  employment, women workers have constantly struggled, sometimes in a group and sometimes alone.  Our campaigns were concluded with jobs being restored.  The women researcher in the tourism center brought a civil suit against their sexually discriminative dismissal.  The eight brave women in the Masan Free Trade Zone won their jobs back through five months of struggle.  The women workers of Dae Woo Construction won in court against sexually discriminative dismissal.  The caddies of Golf Club also struggled against the announcement of dismissal given to the caddies over 40 years old, and they all returned to work.  The married women who resigned upon their weddings due to having signed an oath to retire upon marriage, brought a civil suit through the central labor committee case handling, and they won in court.  Institute discontinued its policy of prior dismissal of women workers owing to the head quarters of workers unions.  These cases have been greatly encouraging for women workers.  In addition, some companies have transferred temporary workers to regular contracts or have encouraged their temporary workers to join their workers union.
women workers are heads of their families, they face extremely difficult situations. Many women workers in unorganized small companies are being laid-off and they have not received their backwages, since many of these women workers are heads of families, they face extremely difficult situations. Therefore, Action center for women’s Unemployment were established in june last year. In order to publicize the seriousness in women’s unemployment and to encourage the government to make pro-active policies for women workers. These Action Center for women’s unemployment provide practical assistance to women workers, through a variety of programmes such as job counseling information provision, training, surveying activities and medical assistance.  Organizing rallies in every month in front of the headquarter of the ruling party and National Assembly  for women workers’ job security and demanding the government to establish women’s unemployment prevention etc.








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Posted by KWWA
Approach using small group methodology
kwwa  2002-10-28 14:25:48, 조회 : 390

Approach Using Small Group Methodology - Korea

                                                                                                By Maria Rhie

My present work often takes me around to many Asian countries. On many occasions, organizers I meet expressed that it is difficult to do organizing work. When I share my organizing experiences with them, they usually reply that situation in Korean is different from the situation in their countries. I agree that organizing women workers is difficult. I also admit that the situation in each country is different, yet I believe that despite of our different and difficult situation, an organizer has the role to try to think of a way, an alternative way to organize workers to struggle for a better life. The dedication and commitment to this work is immense and if one has the will, the possibilities will always be there.

In this article, I shall relate my own personal experiences in organizing women workers. I have chosen two different periods of my work-the time when I spent three years in an industrial area in the south of Korea as an organizer to work together with women workers.


BACKGROUND
South Korea embarked on export-oriented industrialization in the 1960s under the dictatorial Park Chung Hee government. Thousands of young women were recruited for their cheap labour in the  factories. Labor organization were placed under strict control. No independent  union was allowed to form. The women workers worked long hours under extreme poor conditions and received very low wages.

In 1970, a young male worker, Chun Tae Il, set himself on fire to protest against the  inhumane conditions of workers shouting: "We are not machines! Improve working conditions! Do not waste my death!" His action forced many students, intellectuals, journalists and religious people to open their eyes to the appalling conditions of workers in Korea. Many of these people took the decision to join in workers movement.

In 1971, the government stepped up its repressive measures by enacting a "Special Law for National Security" which effectively robbed workers of their rights to collective bargaining and collective action.
All labor dispute were severely stopped by the police. Hundreds of activists were imprisoned, students were dismissed from campus while others were fired from their jobs. Exploitation in the workplace intensified and the situation of the workers deteriorated.

I could not ignore what was happening to my people and my country. I could not pretend to sleep when I knew my country people were being imprisoned for the so-called "subversive act" which is no other than fighting for a better humanity. I decided to join the workers' struggle.


Organizing Within the Factory
In 1972. I applied to work in a shoes factory as a workers. There were 2,000 workers in this factory, 80% of whom were young women workers. Everyday we worked 10 to 14 hours with only 40 minutes off for lunch. Sometimes we had to work throughout the night . I was so tired everyday after work that I could not think of  anything except going to sleep. Sometimes I did not even bother to wash myself. My only hope was to have more time to sleep. Everyday I looked forward towards holidays (we had only 2 Sundays off every month) so that I could rest. On Sundays, I did not feel like doing any thing except sleeping, and then there was always my clothes to wash. For my fellow workers, their only hope was to
get married so that they might leave the factory forever. Initially it was difficult to adjust to factory life but the determination to  change their terrible conditions overcame my weakness.]

In the first two years, I did nothing except to observe. Watching with my eyes and listening with my ears, I came to learn of the workers' situation -their hardships, problems and interests. I also learned to communicate in their language. I was able to select 7 women workers. These 7 women became the basis of my organizing work. With my first small group formation, I had put all my energy and commitment
to build up this group.


Our Meetings
For our first meeting, we spent our time chatting and joking. When we finally came to the point of what we were to do in our future meetings, everybody was quiet for a minute. One of them, with whom I had already talked before, suggested that we should talk about our personal lives. Since we did not really know each other well, everyone agreed with the idea. We decided to share about our past, our relationship with our families and our hope for the future.

Sharing the topic, "Who am I" was very good as it brought the group close together. Her desire to share her with life with us made each one of us understand each other. The story about her life made us cry and laugh with her. When it came to my turn to share, I talked about the common life we shared as workers. I found there was no need to bring any theory because from their past lives they have rich
experiences to draw the  discussions upon. The sharing took us two months (one woman sharing per session). It revealed the immense problems suffered by women in relation to the economic and political situation in the country. During the discussions, I constantly raised questions like "What is your hope" Why do we need to have money" Is there any alternative to a workers' life?" They concluded that thet
did not mind working in the  factory but they wanted to have better working conditions.

In the following meetings, we identified many problems in our factory. In fact, there was a trade union in the factory. It was a yellow union. Even though all of us were members of the union, none of us know who were the chairperson of the union. We decided to study the labor law, understand the meaning of trade unions and to discuss how to improve the working conditions in the factory.


Action
We decided to start with a small demand, i.e. to request for more brooms to sweep the working place after each shift and more lights at the working room. We discussed how to raise this demand and decided first to raise it with the other workers. Together we made the request to the management who did not heed our request. After three more requests, the workers decided to take collective action for our demand. We did not clean the working rooms for two days and finally the management accepted our demands. Through this simple action, the workers gained strength and learnt the importance of organizing themselves to solve their problems.

We began to meet more frequently and discussed other problems like working hours, working conditions, provident fund and menstruation leave. We also discussed the need to change the union. Feeling that 7 persons were not enough to fight for our demands, we decided that each one of us would organize a small group. Our activities concentrated on making friends with fellow workers.

The seven of us continued to meet weekly. We shared what happened to our own small group, like how they approached a fellow worker, the difficulties we had, our success in recruiting someone into their groups, etc. We also discussed the method we used, whether it was good or not, and evaluated each other's progress and so on. After a month, most of us managed to set up a small group, each group with 5 to 11 persons.

By this time, I had already spent two years and five months in this factory.
We continued to set up small groups and studied about the labor law. As the number of groups grew, we were more confident of our strength. We decided to lodge a complaint about the long working hours to the Office of Labor Affairs. We wanted to try out the legal way.

A week after our complaint, the management reduced our working hours from 14 hours to 9 hours a day (8:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.). We were surprised but happy at the same time. Of course the management questioned the workers to find out who had made the complaint, but there was no trouble getting this demand.

Now that we had more free time, we spent our time organizing. All the groups were delighted with this gain and the small groups strengthened. Some core members then requested me to set up a night school. Since they had more time, they wanted to study. Other workers were also raising the same request. A night school was eventually set up after a local parish offered his place to be used.

To me, I was more concerned about building leadership among members of the core group. During the core group meetings, I tried to teach them all the things I know and to transform them into good leaders. At every meeting, I made sure that each one of the core group member took their turn to chair the meeting. Before the meetings,  I always discussed with the chairperson on how to chair and conduct a
meeting so as to help her to prepare for the exercise.

In my organizing work, I always followed the steps of see, think and act and then ask why, what and how for the action.

There were many successful stories in this factory. When the factory decided to close down one of its biggest section, 1,200 workers joined together to fight for their rights. They managed to negotiate for three months severance pay and provident fund. If some workers wanted to get a job, then the employer had to find her a job. It was a long struggle but their demands were finally met.

After these experiences, the workers saw the importance to take control of the union. They wanted to remove the union leaders and change the structure of the union. At one meeting when we were discussing about who should be the nest union leader, as usual, the core members suggested their male colleagues. So I asked them "Why is it not possible for someone among us to become the union leader?" I  recalled the our first meeting at which we discussed their lives. I made them recall their sharings about their family relationships, father's role and mother's position, and why she had to work in the city to support her brother's schooling, etc. This made them realized that they had to overcome also their role as women. From this experience, I also learnt that it was important not only to improve the
emvironment (e.g. working conditions) but you must also change the person's way of thinking. Women have accepted their conditions without struggling.

When the election time came, the workers elected a male worker as the chairperson of the union. Seventy percent of the remaining executive positions were occupied by women of the small groups.
Through the union they were able to make changes in the factory and even went on to organize workers in other factories in the area.

This period in the factory was an enriching experience because I learnt  about society, the life of workers, the importance to change a person's consciousness and the meaningful life in humanity. More important, it showed the power of women's leadership-that one person can become seven, seven can become hundreds. Today hundreds and thousands of women workers are strugling for changes in their working conditions.

Organizing in an Industrial Area
In 1978, I went to Iri Province, south of Korea. There I spent five years in the Free Trade Zone industrial area. There was hardly any organizing going on and the few unions that existed were yellow unions. Here I did not work in the factory, so I was not in direct contact with the workers. It was therefore more difficult to start organizing work.

My first task was to understand the area and to search where the women workers live, to observe their living conditions, their working conditions and their life style, etc. Everyday, I asked myself a basic question, "How can I understand this environment better so that I can work effectively as and organizer in this area?" I was always thinking, looking and searching to start my work.

One day, I met a young woman workers on the street. She looked very tired. When I tried to talk to her, she just smiled. Every day at about the same time, I went to the street to meet her. After one week, she asked me, "Why are you interested in me?". I invited her  to a tea house and chatted for some time. I told her that I would like to be her friend. After tea, she invited me to her rented room. Her name was Kim.

The second woman I met in the church.  She sat next to me while I was attending a mass and we shared a prayer book. After mass, we introduced ourselves. Her name was Lee. We had lunch together and she told me about herself. She had been working in a Japanese company for 4 years. Both her parents were suffering from an illness She was the main Person supporting her brother and  sister who were still studying. She did  not have any time for herself. Everyday after work, she had to rush home to look after her parents and did all the housework. As I listened I could  not help shedding tears and she also cried. Since then we became close friends and we often went out for tea or went to movies together.

A month later, Lee brought her best friend. Together with Kim, the four of us went to see a movie. After the movie, we went to a restaurant. For two hours we shared about the movie and about ourselves. I could feel the strong bond growing among us.

With this small group, I started by reading a story book and tried to discuss what they felt about the stories. I used various types of audio- visuals to start discussions. All the time I was trying to draw them to reflect on their lives, workers lives, and to make them think that there was an alternative to their lives. After three months, I was able to discuss with them idea of setting up a small study group. They agreed  with the idea.

At our first meeting, each of us brought two more women workers, so the study group started with l2 persons. Most of them worked in different factories in the area. I used slide shows, TV stories and dramas for dlscussion. Everyone was encouraged to express their opinion After these sessions, I started to bring out their own life stories under discussion topics like who am I?, How do other people see you (as a worker)?, how do you see your future lives etc. From the sharing, we discovered a lot of things and drew up other topics
like working conditions, family relationships and their situation as women workers. It was interesting to see how their personal life as well as their consciousness changed.

After six months, we started to discuss how to change the working conditions in their workplace. We studied about the Free Trade Zone and discussed about the possibility of organizing democratic union. Each Member of the group was determined to start e small group in their own workplace. The study
group became a core group for organizing women workers in the Free Trade Zone in Iri area.

In the core groups weekly meetings, we concentrated on what happened to  each one of them in that week, the difficulties within each of their groups,  the mistakes they made, etc. We discussed and gave different ideas to each one on how to cope with her difficulty. If these was time, wen could learn how to conduct a meeting, the meaning of democracy in the union and also in society.

After a year and a half, most of the core members managed to form unions in  their factories. One of the members succeeded to change her (yellow) union  1nto a democratic union She became the first female chairperson of a union  In the FTZ area. Most of them became leaders in workers struggles in the  area. The area was notorious for management brutalities and police repression but the area became exemplary in the emergence of women workers leaders.

In the early 80s, many of these women leaders were dismissed from factories as a result of extreme repression by the government. Today most of these women are married with children but they continue to work in factories. A spirit of camaraderie remains as they keep in touch with each other. They ere still involved in organizing small groups of women workers, with community struggles in their
neighborhood and some are in charge of women workers organizations.

Setting up of a Night school
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After being in Iri for three years, my organizing work proceeding smoothly, I decided to embark on a research project about the working condition in three industrial cities in the province. Students in the area responded promptly by helping in the research and doing interviews. The process enabled the students and the workers to develop a closer relationship. Among the 400 women workers interviewed, the majority requested for a night school.

The workers leaders, students and l got together to discuss the night school project A local parish priest offered us a room for the workers night school. The first intake was a batch of 45 women workers. Five subject's were taught economics' history national language, Han Chinese 1anguage and English. Once a week we had a free session during which the workers  shared about each others lives. Sometimes we
would use newspaper items for discussion. It was an interesting process for both the students who acted as teachers and for the workers who were students. The students later went back to their colleges and universities to organize their fellow students and some of them became activists in the workers movement.

Upon completion of the ten-month course the women workers went on to start drama groups, study groups and some Joined small groups. Whenever the workers had any activities the drama group would be involved in staging dramas related to workers lives.

