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Sexual Discrimination Hasn't Disappeared
  • Kim Dong-ho, Kim Hye-jeong
  • 승인 2002.09.12 12:03
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Editor's Note
Compared with the past, it seems that women's rights are stronger. However, this is just the outward appearance. Korean women of today are still absent in various fields including politics, economics, and the sciences. This cover story considers the role that universities also play in continuing this discrimination. We want to illuminate sexual discrimination and suggest ways to solve the problem, especially in universities....Ed.

Part1. Females in Society
The Cambridge English Dictionary defines "Feminism" as "the belief that women should be allowed the same rights, power and chances as men and be treated in the same way, or the set of activities intended to achieve this state." However, feminism's meaning depends on cause and effect, or the current of the times.
"Feminism" was first used in a book review of The Athenaeum, a British newspaper, on April 27, 1895, and has gained wide currency in the twentieth century. It means that women have been suppressed for a long time.
Confucianism has taught women to be obedient in Korean society, socializing them to accept limited roles even though they are not Korean women's essential qualities. The ways in which women participated public affairs was limited in this conservative society. Although women have tried to recover their rightful position, women's status in society hasn't improved much from the past. The National Assembly rejected the appointment of the nation's first female prime minister on July 31. One reason Kim Dae-jung nominated Chang Sang to be prime minister was to encourage women to participate in politics because there are few female politicians in Korea. Many women's groups supported President Kim's nominee, they expected that Chang Sang would be tapped for the No. 2 administrative post in Korea.
However, Chang Sang faced many questions related to morality and credibility in the gruelling two-day confirmation hearing held in order to examine her qualifications. Suspicions about the U.S. citizenship of her son and real estate speculation charges caused the outcome of the parliamentary vote. At the same time, lawmakers failed to make the confirmation hearing an opportunity to verify her ability to run state affairs. The real reason why Chang Sang failed to be confirmed as the first women prime minister is just because she's a woman?  There are only a few leading women in the fields of culture, economics and politics. Women who are high-ranking officials such as presidents of banks are unusual. Even if certain women acquire a high status, discrimination against women always exist.
How about the status of women university students? Do you think that female university students are free from discrimination?

Part 2. Females in University
1. University Students

- Campus Life
Let's review female university students' lives on campus. "Unreported sexual harrassment of female students frequently occurs," said Park Yoon Ji-eun, the vice chairperson of the General Coed Student Council (GCSC). At times, even some professors speak about it humbly, because they are underestimated for sexual reasons. And many Donggukians do not know the reason why women only day rooms are on campus. If female students smoke or lie down, those around them looked coldly on them. That makes women uncomfortable. "Most men seem not to think too deeply about seeing the world through a woman's view," exclaimed a female student .

- Majoring
Most female university students are still choosing finite majors in universities. As in the past, they prefer literature and art rather than engineering and management as their majors. This situation is made by a social environment that cannot accept female experts in leading fields. Let's look at female students' distribution in each college on the Seoul campus. This year, there are 810 females out of a total of 1,344 students in the College of Liberal Arts, and 310 out of a total of 519 in the College of Arts. However, there are only 136 females out of a total of 379 students in the College of Law, 403 out of a total of 2,113 in the College of Engineering and 367 out of a total of 1,305 in Information Industry Science. The good news is that this disparity gradually being reduced. In the case of new comers and sophomores in the College of Science, female students are 60 percent of the total number of students.

- Employment
How about employment? Professors prefer male students when they introduce applicants to various enterprises. Also, female students don't have the same connections that males have. Many people still think female students don't function as well as men in the "real world.".
Women must be able to share the same equal rights and opportunities with men in relation to employment and payment in the workplace. However, the terms of employment for women are unfavorable. And many female students become desperate. Of course, there are small changes. For example, some big enterprises like LG and Samsung are currently planning to recruit more female employees. To prepare for these opportunities, university authorities and female students need to work together. Kim Eun-hye, a member of Women's Affairs, said, "According to evaluations of female students by enterprises, they found that females do not have specific goal. Female students need to know their interests and decide what to do after graduation. Getting a vocational aptitude test will be very helpful." According to the Korean Women's Development Institute, each university authorities should do the following. ▲ Improve and  strengthen their support of female students' employment ▲ Extend the training system for female students to enterprises ▲ Build a network between female students and female experts ▲ Reward universities for encouraging women through special lectures and programs to persue jobs in the private sector ▲ Enlarge female students' employment. Employment of female university students cannot rely only on compulsory regulations such as recruiting allocation of female employees in public enterprises. Enterprises wouldn't even need quotas for females if all applicants were chosen through fair competition.

2. Faculty Members
The imbalance of female and male staff and professors is strikingly high at DU. There are only 48 women out of a total of 274 staff at the Seoul campus. Last month, seven new staff members were recruited at the Seoul and Kyungju campuses. However, only two of them are women.
Also, it is difficult to find female presidents at domestic co-educational universities. There are no women professors in Department of Management at Korea University, Yonsei University and Seoul National University as well. Recently, a university hired a female professor for its engineering college; it was big news. DU is another university that has few female professors. The number of female professors at the Seoul campus is 27 out of a total of 345.
On February 7, Korean Women's Development Institute held a public hearing on the introduction of a system for setting goals to employ female professors in national and public universities at a fixed rate.
   According to the Institute, an increase in female professors will offer more role models to female students and open gates for highly-educated women. To achieve that goal, it is indispensible that universities give a fair chance to women applicants and have a transparent process when appointing professors. One effective method is to assign women as examiners for the professor appointment process.

Part3. Conclusion
Sexual discrimination hinders our nation's advancement. Women's active role in Korean society will only upgrade it. For this upgrading, universities must take an active role in the process. Think of the final phrase of Goethe's Faust; "Eternal womanhood draws us onward.”

Kim Dong-ho, Kim Hye-jeong  dgudp@dongguk.edu

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