Structural and Ideological Barriers that Perpetuate the Implementation Gap in South Korean Women’s Empowerment Policie
Falvey, Hannah R.
This thesis examines the structural and cultural barriers that perpetuate the implementation gap in South Korean women’s empowerment policies while asking the primary research question: despite having a strong women's empowerment policy why does South Korea have such a massive policy implementation gap to rank the lowest for women's empowerment consistently? Many scholars have argued that the Confucian cultural roots and the resulting gender-biased ideology is the main barrier to integrating and advancing women within the South Korean workforce. However, closer examination calls for this argument to be extended to for a need to reexamine existing policy which never attempted to address the situational context: a gender-biased economic development model and workplace structure fueled by a sexist cultural ideology. More directly, I argue that the implementation gap in women's empowerment policies in the South Korean workforce is a combination of the government's laissez-faire approach to women's empowerment that allows for glaring structural work-life balance issues to persist, solidified by cultural ideology. Issues that structurally contribute to work-life balance include 1.) Insufficient tangible support for childcare by the South Korean government 2.) Excessively long work and overtime expectations, and 3.) Overdependence on the private sector to support women’s empowerment. In turn, the incompatibility of work and domestic responsibilities force South Korean women to exit the workforce. The exit of women results in the mitigation of the significant economic potential that South Korean women’s empowerment policies possess should they be implemented. Furthermore, work-life balance issues cause the accentuation of underlying sexism in the creation of a gendered workforce with the overrepresentation of women in temporary and entry-level positions, in addition to hiring and promotion practices, and normalized gender roles.
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