From this experience I learn that when theory is met with reality and practice, it can be a powerful and strong tool for conscientisation and action

Reflections and conclusion
Altogether I spent fourteen years organizing women workers. I would say that it was a difficult process in which l have learnt and tried to do something. The process of raising the consciousness of the workers is a slow one. Sometimes l despair, but once this process gains momentum, the consciousness of the
women workers can became a powerful force in real life. Today in Korea, thousands of ordinary women workers are involved in struggles for what they believe would brine forth a better humanity.

Organizing work is besetted with frustrations and problems. Learning to overcome these is part of a learning process. For example, when I was organizing women workers in Iri, usually l had to travel for one to two hours to attend the meeting of the core group. Sometimes when only one to two persons turned up, I would become angry and frustrated. But then, my anger would quickly turn into worry when
l thought something could have happened to those who did not turn up. I would write a letter (none of them have telephones) to each of them asking whether they had any problem and told them that I was worried when they could not come for the meeting. I would always receive a phone cell or e letter from
them explaining why they could not come and promise to come at the next meeting. In this way, It enabled the group to build a strong relationship.

On another occasion, a member of the group refused to participate in discussions nor talk at our meetings The group members wanted to drop her from the group. I asked them to be patient. After one meeting, I went with this member to her house and spent time with her. We cooked dinner and watched T.V. I did not attempt to ask her questions. I did this for a week. After a week, she began to open herself
to me. She told me that she felt inadequate in the group. She thought she was not good enough as she had many family problems. After her sharing, she felt much better and the group paid more attention to her. This woman member later became the chairperson of her union and was well-known in the area in her involvement

In my experience, the most important lesson for me is the importance of concentrating on small groups. We should "start small", and from there build strong understanding and support before "thinking big". The rappoeur and close relationships among the group members are very important support for e2ch one
in the group, especially in very rough tines. It was because of this kind of support that the women workers groups in Korea have managed to survive and to grow.

Secondly, 1t 1e important to remember that with theory must come practice. It is only when l got involved that l realized how much more the reality must come into play. Constant thinking, applying and learning to change the reality are life best lessons. I would not say that my method of organizing 1s the only way or the best way, but it was the way that l did proceed and achieved

Author:  Maria Rhle ,aged 37. Is presently the Progremme Coordinator of the Committee for Asian Women.

After-Thoughts:
Today when I 1ook back at my work on organizing women workers, I now realize how critical it was to have incorporate a women's perceptive into the women workers organizing. In feet when I was organizing then, I was not aware of women's Issues. But even then the social reality of the women workers were such that l had to constantly raise the issues of women's social cultural position sociality in my consclous-raising work.

The women workers I was organizing were perpetually inundated with family responsibilities and problems. The women had to send money hone to support their parents and brother's schooling. When l questioned them about their parents, the mother was suffering from overload of farmwork and housework while the father was often drunk, etc.

Later as the women became conscious they were still reluctant to take up leadership positions. The social conditioning and the actual situation of women workers is a great impediment to women workers leadership For those women who finally did come around to accept leadership positions, they were confronted with two decisions, to be able to marry or remain single. Marriage took a big toll on many women workers leaders of the seventies who left the movement because of their family responsibilities. Those few who continued are remained single.

Another setback of the women workers movement in the seventies was a lack of support from the male workers. Even though it was the women who were leading the democratic movement during that period, male workers did not rally to support these women. Instead the management did recruit male workers to sexually abuse, use violence to destroy these unions.

Today despite the growth of the Korean workers movement, the national federation is still largely male-dominated. Male leader have still to recognize the importance of women workers as an integral part of the workers movement. It is not uncommon to hear male union leaders complaining  about lack of women's interest in union activities or that married women cannot take up responsibilities.

Unless male workers accepts and share responsibility, It is clear that women workers will have to leave their union work as sociality expects her to take up household and then child responsibility. Furthermore the union activities are often held after work, when these women have to rush home for their family duties. I have met several women leaders who shared with me their dilemmas of wanting to be active in the union but cannot do so because of household responsibility.

The time will have to come for unions to recognize that women workers Issues are not insignificant, that the unions have to negotiate for child care system, equal wage, breastfeeding time for mothers, etc. to enable both women and men to play a role in the labor movement. Only then only the workers movement be truly democratic.

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Korean Women Workers situation and Globalization
kwwa  2002-10-28 14:24:18, 조회 : 415




Korean Women Workers Situation and Globalization

                                                          by Maria  Rhie



In the past two decades, most Asian countries have adopted an export-led development policy aiming at bringing in foreign investments by producing goods for export to the developed countries.  This economic policy was characterized by the establishment of Free Trade Zone or Export Processing Zones where special incentives were given to investors, specially multinational corporations.  FTZ/EPZ's basically mean that a country opens its doors to foreign investors directly for the setting-up of MNC subsidiaries, with very little restrictions. The most distinctive characteristic of FTZs is that they are exempted from the customs duties and other controls normally imposed on imports into and exports from the principal custom territory.
It is also interesting to note that the majority of labor force employed in FTZ/EPZ in Asian countries are women.

The globalisation process has been accelerated because the miracle economies of so called NICs countries have given rise to an Asian model of development.  Under these positive images from the late 1980s on the NIC have been over whelmed in Asian setting.  The growth of NICs had first been fuelled by EPZs in their own countries.  NIC countries such as Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong had established their own EPZs in late sixties and early 70s.

In recent years, many TNCs and other enterprises in East Asian countries have transferred some part of their capital to other Asian countries where cheap labor is available and where labor control is still very strong.  This has taken place mainly in labor-intensive small to medium-sized industries.



Situation of Women's Employment

  The percentage of women workers occupying permanent posts in the enterprises with more than ten employees decreased 9%, from 38% up 1981 to 29% in 1994.  In particular, women workers of manufacturing posts in the larger companies decreased significantly.   The restructuring of industries is mainly responsibles for such a prominent decrease.  In addition only 5.8% of women workers work in companies  with more than three hundred employees while 62.7% of women workers work in the enterprises with less than four employees.   This is very significant because workers in the work place with less than four employees are not protected by the labor standards act or by the other social security systems such as the minimal wage act, social pension, health care system, and employment insurance system.  Of the distribution of women workers among jobs women's participation in professional/technical or administration/management is very small with a mere 9.6% while the majority of women workers are concentrated in labor intensive industries with 33.4% in manufacturing, 17.5% in sales, and 14.4% in clerical work.
The wages of the industrial women workers in Korea is not only comparatively lower than women employed in other jobs, they are also paid lower  than their male counterparts in the same industries.  In Korea, it was found that women factory workers usually receive only 56.7% of the salary of men workers.

Retrenchment/Unemployment

  In recent year, plant closures are happening in Korea which management use a way to prevent workers from organizing and also as a way to gain access to cheap labor.   Companies may move their plants to the rural areas in the same country or simply move out of the country overseas.
Job loss is common for Korea due to company shutdowns or relocations of production. For those women experiencing company shutdowns, the impacts are mass lay off's and unpaid compensation.
Since 1986 the structural adjustment programs which the government has been undertaking, especially since the late 1980s when the Korea labor conflicts were at their height, have become increasingly serious. Declining industries (textiles, clothing, shoes) are relocated abroad, while growing industries (steel, petrochemicals, electricity, electronics, automobiles, shipbuilding, machinery) are given many incentives to develop.  As women workers have always concentrated in labor intensive jobs,  jobs lost under industrial restructuring process are usually  women's jobs.
Unemployment is appearing mostly in light industries, where women workers are concentrated in the form of layoffs and dismissals.  The most major causes of these layoffs and dismissals are the withdrawal of foreign capital  into ventures and they transfer abroad to other countries, the temporary suspension and permanent closures of small to medium sized firms and the systematization of sub-contracting.  In Pusan where shoe industry sated in the five years period from 1990 to 1994, there were 217 companies that declared bankruptcy and the closure of 768 firms in the pusan region.  And the number of shoe industry workers which had been 164,000 at the beginning of 1988 decreased to 31,395 in 1993.( from 1989 to 1991 due to the suspensions of operations or shut-downs of shoe factories in Pusan city which employed mostly women, about 20,000 workers have become unemployed).  And Seoul industry case; the Kuro Export-processing complex in Seoul, there was a reduction of personnel from 74,466 in 1987 to 43,357 in 1995( in the case of the Seoul Export Corporation, from 1987 to 1990, 21.1% of the employees were dismissed) and in the Masan Free Export zone, from 1987 to 1992, 47% of the employees were dismissed. These workers who were dismissed received no training to obtain other employment or nay other support to guarantee their livlihood.  The women workers who were unemployed were pushed into the service industries or working as housekeepers.

Deterioration of the status of the women worker

In facing the industrial restructuring in 1980s and 1990s, we can see that the status of women workers in Korea is further deteriorated.  In Korea, though subcontracting production has been existed for a long time, it has expanded drastically in the 1980s and 1990s and is becoming a more institutionalized form of production in the garment and electronics industries.  Subcontracting workers undergo a cut in wages, longer  hours, harsh working conditions, and less opportunities for labor organizing. According to ILO statistics, women workers in Korea registered the longest working hours in the world, namely, 230.42 hours a month. In addition to long hours and low pay women workers in Korea suffer from violence from male supervisors and sexual harassment and inhuman treatment. The section in the labor standards law dealing with maternal protection is ignored.  This reality in which women workers live and work is continually deteriorating.  And as we see in Korea, subcontracting workers are mostly married women.  The reasons for their remaining in the manufacturing sector are centered around their family responsibilities and the vicinity of bud contracting work to their place of residence.

  These women workers suffer from lowered wage, irregular hours and exclusion from all benefits and welfare payments.  Workers dispatched by subcontracting agencies also have little protection for their rights because workers are no longer hired by the company where they actually do their work.   The agency system serves as a way to divided workers and avoid problems  of labor organising and escape of the law protection.
 
(Despatch workers; presently with the exception of workers in harbors and docks, law
enforcement, janitorial and service sector, temporary worker is illegal under existing laws).


Increase of  Flexible Workers

  As happened in many other countries, women are being gradually pushed into terribly low-paid insecure employment.  Over the last few year, the industry has increasingly shifted production to home-based.  However, in Asia, home-based workers have long been part of factory production.  The need  to supplement family income and the need to take care of the children and the household chores have forced women to accept extremely low wages doing factory work at home. the fact that women are willing to work at home is largely due to house hold responsibilities.

According to research on the conditions of home-based workers conducted by the Korean women's Institute, home-based workers are presumed to comprise 9.4% of active economic participants, but it has been to grasp the exact scope of home-based working.  We can only see a steady increase of home-based workers consistent  with the increase in employment in sub-contracting firms.  For the most part, homeworkers are assigned simple and labor intensive tasks in the labor process, and they are subject to periods of involuntary unemployment.  Their job security is very low while their income level is only 68% of other workers.  Furthermore, 53.1% of home-based workers are women with  children under six years of age.
  
In reality, such irregular employment discriminates against women workers because they  are not converted by the conditions of equality in regular employment offers 60% of the wages of regular employment and does not cover entitlement to various holidays and vacations as well as welfare benefits of regular employment. Furthermore, in the face of the threat of dismissal they are not free to joining labor unions.


Part-time employment, among part-time workers, women comprise 64.9%. Although the index of the Department of labor designates part-time employment was working 30.8% hours or less a week, if the hourly wage worker in Korea were to work the identical hours of regular employment, this would for the most part take up all of the nominal hours
  Most of these workers are older, subcontracting workers who have no choice but to enter as part-time works because of their childcare responsibilities.

Temporary workers in the manufacturing sector in Korea usually work the same number of hours as full-time workers and hence suffer from blatant discrimination in wage and benefits.
Also, the reason women part-time workers and temporary workers increasing need for a flexible work force.  The employers are also able to reduce its expenses by paying women workers less as casual workers and also used it as a way to divide workers and prevent them from joining together to fight.  On the other hands, job losses as a result of industrial restructuring has also forced retrenched women workers to accept part-time or temporary jobs even though it is much lower paid and insecure.


Women Workers Struggle

  Women workers' activism began as early as the seventies in Korea.  Women workers were actively participating in strike actions fighting on wage and working conditions and the right to organise.  In fact, the Korean women workers were well-know for their bravery in leading their country labor movement to the formation of democratic trade unions,  the women workers were finding that their own personal lives also interrupted their activism.  Parents, disapproval, marriage, societal pressure all took a toll on their ability to continue to be active.  In 1973 women workers started to organise themselves and study about the importance of unions.  They tried to change yellow unions into the democratic unions. Women Workers were actively involved in these struggles.

Most of the strong democratic unions were bed by women workers. During that time, Korea was under emergency law until 1980.  The political situation was in a critical period. I can not count how many workers were in jail because of their involvement in union activities. I saw how difficult it was for women workers to be involved with union or workers movement.  Women workers oppression comes not only from the management and police but also from the male workers, family members and husbands.( when women workers are on sit-in strike, the management and police used to break up the strike by employing male workers to physically beat the women workers.  Another tactic is call parents take their daughters home. When women workers confront their parents, often they get emotionally weak and can sometimes destroy the strike action.  Despite many difficulties women workers continue to struggle and organise and led the movement in the 1970s.  The leadership by women workers still continues.  Today the labor movement in Korea is led by both women and men.  this and from any own experience, I am convinced that women and men can share decision making.
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Situation of Women Workers' rights at work and their struggles in Korea
kwwa  2002-10-28 14:23:40, 조회 : 399

Situation of Women Workers' rights at work and  
                                           Their struggles in Korea

                                                                     An article for ICTUR
                                                                     Maria Rhie Chol Soon

The main power of Korean economy growth has been women workers who had been engaged in the light industries  of 1960- 1970.  Most of women workers were put into the light industries such as garment and textile, and the government put their efforts in the export oriented economy policy, which was based on the low wage, terrible working conditions and oppression against the workers' organizing.  Through the 1980's on the basis of women workers' sacrifying, Korea has put the steps towards one of the four dragons in Asia.

