President Yoon Suk-yeol meets with outgoing leaders of the National Assembly at his office in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
President Yoon Suk-yeol said Tuesday he would try to create “bold opportunities” for women when appointing public officials, amid growing criticism over a lack of women serving in his government.
“I will work hard to give bold opportunities to women when it comes to public personnel appointments,” Yoon was quoted as saying during a meeting with outgoing leaders of the National Assembly at his office in Seoul, according to presidential spokesperson Kang In-sun.
The remarks came after National Assembly Deputy Speaker Kim Sang-hee told Yoon that the gender conflict during the presidential election cycle was “regretful.” Kim is the first woman to hold the position.
The president also said he “sobered up” when he was told by staff that a woman candidate may not have been given full credit because of her gender during the recent appointment process of a public official. He also acknowledged that being new to politics, his vision had been “narrow.”
Yoon has faced criticism in recent weeks for a lack of his male-dominated appointments at both the minister and vice minister levels.
Only three ministers are women out of the 19 Cabinet members, including the prime minister.
As a presidential candidate, Yoon pledged to abolish the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. He also denied any structural gender discrimination in Korea, drawing criticism from progressives and feminists.
During a joint press conference with US President Joe Biden on Saturday, Yoon was asked how he would help advance women and improve gender equality.
“Probably in various regions, equal. Opportunities were not fully ensured for women, and we have actually a quite short history of ensuring that,” he said in response.
When asked about Yoon’s stance on structural gender discrimination during a media briefing on Sunday, however, presidential office staff said his stance has not changed, according to local media.
Following his comments, Park Ji-hyun, a co-chair of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea‘s interim leadership committee, urged Yoon to withdraw his promise to abolish the Gender Ministry.
“Please apologize for saying structural gender discrimination doesn’t exist and withdraw your promise to abolish the Gender Equality Ministry,” Park said in a Facebook post Monday.
By Yim Hyun-su (firstname.lastname@example.org