Of “Females and Minors”: A Gendered Analysis of the Republic of Korea’s Labor Standards Act and Reforming Labor Market Dualism

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From the time of its enactment until today, the Republic of Korea’s Labor Standards Act (LSA), which outlines the minimum standards governing full-time employment relationships, has been plagued by controversy due to its statutory ambiguity, structural deficiencies and the social inequities the legislation creates.  Criticism of the LSA has, thus far, mainly focused on its economic inefficiencies, leaving its role in amplifying the problem of Korean labor market dual- ism by gender largely ignored.  In particular, the historical adherence to Confucian values coupled with the LSA’s text has created a truly contradictory piece of legislation that purportedly protects women, but in practice only augments gender imbalances through the differential production of workers based on sex through its essentialist, paternalistic and discriminatory provisions.  This Note traces the evolution of the LSA and its current effects on the Korean working population though a gendered lens and suggests directions for legal reform that may deinstitutionalize gender differentials in employment.