Meanwhile, on the division structure o the world economy in 1980's,  the Korean government spreaded the industrial restructuring policy with focusing the heavy-chemical industry, and in its process, the women workers who were working in the light industries have been to mass dismiss and instability of employment. However, since the workers' consciousness and activities have been getting more live, which was mainly related with the terrible working conditions like low wage, the government and the company blocked the workers' demands and put the strong strategy to destroy the organizing workers. Therefore, the employment of women workers has been worse in the withdrawal of foreign-invested company, transferring the domestic capital to overseas, and mass dismissal by the lock-out of mid-small industries.
Thus, the women dominated industries such textile, shoes, garment and electronics have been classified as a fading industry, so the government did not care for that.  Many women workers were faced to a  sudden dismissal since the foreign-invested company made a decision to withdrawal their capital, and women workers became an unemployed.

These dismissed women workers organised a continuos struggles against the company lock-out and struggles for the employment guarantee.  Even, they went to USA and Japan for their struggle.  Regarding the employment and the amendment of foreign-invested company law, they organised a  solidarity, so the issue of employment was socialized to the public.

The government strategy on employment in 1990's has been focused to expansion of temporary workers and introduction of foreign workers.   The employment strategy to strengthen low wage policy and to destroy the workers' power have been expanded with temporary workers, part-timer, contract-based workers and daily workers.  Since these workers are mostly women, the women workers' employment has been getting unstable.  Specially labor market flexibility, which has gained popularity since the 1990's is adapted by the government as a labor policy and by enterprises as a business policy. The labor market flexibility policy has played a significant role in systematically removing women from the labor market of regular workers. Consequently, part time and dispatch workers are mainly women.   And among part-time workers, women comprise 64.9% of the total compared to 45.9% in 1990.  Although the index of the Department of Labour designates part-time employment as working 30.8 hours or less a week, if an hourly wage worker in Korea were to work to the identical hours of a person in regular employment.  However, part-time labour is limited in choice of jobs and in enhancing work skill even though employment stability and work condition equivalent to that of regular workers do the same work as regular workers, they are discriminated against interms of wages, days off promotions and reinstatement.    And the percentage of women workers occupying permanent posts in the enterprises with more than ten employees decreased 9%, from 39% up 1981 to 29% in 1994.  In particular, women workers of  manufacturing posts in the larger companies decreased  significantly.   In addition only 5.8% of women workers work in companies with more than three hundred employees while 62.7% of women work in the enterprises with less than four employees are not protected by the labor standards act or by the other social security systems such as the minimal wage act, social pension, health care system, and employment  insurance system.  

In relations to  the amendments to the labour law on December 26th, allow the introduction of the use of a flexible working hours system, and the right of employers to retrench workers in times of company restructuring,workers specially women workers en masse signals a drastic destabilization of employment security. Such legally enshrined power enables the management to freely dismiss large number of workers which it assumes to be redundant as a part its rationalization or downsizing programme, thus worsening labour conditions and increasing employment instability.  The labour law is, therefore, worse than it was before.  This has led Korean workers to say that this is a capital law rather than labour law  
And the utilization of temporary labour through labor lease agencies is not entirely new, although much of the current  practice is illegal under the present laws.  The cost savings signify a fall in the wage received by the so-called contingent workers and an increase in employment insecurity.  The lower level of wage and welfare allocated to the temporary workforce may bring about tension and conflict between the regular employees and the temporary workforce. And it will first infect to women who are working as semi or unskilled work.
And the National Security Law which  the rights of investigation of cases where a person has neglected to inform the Authorities of knowledge of north Korean spies and persons who praise and encourage north Korea were given back to the Department of Intelligence, in the name of capturing spies.  These regulations were used in the past to trample human rights and as a means of political manipulation.  The powers the Department had during the military regime have now been given back. This means that any speech relation to north Korea or ay progressive political opinion is the target of investigation.  Students, the press, workers and politicians, who are definitely not spies, remember the torture which was committed in the underground cells of the Intelligence Bureau.


Ps. Tom Sibley, Feel free to short it cut if you  think it is too long, and I hope my article meet on your next  issue of the journal.

I will send my photograph by air mail soon.

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Posted by KWWA
The changing position of Korea in the world economy: implications for women
kwwa  2002-10-28 14:22:59, 조회 : 383

THE CHANGING POSITION OF KOREA IN THE WORLD ECONOMY
- IMPLICATIONS FOR WOMEN WORKERS IN KOREA



Rhie Chol Soon Maria (chairperson, Korean Women Workers Associations United)


1. Introduction on the Process of Industrial Development in South Korea



For the past three decades, South Korea's major strategy for economic development has been an outward-looking industrialization
which promotes labour-intensive export industries inanced directly
or indirectly by foreign capital. In the process, it launched a series of five year economic development plans. The first (1962-66)
and the second (1967-71) five-year plans emphasized industrial
growth. The third five-year plan (1972-76) emphasized balanced growth between the industrial and agricultural sectors and the fourth five-year plan (1977-81) stressed sustained economic growth and equity.







In this process Korean women have served as a significant labour force, well-disciplined and motivated with a relatively high level of education. Their contribution to the rapid economic growth is widely recognised. Although the extent and nature of Korean women's participation in the industrialization process may have been conditioned by Korea's unique tradition and history as a divided nation, a basic common trend has emerged throughout the Asian Countries in the structure of women 's labour participation. These strategies focused on labour-intensive
light industries in the sixties to the early seventies, and then on capital-intensive heavy industries in the late eventies.







Since the 1970s, the deepening industrialization has changed from a focus on traditional light industries to a concentration in modern heavy industries. By 1977, the share of light industries had decreased to 38.8%, while heavy industries accounted for 48.9% of industrial output. This reflected the structural change of the world manufacturing industry in the international division of labour as some of the heavy and chemical industries began to be transferred from the developed industrial countries to the developing countries. Under these circumstances, Korea planned to shed the light industries and build up an export-oriented structure in heavy and chemical industries. These industries consisted mainly of the labor-intensive industry sectors of electronics and ship-building rather than of capital intensive and technology intensive industries.







Korea's image of being a high-tech producer is belied by a few sobering realities; the best selling Hyundai Excel is one of Korea's best known exports, but its body styling is Italian in origin; its engine is designed by the Japanese firm Mitsubish and its tranmission is both designed and manufactured by mitsubishi. Most of the technological capabilities of other Korean electronics firms, infect, come from the Japan. The fact of the matter is that
Korea has not been able to graduate from being mainly assembly sites for foreign products, specifically Japanese. Nearly 30years after industrializing Korea is now even more dependent on foreign assistance.







The recent IMF package that South Korea accepted shows how this U.S orchestrated bailout is geared toward strengthening even more the foreign domination. In return for the money Seoul has agreed to open its market more to foreign goods and investors, and take measures to curb the ability of its conglomerates to expand. The IMF greement raised the percentage of a Korean company's stock that could be owned by foreigners to 50% immediately and to 55% next ear. Bankruptcies, already running at a high rate, are expected to skyrocket. The currency has devalued about 100% in relation to the dollar, layoffs will now be permitted to facilitate mergers and aquisition; interest rates have risen drastically, the government is announcing new cuts in public spending daily etc.







2. Women's Participation in the Economy







The labour-intensive, export-oriented industrialization has encouraged women's participation in labour generally. In 1960, women's labour participation was concentrated in the primary sector, agriculture and fishery. As industrialization advanced women's participation has increased in all secondary and tertiary sectors. The proportion of female workers in primary industry diminished from 69.6% in 1960 to 46.5% in 1980.
With the shift of labour from the rural sector, women employed in manufacturing industries increased sharply during the 20 years
from 12,000 to 1,000,000.






The increase of women's employment occurred mostly in traditional women's jobs and in the simple technical occupations - subordinate positions in the labour-intensive manufacturing sector. This means that in spite of the rapid industrial growth,
the area of women's employment was not particularly enlarged.
For example, changes of occupation from clerical to managerial jobs or from simple-skilled to technical jobs were impossible.
The interruption of employment due to marriage, childbirth or retirement was also commonplace. Consequently, women's employment increased mostly in the simple production occupations on the basis of temporary, short-term employment. In the period of 1976-1980
the female mobility from rural to urban areas shows a remarkable
increase numerically much greater than the male mobility for that
period. Of these rural to urban female migrants young, single women
in the age group of 15-24 occupy more than 40% - a significantly large proportion.
A study in 1980 indicated that more than two thirds of women factory workers who were employed at two major industrial estates were temporary residents ie. most of the workers were recruited from the rural sector.







3. Structural Change in Women's Work






In looking at the Korean experience of economic growth, we can see that massive rural-urban migration was one of its most distinguishing features. During the period of economic growth, the relative neglect of the agricultural sector has led to a situation of comparative agricultural stagnation and caused an immediate push for flow of out-migration, especially with regard to young, single
women from the rural area.
the proportion of urban residents in 1960 was 28% the percentage increased thereafter to 41.4% in 1970, and to 57.2% in 1980. The net result of these changes is also reflected in the labour force structure of industries. the related statistics confirm the assumption of a steady increase in the labour force in the urban sector, the relative proportion of the industrial labour force increased from 27.* in 1963 to 46.4 % in 1983 the ratio of labour population in the agricultural sector declined from 58.2% in 1963 to 30.7% in 1983. Of these rural to urban female migrants young, single women in the age group of 15-24 occupy more than 40% a significantly large proportion. In general, the typical profile of most Korean women's work throughout the period of industrialization can be summarized as follows: women's working conditions were difficult and discriminatory, leading many to stop working upon marriage; most of these women returned again to the labour market at a later stage. One of the underlying characteristics of married women's work was its lack of continuity as they alternated between different types of work and between the
formal and informal sectors. Married women had to accept the most
unstable, temporary jobs, according to the extent of their family
subsistence needs and maternal responsibilities. The careers of
these women remained unstable and intermittent and their former work experiences, if any, did not count toward better job opportunities or wage raises.







4. How Korean Government Responded







a)
Government promotion of Export-Oriented Industrialization within the context of a Five-year National plan.
b) Government creation of Free Trade Zones as an invitation for foreign investment and joint ventures.
c) Relocation of production by industrialists in Korea to areas within south and Southeast Asia and Central America with an abundant source of cheap labour.
d) Importation of cheap labour.( permission of the government immigration policy is an indication
of government support(
e) Passage of labour laws forbidding strikes and discouraging the formation of trade unions in the FTZ and amend labour sandal law.







5. Management strategies in Korea






Industrial restructuring and the subsequent decline of light manufacturing in Korea witnessed a change in labour processes, labour controls and employment patterns. Two theoretical concepts can help us to grasp these trends: first is the increasing degree of casualization or informalisation; and second is the simultaneous intensification of work.






Casualisation of labour use is a new management strategy used in past decades in East Asia to organize full-time work into part-time work or temporary work so as to avoid paying benefits, such as health insurance, maternity leave and paid holidays which are all required by law for full-time workers. These jobs have no special
skills requirement and workers can easily be replaced. Most of these jobs are designed for women who also have household and child care responsibilities. It is quite clear that the redundant women workers which resulted from the relocation of factories enabled employers in the service sectors to change their employment strategies and reorganize the nature and structure of jobs to be temporary and part-time. Casualisation is not only a strategy for cheapening the cost of production, but a trend for reconstructing the labor process into a more hierarchical and flexible one in which women workers have
little control over production and little bargaining power.






The work patterns can be summarized as follows:
-. Part-time jobs
-. short-time jobs
-. Keeping workers as apprentices or trainees at reduced wages long after they have leaned the job.







6. Impact on women workers







1. The unstable conditions facing Korean Women Workers






The first casualities of any period of industrial restructuring have been women workers, and especially following the government-let industrial restructuring since 1986, the unstable conditions facing women workers have deepened on a daily bases.
Job loss is common in Korea due to company shutdowns
or relocations of production. When companies shutdown, women workers experience mass lay offs and unpaid compensation.
Underemployment is a greater issue in Korea, where the relocation of factories has greatly reduced the number of jobs available to women. The step-by-step removal of production lines has resulted in underemployment for workers. Older women who have remained in the manufacturing
sector have to rely on short-term subcontracting work that is very irregular and results in reduced pay. The reason these women stay is due to the relatively higher pay in this sector and the possibility of receiving redundancy payments.







7. Women Workers Situation Today






(a) Wages:
In 1995 women
made up 47.9% of the economically active part of the population. In
the manufacturing sector women made up 42.6% of those employed in
factories. The wages of the industrial women workers in Korea is not only comparatively lower than women employed in other jobs, they are also paid lower than their male counterparts in the same industries. In Korea, it was found that women factory workers usually receive only 56.7% of the salary of men workers. According to the 1989 report,"Research on Gender-Based Wage Disparities"', produced by the Korean
Women's Development Institute, 62.2% of wage disparities between
men and women can be attributed to gender discrimination.







(b) Working Hours:
According to ILO statistics for 1994 women workers in Korea registered the longest working hours in the world. In 1994, men worked 206.7 hours a month and women worked 204.0 hours, but their overtime work hours were 21.7 hours and 26.4 hours respectively. Women workers in manufacturing worked 209.8 hours, the longest in comparison to all other industries. Workers in firms with 10-29 employees worked 297.4 hours, very much over the legally designated work hours.






