Gender Equality Minister Han Vows to Promote Women's Rights

Korea Times (Seoul, Korea), March 2, 2001 | Go to article overview

Gender Equality Minister Han Vows to Promote Women's Rights


The first head of the newly-created ministry dealing with gender equality has stressed the importance of setting the organization's identity and appropriate goals in the beginning stages.

``Many people seem to have a stereotypical impression of the new ministry."

But it will work for the mutual benefit of both men and women so that it can contribute to the progress of the whole nation,'' said Han Myung-sook, 57, who assumed the Ministry of Gender Equality's top post on Jan. 29.

``In order to achieve this goal, I will do my utmost to make the ministry easily accessible to the public,'' she said in an interview with The Korea Times.

Minister Han gave up her parliamentary seat right after taking office. She has been busy giving interviews to the local media and meeting officials.

Han admits she hasn't fully grasped the full nature of her duties yet due to the lack of time and the fact that the new ministry is still in its initiation stage.

The newly-formed ministry plans to double its manpower to 102 from its predecessor, the Presidential Special Commission on Women's Affairs, since its role has been expanded to cover adjustment, analysis and evaluation and other works from planning and supervision only.

Despite her short government career, Han's long experience in the pro- democracy and feminist movement is good enough to enable her to set the policy goals of the new government agency.

Han served a two-year jail term in the late 1970s for participating in a pro-democracy protest and taught women's studies at her alma mater, Ewha Woman's University, before assuming top posts at women's organizations and civic groups.

``I saw many underprivileged women including laborers and prostitutes while I worked at civic groups advocating women's rights for the last 30 years. I won't ignore their difficulties,'' she said.

She added that the problem is a lack of public awareness on women-related issues as well as a deep-rooted prejudice against women.

``People often use a double standard in looking at the issues. For instance, they think it is natural that women are victims and are inferior to their male counterparts,'' commented Han, one of Korea's most respected feminists.

Han expects to enhance public awareness through media and free cyber discussions.

Utilizing quasi-judicial rights endowed with the ministry, the minister also plans to exert efforts to pass the impending bill designed to protect female workers' rights, such as the extension of maternity leave from 60 days to 90 days and introduction of regular childcare leaves. …

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