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Korean female leaders discuss ways to empower women, work-family balance

All Headlines 14:57 August 25, 2016

By Woo Jae-yeon

JEJU ISLAND, South Korea, Aug. 25 (Yonhap) -- Sitting around round tables, participants of an annual global conference of female leaders discussed persistently challenging and evasive issues of how to achieve a work-family balance.

Fourteen teams of 10 people each joined the economic session touching on four themes on the second day of the 16th Korean Women's International Network (KOWIN), which kicked off Wednesday on the southern resort island of Jeju.

Jeon Young-soon, who chaired and moderated the discussion of Group 1, broke the ice by saying, "Actually, this is not the kind of a subject in which we can draw up a solution within a few hours of discussion. But it is still meaningful that we talk about it for the future of our community."

Jeon, who runs a business consulting company in Seoul, offered up her own thoughts on that issue that Korean businesses should set up polices that are more considerate to employees. Among other things, flexible working hours should be more aggressively pursued by businesses, she said.

Monica Ryoo, a doctor from the United States, agreed.

In her hospital, it is not unusual for female doctors to bring their kids to the workplace if necessary.

"Some people even bring their pets to the hospital," she said, triggering a burst of laughter among team members.

"Seriously, doctors are increasingly working from home via telephone or video," Ryoo said, a trend that makes it even more convenient for working mothers to balance work and family life. "If the trend picks up, it will naturally lead to productivity improvement."

Jackie Kim, CEO of a real estate company in San Francisco, emphasized the need to lessen pressures on working mothers to do all the household chores.

"In Taiwan, a lot of families eat out, not cooking at home so working moms feel less pressure and tired," she said.

Having lived in the U.S. for 20 years now, she also talked about various things businesses can do to tackle the issue, such as support for home mortgages that many IT companies in Silicon Valley already provide to workers.

"The number of day care centers is not enough so a community can play an important role as well. For example, parents who raise kids of similar ages can take turns taking care of them," she suggested.

Dr. Ryoo, who has two grown-up daughters, tackled more fundamental issues of deeply rooted materialism.

"Materialism is so widespread, and it discourages young Koreans from getting married and having a child," she said, adding, "Whatever good policies businesses and the government come up with, things won't dramatically change unless we are culturally revolutionized."

Jeon the moderator drew a rather philosophical conclusion: "We should focus on humanism, away from materialism and fierce competition. And mother's roles here is very crucial." The comment drew loud applause.


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