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‘Most sexual harassment in workplace goes unacknowledged even after reporting’

Over the past year, only 12 percent of reported cases of sexual harassment in the workplace were acknowledged, according to Gapjil 119. (123rf)
Over the past year, only 12 percent of reported cases of sexual harassment in the workplace were acknowledged, according to Gapjil 119. (123rf)
Even if an employee reports acts of sexual harassment in the workplace, it rarely leads to appropriate action, according to an analysis by a civic group.

Gapjil 119, which campaigns against workplace abuses, indicated that between January 2021 and March 2022, only 129 out of 1,046 cases (12.3 percent) were acknowledged as sexual harassment. Only 7.6 percent (80 cases) of them ended in penalties for those accused of harassment. Some 65.7 percent (687 cases) of reported cases were dropped halfway. The survey was commissioned by Rep. Song Ok-joo of the Democratic Party.

In cases that involved sexual harassment by someone in a position of authority (for example, a manager or a CEO of a company), many do not lead to punishment because, under Korean law, those individuals are not considered to be the victims' “official employer”.

“Those responsible for managing the employees often escape punishment for sexual harassment, as they are not categorized as the ‘official employer’ under the current law,” explained Gapjil 119.

Gapjil 119 also reports that many of the victims of sexual harassment are punished by companies, even in cases where their accusations have been ruled to be true.

According to the analysis, 83 percent of the victims who filed for sexual harassment report being treated unfavorably.

“I reported the new president of the company for continuous bullying and sexual harassment. After months of investigation, the president received a corrective order, but the company later filed criminal charges against me and threatened to fire me,” stated an office worker who wished to remain anonymous.

When the victims fight back against the companies who try to punish them for coming forward, their claims are often mishandled, the report says. Of the 32 complaints and accusations reported to the Ministry of Labor, only three were sent to be prosecuted.

“As the statistics show, the problem is the Ministry of Labor‘s weakness in tackling the root of the problem,” said Jang Jong-soo, a labor attorney at Dol-bloom Labor Law Office. He added that “Considering the severity of the current situation, the Ministry of Labor needs to increase the level of gender sensitivity in the workplace through improved education.”

By Lee Yoon-Seo (yoonseo.3348@heraldcorp.com)
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