Where global solutions are shaped for you | News & Media | COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN CONSIDERS THE REPORT OF THE REPUBLIC OF KOREA

ACCESSIBILITY AT UNOG A A A A The United Nations in the Heart of Europe

COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN CONSIDERS THE REPORT OF THE REPUBLIC OF KOREA

22 February 2018

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today considered the eighth periodic report of the Republic of Korea on how it implements the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Presenting the report, Hyun-Back Chung, Minister of Gender Equality and Family, said that since the last review, the Republic of Korea had made strenuous efforts to enhance gender equality in various policy areas, such as women’s representation, violence against women, protecting underprivileged women, and ensuring women’s rights in employment, health and education. The gender-responsive budget had increased from a mere 3.7 per cent of the national budget in 2010 to 7.4 per cent in 2017. The new Government was committed to continuing to work hard to eliminate gender-based stereotypes and address the glass ceiling; it had adopted the Second Basic Plan for Gender Equality Policy 2018-2022, which had set policy goals for each ministry, and the Plan to Enhance Women’s Representation in the Public Sector 2018-2022 to tackle the still low women’s substantial decision-making power. One of the envisaged measure is gender quotas in civil service, public organizations, universities, military and the police. Comprehensive measures to respond to new types of gender-based violence and digital sex crimes had been adopted, while the Sixth Basic Plan for Gender Equal Employment 2018-2022 had been adopted to address, inter alia, the important gender pay gap of 37 per cent.

At the beginning of the dialogue, Experts remarked, that although the Republic of Korea had been a State party to the Convention for 38 years, it had still not adopted a comprehensive anti-discrimination law to prohibit all forms of discrimination including on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. This was critical in the face of a widespread discrimination against lesbian, trans and bisexual women in the country. Experts urged the Government to recognize that it could not do everything by itself, and to find a way to include the vibrant civil society in policy and decision-making. The Republic of Korea had chosen to place gender equality and family under one Ministry, raising a concern that any tension between the two would be resolved by scarifying gender equality for the sake of family. A particular issue of concern was a backlash against the progress in the area of gender equality, which took a particularly painful form in cyberspace; the delegation was asked to explain how it intended to prevent cyber sexual violence and regulate and combat new forms of violence against women in the cyberspace, including the so-called “fake pornography”. Experts noted that the Republic of Korea had a great potential to be a leader in matters related to e-government and e-administration, and stressed the imperative of empowering and enabling women to fully engage and benefit from the digital culture.

In concluding remarks, Ms. Chung said that the Republic of Korea realized that it had a long way to go to achieve gender equality and overcome difficulties and challenges, and was looking forward to cooperating with the Committee to this end.

Dalia Leinarte, Committee Chairperson, commended the Republic of Korea for its efforts and encouraged it to address various recommendations, which the Committee would issue with the purpose of a more comprehensive implementation of the Convention throughout the State party.

The delegation of the Republic of Korea was composed of the representatives of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health and Welfare, Ministry of Employment and Labour, Ministry of Personnel Management, Korean National Police Agency, and the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage. The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings will be available via the following link: http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/.


The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on 23 February to consider the fifth periodic report of Fiji (CEDAW/C/FJI/5).


Report

The Committee is considering the eighth periodic report of the Republic of Korea (CEDAW/C/KOR/8).

Presentation of the Report

HYUN-BACK CHUNG, Minister of Gender Equality and Family of the Republic of Korea, said that under the current Government, female representation had increased from a mere nine per cent of the ministers in the Cabinet in 2016 to over 30 per cent. The Republic of Korea now had its first female Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Employment and Labour, and the Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. The new Government would not stay complacent with the status quo and would continue to work hard to eliminate gender-based stereotypes and address the glass ceiling. Since the last review, the Republic of Korea had made strenuous efforts to enhance gender equality in various policy areas, including in women’s representation, violence against women, protecting underprivileged women, and ensuring women’s rights in employment, health and education. The Government remained committed to mainstreaming gender into all ministries; its Second Basic Plan for Gender Equality Policy 2018-2022 had set policy goals for each ministry, while key policies at central and local levels alike would undergo specific gender impact analysis and assessments. The gender-responsive budget had increased from a mere 3.7 per cent of the central Government’s budget in 2010 to 7.4 per cent in 2017, and gender responsive accounting and the gender impact analysis and assessments were integrated in the budgets.

