The 16 standing committees in the National Assembly are currently in the midst of administration inspection of 402 government agencies. As of September 19, women-related issues on the inspectors' agenda are as follows:
▲ Legislation and Judiciary Committee = On September 13, legislator Cho Sun Hyung (Millennium Democratic Party) criticized the Seoul District Court, saying that "some of the rulings on youth prostitution stem from failure to understand the purpose of legislating laws to protect the sexuality of youths." Cho pointed out, "These laws are meant to protect youths, who are still too young to make proper decisions. Whether money changed hands in return for sexual intercourse is a criteria applied to adults. Using the same criteria on youths in order to arrive at a 'not guilty' verdict is a typically chauvinistic ruling."
Legislator Cho Bae Sook (also MDP) commented during the September 14 session, "The Seoul District Prosecutors Office submitted to the Ministry of Justice in June a proposal to revise the laws protecting the sexuality of youths, so that youths who voluntarily and habitually get involved in prostitution to cover their own entertainment expenses can be punished by the law. This proposal, however, was withdrawn thanks to opposition from women groups and the Youth Protection Committee." Cho went on to reprimand the Seoul District prosecutors, saying, "Using such drastic measure as criminal punishment on youths who are in need of guidance and protection is tantamount to abandoning the state's duty to protect our youths."
Cho called on the legal system to include in its various education and training curriculum subjects on gender equality. She also said that the prosecutor office dedicated to women's affairs, the first of its kind to be installed in the Seoul District Prosecutors Office, should be established in the rest of the District Prosecutors Offices.
▲Environment and Labor Committee = Congressman Jeon Jae Hee (Grand National Party) had some sharp comments to make during the September 12 session on the Ministry of Labor regarding the policy to pay 100 thousand won to workers on childcare leave. Said Jeon, "The government has been widely publicizing the revision of maternity protection laws, promising monthly pay of 250 thousand won for workers on childcare leave. But now that the laws have been revised, the government is acting as if it has accomplished a great deal for the workers but decides on a meagre 100 thousand won for childcare leave-takers." Jeon delved further into this matter, saying, "The government overestimated the rate of application for childcare leave, and it also overestimated the cost of covering for maternity leave-takers by at least 25 billion won." Jeon also pointed out that the Ministry of Planning and Budget did not take into account the maternity protection costs for 2002, which amounts to some 80 billion won.
According to Jeon, the government is shirking its responsibility when it comes to maternity protection.
On the issue of irregular workers, Jeon called on the Ministry of Labor to "take a more proactive attitude in gaining similar status as regular workers for workers under special employment contracts such as visiting tutors, golf caddies and insurance salespersons, instead of just waiting for the Tripartite Committee of Labor, Management and Government to make a decision."
▲Health and Welfare Committee = Congresswoman Choi Young Hee (MDP) spoke up during the September 13 session on the National Health Insurance Corporation (NHIC). She pointed out, "The statistics given out by the NHIC in May proving that the number of Caesarean section births have dropped in 2000 is not credible, because it is the result of a sample survey carried out on large hospitals only." Choi went on to elaborate, "The NHIC announced that the rate of
Caesarean births dropped from 43.0% in 1999 to 38.6% in 2000, and that the 4.4% decrease saved the country 23 billion won in medical expenses. But the data provided by the Evaluation
Committee on Health Insurance showed that the rate of Caesarean births in 2000 was 44.2%, which is a mere 1.7% decrease." Choi demanded that the NHIC correct the statistics posted on its website, and called for more fundamental solutions to reduce needless Caesarean section deliveries and encourage natural deliveries.
Assemblyman Kim Hong Shin (GNP) took up the new and controversial issue of the 'morning after pill.' Kim said, "The American FDA's reply to our official inquiry was that 'the emergency contraceptive is not an abortion pill.' Catholic countries such as Italy and Portugal have approved the pill despite opposition from the Catholic Church, and France is distributing emergency contraceptives through the school nurse rooms in junior high schools and upwards." Kim added that "an online survey carried out on 1,442 college professors showed that 71% were for the sale of the morning after pill." Kim recommended "conditional permits to sell the emergency contraceptive, that is, categorizing it as a prescription drug and allowing its use following doctor's instructions."
▲Education Committee = During the September 13 session to inspect the Gyeonggi-do Education Agency, legislator Kim Jeong Sook (GNP) criticized the education system's lack of concern for female students, commenting that "out of the 513 co-educational schools in Gyeonggi-do, only 22 schools (4.3%) have female lounges and only 23 schools have sanitary napkin dispensers." Other statistics provided by Kim showed that only 12.7% of the schools had locker rooms for women teachers, and a paltry 0.6% had childcare facilities for married female teachers.
Assemblyman Kim Hwa Jung (MDP) commented on his findings during the September 13 session on Gyeonggi-do Education Agency and the September 14 session on Gangwon-do Education Agency. He said that despite the Ministry of Education's instructions in March to conduct 10 hours of sex education in schools to instill proper sexual awareness in schoolchildren, 398 schools out of 1,509 (26.4%) in Gyeonggi-do and 285 out of 639 (44.6%) in Gangwon-do failed to designate sex education teachers in their faculty.
▲National Policy Committee = Congressman Park Byung Seok (MDP) revealed during the September 11 session on the Youth Protection Committee that "during the year since the enactment of laws to protect the sexuality of youths, only 1,246 people, accounting for 44.26% of the 2,815 people caught, were actually detained." Park called for the expedient revision of relevant laws, pointing out that "continuous 'not guilty' verdicts based on technicalities such as the interpretation of lying (Article 10.4) and the act of paying for sexual favors (Article 5) are the result of legal loopholes."
Park also stressed that "according to resources provided by the Youth Protection Committee, on-line chatting is the channel for 76.5% of youth prostitution." Park suggested the creation of a cyber monitoring team under the Committee, as well as making it mandatory for on-line chatting sites to post warnings against youth prostitution in their opening pages.