Indirect Discrimination in South Korea
Tokyo University Ph.D hyo-sook PARK
Discrimination in South Korea
• In the past, under the traditional male-centered Korean employment system, women were
treated as non-regular, peripheral and ancillary workers.
• However, industrial structural reform and technological changes and increased numbers of
female students in higher education, contributed to an increase of women in the labor market.
• The increase in women in the labor marker bought to light discrimination issues under the
traditional male-centered Korean employment system (In Korea, 70 per cent of women work
as irregular worker. Putting them under irregular conditions, firms could fire and then re-hire
the same people at any time to retain wage at the minimum).
• As the participation of women in society increases, Government has tried to guarantee equal
opportunity and compensation to them with regulations such as the Labor Standard Act and
the Equal Employment Act.
• However, still many female workers work in small places under poor conditions, which don’t
necessary follow the regulations (Even though most of them might be working in a good
environment for now, they are not able to be totally free out of either visible or non-visible
barriers of gender discrimination in their workplaces).
The Equal Employment ACT (EEA) Amendment to Prohibit Indirect Discrimination
• The current Korean Law takes two approaches to achieving equal employment opportunity
between the sexes. The one is mainly regulated by the Labor Standard Law, the Equal
Employment Act of 1987.
• The Labor Standard Law has been confined to wage discrimination. As a result, Korean
needed developments of case law and new legislation to prohibit discriminatory treatment
against women other than wage discrimination.
• So Korean started legislative action to require equal treatment between men and women,
which resulted in the enactment of the EEA.
• EEA is mentioned as follow:
“The purpose of this Act is to realize the gender equality in employment in compliance with
the idea of equality in the Constitution by ensuring equal opportunity and treatment for men
and women in employment, while protecting maternity and providing support for the
reconciliation of work and family life, vocational competency development and employment
promotion for women. “
• EEA prohibit direct discrimination. The EEA was revised in February of 1999 to incorporate
demands for the prohibition of indirect forms of sexual discrimination in employment and the
prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace.
o Article 2, EEA
• The EEA describes disciplinary actions against offenders (parties) and requires corporations to
conduct employee-training sessions on sexual harassment. In 2001, the EEA is wholly
amended, especially concerning Maternity Leave and Childcare Leave (see article 18 on
Support for Maternity Leave).