The Plan to Enhance Women’s Representation in the Public Sector 2018-2022 would tackle the still low women’s substantial decision-making power and increase the representation of women in high-level Government functions from the current six to 10 per cent in 2022, including through gender quotas. In terms of strengthening prevention of and response to violence against women, the Republic of Korea had adopted in 2017 the Measures against Sexual Harassment in the Public Sector which contained reporting guidelines for sexual harassment. Comprehensive measures had been put in place to respond to new types of gender-based violence including digital sex crimes; soon, more stringent punitive measures against distributing indecent videos would be adopted, and the Korea Communication Standards Commission would be allowed to delete and block such material upon the request by law enforcement agencies. The Korean National Police Agency had set up the Sexual Assault Countermeasure Unit in 2015 to strengthen the investigation system.

Women with disabilities could access 42 Government-operated centres, which offered life cycle counselling, vocational training, customized capacity-building education programmes and information on legal and medical, services, housing, and employment. The 217 Multicultural Family Support Centres helped multicultural families adjust to their life in Korea through services such as family counselling, interpretation and translation services, parent education and other programmes. In the labour market, women continued to face career interruption and gender wage gap of 37 per cent. The Government run 155 Women’s Reemployment Centres to support women in work, developed family-friendly certification programmes under which it provided incentives to certified companies, adopted the Sixth Basic Plan for Gender Equal Employment 2018-2022, and was planning to adopt a policy to require companies to disclose salary data by gender as a way to encourage them to address disparity.

Questions from the Experts

At the beginning of the dialogue, a Committee Expert remarked that, although the Republic of Korea had been a State party to the Convention for 38 years, it had not yet adopted a comprehensive anti-discrimination law to prohibit all forms of discrimination including on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. Equally, the State party continued to maintain, for 38 years, its reservations on article 1(g) of the Convention, which perpetuated the maintaining of the patrilineal principle in families.

With the change of administration in May 2017, what were the plans concerning the expansion of the legal and institutional framework to facilitate greater inclusion of civil society organizations? The Government could not do everything by itself and should recognize the vibrant civil society that existed in the country.

Another Committee Expert stressed that multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination were covered by the Convention, and expressed concern over the widespread discrimination against lesbian, trans and bisexual women in the country and the reports that the central government was actively blocking local governments from protecting this group.

Responses by the Delegation

In response to the question on the comprehensive anti-discrimination law, a delegate said that that there was an intense confrontation and controversy concerning the prohibited grounds of discrimination, and this had hampered the adoption of the law. The Government was actively building social consensus on this issue, which would take time. The Ministry of Gender Equality believed that no one should be discriminated because of their sexual orientation and gender identity and was committed to taking the necessary action should it happen.

On the reservation to article 1(g) of the Convention, the delegation explained that the current law did not contradict the Convention as it allowed a woman to keep her surname. A child could have the mother’s surname, if the parents had agreed to do so; the child’s surname could be changed upon the request by the parents and by a court decision. The Republic of Korea was working on lifting the reservation in a positive spirit.

The new Government was planning to actively support non-governmental organizations and was fully aware of the importance of communicating with them in order to build good policies. The Government was reflecting on how best to continue the engagement and listen to non-governmental organizations.

Questions from the Experts

A Committee Expert said that since the creation of a very significant framework for women in 2004, the Republic of Korea had made an important progress in the area of gender equality. What initiatives would be undertaken to ensure that the recommendations and concluding observations by this Committee assisted the country in its programmes and policies? Given the many texts on gender equality (more than 90), there must be greater clarity in the legislative and institutional architecture. How did the coordination work between local and central levels, and what did the evaluation of the budgetary procedures and projects for gender equality show? How were gender equality policies evaluated and what happened to their results?

The Sustainable Development Goals represented and opportunity to considerably strengthen the principle of equality as a substantive issue in sustainable development. The Republic of Korea had a great potential to be a leader in matters related to e-government and e-administration, and it should ensure that women were empowered and had the capacity to fully engage and benefit from the digital culture.

