For the first time in its history, South Korea has elevated a woman to the office of president. Newly elected Park Geun-hye is the daughter of the president and dictator Park Chung-hee, who ruled the country from 1961 until his assassination in 1979.
During her presidential campaign, she pledged to increase government aid to single parents, expand maternity and paternity benefits, and promote flexible work arrangements in order to get more women in the work force.
In an interview with NPR, Kim Eun-Ju, director of the Center for Korean Women and Politics, noted that the South Korean presidential campaign ignored what she sees as two big problems: “One is that Korean women get paid nearly 40 percent less than their male counterparts — the biggest such disparity among the world’s developed economies. The other is that Korean women’s representation in politics ranks 108th out of 132 countries.”
Also interviewed was Kim Wan-hung, a researcher with the Korean Women’s Development Institute. She spoke of how difficult it is for any government policy to undo centuries of cultural tradition: “Men work. Women stay at home. This idea is ingrained in people’s minds. The salary differential has not been considered important. And less has been done to solve this problem in Korea than in other developed countries.”
I suppose it might be the case in traditional male-dominated Korean society that women would be deliberately paid less than men for the same job. But such is certainly not the case in the United States, where record numbers of women hold political office, are on police forces, and work in what used to be considered male occupations.
Read more at The Future of Freedom Foundation. By Laurence Vance.
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