8 out of 10 S. Korean workers experience sexual harassment, most don’t report it

Posted on : 2016-04-06 16:41 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Younger workers, women and people in unstable jobs are the most vulnerable to harassment, study finds
An image from a government anti-sexual harassment educational video
An image from a government anti-sexual harassment educational video

Ms. Kim worked at a small company with 20 employees. In 2014, she suffered sexual harassment by an executive surnamed Nam who was trying to encourage participation in a game during a company workshop. Nam groped Kim’s wrist, sides, and other parts of her body. He had previously engaged in seeming acts of harassment on a routine basis, and Kim reported him to the police.

But it was Kim who ended up having to leave the company. After she refused the company president’s request for her to “settle quietly” with Nam, the president put out an advertisement for her duties and cleared away her desk and office furnishings.

Eight out of ten working people in South Korea have experienced sexual harassment, but chosen to simply tolerate it and not take any action in response, a recent study shows. In many cases, the reason had to do with men’s failure to recognize sexual harassment cases as something that requires a response - which leads many women to believe the problems will go unresolved even if they are reported.

How victims of sexual harassment handled the incident afterward. Data: Ministry of Gender Equality and Family survey of South Korea‘s sexual harassment situation in 2015
How victims of sexual harassment handled the incident afterward. Data: Ministry of Gender Equality and Family survey of South Korea‘s sexual harassment situation in 2015

These findings were among those reported on Apr. 5 by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family from a survey of South Korea‘s sexual harassment situation in 2015. It was the first-ever government-level survey of its kind, with respondents surveyed from 400 public institutions and 1,200 private businesses between April and December of last year. A total of 7,844 public and private employees and 1,615 officers involved in sexual harassment-related duties participated.

The findings showed 6.4% of respondents - 1.8% of males and 9.6% of females - having experienced sexual harassment at their current workplace. Respondents in their twenties were the most frequently victimized at 7.7%, while irregular workers reported more cases than regular workers by an 8.4% to 6.4% margin. The government survey confirmed the prevailing belief that individuals are more likely to be victimized when they are female, younger, and employed in more vulnerable irregular positions.

The most frequently cited forms of harassment included “sexualized analogies and appraisals of physical appearance” (3.9%), “obscene talk and sexual jokes” (3%), and “being forced to pour drinks or sit next to people at company dinners” (2.5%).

Female respondents cited company dinners as the most frequent setting for sexual harassment (44.6%), while males cited the workplace (42.9%).

Respondents rarely took active measures in response to harassment. 392 of the 500 people reported experiences, or 78.4%, said they “put up with it.” Less than 1% of cases resulted in official action within the company (0.6%) or handling through an outside agency (0.3%). Victims personally asked for an apology by the perpetrator in just 6.8% of cases.

Reasons for “grinning and bearing it” differed between genders. Among male respondents, 72.1% said they “did not think it was a serious problem.” Among female respondents, 50.6% said the problem “appeared unlikely to be resolved if the matter was raised.”

A survey of officials in charge of sexual harassment-related duties indicated that as many as one in five cases of sexual harassment result in the victim leaving the workplace. The results showed 35.3% of perpetrators leaving after harassment cases and 20.9% of victims quitting after being harassed.

By Hwangbo Yon, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

 

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