The Korea Herald


Labor Ministry to investigate alleged gender discrimination in hiring

By Lee Jaeeun

Published : Nov. 30, 2023 - 15:37

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South Korea's Labor Ministry will launch an investigation into workplaces suspected of screening out job applicants who graduated from women's universities, a ministry official said Thursday.

The investigation plans have come after a post on anonymous online employee forum Blind went viral.

“As a corporate recruiter, It's not like we exclude all women but if (the applicant) is from a women's college, we don't even read the resume," the author of the post, who identified themselves as a recruiting manager at a major real estate trust company, wrote Sunday.

Nearly 10 people responded with comments, and among those, another individual, shown as the employee of a logistics company, wrote, “My company's recruitment team does exactly the same.”

After this post fanned controversy online, there were over 2,800 reports made calling for an in-depth inquiry in just four days, as of Wednesday, according to the Labor Ministry’s anonymous reporting center.

“Most of the reports were made by third parties, not the specific aggrieved parties, requesting the ministry to verify whether these claims are true," the official said.

“The investigation is expected to take about a month,” he added.

Under Korea's Equal Employment Opportunity and Work-Family Balance Assistance Act, any employer who discriminates based on gender during the hiring process faces punishment via a fine not exceeding 5 million won ($3,858).

In a previous case, KB Kookmin Bank, Korea's largest bank as of 2022, was ordered by the Supreme Court to be punished with a fine of 5 million won for violating the Equal Employment Opportunity law, when four former and current officials at KB Kookmin Bank fabricated documents to give high scores to 113 male applicants and low scores to 112 female applicants, in order to hire a larger number of men from 2015 to 2016.

KEB Hana Bank also set a target gender ratio for male to female employees at 4 to 1 in 2013. Most of the female applicants were disqualified after the company set up much higher prerequisites for them to meet. KEB Hana Bank was ordered by the Supreme Court to pay a fine of 5 million won in March.

Additionally, a lower court ordered Shinhan Card to pay a fine of 5 million won in August as it was found to have set its goal for a gender ratio of men to women employees at 7 to 3 in 2017.

The court found that the credit card issuer had fabricated interview scores in an attempt to meet this skewed gender ratio, when the actual ratio of male to female applicants was 59 to 41.

"Employees (at Shinhan Card) had been selected with male preference in a similar way since around 2009, and no efforts were made to improve recruitment methods for new hires until this incident became a problem," the minor opposition Progressive Party said after the ruling on Aug. 11.

"It’s incredible it took all this time for only the first trial to conclude, and the fact that the result is a fine of just 5 million won is devastating," it said.