Cultural diplomacy takes up an important part in the general relationship between nations. In terms of the United Kingdom (UK) and Korea, they share similar achievements in the cultural and social section, which is the gender equality and protection of women’s rights. With this in mind, there remain a few stark differences in policy that have the potential to raise conflict between the two countries. One such difference is the protection of women’s rights, wherein Korea lacks the necessary policies. On the other hand, the UK has recently introduced its “International Women and Girls Strategy 2023 to 2030”. Considering the low rate of gender equality in both Korea and the UK, the new strategy that the UK suggested seems to be intent on improving women’s rights. Due to the UK’s progressing perspectives about women, they also seem to be leading cultural diplomacy with Korea. Reading the UK’s Women and Girls Strategy from 2023 to 2030, I was able to identify three prominent issues that Korea is not properly handling, which were intergenerational trauma, violence, and the economic pay gap.
One of the key diplomatic goals that could be considered equitable is to conquer the intergenerational impact on the nation that is related to gender roles. In Korea, Confucianism has impacted the majority of the older generation. However, the trauma that survivors experience is passed on from one generation to the next. This is arguably disturbing Korea’s cultural development, as well as affecting economic, political, and social factors. The trauma that survivors pass on from one generation to the next, gives disadvantages to future generations. This can include economic burdens, such as debt or financial instability, or social burdens, such as inherited discrimination or inequality. These burdens can create significant challenges for future generations, limiting their opportunities and well-being. This also has a critical impact on cultural diplomacy, since intergenerational impact can also result in the loss or dilution of cultural heritage and traditions. The continuation of the toxic culture in Korea should be altered as the generation changes, with the trend of the world’s evolution toward women’s rights. In order further develop the nation in a way that is gender equality and rights for all gender protected, the trite and outdated idea of gender roles has to change the under the direction of the government.
Violence is another critical problem that exists for women’s rights in any area and nation. According to the research, women who experience violence, whether it’s physical, sexual, or emotional, suffer significant psychological consequences. This can include physical injuries, trauma, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and even death. The impact of violence can have long-lasting effects on a woman’s well-being and quality of life. In terms of Korea in specific, domestic violence and intimate partner violence are prevalent issues. Korean women may experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse within their intimate relationships. This form of violence can have severe consequences for the well-being and safety of women. Moreover, with the evolution of internet service, women in South Korea also experience online harassment and cyberbullying, which can include threats, defamation, stalking, and invasion of privacy like in any other country nowadays. The anonymity of the internet can exacerbate the frequency and intensity of such attacks, leading to emotional distress and psychological harm. Regardless of gender, violence against women is a violation of their fundamental human rights, including the rights to life, liberty, security, and dignity. Every woman has the right to live free from violence and discrimination. When violence occurs, it undermines these rights and perpetuates gender inequality. Addressing women’s violence requires a comprehensive and multi-faceted approach that involves challenging societal norms, promoting gender equality, supporting survivors, strengthening legal frameworks, and fostering awareness and education. It is crucial to work towards a society where all women can live free from violence and discrimination.
In Korea, the government recognises problems related to gender inequality. Most significantly, there is a persistent gender wage gap in South Korea, with women earning significantly less than men. The wage gap is influenced by various factors, including occupational segregation, limited career advancement opportunities for women, and biases in hiring and promotion practices. Furthermore, women in Korea often face significant challenges in advancing their careers due to discriminatory practices and biases. The “glass ceiling” effect refers to invisible barriers that prevent women from reaching top positions in organizations. Discrimination, unequal access to opportunities, and societal expectations around caregiving responsibilities can hinder women’s professional growth and advancement.
Similarly, women in Korea are underrepresented in leadership positions in both the public and private sectors. This underrepresentation perpetuates gender inequalities and hampers the ability of women to influence decision-making processes and shape policies that affect their lives. Women may face challenges in supporting themselves financially, achieving financial independence, or contributing equally to household expenses. It can also perpetuate traditional gender roles, where women are expected to take on a greater share of caregiving responsibilities due to lower earnings, which further reinforces gender inequalities. Therefore, balance the payment in a fair and equal way by introducing new, specifically detailed laws for calculating one’s salary – salary in companies can be checked by government employees.
Although problems exist for both UK and Korea, there are solutions that can be negotiated and implemented through effective diplomacy. Unequal pay based on gender can have social and familial implications. Nations have to introduce new campaigns or recruit new members to the Ministry of Equality and Family, in order to prevent the survival of the ministry. This ministry mainly aims to take charge of affairs concerning the planning and comprehensive of women’s policies, and the improvement of status, such as the promotion of women’s rights and interests, and youth and families (including children’s affairs for multicultural families and healthy family projects). Counseling and protecting wives and children of domestic violence families, shelter, counseling, and medical expenses for victims of sexual violence, support for group treatment, and sex education in elementary, middle, and high schools, and support for runaway youth protection/education centers and social adaptation are the main tasks that Ministry of Equality and Family in Korea is responsible for.
Reinforce the punishment for the sexual abuse or violence done to women within the nation is also fundamental. Here, the UK’s women’s strategy takes a critical role. The attitude the government should take will mainly focus on standing up and speaking out for women’s and girls’ rights and freedoms on the global stage and in bilateral relationships, as mentioned in the strategy itself. The diverse organisations related to human, and women’s rights would be taking more responsibility for these goals in specific. The intergenerational impact as mentioned previously would need to be resolved under the direction of the government. Most importantly, education for children about violence and women’s rights is essential. Considering some actual examples of violence against women that weren’t punished properly, this matter should be seriously dealt with in a much more serious way than it is now, as it isn’t only a national issue, but an international problem. As for the economic problem, balance the payment in a fair and equal way by introducing new, specifically detailed laws for calculating one’s salary – salary in companies can be checked by government employees. In general, bringing up the seriousness of the imbalance in payment depending on gender is the most essential point.
In this developing international society, gender inequality is one of the most serious problems. As the UK’s new policy for Women’s and Girls’ Strategy 2023 to 2030 was officially introduced, I believe this would be the key to Korea and UK’s cultural diplomacy, since they share similar issues – gender inequality and lack of women’s rights protection. I am confident that the resolution of this problem will improve the relationship between Korea and UK, because humanity develops from solving problems together and cooperating with each other, regardless of gender, religion, social status, and race.
Hwayoung (Sophia) Lee
Chair of Political Studies and Activism Society