The Department of Office Management is itself, one measure of this change. Founded in 1967, it emerged due to the increasing demand for professional secretaries at that time, and it is still adjusting to the demands of society today. For example, the department changed its official English name to International Office Management in 2000 and now strives to provide administrative expertise on an international level.
Another institution reflecting the growing number of professionals is the Korea Association of Administrative Professionals (KAAP), which was founded in 1982 with a vision to enhance the quality of secretaries. Choi Baang-won (human resource administrator at KAAP) says, "In the beginning, mainly secretaries in foreign firms joined the association. They were more actively involved than women in Korean firms, whose jobs were simpler. However, with increasing participation by members from Korean firms, KAAP was acknowledged as a nonprofit organization in February 2000.
After 25 years of administrative experience, Choi has lived the transitions. "The word 'Administrative Professional' rather than 'Secretary' better describes the role of the job now, says Choi.
In the field of gender equality, though, growth has been slow. Only about two men have officially applied out of a total of 800 members. However, Park Shin-young, Vice President of ADream Secretary Edu Center, says, "Hair dressers and chefs all used to be women; now men make up a large amount of the workforce. I like to think secretarial work is like that too. It requires a large amount of thought and some parts of the job are actually more suited to men. Perhaps it's because secretaries deal with a lot of human contact that women tend to do it; they are usually a little softer."
Secretaries used to be thought of as the firm's 'flower.' However, now their work is subdividing into specialized roles.
"What's really changed is not so much the recognition of this job, but the recognition of women in our society. Women have been given the same opportunity in education for a start, and this has triggered further professionalism in their careers. The prototype for secretarial work is not pure image value anymore. As a swan has to peddle vigorously under water to look graceful above it so women must also work hard on their professional skills," says Park.