What were the tangible outcomes of the first national action plan on women, peace and security, how the issue of the so-called comfort women was included in the second plan, and how the Government and civil society worked together on the ground?

An Expert asked how the Ministry of Gender and Family resolved the tensions arising from gender equality in the family and expressed hope that the Republic of Korea would not sacrifice gender equality for the sake of family.

Responses by the Delegation

The Ministry of Gender and Family was promoting the idea of establishing a national body to oversee gender equality issues and coordinate the implementation of gender equality policies, a Gender Equality Committee, without which it would be hard to adequately implement the existing policies.

The delegation understood the concern with regards to resolving a tension between gender equality and family, and said that it was working on developing a framework for a healthy family and providing support to the diverse families which existed in the society today. Such policies would go a long way in achieving substantive gender equality.

The Republic of Korea believed that, to increase women’s representation in the public sector, the political commitment of the Government was the critical factor. In addition, there must be a system of “carrots and sticks” or incentives and sanctions.

Actions taken since 2002 had seen a steady increase in the number of women in the public service but the representation of women in decision-making positions remained low. That was why the Government had adopted gender quotas for increasing the appointment of senior-level officials and was adopting measures to increase number of women in middle-level management structures.

As for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, the Republic of Korea was mainstreaming gender in its international cooperation programmes and its official development assistance. The prevailing paradigm was that of a human-being focused economy so the philosophy of leaving no one behind was aligned with the Government’s objectives and approaches.

Gender impact assessment and analyses had started in 2005, and to date, over 30,000 projects and interventions had been analysed. There was a need to do more to involve civil society organizations in this process and to improve qualitative analysis.

The participation of civil society organizations in the implementation of the national action plan on the United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security was currently insufficient.

Questions from the Experts

A Committee Expert was very alarmed by reports of a backlash against the progress in gender equality, which took a particularly painful form in cyberspace. What measures was the Government adopting to prevent cyber sexual violence, would it allow prosecution of redistribution of offensive materials, and how it planned to regulate and combat new forms of violence against women in cyberspace including the so-called “fake pornography”?

There were gaps and omissions in combatting domestic violence, including in the lack of criminal sanctions against those who violated protective orders. Did the act on domestic violence take into consideration the diversity of families in the Republic of Korea? A 2013 Supreme Court ruling had criminalized marital rape, but this had not yet been codified – would the Criminal Law be amended to include a specific prohibition and sanction for marital rape?

It seemed that the State party had significant difficulties in implementing its anti-trafficking legislation, particularly where it concerned women defecting from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, foreign domestic workers, and marriage with foreigners. What steps would be taken to improve the support and identification of victims of trafficking in persons?

Decriminalization of prostitution was a step in the right direction, but prostitutes continued to be punished and exploited. What measures were in place to punish the perpetrators of violence and exploitation of women in prostitution, reduce the demand and provide options to women who wished to exit prostitution?

The issue of comfort women remained unresolved. The former Government had exempted the legal agreement made with the Government of Japan, which denied the victims’ right to truth, justice and reparation and neglected their views. The Republic of Korea had an obligation to provide full redress, offer an apology, and ensure access to rehabilitation services to victims.

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation too was concerned by the high levels of misogyny in the society, and said that high rates of youth unemployment were one of the contributing factors. The Government had adopted measures to respond to cyber and digital sex crimes, it had allocated resources and developed legislation allowing for deletion of the obscene material, which cost € 3,000 and was subsidized. Additionally, legal aid and psychological support were available to victims. The Government was fully aware that all those efforts must be complemented with criminal sanctions and penalties for the perpetrators.

According to the 2016 survey by the Korean National Human Rights Commission, 85 per cent of women experienced hate against women online. To prevent it from occurring, it was essential to spread a culture of gender equality in everyday life, including through strengthening training and education in gender equality. A task force for gender equality in which media and other experts participated had been set up to deal with misogyny and other obstacles to advancing gender equality.

The issue of “North Korea” migrant women was a very painful one, said a delegate and stressed the obligation of the Republic of Korea to extend the protection and support to “North Korean” women victims of trafficking in persons.

