A combination of latest data demonstrates that Korea has a long way to go to achieve gender equality. The MasterCard Index of Women Entrepreneurs placed Korea 42 out of 54 countries in its business environment for women.
Another index showed that Korea has the largest gender wage gap among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The wage disparity is due to many women having to leave work for childcare.
Korea also has a high rate of female irregular workers, with six out of 10 working women holding such positions. Women held a protest in central Seoul on International Women’s Day to protest the inequality they suffer at workplaces and stressed the need to promote equal pay.
Business is not the only sector where women face limitations. Presidential hopeful Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo of the People’s Party pointed out that Korea has one of the fewest female ministers among OECD members. The portion of women ministers in Korea is only 5.9 percent, which is much lower than the OECD average of 29.3 percent.
Despite being the nation’s first female president, Park Geun-hye has failed miserably in making women’s lives better. In a global index of women’s happiness, Korea ranked 39th out of 42 countries. During her time in office, Korea became a country with one of the world’s lowest birthrates.
Park’s successor should be extremely careful not to repeat her incompetence and indifference to women’s issues. There are many grave challenges facing the next president, but promoting gender equality is among the key priorities.
Presidential candidates have been stressing their commitment to gender equality this week with a host of policies to promote women’s happiness and include more women in their cabinet.
Korea’s next president should keep in mind that happy women make happy homes, and ultimately, a happy country. More than ever, this country needs a feminist president.