Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape. Although there is no specific statute that defines spousal rape as illegal, the courts have established a precedent by convicting spouses in such cases. The penalty for rape is at least three years in prison; if a weapon is used or two or more persons commit the rape, punishment ranges from a minimum of five years’ imprisonment to life. If the perpetrator is a relative of the victim, the minimum prison sentence for rape or sexual assault without a weapon increases from three years to five; if a weapon was used or with two or more persons committed the crime, the minimum penalty increases from five years to seven.
During the first half of the year, the Ministry of Justice stated that there were 4,590 reports of rape and 10,471 total reports of sexual violence, including rape. There were 21,912 cases of sexual violence reported in 2011, with 20,189 offenders arrested. Of those, authorities held 2,614 in custody.
The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family stated it operated 31 centers for victims of sexual violence that supported 20,746 individuals through November, with 148,954 instances of counseling, medical aid, case investigations, and legal assistance.
The law defines domestic violence as a serious crime and enables authorities to order offenders to stay away from victims for up to six months. This order may be extended up to two years. Offenders may be sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison and fined up to seven million won (approximately $6,600) for domestic violence offenses. Noncompliance with domestic violence restraining orders may result in a maximum sentence of two years in prison and a fine of up to 20 million won ($18,800). Authorities may also place offenders on probation or order them to see court-designated counselors. The law requires police to respond immediately to reports of domestic violence, and they were for the most part responsive.
When there is a danger of domestic violence recurring and an immediate need for protection, the act allows a provisional order to be issued ex officio or at the request of the victim. This order may restrict the defendant from living in the same home or approaching within 109 yards of the victim and includes contacting the victim through telecommunication devices. According to the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, there were 6,848 cases of domestic violence reported in 2011, compared with 7,359 in 2010. The Ministry of Justice reported 2,773 cases filed with it during the year, compared with 2,511 in 2011, and authorities issued indictments in 454 cases. There were no statistics available on case outcomes, convictions, or sentences.
Sexual Harassment: The law obligates companies and organizations to take preventive measures against sexual harassment, and the government enforced the law effectively. Business owners are subject to a penalty of up to 10 million won (approximately $9,400) for an incident of sexual harassment in the workplace, but there is no specific criminal punishment.
Civil remedies are generally available for sexual harassment claims, and education about sexual harassment was made widely available nationwide. At public institutions, administrative remedies are also available. The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family reported 219 cases of sexual harassment in 2011.
Reproductive Rights: The law allows couples and individuals to decide freely the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination and coercion. Contraception and maternal health services--including skilled attendance during childbirth, prenatal care, and essential obstetric and postpartum care--were widely accessible and available.
Discrimination: Women enjoy the same legal rights under the constitution as men. The law permits a woman to head a household, recognizes a wife’s right to a portion of a couple’s property, and allows a woman to maintain contact with her children after a divorce. The law also allows a remarried woman to change the family name of her children to her new husband’s name.
The law provides a fine of up to five million won (approximately $4,700) for companies found guilty of practicing sexual discrimination against women in hiring and promotions. Through September the NHRC received 11 cases of alleged sexual discrimination.
The Ministry of Employment and Labor reported that the female workforce participation rate between the ages of 15 and 64 was 55.3 percent as of September 2012, up 0.8 percent from September 2010. Overall, women held slightly fewer than 42 percent of all jobs in the country as of July. The number of women in entry-level civil service positions and new diplomatic positions continued to increase.
Nationwide, there were 100 “New Work for Women Centers” that provided employment support and vocational training for women. The ministry also maintained an affirmative action program for public institutions with 50 or more employees and private institutions with 500 or more employees. The program requires these institutions to comply with a hiring plan devised by the ministry if they do not maintain a female workforce greater or equal to 60 percent of the average of relevant occupations. When the Public Procurement Service evaluates submitted bids, it gives weight to those businesses with effective affirmative action measures.
Women continued to experience a pay gap, since a higher percentage of working women tended to fill lower-paying, low-skilled, contract jobs. For example, an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development report described the pay gap as 39 percent in 2010 and little changed over the preceding decade. A May 25 newspaper analysis reported that women in the banking industry earned on average 57 percent of the earnings of men and 88 large companies paid women 61 percent of the pay of men on average. The analysis also noted that the women surveyed worked an average of 7.7 years, while the men worked an average of 12 years.
In addition, women held less than 1.5 percent of the boards of directors’ seats of the country’s 100 biggest companies (11 of 801 seats), according to official data from the Financial Supervisory Service and Statistics Korea released in August. Moreover, only 10 percent of Korean managers were women, and an online corporate management survey during the year of the top 1,000 South Korean companies by revenue found that a female chief executive officer led only eight firms and that most of the eight were family members of the company’s owner, according to media reports.