With regards to domestic violence, a delegate said that the police had an on-site response capacity which was one of the explanation for an increase in reported number of cases. In 2017, the police had received 45,203 cases; in 79% of those, the offenders were men. The law contained strong sanctions for the perpetrators of domestic violence and the protection of victims including through a protective order. Victims had a right to seek redress from the perpetrator as well.

The President of the Republic of Korea had stated that the agreement on the comfort women had not been victims-based and a delegate reiterated the country’s commitment to continue to address the issue through adequate policies.

Questions from the Experts

In the next round of questions, a Committee Expert remarked that gender quotas and other measures were still to be translated into an effective participation and representation of women in political and public life. What plans were in place to address gender imbalance in the education, public sector and public organizations? What was being done to attract more women to the Foreign Service?

Responses by the Delegation

Responding, the delegation reiterated the commitment to increasing participation and representation of women in political and public life, particularly in decision-making levels. Some of the measures included gender quotas, reflecting the progress in the assessment of the Government’s performance, and incentives for high-performing public organizations and institutions.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs was continuously working to expand the participation of women, which currently represented 19 per cent of the staff, while women held four per cent of the high-ranking positions. In the education sector, the efforts were ongoing to increase a number of professors working in the State universities compared to private ones, and the State was committed to have women in 44 per cent of high school principal positions by 2022.

There was a birth registration system for the nationals, but not for foreigners. A bill proposing the establishment of a birth registration system for foreigners had not passed in the National Assembly. The setting up a compulsory universal birth registration system, which would ensure birth registration of foreign and undocumented children, required building of a social consensus.

It was true that the naturalization process was rather long; the Government was attempting to significantly reduce the wait time for foreigners married to the nationals, the so-called marriage migrant women, especially given the increase in international marriages in the country.

All migrant children had the right to primary and secondary education, regardless of their documented or undocumented status, as long as they could prove their residence in the country. Teachers were exempted from an obligation to report undocumented migrant children to the authorities, in a bid to further guarantee the realization of the right to education to migrant children.

Questions from the Experts

A Committee Expert remarked that in 2017, the Republic of Korea ranked 118 among 144 countries included in the World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report, despite the fact that its women were very well educated and enjoyed high levels of health. The problem were negative stereotypes, which still prevailed in the society including in the education sector. Particularly glaring was the gender imbalance in post-graduate studies.

Gender equality and sex education had not been integrated in the curricula, despite the legislation to that effect. The current sexual and reproductive health education was not human rights based, and strengthened gender stereotypes and stereotypes towards sexual minorities.

The gender wage gap of 37 per cent was the highest among the 34 countries members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, and it had been for the past 15 years. The gap was due to the concentration of women in low-wage and irregular jobs, and career interruptions due to childbirth. Often, women were excluded from social protection and pension systems.

The delegation was asked about the intentions to guarantee labour rights of workers who worked short hours; introduction of compulsory basic pay guidelines in the private sector; system in place to receive complaints and provide remedies for violations of the equal pay for equal work principle. What measures were contained in the Sixth Basic Plan for Gender Equal Employment 2018-2022 and what was the timeframe for their implementation?

One out of two employees had experienced sexual harassment, while a survey had shown that about 40 per cent of victims would not report the case due to the fear of repercussions. What was being done to address this worrying situation and ensure that workplaces had adequate tools to prevent and sanction sexual harassment?

Fertility rate was 1.24 children per women, among the lowest in the world. Abortion was still criminalized, which placed a huge burden on women. The Republic of Korea should decriminalize abortion at least in cases of rape and incest, risk to life or health of the mother, and unviability of foetus.

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation explained that the low rank in the Gender Gap Report was primarily due to the gender wage gap and the limited participation of women in the decision-making. Both were the issues that the new Government was actively addressing. The crux of the measures to be adopted would be addressed to structural imbalances in the labour sector, which were at the root of gender pay gap and the career interruption due to childbirth.

The Government would continue to monitor pay discrimination between women and men and would oblige corporations to publish their salary scales. Efforts were ongoing to expand the offer of childcare support to prevent career interruption following childbirth, while affirmative action measures such as promotion of women to decision-making positions would continue as well.