(c) Restructuring:
According to recent newspapers (mid Jan 1998), there were tens of thousands of workers being dismissed daily in the early days of January day either because of plant closures or from set-dismissals due to industrial restructuring program. The most major causes of these layoffs and dismissals are automation, the withdrawal of foreign capital joint ventures and their transfer abroad to other countries, the temporary suspension and permanent closures of small-to-medium sized firms and the systematization of sub-contracting.







Women workers in Korea are hard hit by this industrial
restructuring policy. As women workers have always concentrated
in thee labour intensive jobs, the jobs lost mostly affect women. For example the recent history of the garment and shoe industries is typical of this process. Between the years of 1987 and 1992, the total number of production workers of the garment industry draped 31.8%, while in the shoe industry between 1991 and 1992 the decrease was 26.2%. The number of shoe industry workers which had been 164,000 at the beginning of 1988 decreased to 31,395 in 1993. Under the IMF agreement the Korean government had pass a new labor law, to facilitate set-dismissal so that company can restructure.






The limited skills women workers have had from their jobs are often non-transferable. Retrenched women workers often cannot find other jobs except working at the bottom of the career ladder in the service industry. As happened in many other countries, women are being gradually pushed into terribly
low-paid insecure employment such as home based work or sub-contracting work for industries and also the service sector. In 1992, women who worked as high ranking officials, specialists or technicians comprised a mere 9.8 % of all working women. A sizable number of women workers are employed in low-skilled jobs concentrated in a small companies. In 1997, women working in firms employing less than five workers comprised 62.7% of all women in the labour force.






(d) Subcontracting:

In Korea, though sub-contracting production has been existed for a long time, it has expanded drastically in the 1980s and 1990s and is becoming the more institutionalized form of production in the garment and electronics industries. In the case of garment work, 5% of
garment manufacturing firms in 1993 were sub-contractors. In Korea sub-contracting workers are mostly married women.
The reasons are their family responsibilities and the vicinity of sub-contracting work to their place of residence. These women workers suffer from lowered wage, irregular hours, have less opportunity to organize and are excluded from all benefits and welfare payments. Multinational companies are also decreasing direct investments in developing countries. Instead, they are contracting local companies in developing countries to produce products under the brand names of the multinational companies. Sub-contracting appears to be a more effective way in evading from pressures to improve the working conditions under which the export goods are produced.






(e) The Masan Free-trade Zone:

The same trends are to be seen in the FTZs. The number of women workers in the Masan FTZ is rapidly decreasing from 28.022 in 1987 to 11,286 in 1994. On the other hand exports have grown 145% from
1987. in the Masan FTZ the number of sub-contracting firms increased from 252 in 1984 to 330 in 1991. Layoffs and dismissals are being used as tools for the suppression of labour unions, and this is especially the case in the FTZ. Most recently, (Han-guk San-bon), a 100% Japanese capital venture, attempted to break a union affiliated with the Democratic Workers Trade Union (Min-ju No-Chong) by indulging in a three month-long organized campaign of violence against workers. This completely dissolved the democratically elected executive council so that to this day six people have been fired and fifteen people have been forced to resign.






(f) Decreasing number of Women in Regular work



Even as the number of women workers has been rising the number of regular workers in general have been iminishing. Today 82.9% of women workers are employed on regular and temporary bases and 17.1% are employed on a daily basis. Consequently, 1 out of 5 women workers in mining and manufacturing industries are employed on a day-to-day basis. In reality, such irregular employment discriminates against women workers because they are not covered
by the conditions of equality in regular employment such as equivalent work hours and equivalent work load. Irregular employment offers 60% of the wages of regular employment, and does not cover entitlement to various holidays and vacations as well as welfare benefits which go with regular employment.
There are rage numbers of temporary workers, the number of total laborforce about 13,000,000(13 million) among them 6,000,000 (6 million) of them are temporary based workers, it's about 45% of the total laborforce. And among the temporary workers women comprise 73.2% and among them about 80% of them married women. It is expected that the number of part-time workers will increase
more with IMF policy. Now a day, for women even has difficult to find a job at part-time based or temporary based work.








(g) Dispatch workers:

Presently with the exception of workers in harbors and docks, law enforcement, janitorial and service sector, temporary worker in illegal under existing laws. Nevertheless, the law is disregarded and since there is no monitoring of these illegal service jobs, there are no statistics. It is estimated that there are some 300,000 workers in 3,000 service enterprises in 1995. ( According to estimates by the Department of Labour, there were 1,363 sites with 27,072 workers in 1991). Presently, service workers are proliferating widely from agriculture and fishing to clerical
fields, and the percentage of women workers in such contingent clerical employment is 75%. Recently a telecommunication company laid off 35 women workers who were working as employees. They were immediately re-employed through a dispatch agency to do the same task which they worked in telecommunication company. Of course they are not now entitled to any benefits. In spite of such conditions, the government, representing the interests of capital, was passed
new legislation legalizing regarding contingent employment(dispatch).







(h) Sudden increase in Home-based workers
According to research on the conditions of home-based workers conducted by the Korean Women's Institute, home-based workers are presumed to comprise 9.4 of active economic participants, but it is difficult to grasp the exact scope of home-based working. We can only see a steady increase of home-based workers consistent with the increase in employment in sub-contracting firms. For the most part, homeworkers are assigned simple and labour-intensive tasks in the labour process, and they are subject to periods of involuntary unemployment. Their job security is very low while their income level is only 68% of other workers. Furthermore, 53.1% of home-based workers are women with children under six years of age.






(j) Gender Discrimination in Job Recruitment, Assignment,Training and Promotion.



Even though the Gender Equality in employment Act went into effect in 1988,it has been widely disregarded and the problem of gender discrimination in the workplace is as grave as ever. At the time of job recruitment, men and women are hired in separate occupational categories, and there is assignment of personnel into positions distinguished by gender, with certain restrictions
based on physical appearances. At the time of stationing
within the firm, given identical educational backgrounds and
qualifications, women are assigned to simple, assistant positions while men are assigned to key work positions. Further opportunities
for education and training sponsored or subsidized by the
employer are more limited for women workers, and there is also gender discrimination in the kinds of education and training offered. Opportunities for promotion are almost always not given to women, and women are restricted from promotion by initial assignment to a prescribed position, and in the case of actual promotion, the terms of the promotion are applied differently for men and women.






(j) New forms of gender discrimination and indirect discrimination.



To circumstance the gender equality in Employment Act, firms are dividing women into composite general positions, placing most women in the general positions where they perform simple tasks, thus leading inevitably to gender discrimination. In this way, firms can legally systematize discrimination based on gender and educational background; this not only places women into menial positions but induces workers to compete with each
other , intensifying labour power.






8. The present state of occupational training for women:






(a) In each of the three types of occupational training centers: state-sponsored, privately-run and corporate-sponsored, the percentage of women participants is low. According to Department of Labour records for 1994,: out of 90 state-sponsored training centers only 46 had in operation programs for training women and women comprised 7% of the trainees. Out of 139 privately-run centers, 91 had programs for women and women comprised 22% of the trainees. Out of 239 corporate-sponsored centers, 176 had programs for women and women comprised 17% of the trainees.






(b) The quality of job training for women is low by occupational category. Considering the transformations of job skills and job categories in Korea, the categories for which most women are being trained are low level jobs such as textile, technological-industry, clerical, machine-related and electronic, traditionally considered to be women's work. Such training is insufficient in terms of the need for specialist occupational skills. In order to ameliorate the structure of gender discrimination in the marketplace, we need occupational teaching and training oriented towards women.






(c) In 1993, only 0.1% of women workers received occupational re-training for a different job while employed in one job - a mere 90 persons!!.







9. Health Issues for Women Workers.






(a) Current laws fall greatly short of ILO standards. For example: Maternity leave covers only 60 days, pregnant women and nursing mothers are asked to work night shifts, and in the case of twins or such multiple births, there is no provision for the extension of the maternity leave period.






(b) In addition, even the current laws on the matter are not followed. The Labour Standard Act contains provisons which make it possible at any time for women to obtain monthly menstrual leave and release from the Labour Executive. However, at the present, the number of Labour Inspectors is insufficient and there are nearly none designated for small-to-medium size establishments so that the law itself is not being duly implemented.






(c) Maternity leave is being under utilized. This reflects the current reality of a dearth of childcare facilities.






(d) The period allowed for breast feeding is up to ILO standards, but since there are no firms with breast feeding facilities, there is no effectiveness to the law.






(e) The government and business interests have been trying to discontinue monthly menstrual leave which has long been understood as a social means protecting women and mothers in Korea. Monthly menstrual leave is a perpetual necessity, especially in compensation for the realities of gender discrimination such as low wages, long work hours, inadequate vacation-holiday breaks and deficient social supports for leading compatible family and work lives. In the case of organized business enterprises, only 20% of such firms presently implement monthly menstrual leave, and it is virtually never implemented in the unorganized firms.






(f) Occupational Disease: Even after the 1987 incident in which an 18 years old female worker committed suicide after suffering partial paralysis from working with organic solvents, there has been no end to cases of groups of women workers poisoned by heavy metals such as mercury. There have been continuous incidents involving ear-related illnesses among Telephone Operators. In July 1995, 23 female workers at LG Electronics at Yong-san developed an occupational disease that have left them with no hopes for normal conception, pregnancy, or ovulation, requiring them to take prescribed hormone treatments for the rest of their lives.
Among these workers, 70% were women in their early twenties. These
workers worked alternating 12 hour shifts, and the company was careless in directing them in the handing of these organic solvents and violated the Industrial Safety and Health law, inflicting fatal psychological and physiological impediments on these women workers.






(g) Statistical Date on Women's Job-related disease.
Statistically, the out break of women's job-related disease appear as merely 2%. The reason is that since marriage and pregnancy-related retirements are still very conventional for women workers. Unless there is a massive out break, incidents involving collective poisoning from toxic chemical substances tend to be covered up. The industrial safety and hygiene act does not apply to firms with less than 5 employees, and in 1995, 85% of occupational accident firms violated the law.






10. Public Welfare Policy:






Social Insurance;
At present, there
are four types of insurance in operation: the national pension, occupational safety and accident insurance, medical insurance and employment insurance.






(a) Since firms with less than five employees are exempt, insurance benefits apply to only 30% of women workers. Especially in the case of employment insurance which has been in operation since July 1995, unemployment pay only applies to firms with more than 30 employees, and employment security and job skills development applies only to firms with more than 70 employees,
so that only around 10% of women workers receive complete insurance benefits.






(b) Irregular employees are exempted.






(c) Occupational safety and accident insurance takes the death or injury of the male head of household as the standard so that there is also gender discrimination in the arena of surviving family members.






(d) Since a subsidy system for child rearing and for company based child-care facilities, including the salary of the caretaker, are supported by the employment insurance, income security during the period of child-care leave is not being implemented.






11. Social Welfare Services.






(a) Nursery Facilities.

In June 1995, there were 269,538 children in nurseries at 8, 129 worksites.(compared to 1994, there has been a 16.5% increase in the numbers of facilities and 23% increase in the numbers of children). The government-estimated average subside for child-care support is only 26% of the actual costs of utilization.There
is no support for private establishments which comprise 50% of all nurseries.






(b) Childcare facilities:.
Some activists have operated study-rooms in low-income neighborhoods. Up until February 1995, the government had operated 1,029 model centers, but at
the present, the government merely acknowledges the necessity for childcare centers and does not have any concrete plans for the expansion of more centers.






(c) In-school Meal Service.
In spite of government plans to put in-school meal service into full-scale operation in elementary schools -(the level of compulsory education in Korea) - by 1997 and in 50% of middle and high schools in fishing and farming villages by 1998, presently in 1995, only 57.4% of elementary schools have meal services in operation and only 38.6% of students receive the benefits of this service. The problem is that since the government's financial support has been so passive, the burden of the costs of building and equipping the in school meal service facilities has been placed on
the parents so that in reality on a nation-wide scale, they are
shouldering from 50% to as high as 90% of these costs. Furthermore, there are not any concrete programs
to set up in school meal services for middle and high schools in the farming villages.






(d) In 1995, women's public welfare budget comprised only 5.3% of the budget of the Department of Health and Welfare, and the expenditure for social welfare was 1% of the Gross Domestic Product(GDP), so that the level of welfare provisions in Korea is 32nd internationally. Consequently, the Korean Women's Organiozations have been pressuring the government, agitating for the welfare budget to be 5% of the GDP, and they are also demanding that every year for the next five years, the welfare budget should be increased by at least 40%.







12. Women Workers Organized Status:







The percentage of organized women workers is 9% only. Although there was a large increase in labor organization due to the opportunities opened up by the mass labour struggles of 1987, it reached a peak in 1989 and has been decreasing since then. Although the total percentage of labour organization in 1994 was 14.5%, the percentage of women's labour organization is much lower at 9%. Meanwhile,
women workers comprise 22% of all organized workers. Exempting hospitals where women union members make up 75% of total membership in other labour unions women members comprise 23-29% of the total membership. The number of women in leadership or executive positions is only 1.9%.


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Posted by KWWA
The situation of Korean Women Workers
kwwa  2002-10-28 14:22:06, 조회 : 389


The Situation of Women  Workers in Korea

                                                                        Maria Rhie  

Since the strict conditions of the International  Monetary Fund’s economic bailout package went into effect  last December 1997, approximately two to three million workers in S. Korea have lost their jobs. This figure represents a drastic six-fold increase in less than eight months.  For a nation with no exising social welfare system and with a domestic economy that relies heavily on foreign investment, drasticalling rising unemployment translates into extreme financial insecurity, intensified social problems and tremendous emotional dislocation across the entire nation.  For the most vulnerable sectors of the population such as women workers, particularly single mothers and women who operate as the head of their of  households, the situation is especially grave.

