Though the South Korean government has taken many steps to create a legal framework for gender equality in the country, much work remains to be done, says Sun-Uk Kim, President of Ewha Woman's University. “Gender policies should aim to reduce the gap between the legal system and the real world,” she asserts.
Kim spoke on gender equality legislation and policy in Korea when she delivered the Law School’s annual Clarke Lecture on October 21, co-sponsored by the Law School’s Clarke Program in East Asian Law and Culture and Cornell University’s East Asia Program. In the lecture, Kim discussed the status of women in South Korea, from their presence in government and corporate leadership positions to their roles in family life and child-rearing.
While previous legislation and policies have made progress in providing welfare protections, dismantling patriarchal practices, and establishing affirmative action in many areas, she see a crucial task in “gender-mainstreaming,” with the government consistently assessing the different ways in which policies affect men and women. Kim proposes child-care resources, enacting policies that support diverse family types, and ensuring that legislative reforms are enforced and integrated into the culture.
Throughout a career that has included numerous positions in academia, the government, and the legal field, Kim has made pioneering efforts to build gender equality in Korea. As a member of the Presidential Committee on Administrative Reform and the Central Administrative Appeals Commission, she developed a Gender Equality Officer system. In 2005, she became the first woman appointed as the Minister of Government Legislation. Under her leadership, the Ministry conducted a comprehensive review of discriminatory provisions within Korean law and also reformed its own statutory examination process to increase gender sensitivity.
“President Kim's remarkable contributions to gender equality both as Minister of Legislation and as President of Ewha Women's University are a model and an inspiration,” says Annelise Riles, the Jack G. Clarke Professor of Far East Legal Studies, director of the Clarke Program in East Asian Law and Culture, and professor of anthropology. “Her visit has galvanized students and faculty from across the university.”
In addition to Kim’s lecture and several informal meetings, the Ewha delegation participated in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and Exchange Agreement signing ceremony with Cornell University Provost Kent Fuchs and Vice Provost for International Affairs Fred Logevall.
Says Hirokazu Miyazaki, director of the East Asia Program, “The new partnership with Ewha Woman's University is a critical component of the East Asia Program's major initiative to enhance Cornell's Korean Studies and the University's engagement with Korea more generally." The MOU includes new opportunities for faculty exchanges, collaborative research for faculty and graduate students, and study abroad experiences for undergraduate students. The Law School is currently in talks with Ewha Women's University to expand the MOU to include exchange opportunities for law students.
The Law School will be a key player in the partnership. Says Riles, “Given Korea's pivotal role in East Asian markets and security relations, it is essential that every great American research university, and every great American law school, offer its students an opportunity to learn about Korea.”
She adds, “Korean law firms are growing rapidly and employing our J.D.s and LL.M.s in increasing numbers. Students of Korean descent now represent one of the largest demographic groups at our law school, and they and other students with strong interests in Korea are eager for opportunities to build on their own knowledge to prepare for a legal career. We hope that this MOU will translate into student and faculty exchanges that will enrich our programs and also strengthen our ties with Korean studies on the main campus.”
Each year the Clarke Program in East Asian Law and Culture brings a star scholar to Cornell to deliver a major public lecture. Funded by a gift to Cornell Law School from Jack and Dorothea Clarke, the program seeks to expand the purview of legal scholarship and to develop new ways of thinking about transnational law, politics, and culture.