Lawmaker Yoo Seung Min, who is expected to run for president, recently gave his opinion about the Ministry of the Gender Equality and Family (MOGEF). He said that the MOGEF should be abolished and that its policies should be implemented by other ministries. Along with Yoo, the People’s Party also maintained that the MOGEF is unnecessary. The issue of the MOGEF is brought up almost every presidential election, but 2017 seems to be the year of definite change.
Reformation is not good news for public servants in Korea. It is bitter, but it is the reality. There would not be any saying more suitable than “You are half successful when you don’t do anything,” to describe the work ethic of government officials. There is nothing to be blamed for when there is nothing done.
However, when the call for change is imminent, risks should be taken. Two criteria for change are “Is this change necessary?” and “Is this the right time?” The graveness of the situation should be more significant than the risk that the change may entail. Even if the seriousness and necessity of the change are recognized, the timing should be considered. Regarding the case of the MOGEF, it is safe to say that the conditions for restructuring have been met.
The MOGEF dates back to 2001. Since then, the government has gone back and forth regarding the ministry’s mission, including and excluding family matters as its purview in addition to women’s rights. Currently, just as its name suggests, the ministry handles family matters as well as gender inequality issues. But why should it be in charge of family matters when such an approach only approves and strengthens the gender prejudice that women are the ones that should take care of the family?
Furthermore, that many of the policies and solutions the MOGEF implements overlaps with other ministries’ policies is inefficient. The MOGEF’s most notable policies, such as improving women’s workplace environments or providing accessible help for adolescents are also managed by the ministries of Employment and Labor and Health and Welfare. This only results in superficial and unsuccessful solutions. Considering the fact that MOGEF budget is very limited compared to other ministries in the first place, concentrating the resources of MOGEF to other ministries would be more efficient and effective.
The MOGEF’s policies and decisions are notorious for being one-sided and unthoughtful. Its shut down policy, which forcefully bans teenagers from playing games at night by mandating the game program to shut down automatically after 10 P.M., is an example of the MOGEF’s unpopular policies. As calls for end of the MOGEF grow, the ministry is promoting statistics and surveys that illustrate the improvements in gender equality and women’s happiness that have been made. But even though progress is being made, the ministry should be dismantled due to its conflicted mission.
With Korea aging rapidly and misogyny on the rise, gender issues and family policies will be very important tasks for the next administration. The MOGEF did not and will not serve as the appropriate solution to these pressing issues. Letting MOGEF exist in its current state will only lead to ineffective governance as in-depth understanding of many gender inequality and family issues is impossible on its own. Reforms are necessary. Denying the demand of the society will be a costly price to pay, and now is time for a change.