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NHRC hits male-centric condolence payments

A state human rights watchdog has deemed it gender discrimination for an organization to give condolence money to a female employee only when her husband’s parents die, while giving it to a male employee when his parents pass away.

In Korea, it is customary for the government or companies to pay condolence money to employees when their parents or in-laws die.

The National Human Rights Commission said on Thursday that it has recommended that a provincial union of the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation, (Nonghyup) revise its condolence money regulation toward equal payment to both female and male employees.

The ruling came after an employee and member of the union in her 60s, surnamed Park, was not paid condolence money from the union when her mother died last year. Under union regulations, the money is paid to a female employee when the parents of her husband die, and to a male worker on the death of his parents. She lodged a petition with the commission in March.

Park said in the petition: “Why should women be consoled for their in-laws’ deaths not for their own parents’? All union members, regardless of their sex, should be paid equally.”

However, the local cooperative union, saying that its regulations on condolence money are a matter to be decided at its discretion, claimed that it is customary to pay married female employees condolence money when their in-laws die. It also insisted that it treats both male and females equally because they receive the same amount of condolence money a maximum of twice.

Under the regulations, employees are paid 200,000 won ($180) in condolence money. Male staff are not paid on the death of their wives’ parents.

The commission refuted the union’s argument for equal treatment based on the total amount paid.

“The claim based on the total payment does not justify the unfairness to female employees being not paid condolence money in case of their real parents’ death,” the panel ruled.

“Married women have the same rights and responsibilities to their parents as married men do. Limiting condolence money payment to females to the mourning for their parents-in-law is a sexual discrimination based on a stereotypical idea,” it said.

By Bae Ji-sook (baejisook@heraldcorp.com)
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