Women workers are disproportionately affected by economic restructuring strategies and privatization policies.  Due to severe discrimination along gender, age and marital status lines, women over forty years old, mothers, and pregnant women are dismissed immediately.  These groups of women have almost no future possibilities for wage labor employment and subsequently, drop out of the wage labor market as discouraged women workers. The only available job opportunities for other groups of women workers represent highly insecure forms of temporary employment. In Korea, 45 % of the employed pupulation are temporary workers.
As many as 65% of women workers work in very small companies which are not protected by the labor Standard Law.  Women workers are the first targets for illegal retrenchment and lay-offs, especially in periods of economic crisis. In addition, regular women workers’ status is reduced to temporary, part-time, daily and dispatched workers. This is largely due to patriarchy in Korea society. Women are viewed as secondary earners to men who are seen as breadwinners.

According to Employment Trends of May 1999, by  the National Statistical Office, the involvement rate of women in Economic activities decreased 0.6% in comparison with the first quarter of 1998, and the female population not involved in economic activities increased by about 220,000(2.2%). As of May 1999, female unemployment has increased to 559,000, which covers 32.8% of the total unemployed  population, and the unemployment rate of women has increased by 5.1% more than the rate of male unemployment.
As of May 1999, two of three employed women are temporary workers.  Only 30.8% of women workers are  regular workers while 61.4% of men are regular workers.

And only 5% of women workers belong to the union. The total rate of organized workers is 47% while that for women is only 36%.  Compared to  in April 1997, the decrease of union members as a whole is 32%, but the decrease of women union members is 47%.  The rate of union involvement by temporary female workers is 23.8%.  There are companies in which all female workers are temporary, and companies with more than 50% of temporary female workers are commonplace.  In large enterprises, the problem is more serious.  

Women  workers Employment  situation                   (Unit: persons)

(This table is the summarize of a research conducted by KWWAU, illustrates the unstable situation of women workers)

Employment of Irregular Women Workers

In September 1998, the economically active population was 21,622 in Korea .  This  represented 61.2% of the population of 35,338 above the age of 15. Compared to 62.5% in 1997, this shows a 1.0% decline. Male participation in the labor market decreased slightly in 1998.  
According to below table, the number of wage workers of 12,101,000 dropped by 1,127,000 in September 1998, compared to 13,228,000 in 1997.  The number of wage workers  decreased amongst the economically active population, but the number of unpaid family workers amongst non-waged workers increased. Additionally, regular workers decreased markedly amongst wage workers in the current economic turmoil, but the number of irregular workers such as temporary and day workers increased.
Table wage workers by forms of employment (unit; thousand, %)


Although the total population of male wage workers declined  in September 1998, the figure of 63.4% for regular male workers remained unchanged in comparison to  1997. However, in the case of women, regular workers  composed only 32.9%, temporary workers and day workers 46.6% and 20.5% respectively.  This implies that about 67.1% of wage female workers are irregular, whose employment is vulnerable.

Under the current economic crisis, many companies have discriminated against women and forced regular female workers to become irregular workers under the pretense of necessary restructuring.  In particular, married women have been illegally targeted for irregular employment; this has rendered women more marginalized and vulnerable .  In the process of restructuring, a variety of unfair labor practices have appeared with the transfer of female regular workers into irregular ones: regular workers are daid-off or vuluntary retied and then re-employed with temporary contracts. Women are also targets of this practice.  Regular women workers are dismissed and/or victims of the closure of their women-concentrated departments  and then re-employed through temporary employment agencies.  In addition, companies usually terminate female workers who attempt to resist these unfair labor practices. Since companies target female workers first and concentrate  on women for unfair  labor practices, the irregular employment of women workers has rapidly increased.
(Research conducted by the Ministry of Labor shows that about 80% of part-time workers are women.  Women among the total number of part-timers constituted 77% in 1993, 78.7% in 1994, and 78.3% in 1995)
Workers  who keep their jobs, they  have difficulties  from  the long working hours and  labor intensification, after revising labor laws. The law allowing workers to work for 44 hours a week( principle 44 hours a week) and 56 a month without  paying overtime payment.( about 12 hours a month  the workers can work without OT payment). And after pass a law on Dispatch work( about 21 work categories) many workers employed under  the dispatch work.

Voluntary retirement, prior dismissal of temporary workers
In the current economic crisis women workers have become marginalized in the labor market. In 1998, male workers accounted for 64.5% of regular workers, but women workers constituted 34.%.  The rate of temporary women workers increase from62.2% in 1997 to 66.1% in 1998.  This shows that women workers are forced and or voluntary retire from their jobs and they re-enter the labor market as temporary workers after the marriage, pregnancy and child-caring.  This also means that women are forced to work as temporary workers under the excuse of the current economic crisis.
With the structure ajustment  program , specially in financial companies the first workers dismissed were women. H Insurance Company launched a voluntary retirement scheme in April 1998 targeting those who had worked longer than seven years. 75% of the workers who volunteered to retire were women, and four out of then were married women. The key reason for this is that the company tried to encourage female workers to retire.  In the process , the branch manger encouraged female workers to retire and tried to create a difficult atmosphere for them.

Unfair dismissal, and pressure to transfer to a temporary working position
AT the first quarter of this year of KWWAU  Equal Rights Counseling Center , the proportion of callers anxious about  employment instability increased to 85.3% among the counseling cases.  Women are still targeted primarily for dismissal in a sexually discriminative manner, especially when they work at the same place as their husband.  In  public enterprises, the notification of dismissal  is given without following proper procedure or giving adequate explanation. In small companies, the workers are dismissed for unreasonable causes.  The cases related to workers’ maternity have increased: pressure to resign on pregnancy, non-payment of wages during maternity leave attempts made by employees to induce resignation after maternity leave, etc. Some companies begin to pressurize the pregnant worker immediately upon her notification of pregnancy.  Through the counseling service, we can confirm the disadvantageous situation facing women workers.  Under the banner of the IMF Economic crisis, women are discouraged from taking monthly menstrual leave or maternity leave.  
In public enterprises, large enterprises, small and medium enter-prises, and other private companies, the women workers are transferred to temporary working positions.  Even in public enter prises, female
Technicians are  transferred to temporary positions, or are forced to resign so the companies can recruit new workers on a temporary contract.  The circumstances surrounding unpaid wages very greatly.  In small companies, there are many cases of wages unpaid without any explanation.

The situation of Unemployed Women
According to our Action Center for Unemployed Women,  total number of cases , women come to 1,649. 64.9% of callers were over 35 years old, 75.3% were high school graduates, and 81.9% were married women.  It shows that those with a background of low education, the middle-aged, and married women still face the greatest difficulties in getting jobs.  40.3% of single women were fired recently and 33.5% of these women have not worked for some time.  In the case of married women, 46.5% are trying to find work and 28.8% of them have recently been sacked.  68.4% of the them have registered as job seekers.  
According to the principle of the public labor arrangement, priority should be given to female family heads.  The actual state of affairs does not allow women who are financially responsible for their family to have a greater chance of getting work.  The public labor arrangement limits the age of beneficiaries.  Those older than 60  years old have no chance of getting a job. Many of them have to pay monthly rent and the subsidy for living costs is much less than they need.  The vocational training courses are too short to enable them to get the necessary qualifications to get jobs.   In fact many of them could not get a job even after attending vocational training courses.


Resisting to the problems

But Under the worsening situation of  employment, women workers have constantly struggled, sometimes in a group and sometimes alone.  Our campaigns were concluded with jobs being restored.  The women researcher in the tourism center brought a civil suit against their sexually discriminative dismissal.  The eight brave women in the Masan Free Trade Zone won their jobs back through five months of struggle.  The women workers of Dae Woo Construction won in court against sexually discriminative dismissal.  The caddies of Golf Club also struggled against the announcement of dismissal given to the caddies over 40 years old, and they all returned to work.  The married women who resigned upon their weddings due to having signed an oath to retire upon marriage, brought a civil suit through the central labor committee case handling, and they won in court.  Institute discontinued its policy of prior dismissal of women workers owing to the head quarters of workers unions.  These cases have been greatly encouraging for women workers.  In addition, some companies have transferred temporary workers to regular contracts or have encouraged their temporary workers to join their workers union.
women workers are heads of their families, they face extremely difficult situations. Many women workers in unorganized small companies are being laid-off and they have not received their backwages, since many of these women workers are heads of families, they face extremely difficult situations. Therefore, Action center for women’s Unemployment were established in june last year. In order to publicize the seriousness in women’s unemployment and to encourage the government to make pro-active policies for women workers. These Action Center for women’s unemployment provide practical assistance to women workers, through a variety of programmes such as job counseling information provision, training, surveying activities and medical assistance.  Organizing rallies in every month in front of the headquarter of the ruling party and National Assembly  for women workers’ job security and demanding the government to establish women’s unemployment prevention etc.




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The situation for women in Korea (SEP2000)
kwwa  2002-10-28 14:21:11, 조회 : 413






The Situation for Women in Korea


                              Prepared by Rhie, Chol-Soon, Maria
                          Korean Women Workers Associations United


  The status of women in Korea falls far behind the extent of economic development which has been achieved.   The demands of economic efficiency which have fully exploited the division of labour based on the societal notion of sexual roles (men work, and women look after the family), particularly those of an industry-dominated, male-dominated society, as stubborn barriers against the social advancement of women.  On the one hand, industry, with the support of the government's policies of economic growth, modernization, and emphasis on exports achieved very rapid growth.  On the other hand this growth was accompanied not only by oppression and discrimination against women, but also by the destruction of the environment, the restriction of civil rights, and the exploitation of workers and farmers alike.  Women, especially, were the primary victims of the development dictatorship.  First exploited as a form of cheap labor, then as the first targets of lay-offs during the period of industrial structural adjustment, women have born much of the costs of development.  The underside of Korea's economic development has been that women have been bound by the ideology of patriarchy, so that  they have been relegated to the role of looking after their working husbands and raising a new generation of workers.  Also, the female labor force has been utilized as an industrial labour reserve to be hired and fired  simply according to the  adjustments of the supply and demand of labour following fluctuations in the economy.   Similarly, in order to keep that female labour force under the joint control of the state and industrial sectors, the notions of patriarchy have constantly been reinforced.  Based on these notions, Korean women in all sectors of society have been subjected to sexual discrimination, stripped of their political rights, and struck by sexual violence both in and outside of the family situation.  In conclusion, the status of Korean women has not been elevated, but rather degraded, as a result of the push for economic development.


The Problem of poverty among low-income earners

  As a result of Korea's economic development, Korean women were able to break out of the traditional cycle of poverty.  Now, however, because the labour force of women is acknowledged only in terms of supplementary household income in Korea society, it is still very difficult for women to become economically self-sufficient.  Most women either marry and depend on their husbands for financial support, or work after marriage to help maintain the household budget together with their husbands.  But widows, divorced women left by their husbands, those whose husbands have lost their ability to work for long periods of time, and single women are faced with inevitable poverty.  Also, women who leave their husbands are not entitled to espousal support, and thus face the same dire circumstances. As of 1990, women who headed households numbered 1,106,002, representing 10% of all households.  Of these, those who receive some form of public assistance (a monthly allowance for living costs for a family of four is 757,000 won, or roughly US$950); that is, families headed by women living in a state of absolute poverty numbered 33,766 in 1993.  These women live day in and day out, barely able to eke out an existence working as live-in or visiting housekeepers, or doing other odd jobs.

  Though the government provides financial assistance for the children's education and independent living of these women in order to alleviate the financial burdens of low-income, women-headed households, these are only temporary solutions, and more substantial measures which strike at the root of the problems are demanded.  In other words, the government should provide a basis for the families' independence and self-sufficiency.  The following should be addressed:  1) Recipients of the governmental assistance  are allotted a maximum monthly income of 757,000 won to cover the cost of living for a family of four, an amount which  is so low that it cannot realistically cover the costs of even the most meager existence in Korea today.  Thus, the maximum income amount must be increased. 2) As for the social welfare facilities in the form of public housing, the facilities' capacity is insufficient, the facilities themselves are outdated, the living space of each family is cramped, and there are no support measures to help the families become self-sufficient once they leave the facilities.  These various problems must be addressed. 3) As part of the larger social support net work, informal support networks (family, or neighbor's social organizations) must also be activated.


Female Farmers' Status and Role

Women farmers do both agricultural productive work like male farmers and reproductive work (such as childbirth, rearing of children) like ordinary housekeepers.  Customarily female farmers do double duties, household affairs and productive work.  They also have duties as inhabitants in farm villages.  These duties are never easy.
It is difficult to distinguish farm work from household affairs, because their working places are not divided and female farmers do the mixed double duties at the same time.  As their working hours become longer, their reproductive work is hindered.  On the one hand, this factor heightens the percentage of female farmers' participation in economical activities.  On the other hand, it lessens their labor productivity or heightens their percentage share of farm work.


Women farmers' Social Position

  Changes of female farmers' functions in farm work have rapidly altered the way that female farmers are recognised.  But female farmers still remain as auxiliary farmers rather than as the subject of farm work.  They are still regarded as housekeepers of farm houses and not as professional producers. Therefore their social position does not match their functions as producers.


