SEOUL, Dec. 29 (Korea Bizwire) – Despite the government’s drive to boost declining birth rates, routine violations of women’s rights in the workplace continue to take place in South Korea.
A series of reports showing employers interfering with female workers’ personal affairs – including pregnancy and marriage – has sent shockwaves across the country this year.
Earlier this week, it was learned a number of female workers at MG Community Credit Cooperatives were forced to signed an unofficial contract stating they agreed to quit when they got married.
“When I joined the company, I was told to submit a memorandum acknowledging that I would resign when I got married. Once I informed the company of my wedding plans, the chief director gave me a resignation date,” a female worker who worked for the cooperative said.
The worker’s resignation reportedly led fellow female workers at the same branch in Gumi in North Gyeongsang Province to follow suit, after feeling pressured by management.
The director embroiled in the scandal denies the allegations, despite similar misconducts having been discovered in the past.
Against this backdrop, MG Community Credit Cooperatives has launched an investigation into the location in question.
Nurses are often the target of unethical and sexist employee misconduct in the workplace also.
At the center of current controversy is Daegu Catholic University Medical Center, after claims that nurses have been effectively ‘punished’ for becoming pregnant.
“The hospital has been making pregnant nurses sign an agreement and forcing them to work late-night shifts,” the labor union at Daegu Catholic University Medical Center said on Thursday.
Hospital officials deny the allegations, and claim some nurses who were pregnant in the last three years chose to work at night of their own volition.
However, the union claims nurses were even told to provide false statements to cover up the hospital’s human rights violations, with some workers working up until their last month of pregnancy.
“Though the hospital continues to claim it was a voluntary decision, being given a consent form during a private meeting leaves workers with no other choice. It’s coercion,” the union said, while pledging to more actively address the issue of pregnant nurses working night shifts.
While many South Korean female workers find their employment status has been left vulnerable after their pregnancy is revealed to their boss, others are having to put up with what is widely known as a ‘rotating pregnancy system’, an order in which female workers can get pregnant so as to avoid disrupting work.
In October, a kindergarten in Seoul found itself in hot water after reports that multiple female teachers had been told not to get pregnant in the same period, with the reason being ‘to avoid interfering with class schedules’.
The controversial workplace conduct faced criticism from the Seoul government’s human rights watchdog, with the committee slamming the kindergarten director in question over what it branded a ‘breach of human rights’, namely reproductive rights, against female workers.
When the director found out in June that two teachers were pregnant, another female teacher was told not to get pregnant as the school couldn’t afford to hire three substitute teachers.
The director of the kindergarten was accused of having said, “Whoever gets married first should have a baby first and the other can have a child later.”
Following the shocking reports, the Seoul Metropolitan Government considering punitive measures against the kindergarten.
Earlier this year, lawmaker Yang Seung-jo raised the issue of the rotating pregnancy system among nurses, prompting calls on the government to ensure women’s rights in the workplace.
Hyunsu Yim (firstname.lastname@example.org)