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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on July 27)

All News 07:32 July 27, 2022

Gender equality matters
It is not time to abolish gender ministry

President Yoon Suk-yeol's push to abolish the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family is out of touch with reality. He should expand the function of the ministry, instead of disbanding it. He needs to face up to the fact that South Korea is still considered a country that does not fully respect the value of gender equality.

It is disappointing to hear that Yoon instructed Gender Equality and Family Minister Kim Hyun-sook on Monday to devise a plan to dismantle her ministry. He seemed determined to make good on his campaign promise to do so. His instruction will give a boost to the plan to do away with the ministry.

Now we urge the president to reconsider his plan. It is reckless and irresponsible to push for the plan unilaterally without reaching a national consensus. The more he tries to get rid of the ministry, the stronger a backlash he will face from women. Therefore, such a plan will only bring about social conflicts and set back democratic values.

Yoon floated the idea of abolishing the gender equality ministry in the run-up to the March 9 presidential election in a bid to woo young male voters who have felt reverse gender discrimination. However, the idea was excluded from 110 major national tasks selected by the presidential transition committee in May right before Yoon's inauguration. Now he has revisited the issue, rekindling the momentum for disbanding the ministry.

More worrisome is his lack of understanding about why gender equality matters. He already said that systemic gender inequality does not exist anymore. Such a misperception is apparently based on his male-centered way of thinking. He has been under criticism for forming his Cabinet dominated by male ministers. He has even scrapped his predecessor's gender quota which was aimed at filling at least 30 percent of ministerial posts with women. His lame excuse was that he values talent and competence more than striking a balance between the genders.

Whatever the reason, he can never legitimize his ill-conceived plan. His instruction came when his approval rating plummeted to the 30 percent level, unusually low for any new president after less than three months in office. It would be wrong if he thinks he can shore up his support rate by pitting one gender against the other. Taking advantage of the gender divide for political gains should no longer be tolerated.

President Yoon should not renege on his commitment to promote national unity and forge a partnership with opposition parties. His unilateral plan runs counter to national unity and bipartisanship. If he really wants to push for the abolition of the ministry to pursue a small government, he needs to build a national consensus. It is also necessary to win support from the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea (DPK). Both tasks are easier said than done. So the best thing would be to undo his plan and keep the ministry in place to promote gender equality. No need to risk a political football for nothing.


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