The problem of poverty among women farmworkers

After the Uruguay Round of GATT negotiations, the market for agricultural products was thrown completely open, and the impoverishment of the farming community is now becoming a more and more serious problem.  As healthy males leave rural communities and move to urban centers because they have already given up on farming as a source of income, it would be no exaggeration to claim that Korea's agriculture has been sustained by women farmworkers.  The forms of female farmers' work and participation in agricultural labor are divided into self-work, exchange of work and employment work.   Women farmworkers comprise just over one-half (51.7%) of the total farming community population and comprise more than half(53%) of the total farming labour force.  Thus, these women are responsible for a large part of the farming household's economy.  However, these women farmworkers are not receiving due credit for fulfilling such an important role, and instead, they are labelled as mere supplementary production labour.  Women farmworkers are being alienated from the means of production (e.g, the land, the use of farming tools, etc.), as well as from the management of farming (e.g., the farming schedules, the selection of crops).  As the women farmworkers overwork themselves in these  conditions, they are troubled by various farming-related illnesses, and due to the absence or insufficiency of childcare or other social welfare facilities, they are also afflicted by poverty and other suffering.

Therefore, in order to solve the problem of poverty among women farmworkers, the government must acknowledge that they are an important part of the agricultural sector, and their status and power must be elevated accordingly so  as to provide the basis for increasing their incomes.  Furthermore, in order to  improve their overall welfare, the government must execute a policy so that women farmworkers can live by the basic human standards to which they are entitled.


Problems related to the employment of women in Korea

  Beginning in the 1960s when Korea started to industrialize, with manufacturing at the center of the export-led growth, the level of women's participation underwent considerable growth. In 1964, the percentage of women's participation in the economy was 36.4%, in 1985, it was 40.6%, and in 1994 47.9%.  During the last thirty years, Korea has witnessed a 10.9% increase in this rate.  The young Korean women workers who left the farms for the cities at the start of Korea's industrialization, were the stronghold of Korea's economic development, working long hours for low pay.
Two times, once during the late 1970s and once during the late 1980s, women were the first workers to be laid off during the period of industrial structural adjustment programs, and many women workers were caught in a state of unemployment. Korean women workers were used as cheap dispensable servants of the economy; all the profit was extracted from their labor when they were needed, and when their labor was no longer needed, they were nothing more than once-used objects to be discarded.  Now, as Korean women workers have started becoming aware of their rights, they are striving to overcome the obstacles of low pay, long hours, inhuman working conditions, and job insecurity so that they can one day be guaranteed the rights to lifelong equality in all aspects of employment.


Situation of Women's Employment

Here, we try to look at job stability with emphasis on the status of women on the job, the difference in the participation of women workers between larger companies and smaller companies, the wage gap between male and women workers, and the structure of women workers' participation.
The percentage of woman workers occupying permanent posts in the enterprises with more than ten employees decreased 9%, from 38% in 1981 to 29% in 1994.  In particular, woman workers of manufacturing posts in the larger companies decreased significantly.  The restructuring of industries is mainly responsible for such a prominent decrease.  In addition only  5.8% of women workers work in companies with more than three hundred employees while 62.7% of women workers work in the enterprises with less than four employees.  This is very significant because workers in the work place with less than four employees are not protected by the labor standards act or by the other social security systems such as the minimal wage act, social pension, health care system, and employment insurance system. Of the distribution of women workers among jobs, women's participation in professional/technical or administration/management is very small with a mere 9.6%, while the majority of women workers are concentrated in labor intensive industries with 33.4% in manufacturing, 17.5% in sales, and 14.4% in clerical work.


* Unemployment

  Since 1986, the structural adjustment programs which the government has been undertaking especially since the late 1980s when the Korea labor conflicts were at their height, have become increasingly serious.  Amidst conditions in which neither the well-balanced development of Korean industry, nor the guarantee of workers' basic living standards are likely, the Korean structural adjustment programs are being carried out to meet the one-sided interests of domestic monopolistic capitalism and the demands of advanced capitalistic countries. Declining industries(textiles, clothing, shoes) are relocated abroad, while growing industries (steel, petrochemicals, electricity, electronics, automobiles, shipbuilding, machinery) are given many incentives to develop. Frontier industries (mobile communications, fiber optics, robotics, precision chemistry) are going to be pursued aggressively. Those who have suffered the most in the name of these interests are women workers.  This is due to the fact that women were mostly employed in the light industries, where problems of unemployment and dismissal have been rampant.  Unemployment trends are taking form as capital is withdrawn or transferred from foreign-related industries in Korea, investment in declining industries is relocated abroad, small and medium-sized industries lacking economic clout shut down, and companies fail to make their payments, with the result that women suffer mass group dismissals.  The following statistics portray the seriousness of these mass group dismissals.

* In 1992 as a result of the suspension of operations of shut-downs of many companies employing over 50 workers, mostly women, about 76,000 workers have become unemployed ( a 33.7% increase over the previous year's figures).

* From 1989to 1991, due to the suspensions of operations or shut-downs of shoe  factories in Pusan city which employed mostly women, about 20,000 workers have become unemployed.

* In the case of the Seoul Export Corporation, from 1987 to 1990, 21.1% of the employees were dismissed, and in the Masan Free Export Zone, from 1987 to 1992, 47% of the employees were dismissed.

  These workers who were dismissed received no training to obtain other employment or any other support to guarantee their livelihood.  The women workers who were unemployed were pushed into the service industries or to working as housekeepers.   The number of women who have been put out of work has steadily been on the rise, and as of 1993, had reached 178,000 women.


* Irregular employment increasing for women workers.

Labor market flexibility, which has gained popularity since the 1990's is adapted by the government as a labour policy and by enterprises as a business policy.  The labour market flexibility policy has played a significant role in systematically removing women from the labor market of regular workers. Consequently, part time and dispatch workers are mainly women.
Recently, changing employment configurations, with the growth of part-time, provisional, service related and contingent jobs, have weakened women's importance so that, on the whole, women's occupational position has been worsening. In reality, such irregular employment discriminates against women workers because they are not covered by the conditions of equality as in regular employment such as equivalent work hours and equivalent work load.(Irregular employment offers 60% of the wages of regular employment, and does not cover entitlement to various holidays and vacations as well as the welfare benefits of regular employment). Furthermore, in the face of the threat of dismissals, they are not free to join labor unions.


* Part-time Employment

Among part-time workers, women comprise 64.9% of the total compared to 45.9% in 1990.  Although the index of the Department of labor designates part-time employment as working 30.8 hours or less a week, if an hourly wage worker in Korea were to work the identical hours of a person in regular employment.   However, part-time labor is limited in choice of jobs and in enchancing work skill even though employment stability and work condition equivalent to that of regular workers are provided for part-time workers.   Despite the fact that these irregular workers do the same work as regular workers, they are discriminated against in terms of wages, days off, promotions and reinstatement.


* Contingent (Dispatch) Employment

Presently, with the exception of workers in harbors and docks, law enforcement, janitorial and service fields, contingent employment is illegal under existing laws. Nevertheless, the law is disregarded and since there is no monitoring of these illegal service jobs, we can identify the existence of 300,000 workers in 3,000 service enterprises in 1995.( according to estimates by the Department of labor, there were 1,363 sites with 27,072 workers in 1991)


GENDER Discrimination in job recruitment, assignment, training and promotion.

As a result of gender division and discrimination in the labor market, women are mostly employed in light industries in low-skilled and low-wage occupations.  In 1992, women who worked as high ranking officials, specialists or technicians comprised a mere 9.8% of all working women.

Even though the Gender Equality in Employment Act went into effect in 1988, it has been widely disregarded and the problem of gender discrimination in the workplace is as grave as ever.  At the time of job recruitment, men and women are hired in separate occupational categories, and there is assignment of personnel into positions distinguished by gender, with certain restrictions based on physical appearances.

At the time of stationing within the firm, given identical educational backgrounds and qualifications, women are assigned to simple, assistant positions while men are assigned to central job positions.  Further opportunities for education and training sponsored or subsidized by the employer are more limited for women workers, and there is also gender discrimination in the kinds of education and training offered.
Opportunities for promotion are almost completely not given to women, and women are restricted from promotion by initial assignment in a prescribed position, and, in the case of actual promotion, the terms of the promotion are applied differently for men and  women.


* Wage discrimination on the basis of gender

Wage discrimination on the basis of gender is slowly starting to decrease, but in 1994, the income disparity between men and women was still at 58.6%( women's average monthly income was 550,615 won while men's average income was 938,982 won).  However, in the manufacturing industries, women's earnings are slightly below the average and the wage disparity between women and men is at 55.6%).
This is due to the fact that, for the most part, women's rate of employment is related to wage discrimination so that women receive lower wages than men. Also, Women's wages are much lower than men's due to further wage disparities based on differences in type of industry, occupational category, level of worker's education and firm size.   According to the 1989 report, "research on gender-based wage disparities"' produced by the Korean Women's Institute, 62.2% of wage disparities between men and women can be attributed to gender discrimination.


* Discrimination in Education and Promotion

   There are many vocational training programs for male workers, otherwise etiquette education programs for females. Besides there are different  disciplinary goals set by gender in those programs.  Further women have few opportunities to be examined for  promotion to a managerial post and they are required to work longer service terms to gain promotion.  In particular, female production workers have no opportunity for promotion to a managerial post.


* Discrimination in retirement

   In the case of telephone operators working for Korea Telecom, they should retire at the age of 53.  However in other jobs they retire at the age of 58.  

* New forms of gender discrimination and indirect discrimination

In the case of banks, after the women clerk system was abolished, management introduced a new personnel system. It comprises different job attainment courses - one for simple, repetitive, ordinary clerical jobs and one for complex planning and management job attainment.  They intend to legalize the differentiation by gender and the level of education in the company and to strengthen labor intensity by competition among workers.


* Maternity Protection

  A primary condition for expanding women's chances in employment and for preventing the discontinuity of women's professional careers is to relieve women of their dual burdens of maternal responsibility and a professional career.  Under the tradition of segregated occupations based on gender, women who are excluded from the labor market due to childbirth, parenting, and housework, either experience discontinuity in their career or become disengaged from economic activities.  Paid leave for parenting with a reemployment guarantee and nursery systems are important prerequisites for encouraging women's participation in economic activities; to prevent the discontinuity of a women's professional career due to pregnancy, giving birth, and parenting; and to enhance the quality of the women labor force.

Current laws fall greatly short of ILO standards, for example; maternity leave covers only 60 days, pregnant women and nursing mothers are asked to work night shifts, and in the case of twins or the like, there is no provision for the extension of the maternity leave period.   In regard to maternity leave, it is only a small portion of women in manufacturing, a portion of those in office work and professional women workers who are able to avail themselves of this.  The reason is that most companies do not give paid leave, and give no guarantee of a job at the end of the leave period and because there is such a scarcity of young infants childcare facilities.  


Alternative measures for job security

  Though issues such as the lower pay and blocked employment opportunities of women have long been issues which have been presented as needing solutions, there has been little effective solutions developed yet. In order to achieve globalization and the strengthening of economic power which the government is pursuing, various measures must be taken at the same time in order to increase industrial technical development and to inculcate a strong work ethic in the workers.    In particular, employment opportunities free of discrimination still have yet to be made widely available for women.  In order to increase the motivation to work in working women, it is crucial that the government reform the laws and strengthen their administration of reforms so that equal working conditions become a widespread reality.  

 
Furthermore, married women must be given the opportunity to display their abilities to society, and single women must also be given the opportunity to feel a sense of duty about their jobs, which can be achieved by the government and industries drafting a supportive policy concerning household labor and childcare.   Therefore, the government must reform the labor Standards Law and Equal Employment Act to provide legal regulations concerning marriage and resignation, to prohibit discrimination in promotion, forced resignation, and sexual harassment in the workplace.  Also, employment practices which discriminate on the basis of physical appearance(e.g., height, weight, facial features) while recruiting must also be throughly eradicated through the legislation of regulations.
  Also, maternity leave after childbirth must be increased to 90 days (60 days leave now in Korea), the principle of equal pay for equal work must be actualized, joint responsibility of men and women for childcare facilities must be made widespread.  In addition the increase of irregular work substantially lowers women's motivation to work in the long run in direct proportion to the knowledge of how much profit their industries are actually making.  This drop in motivation in turn counteracts the economic competitiveness and progress achieved in the manufacturing industries.  Excepting unavoidable cases involving special duties, the increase of regular labor should be accomplished through legal regulations, and protective measures must be taken immediately for those who are presently working as irregular labor.   The most important of all, to the aims of strengthening economic power and steps towards globalization, is the increasing of educational opportunities for women so that they can receive school education and employment education without regard to their type of occupation.  Education on sexual equality should be made compulsory.  Job training must be made compulsorily available for women who have become unemployed due to automation of their work or structural adjustments.  Also, the government should introduce a job-training quota system to provide paid job training to women who are already in the workforce.


Day Care Center

  Presently in 1995 there are one million and twenty thousand children eligible for day care centers and 26% of them are using day care centers.  Of these day care centers, 86% of them are private (including corporate bodies) and these private centers house 76% of all children.

If the main reason for women's discontinuity of their profession and avoidance of employment lies in the burden of parenting and house work, providing various day care systems in the work place should be considered.  When the day care system is examined, consideration should be given to how to meet the demand of families where both parents have a day-time job as well as the potential demand of families that could participate in economic activities once the day care centers are provided.   The social responsibility of enterprises for raising children should be recognised and relevant laws should be legislated. Besides, child care after school hours also needs to be expanded to cover middle and high schools and the cost for the school meal system should be provided by the state.


Status of Sexual Violence and Family Violence

1) As the statistics which rank Korea as third in the world in terms of the level of sexual violence indicate, women cannot have peace of mind at any time, much less walk alone at night.  According to rape statistics, 20 women out of 100,000 have been victims of rape.   When considering the fact that less than 2% of all rapes are ever reported, however, it is clear that the true extent of the problem remains concealed.

