The Korea Herald


Ministry under fire for sexist job interview guidelines

By Claire Lee

Published : Nov. 16, 2014 - 21:20

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The Labor Ministry has come under fire for posting sexist job interview guidelines for women job seekers, including a suggestion that they tell potential employers they “do not mind casual jokes about sex,” on a recruitment information website run by the government.

Facing criticism from many netizens including the members of women’s rights NGOs, the ministry deleted the post on Friday and said it will consider “educating all of its employees about gender equality.”

In the controversial post that offered “ideal answers” for possible interview questions, the ministry advised women to say “I wouldn’t mind casual jokes about sex and it is sometimes necessary to deal with (sexual harassment) by making a joke in return,” should one be asked about their opinions on sexual harassment at work.

Should a woman be asked about her marriage plans, the ministry advised to say “I have no interest in getting married for a while,” even if she has plans, because “it is common for (many) female workers to quit their jobs after getting married.”

A lot of employers do not prefer women who plan to get married soon for the same reason, the ministry said in the post.

The ministry also advised job seekers to say “I will do my very best even if it is just making a single cup of coffee,” if asked about their thoughts on trivial office work, such as making coffee and photocopying.

The guidelines also suggested telling the potential employer that “although I have a responsibility as a woman to raise a child, I am more than willing to continue working (after having a baby) if the company recognizes (my abilities),” when asked about what her child bearing plans.

A number of local NGOs, including Korean National Council of Women, criticized the ministry for endorsing sexism in the country’s labor market.

“It is sexist of any employer to only ask women about their plans on marriage and child bearing,” they said in a statement. “And the government is in fact encouraging employers to discriminate against women.”

As of last year, only 53.9 percent of South Korea’s entire women population were in the workforce. The rate left the country at the 25th place among the 33 OECD nations.

While the employment rate is low, South Korean women employees have the longest working hours among the OECD nations. In 2011, a single working Korean woman on average worked 41.7 hours a week.

The country also had the lowest employment rate of women with post-secondary education degrees, at 61.2 percent, in 2012. The OECD average was 78.6 percent.

By Claire Lee (