The curriculum had been revised in 2015 to include gender equality, and would be rolled out to all schools by 2020. Textbooks were being revised to remove stereotypes, while teachers received continuous training in gender equality so that they could serve as guiding and resource persons for their students. The national sex education curriculum was in place and it had been developed in a participative manner.

There were ongoing efforts address low fertility rate in which the Government was moving away from encouraging families to have more children toward creating an enabling environment for families as a whole. It was clear that the problem of low fertility would never be resolved without addressing the work situation of women; in that sense, addressing the low fertility offered a genuine opportunity to achieve substantive gender equality.

Abortion was a very controversial issue in the Republic of Korea. A fact-finding survey would soon be conducted to understand the key issues, and the Constitutional Court was currently debating issues related to partial decriminalization of abortion.

Questions from the Experts

The Republic of Korea was undergoing demographic transition that left some subsets of women, principally elderly and the youth, living in social isolation and precariousness, in stark contrast with the remarkable economic success of the country. The delegation was asked about measures in place to promote and support youth entrepreneurship, to explain the role and purpose of social enterprises and ventures, and the existence of medical cooperatives to promote access to health care and create employment.

The Committee appreciated the support provided to women in rural and fishing communities and asked about major progress achieved with the national action plans implemented so far. What was the percentage of women among those who qualified for pension support? Were women fully consulted in the design and implementation of climate change policies?

The Republic of Korea was projected to be a country with one of the highest mortality rates due to air pollution by 2060 – what was being done to protect women from adverse impact of coal-fired power plants, and to stop the construction or financing of construction of coal-fired plants in other countries?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said that there were various forms of support for female entrepreneurship such as entrepreneurship contest and challenge and mentoring services, and that the Government was working on extending those services online.

There were programmes to train disaster officers to pay specific attention to women in disasters, and a gender-based analysis of disaster preparedness plans had been undertaken in 2016. In 2016, a comprehensive guideline for air particles had been issued and a target had been set to reduce such pollution by 2022.

In order to understand the situation concerning gender equality in the country, and where deficiencies were, the Republic of Korea had developed its own gender equality index, which it had been applying for the past seven years. The index examined eight different areas and looked at issues such as social participation to achieve gender equality, human rights, welfare of women, as well as mindsets, awareness and social perception on gender equality.

Questions from the Experts

On matters of family and marriage, a Committee Expert noted that in many countries, there was a challenge in providing protection of women from domestic violence in divorce proceedings, and asked whether the mediation schemes under the healthy family act were compulsory and whether women could opt out of compulsory mediation in cases of domestic violence. The Expert was concerned that the focus of the legislation was on maintaining a family unity under all conditions, and that the aim of maintaining family connection even in domestic violence cases prevailed over the best interest of the child in child custody decisions.

Marital property regime was not in keeping with the Committee’s general recommendations; it was clear that, due to gender pay gap and interrupted careers women suffered because of childbearing duties, women were clearly disadvantaged in decisions on division of marital property.

Were same sex couples protected by the act on the protection from spousal violence?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation explained that the purpose of the domestic violence act was to restore harmony of the family and protect women’s human rights.

If divorce was not consensual and there was no agreement on the division of marital property, it was up to the family court to make a decision, based on cooperative efforts of the spouses during the marriage.

Same sex couples were not recognized under the law. The Government was focusing on multicultural and single-member families, and how women could be brought forward and empowered to address their problems and issues.

Concluding Remarks

HYUN-BACK CHUNG, Minister of Gender Equality and Family, said that the Republic of Korea had been working for one hundred years to eliminate discrimination against women and it had a long way to go to achieve gender equality and overcome the remaining difficulties and challenges. The Republic of Korea would do its utmost to implement international gender equality standards and stressed the importance of international cooperation, including with the Committee, to this end.

DALIA LEINARTE, Committee Chairperson, commended the Republic of Korea for its efforts and encouraged it to address various recommendations, which the Committee would issue with the purpose of a more comprehensive implementation of the Convention throughout the State party.


For use of the information media; not an official record

CEDAW/18/005E