2) In the case of family violence, according to the 1989 Korean Gallup poll, 57.5% of all husbands surveyed admitted to having hit their wives at some time or another.  In Korean society, spousal abuse is a common and recurrent practice.  Also, because the notion that children are the property of , or merely subordinates to, their parents runs deep in our society, the problems of corporal punishment and other cruelty are also severe.  According to the report on the Korean Convention to Protect the Child in 1987, 97% of 1,245 children aged 11-12 years had experienced one or more incidents of corporal punishment, and 46% were hit at least once a month, and 18% were hit at  least once a week.


Religion and Sexism

Han, Kuk-Yom a feminist theologian, sees the problem and the reality of the  son-oriented ideology in Korea.  The root of this ideology comes from the idea of the predominance of men over women. After the ending of a period of maternal society, the social production system changed to a paternal society, and the male oriented ideology became popular.  The male-oriented ideology is not only deeply rooted in general Korean society, but also, in religion.  All religions have their basic principle in liberalizing and recovering the humanity of all oppressed human beings from injustice and inequality in the world. However they have lost their original intention and have become an ideological excuse to sustain male oriented patriarchal ideology.
Religions in Korea today generally are more conservative and sexist than that which can be seen in general Korean society.     For example, when women had actively participated in the movement to revise the Domestic Relations Law in Korea, the Confucian leaders were up against the movement in the name of tradition and absolute ethic. The confucius ideology is the central ideology in forming male-centered family system.  
The three biggest religions (Christianity, Buddhism and Confucianism) are all practised in Korea. Even though these religions emphasize on the equality between men and women, in reality they promote the idea of predominance of men over women and, hence, the idea of giving sons more importance than daughters.  Confucianism reinforces the ethic that a wife should follow her husband and the doctrine of three values to obey from the idea of predominance of men over women in Yin and Yang theory. Buddhism reinforces the idea of male superiority through the idea that women cannot be a Buddhist - only male body can be a Buddhist - therefore the only way a woman can be a Buddhist is through changing her physical body to man form.  Based on this thought the status of female monks is inferior than male monks. Christianity reinforces the patriarchal order in the name of God's order. In fact Christianity improve the status of women significantly in earlier days in Korea. However, it now sustains and continues the sexist order in the church.  The influence of religions were very strong under the name of truth.  The model woman is viewed through her role as a good wife and a good mother, not as an autonomous human being.  The reason we are questioning the patriarchal culture of religion is because it becomes a part of culture and distorts what should be women's role in the society.  


Women in Politics

  As the percentage of women members of the National Assembly, who can participate in the legislative process was less than 1% before 1996, the problems affecting women were not accurately reflected in governmental policy.  
  In the 15th general election in 1996,  women's representation in legislative bodies increased to 3%, which amounts to 9 out of a total 299 representatives in the National Assembly.  Compared to the 3 representatives in the 14th Assembly, this number represents significant progress.  Just in terms of women's political participation, the election of April 11, 1996 was a great success.  More than anything else, the fact that two new women lawmakers succeeded in making their way into the Assembly from local electorates is of great significance since there have been no such cases since the 12th Assembly.
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Causes and Socio-economic Impacts of the current Korean Economic Crisis
kwwa  2002-10-28 14:10:32, 조회 : 391

Causes and Socio-economic Impacts
                                        of the Current Korean Economic Crisis

I. Causes of the Current Korean Economic Crisis

The current Korean economic crisis is caused by monopolistic Chaebol systems based on the "black" connection between politics and business and the severely government-controlled financial sector.  Chaebols exert enormous power in Korea.  Since the 1990s, Korean chaebols began expanding investment in other developing countries, the capital market in Korea opened to overseas investment and the world economic system dramatically changed. Chaebols accumulated massive deficits by their monopolization of funds and finances from Korean banks, excessive "octopus-style" expansion of industries and subsidiaries, and excessive and overlapping investment amongst Chaebols. Meanwhile, a massive number of small- and medium-size companies experienced tremendous difficulties borrowing funds from banks and were forced to shut-down.

The current Korean economic crisis is closely connected to Korea's economic status in the world market.  In order to maintain and compensate Korea's domestic status in the world market, the authoritarian government and chaebols suppressed workers as well as small- and medium-size companies.  In addition, open-door policies and neo-liberalization policies carried out by the Kim Youngsam regime made the Korean economic mechanism increasingly more unstable and insecure.  This eventually brought about the current Korean economic crisis.

II. The current economic and social situations

1. The government's "Big Deals" and massive unemployment
The government is attempting to undertake so-called "Big Deals", economic reforms to change chaebols from "octopus-style" systems to core industry-oriented structures. However, the transformation has not only ignored fundamental and crucial issues such as chaebols' holdings and management style, but has also contributed to the maintenance and reinforcement of their monopolistic structures.

Moreover, the government's economic transformation efforts are based on the forced sacrifice of people and workers. The government is carrying out privatization and labor market flexibility to promote a market economy system and attract foreign investment into Korea.  This has brought about the current state of massive unemployment in Korea.  In February 1999, according to the government's statistics, the unemployment rate stood at 8.7%, with an unemployed population of 1,785,000.  However, the actual unemployed population is believed to be more than 4,200,000 persons.

2. Poor social security nets
Although Korean people have experienced serious unemployment, social security nets are very thin.  The government is forcing workers to shoulder the responsibilities for their unemployment in the current economic crisis. The employment benefit system is very limited in terms of its benefits and duration.  According to the research done by the Action Center for Women's Unemployment between June and November 1998 only 2.06% of women job-seekers who took job counseling in the center received employment benefits. Moreover, the government's unemployment policies are patriarchal, so unemployed women are disadvantaged and discriminated.

III. Women workers' situations
As many as 62.7% of women workers work in very small companies (less than five workers) which are not protected by the Labor Standard Law. Women workers are the first targets for illegal retrenchment and lay-offs, especially in periods of economic crisis. In addition, regular women workers' status is reduced to temporary, part-time, daily and dispatched workers.  This is largely due to patriarchy in Korean society. Women are viewed as secondary earners to men who are seen as breadwinners.  This patriarchal assumption is incorporated within capitalism. and thus, rationalizes that women must be laid off before men.  However, in reality, women householders make up 17% in Korean society, revealing how patriarchy is just tool for discrimination, oppression and exploitation.

(1) Unemployment
The official number of unemployed women increased from 497,000 persons (5.8% unemployment rate) in August 1998 to 583,000 persons (7.2%) in February 1999. Among 46,000 unemployed women between January and February 1999, only 15.7% women were officially classified as "unemployed." The Korean government only categorizes unemployed people as those who are actively searching for work one full week prior to the official survey. Those who work even for just an hour during that period are not classified as unemployed.  Thus, in reality, there is a far higher number of actual unemployed women in society.

(2) Women workers are the first targets for lay-offs
In the current economic crisis women workers are the first targets for lay-offs and retrenchment. Women-concentrated departments and jobs are closed, women are forced to leave, and regular female workers are forced to work on an irregular basis.  Under the excuse of the current economic crisis, companies lay off a massive number of women workers and engage in illegal and unfair labor practices. Maternity protection has also deteriorated.

In particular, unmarried women workers are the foremost targets for dismissals. Even in workplaces with organized trade unions, union presidents do not challenge exclusively female lay offs, especially of married women workers, and the shutting-down of women-concentrated departments. Also, in cases where a couple is employed in the same workplace, companies threaten to disadvantage male partners during promotion decisions unless the female partner resigns.  Thus, couples obtain formal divorces or women workers whose partners also work in the same companies are forced to resign.

(3) Temporary women workers
In the current economic crisis women workers have become marginalized in the labor market.  In 1998, male workers accounted for 64.5% of regular workers, but women workers constituted 34.0%. The rate of temporary women workers increase from 62.2% in 1997 to 66.1% in 1998. This shows that women workers are forced and/or voluntary retire from their jobs and they re-enter the labor market as temporary workers after marriage, pregnancy and child-caring.  This also means that women are forced to work as temporary workers under the excuse of the current economic crisis.

Male temporary workers are concentrated in the agricultural, manufacturing and service sector by industry and occupation, but their female counterparts are widely spread across all industries and occupations. However, temporary and daily female workers are especially segregated in the agricultural and fishery industry, construction, wholesale and retail industry, food and hotel industry, and industries related to cooking and caring people.

Temporary and daily female workers have similar working hours, compared to regular workers. But they are discriminated in terms of wages, maternity protections and fringe benefits. Further, compared to temporary workers in other countries (Japan, EU countries), the level of Korean temporary female workers is extremely high.

(2) Part-time women workers
The majority of part-time workers in Korea are female.  According to government statistics, women account for 78.3% of part-time workers, and the rate has been  rapidly increasing. Further, part-time employment has markedly expanded to the service sector as well as the manufacturing sector.

(3) Dispatched women workers
The dispatch law was enacted in early 1998. Dispatched employment is widely used in the manufacturing sector, and has also expanded into the non-manufacturing sector. There is job segregation in terms of gender amongst dispatched workers. As many as 77.3% dispatched male workers are involved in production-related jobs and 98.2% in skilled and plumbers' jobs. Meanwhile, 84.8% of dispatched women workers work as clerical assistants, while 90.9% in servicing jobs.  This shows that most dispatched women workers perform simple, manual and unskilled jobs, which is very different from the government's and business's original claim that dispatched employment would be limited to professional and skilled occupations.

(4) Organizational levels of women workers
The unionization rate of Korean workers was the highest in 1989 at 18.6%.  Since then,  however, the unionization has continued to drop, falling to 11.2% in 1997.  A gender disparity exists in organizational rates.  In 1997, the organizational rate of male workers was 16.0% but women workers was 6.2%, which shows the very low organizational level of women workers.

Further, trade unions seldom attempt to organize irregular workers. Therefore, in order to organize marginalized women workers who work in very small size workplaces and irregular workers and to protect these workers' rights, several women workers' trade unions are being set up and activities are expanding across the country to organize marginalized women workers.

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Korean Overseas investment and the working conditions of women workers in
kwwa  2002-10-28 14:09:37, 조회 : 384



"Korean overseas investment and the working conditions of woman workers in Korean-invested companies, particularly in Vietnam"


                                                     Maria Chol Soon Rhie, Chairperson
                                 Korean Women Workers Associations United (KWWAU)
                                                                        August 28, 1998


INTRODUCTION

"There are two groups which raise big problems with workers in the world" said Neil Kearney, the chairman of lnternationaI Textile and Leather Labor Union in Brussels. "The two groups are Korean and Taiwan companies. They are recognized as 'being cruel' by workers" he added.

Beginning in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Korean investors moved much of their capital from domestic labor-intensive manufacturing sites in the garment and shoe industry to overseas production zones.  The rising value of the Korean won and the increasing wage rate for domestic workers led many Korean companies to seek out cheaper and more exploitable workforces in less industrially developed regions.    Korean companies began investing in factories in Southeast Asia, China, Mexico and Latin America.  By paying lower wages, exerting more severe labor repression, and hiring a predominantly young and female workforce, Korean companies engaged in abusive labor practices characteristic of their own early patterns of industrial development, as well as those of other newly industrializing countries such as Taiwan and Hong Kong.  
However, cheap, docile and exploitable workforces simply do not exist for foreign investors to choose amongst.  They must be actively created, maintained and perpetuated through a host of structural conditions and directly repressive labor control practices.  The creation of Export-Processing Zones (EPZs) by local governments in newly industrializing countries offered foreign companies fringe benefits and incentives.  Workers, mainly young women from rural areas, toiled in extremely harsh and inhumane working conditions for very little wages.  These conditions not only allowed foreign companies to extract more profits, but they also served as repressive means of labor control.  Employers continued their repressive tactics to make workers less expensive to hire, easier to fire and less able to organise independently.
In this paper, I would like to examine Korean overseas investment and the working conditions of woman workers in Korean-invested companies, particularly in Vietnam.  By focusing on the experiences of women workers employed in mainly Korean-owned factories in Vietnam, particularly in light of the current regional economic crisis in Asia, we can better understand continuing and changing conditions for women workers in newly industrializing regions.


SITUATI0N OF KOREAN INVESTMENT ABROAD

Investment per industry (unit: number, million US$)


Regional inveshent by Korean companies (unit: number/ million US $)

Numbers of labor disputes in overseas investing Korea companies


WORKING CONDITIONS OF WOMEN WORKERS

VIETNAM

Recent Industrial Development
  During the mid 1980s the Vietnamese government joined many of its neighbors and began pursuing a rigorous market liberalization developmentalist program focused on attracting foreign investment.  In December 1987, the government issued the Law on Foriegn Investment to encourage rapid development through foreign capital across a range of sectors, particularly labor-intensive industries.  In 1991, the Vietnamese government created its first Export Processing Zones, mainly through joint venture capital projects with transnational capital from South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia and China.  In 1997, the Vietnamese government attempted to increase the attractiveness of their EPZs by offering foreign companies 2-4 year tax holidays and reduced taxation rates for companies that export 80 percent of their products.  
The main foreign investors in Vietnam are South Korean and Taiwanese companies.  They operate subcontracting plants mainly in the garment, electronics and footwear industry.  Vietnam represents one of the latest stops in the migration pattern of garment and footwear producers.  For example, production for NIKE began in Japan, moved to Taiwan and Korea and then moved again to Indonesia, China and Vietnam.  More than 35,000 workers in Vietnam produce products for NIKE alone, the largest workforce for a single manufacturer. NIKE shipments constitute 5 percent of Vietnam's total exports.  

