Women in South Korean Politics: A Long Road to Equality

Heike Hermanns


Abstract

This paper examines the reasons for the increase in female representation in South Korean politics in the early 21st century. It is not a direct outcome of Korea’s democratisation process but a result of attitudinal change as well as the efforts of women’s organisations. The Korean experience shows that female representation in parliaments is not the only way to influence politics and policies on women’s issues. This paper starts with a general discussion of democratic procedures that influence female representation before looking at their application in South Korea. Coinciding with procedural changes, societal transformation paved the way for the advancement of women in the public sphere. Women’s organisations play an important role in promoting gender equality and women’s policies, especially since the late 1990s after they started to engage with the state. Their efforts included the introduction of quotas that allowed more women to enter formal elective politics, more than doubling the number of successful women in the 2004 parliamentary elections. Further steps are needed, however, to ensure sustainable and irreversible progress.

Keywords

South Korea, female representation, women’s organisations, women’s policy

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