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South Korea: Efforts to Eradicate Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence in Government Agencies

(May 3, 2018) On March 30, 2018, the South Korean Prime Minister, Lee Nak-yon, issued the Rules for Establishment and Operation of the Comprehensive Government Inspection Team for Promoting Eradication of Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence. (Prime Minister Ordinance No. 713, Mar. 30, 2018, Ministry of the Interior and Safety website (in Korean).) The Prime Minister can issue ordinances such as this one to set administrative rules in order to direct government agencies. (Korea Ministry of Government Legislation Agency, Choices of Administrative Rules § 2(b), (c), Korea Government Legislation Supporting Center website (in Korean).) The Ordinance came into effect on March 30, 2018, and will be in force until March 31, 2019. (Prime Minister Ordinance No. 713, add. 1–2.)

Under the Ordinance, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family (MOGEF) established the Comprehensive Government Inspection Team for Promoting Eradication of Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence (Inspection Team), which is composed of sixteen members dispatched from MOGEF, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Public Administration, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the Ministry of Employment and Labor, the Ministry of Personnel Management, the National Human Rights Commission, and the National Police Agency. (Press Release, MOGEF, Operating the Comprehensive Support System for the Eradication of Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence (Mar. 30, 2018) (in Korean).) The Vice Minister of MOGEF leads the Inspection Team as the chief executive. (Id.)

The “Me Too” movement has recently spread to South Korea, and victims of sexual harassment and sexual violation in the areas of public services, academia, and culture and the arts have gone public with their claims. (Press Release, MOGEF, Operating the Comprehensive Government Control Tower for the Eradication of Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence (Feb. 27, 2018) (in Korean).) In response, the government has decided to take special measures to eradicate sexual harassment and sexual violence within the society. (Id.) The special measures include (1) conducting special inspections and promoting reporting/consultations, (2) protection of victims and serious consequences for perpetrators, (3) preventive education, (4) strengthening punishments for sexual harassment or violations by public officials, (5) monitoring the implementation status of these measures, and (6) building up a cooperative system among the related agencies. (Id.) The Inspection Team was launched in order to facilitate the enforcement of these measures and strengthen the coordinative function of the government. (Id.)

According to the Ordinance, the Inspection Team is to supervise and support the special investigations on sexual harassment and sexual violence in each sector of the society. (Prime Minister Ordinance No. 713, art. 3(1).) In addition, the Inspection Team sets up and operates the reporting centers for sexual harassment and sexual violence. (Id. art. 3(2).) If any incidents are reported, the Inspection Team is to request the related institutions to implement follow-up measures, including protection of the victims. It also prepares measures for relapse prevention. (Id. art. 3(4).) The Inspection Team may request the cooperation of the other related ministries or organizations if necessary. (Id. art. 3(5).)

Sook-jin Lee, the chief executive of the Inspection Team stated, “[w]e will closely communicate with the related private organizations and supporting groups for sexual violence victims. Also, the team will inspect matters related to sexual harassment and sexual violence meticulously and provide support to implement the special measures against sexual harassment and sexual violence more efficiently. (Operating the Comprehensive Government Support System for the Eradication of Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence, MOGEF POLICY NEWS (Mar. 30, 2018) (in Korean, translation by author).)

Prepared by Jieun Chang, Law Library Intern, under the supervision of Sayuri Umeda, Foreign Law Specialist.