South Korean president seems uncomfortable when pressed on gender inequality

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SEOUL — South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who said during his recent campaign that he wanted to shut down the Ministry of Gender and Family Affairs, gave a hesitant response when pressed on Saturday on how he would improve opportunities for women in his country and firm.

Yoon was asked at a press conference by a Washington Post reporter about the role he and his administration should play in helping advance women and improve gender equality.

Yoon stood still for several moments, took off his earpiece through which he was receiving the translation, and seemed to struggle to answer. He then replied, as officially translated:

If you look at the civil service sector, especially cabinet ministers, we really haven’t seen a lot of women in that position so far. Probably in various regions, equal. Opportunities were not fully guaranteed to women, and we actually only have a fairly recent history of that. So what we’re trying to do is very actively secure such opportunities for women.

An interpreter then quickly announced that the press conference was over.

The exchange underscored the difficulty that Yoon — and broad sectors of South Korean society — face in making meaningful progress on gender equality. South Korea ranks among the lowest among developed countries when it comes to gender equality in pay, political advancement, and economic participation.

During the campaign, Yoon had proposed scrapping the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. The comment was seen by some as courting young men, especially those part of the “anti-feminist” movement that has been unleashed against movements for gender equality.

A majority of young women voted for the liberal candidate, who narrowly lost to the conservative Yoon. For now, Yoon has given up on the idea of ​​eliminating the ministry, but said he would reshape it with his own appointee.

When a Post reporter asked Yoon after his election victory in an April interview about promoting gender equality, he acknowledged that South Korea “had been rather slow in promoting equal opportunities for women”, and he said that the gender equality minister had mishandled sexual harassment cases.

Yoon’s cabinet is predominantly male, both at the ministerial and vice-ministerial level.

“I have a clear principle that we must conform to global standards for social and governmental activities, and gender issues, and ensuring women’s opportunities must also conform to global standards,” Yoon said during the interview. April interview. “Compared to the United States or European countries, South Korea has been rather slow in promoting equal opportunities for women, due to a lag in awareness, social movements and government actions. .”

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