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Sexual Harassment Cases Increase Sharply Last Yr

By Yoo Dong-ho yoodh@koreatimes.co.kr, The Korea Times, 16 January 2003

Cases related to sexual harassment in the workplace rose sharply last year, research findings released by the Labor Ministry showed yesterday.

The ministry received a total of 72 sexual harassment-related cases last year, up 50 percent from the 48 cases in the previous year. Twenty-one of these cases were class action suits.

The number of sexual harassment-related cases reported to the ministry has experienced explosive annual growth since the equal employment act was adopted in February in 1999, said Kim Hyoung-kwang, an official at the ministry’s equal employment bureau.

Out of 92 cases reported, direct and physical sexual harassment cases accounted for 75, or 81.5 percent, of the cases, followed by six cases of absence of awareness education and four cases of unfair treatment against the victims of sexual harassment.

Among the 75 cases of physical sexual harassment, 25 percent or 19 cases were accepted by the courts while 75 percent or 56 cases were not. All of the 19 cases of sexual harassment were reported as occurring at the workplace either in a verbal or physical manner. Also, most incidents took place during working hours, according to a senior Women Employment Division official.

All of the 20 alleged offenders are reported being male and higher than the complainant in workplace hierarchy, with 13 of the alleged offenders in their 30s and 40s. Women in their 20s make up the largest group of complainants, with 59 percent of the total 27 complainants.

A total of 15 alleged sexual harassment offenders, excepting those who have resigned from their workplace, have faced punishment so far.

Thirteen small-scale workplaces with less than 100 employees have been analyzed as blind spots for sexual violence, representing 81 percent out of 16 workplaces related to the cases reported last year. By industry type, 10 sexual harassment-related cases occurred in manufacturing and service areas.

Meanwhile, the Labor Ministry plans to strengthen the level of its walk-around inspections and promote awareness-raising campaign to prevent any type of sexual harassment in the workplace.

We’ll push ahead with our efforts to fully cooperate with local administrative organizations and civic groups so that they can act as counselors for potential victims of sexual harassment and unfair treatment, a Labor Ministry official said.