Low Wages and Long Working Hours
The conditions for women workers in Vietnam before the current economic crisis were characteristic of the experiences of women workers in other low-wage, exploitative and hazardous EPZs.  Workers are forced to work extremely long hours and compulsory overtime, often without compensation, for lower-than-subsistence level wages.  
Sam Young Vietnam. Ltd. opened a factory in the village of CuChi on the northern outskirts oh Ho Chi Minh city that produced products for NIKE among other footwear manufacturers.  On average Sam Young workers worked 80-100 hours of overtime every month.  Many workers are so exhausted by the workload that they fall unconscious while working, according to some reports.  One worker explained, "We come back home after night shifts sleep walking." (Asian Labour Update. v. 30. 10/97-1/98)   Le, a 19 year old woman worker for Sam Young, received $48/month working 6 days a week.  When asked if she was happy working for Sam Young, she explained, "How can I be happy?  My salary is very low.  I can barely affort my living expenses." (South China Morning Post 24.3.98)  

Poor Working Conditions and Health and Safety Hazards
Workers toil in unsafe working conditions and often are not given the proper protective equipment.  The leaked Ernst and Young audit for NIKE revealed that the majority of NIKE's subcontractors violated Vietnamese labor and environental laws.  Workers were continously forced to work over the maximum number of legal work hours.  Over 77 percent of employees had been exposed to respiratory disease, the dust exposure exceeded ten times the acceptable level, and the tuluene content exceeded 177 times the standard level.  Although NIKE was aware of the severely hazardous working conditions, they continued to ignore the problem for ten months after the audit report was released.  
Because many women workers migrate from their homes in the rural countryside to EPZs, they are dependent on their employers for their daily living needs.  At PT Victory Long Age, the company food served is far below the nutritional standard.  Workers reported becoming ill, yet employers refused to pay workers medical bills.  

Abusive Treatment by Supervisors and Military-style Management Practices
In addition to rigorous working conditions and extremely low wages, workers also are subjected to maltreatment by supervisors.  Soon after the Sam Young factory opened in 1996, 1000 workers walked off the job because South Korean manager hit a woman worker in the face with a rubber NIKE sole as punishment for a minor police violation.  At PT Victory Long Age, workers are fined if they visit the toilet more than twice in one day.
Many South Korean and Taiwanese employers are also infamous for their military-style management practices.  Some employers subject women workers to rigorous daily physical regimes such as stand-up and sit-down drills during their long 10-12 hour workdays.  At another South Korean-owned factory, women workers were forced to kneel on the hard floor and hold their hands above their heads for 20 minutes for poor work performance.  Fainting is a daily occurrence at many factories, including the Sam Young factory.  At Dong Nai, 12 women fainted and were hospitalized because their Taiwanese supervisor forced them and 44 of their co-workers to run around the factory twice (2 km) in the extreme heat because they wore the wrong shoes to work.  At another Taiwanese-owned factory, 100 women workers were forced to stand in the scorching sun after spilling their lunch trays.

Absence of Code Enforcement Mechanisms
Although the Law on Trade Union officially requires companies to abide by minimum wage and safety regulations, the lack of enforcement mechanisms allows companies to operate despite their many violations. In addition, large manufacturers who have their own Codes of Conduct often do not abide by them, despite repeated public statements that declare otherwise.  NIKE's abuses and hypocrisy are the most publicized examples.  NIKE repeatedly claims that it is a "good employer."  They attempted to prove their worthy identity by hiring an indendent agency to conduct an audit of NIKE's subcontractors in Vietnam.  As mentioned earlier, NIKE consciously neglected findings on the occupational health and safety violations of their Vietnamese subcontracting plants.  Their neglect is clear evidence of the failure of company codes of conduct to protect workers from excessive abusive and exploitation and their role more as public relations tools than tools to protect workers.

Collective Organizing Efforts
Since 1990 the number of strikes at factories has risen from 21 to 52 in 1996.  More than 600 workers at the Reeyoung Co. Ltd, a South Korean-Vietnamese joint venture, staged a wildcat strike to protest against long working hours, poor pay, compulsory overtime works and malteatment by their Korean bosses.  Workers at the Choong Nam textile went on strike to demand for one-month bonus a year, a higher meal aIIowance, two pairs of safety clothes overalIs, and a transport subsidy.(The Straits Times 30. l2. 93)  More than l20 workers at a South Korean joint venture silk mill walked off the job to protest against cuts in their wages, pay overtime (The Nation. 14. 9. l994)

Worsening Conditions in Current Economic Crisis
Although the scale and scope of the economic crisis in Vietnam is not as great as that in South Korea, Thailand or Indonesia, workers in Vietnam have also been experiencing mass lay-offs, intensified working conditions and more abusive labor practices.  In the last two months of 1997, more than 4,000 workers were dismissed.  In the first three months of 1998, another 5,000 workers were dismissed.  In the last quarter of 1997, 2,000 workers from the Korean-owned garment company, Juan Viet Co. alone were dismissed.  The remaining 2,000 workers were denied their wages during that period. Women workers in the garment and footwear industries are the most affected population.
Because foreign investors threaten to withdraw production if cheaper quota prices are not offered, local subcontractors transfer the burden mostly to workers.  Small and medium enterprises are most vulnerable in this economic crisis.  Samsung, one of the largest investors in Vietnam, reduced production by 70 percent, but did not reduce its core overseas workforce.  This means that the majority of workers cut worked in subcontracting plants that produced for Samsung.  Samsung ability to pass the burden of the economic crisis onto workers stems from a legal structure that protects foreign investors at the expense of its own workers.  Since parent companies are able to transfer their debts to their overseas operations and overseas subcontractors are not responsible for their own internal debts, the parent company is able to declare massive losses, thereby, neglecting to pay local suppiers and workers' back wages and bonuses.  Workers are stuck with no ability to be able to collect their due wages or bonuses.  
Workers are subject to severe-labor squeezing practices, even when capital costs decrease.  Increased lay-offs, the rising rate of temporary workers, the degradation of working conditions, the deterioration of job security, the increase in informal sector work and the attempt to dissolve unions are examples of the current intensification of labor abuses during this crisis-ridden period.  Companies try to reduce profit losses by cutting wages, requiring compulsory, unpaid overtime and laying off workers.  Taiwanese- and Hong Kong-owned companies are even trying to disburse workers' unpaid wages as "bonuses."  One worker expressed, "We don't need a bonus.  What we really need is the wages for the days we've worked.  It's unacceptable that workers receive nothing for months of work." (Asian Labour Update, v. 27, 2/98-5/98) or
It's difficult for workers to identify a particular person to blame because of the structure of the transnational subcontracting industry.  When a subcontracting company is totally owned by a foreign investor (100 percent), the managing director simply executes policies generated overseas.  A Journalist from Lao Dong explained, "the real 'boss' is far away overseas." (Asian Labour Update, v. 27, 2/98-5/98)
When workers are able to make headroads into organising, they often pay for their efforts, either because the plant shuts-down operations and moves to another subcontractor who is able to guarantee lower wages and more strict labor repression or because they are immediately terminated.  At Sam Young 1800 workers striked to protest degrading working conditions and lay-offs, one week later 700 of those workers were dismissed, most likely as an attempt to dismantle to union.

The Strength of the Discourse
Workers operate under conditions plagued with fear and repression.  The mere threat of termination or factory shut-down operates as a strong labor control mechanism.  It gives employers more freedom to exploit workers for employers justify their abusive practices as necessary and legitimate management practices in this current economic crisis.  For example, Mr. Chang Hung Kuang, the owner of Palace Co., felt that it was "unfair" that he needed to pay workers more when there was overtime work and at all when there was no work.  He tried to retain a totally expendable and contingent workforce by witholding wages from workers.  Workers at Palace Co., protested at the Tan Thusan EPZ for two-days until Mr. Kuang agreed to pay workers at least 70 percent of their wages when there was no work.  
A local subcontracting plant manager told a reporter from Nguoi Lao Dong, "We do not have enough time to complete our planned production.  If workers do not work overtime, we will breach our contracts with our clients and the whole company will be hungry then."  (Asian Labour Update, v. 30., 10/97-1/98)  Thus, regardless of the conditions or circumstances, workers are forced to bear the physical and psychological burden of increasingly insecure and uncertain market conditions.
At Samma Corperation, management tried to dismiss workers in order to hire temporary workers later.  In November of 1997, they laid off 296 regular workers and on 1/17/98 they tried to fire 34 more regular workers.  Publicly, the company tried to mask their abusive activity by declaring that the termination of their contract with NIK forced them to shut-down the shoe upper department.  However, Samma workers insisted that the company was trying to execute unfair labor practices by appealing to the insecure economic situation.  

Possibilities for Change
Thus far, efforts to remedying worker abuses remain limited.  Although labor groups still insisting on more permanent and substantive efforts at reform, the management at Sam Young have responded to some of the recommendations by Vietnam Labor Watch.  After the incident with the abusive manager, Sam Young hired a new manager.  They held union elections and extended a labour contract to workers.  They built more bathrooms, improved the workers' canteen area and added more rest areas.  They also hired an onsite doctor and agreed to conduct regular health checks.  Workers were given a 5 percent raise (which amounted to $0.08 more per day), increased training wages and forced to work lesss overtime.

                                                
INDONESIA

Workers in Indonesia have been experiencing similar exploitative and abusive working conditions.  Neal Kearney, the General Secretary of the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers Federation, explained, "factories are as much like prison camps as you can find."
Indonesia is a country with the fifth largest pogulation in the world according to l990 census. More than =.l4 % of the total population are women. Women workers have been utilized as cheap labour. They are paid lower wages for the same job than man. They are also docile compared to man. The 'inherent' skiIIs of nimble fingers, tediousness and patience of women workers tend to be empIoycd for them to be easily controIled. They are engaged in such manufacture indushies as textiles, garments, cigarettes, cosmetics, electronics, food and beverages, and some of light metal industy. The number of women workers in these industries estimates to account for 60% of the female workforce.

Women workers' situation

Low wages
   0versupply of female work force in the labor market causes entrepreneurs to repress wage levels in order to increase their own investments in addition to the government's policies which attempt to maintain and create profit for the management. There are companies that pay workers with wages under the Minimum Wages Regulation, even though the regulation account for only about 30% - 40% of basic costs of living.
A survey done in 1991 by a business consulting firrn in Hong Kong, CROSBY RESEARCH LTD., about workers' wages in some countries reported as folIows:


Long working hours
   For example in RaJabrana (garment factory) women workers have to work 12 -14 hours a day. This factory has above 6,000 workers and the great majority (80%) are women. If  they do not work overtime, they are fired.

The target system worsens the situation.
   Competition promoted by companies has weakened solidarity among workers. The target system prevents women workers from recognizing the whole process of production and working situations in the factory.

Sexual harrassment
   Sexual harrassment by male co-workers or their male supervisors fretluently take place.  
Women workers are afraid to make complaints because they can be dismissed, due to severely insecure employment.

No marriage policy
   Although it is illega1, some factories force women workers to retire once they marry or become pregnant. At PT Kintama, if women workers get pregnant, they are fired. Some women workers tight their stomach so that employers do not recognize they are pregnant.  Most of the companies do not provide menstruation leaves nor maternity leaves.

Discrimination in the work place
   Women workers face discrimination in terms of promotion, payment, aIIowances(pension) etc. The differences of employment status between daily workers, pieceworkers, and contract workers often separates workers. so it is one of the difficulties to organize them.

Cruel dismissaI
The management does not pay any attention to the health and safety of workers.                      

CENTRAL AMERICA

Workers at Daewoo EIectronics' Hyo Seung maquiladora in Mexico, have filed actions with the Public Ministry and the Labor Board against sexual and physical abuses and multiple violations of the labor law by the company president and the directors.  Since the plant opened, managers of the company had been sexually abused women workers for 6 months: touching workers, offering money for sex, and threatening workers if they do not agree. Forcibly locking workers into a 'punishment room' without ventilation where they are exposed to toxic solvents that can potentially cause birth defects and cancer is a barbaric violation of fundamental human rights.
Women workers at Orion Apparel maquiladora in Choloma, Honduras receive such low wages that they confront malnutrition. They average 85 hour overtime workweeks. If they refuse that, they are fired. Managers do not pay to any attention to the heath and safety of workers. Even if a woman worker is pregnant, she does not receive any pregnant leave. On 15 Jun, l995 an armed guard shot and kiIIed a worker who was going to a demonstration, (National Labour Committee)


CONCLUSION

The experiences of women workers in Vietnam in Korean-owned companies reveals many shared experiences between women workers in other countries, from South Korea to China to the U.S..  The intensification of work hours, the deterioration of job security, the increase in causual and temporary forms of employment, the degradation of working conditions, and the dismantling of labor unions, all in the name of increasing competitiveness in a volatile global economy all means that the daily lives and struggles of workers are becoming more severe as multinational companies and the neo-liberal project spread.  Workers are forced to bear the burden of increased global economic risk, and women workers, in particular, suffer a disproportionate share.  They are the first to be dismissed and the first to be subjected to more harsh and insecure forms of employment.
The experiences of women workers in Vietnam highlight that multinational capital with any face, whether it bears a U.S. face, a Korean face or a Taiwanese face, is capable of the same exploitative and inhumane labor practices.  This points to the need for women workers to identify common sources of labor abuse and become more aware of abusive actions of capital vis-a-vis labor.  Women workers must empower themselves, raise their consciousness about global capitalist exploitation, and struggle to work towards promoting and strengthening their rights.  Women in various industrializing regions should exchange their experiences as a way to support each other, better understand their situations and come up with action strategies to counter continued employer abuses.  Finally, women workers should forge solidarity links with other women workers.  

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