Ewha Voice interviewed You Jie-un, the very first female announcer to expose the deeply rooted gender discrimination in the recruitment of Daejeon Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC).
For decades, female candidates have only been granted positions at Daejeon MBC as freelancers, whereas male announcers have been hired as permanent employees. All along, these female announcers have worked equal hours for less money than their male colleagues but have had no job security.
“I filed a petition about this unfair treatment to the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRC) on June 18 last year,” You said. “Many people initially questioned my decision, ‘Why so suddenly? It’s not like you are fired. Why now?’”
You said it was not an easy decision to expose this issue in public.
“Many women that came before me must have been afraid to raise their voices regarding this issue because of the retaliation that would follow," You said. “Silence was kept in the room that way.”
Since she joined Daejeon MBC in 2014, she wondered if this was really an issue she should raise up. However, when she filed the petition, she was excommunicated from the programs she was involved in and her name was deleted from the company website. She lost access to the dressing room, and she was even told to just clean up seats and office equipment at work.
“If the issue I brought up was not a problem, they would not have tried to shut me down that way. Their reactions gave me confidence that I was right: there indeed was systemic discrimination against women in the hiring process,” You said.
Some claim that women are only hired as freelancers because they resign easily due to marriage and childbirth. However, You objects to this idea. She claims this is a phenomenon that only occurs in hiring female announcers in broadcasting companies because of the way society views women.
Women are easily objectified and pressured to look attractive and young. For instance, many middle-aged female anchors in Korea receive complaints from viewers that they are “too old” to be on TV. Therefore, broadcasting companies prefer young women they can easily fire as they age. In contrast, male announcers can work longer because there is less social expectation for them to always appear young and good-looking on TV.
“From then on, I held a solo demonstration in front of the company, had interviews with the media, and participated as a reference during the audit by the Ministry of Employment and Labor. Many civic groups were interested in this, so together we actively appealed to the human rights commission, held meetings with the president of Daejeon MBC and the NHRC, issued statements, held press conferences, and gathered online signatures.”
Above all, You shared that turning her stories into comics and card news and spreading these online played a huge role in the outcome of her campaign.
“Online platforms made it easier for more people to learn about the issue," You said.
“The support I received online kept my faith strong.”
As a result, Daejeon MBC decided to accept some of NHRC's recommendations, such as making efforts to prevent the recurrence of recruitment discrimination. Ultimately, You Ji-eun has turned into a full-time employee on Nov 9.
Lastly, You brought up the Frontiero v. Richardson 1973 case, in which the U.S. military providing fewer or no benefits to the families of female service members was declared unconstitutional. This event was a monumental step towards gender equality as women were finally considered equal to their male colleagues at work.
“In this case, late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg borrowed a quote from Sarah Grimké’s words in 1837, ‘I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks,’” You said.
You believes as Grimké’s words in 1837 resonated 136 years later in 1973, there will be more women like Ginsburg in Korea who will continue to work for gender equality for the future generation.
“Some claim that gender equality has already been achieved. That is not true,” You asserted. “There are still women who are suffering at work because of gender discrimination. We must educate ourselves and learn how much we achieved to come this far. So pay attention to recent events, watch the news, and be aware of what’s happening in the world that many fail to see.”