South Korea is welcoming their first female president today. Does this signal a breakthrough for women in the country? We take a look at where women stand in today's South Korean society.

The Republic of Korea today is a country where more female high-school graduates go to university than their male counterparts.

Professor Taehyun Kim, Department of Social Welfare of Sungshin University, said, “80 percent of female high-school graduates enter university. This ratio is higher than male high-school students. This was unimaginable in the past as there was a time when girls were not allowed anywhere near schools.”

But at the same time, South Korea is still a country that ranked 108th place out of 135 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index last year. That’s seven steps below Japan and 39 ranks below China.

Professor Kim says she would give South Korea’s gender equality status 70 points out a hundred. The social status of women has improved by far, but she says there are still a lot of gaps to narrow.

Kim said, “Patriarchal properties still remain in Korea and women’s careers are disrupted more than any other country and Korea has the worst gender salary gap among OECD countries.”

A little over half of the women in South Korea are economically active, but this is nowhere near the 80 percent average of OECD countries. Rene Lee, an HR manager of a multinational company in Seoul says she’s seen many women leave the workplace.

HR manager Rene Lee said, “It’s a pity to see women, who are great talents, leave the workplace to give birth and to focus on raising their children. For working moms, I’ve seen many have a hard time trying to find a place to nurse their children, or trying to ask the grandparents to look after them.”

Reporter: “Having a female president may not change the immediate future, but these women are positive it’ll help in the long-term.”

Lee said, “Children will no longer impose limits when drawing their future. Many will become aware that anything is possible for women, even becoming a president.”

Professor Kim said, “The birth of a female president in a patriarchal society like Korea is a revolution and a social reform for women. Korean society has immense possibility to improve gender equality in the future.”

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Replies to This Discussion

I don't know.  This seems exactly like Obama getting elected signaling that we're in a post-racial America.  We need to see a hell of a lot more before I'll accept that there has been a real change. 

Yes, I agree - there needs to be more evidence of women treated as equals to know there has been real change.




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