The International Women’s Day 100th anniversary event, celebrating the accomplishments of women around the world, was held on March 8 at the Seoul Women’s Plaza Art Hall. “We are celebrating mothers, daughters, sisters, wives and workers,” said Susan Raphael, founder of the International Women’s Day Korea Committee and a member of the Seoul International Women’s Association. “And I think connecting with women all over the world, especially in the centenary anniversary, is important.”
Prior to the International Women’s Day 100th anniversary event, a mass meeting of Korean women was held at the Press Center of Korea on March 7th. The meeting, under the theme of ‘Bread and Roses to Her,’ was held while Kim Geuntae, a permanent advisor of the Democratic Party, Kwak Jungsook, a member of the Democratic Labor Party, were attending. Delegate of Civil Society Organization Network in Korea, Park Kyungjo emphasized that leadership of women in the future is necessary. There was also a performance showing the cases of obstacles for gender equality.
March 8th is a day to celebrate women’s achievements throughout history and across nations, and for disregarding divisions, be they national, religious, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. It is an occasion for looking back on past struggles and accomplishments as well as for looking ahead towards what still needs to be done to improve the lives and opportunities of women.
There are still many women in South Korea struggling between jobs and infant care every day. The Constitution deems that people cannot be fired or treated differently because of maternity leave; however, the reality is different. According to the Korean Women Workers Association, the majority of companies in Korea see women as half human resources who cannot concentrate on working. So the companies lead the women workers to quit their jobs by announcing inappropriate personnel appointments. For example, the companies appoint women who used to work at headquarters to a branch where it takes more than 2 hours to commute. The treatments towards non-regular workers are even more unfair.
According to the National Statistical Office (NSO), the percentage of female professional and administrative positioned paid workers has increased from 3.6% in 1980 to 20.2% in 2008. Although the number of women who have gained employment has definitely increased, there is still a long way to go for working-moms who struggle with poor and inequal working conditions. Hwang Hyun-Sook, Chairperson of Korean Women Workers Association, said that ‘companies have social responsibility: they need to regard maternity leave as a matter of course, helping those women who come back from maternity leave as well.’