Gender Discrimination in Employment Interviews
East Asia and Human Rights Researcher
Global Human Rights Defence
On the 11th of January, 2023, the South Korean National Human Rights Commission presented its recommendations on a case presented to it on gender-based discrimination in the hiring process (Baek, 2023). The case was brought by Applicant A, who was a finalist being interviewed at a Credit Union Federation (Baek, 2023). The interviewer spoke discriminatory and unprofessional remarks about her appearance, including asking her for her weight and height, and also forcing her to sing and dance for them (Baek, 2023). The interviewers insisted that the questions were not asked with the intention of discriminating against the woman, but in order to relax the mood, and out of curiosity (Baek, 2023).
However, the Human Rights Commission judged that if there is a possibility of discriminatory results regardless of the intention of the interviewer, it constitutes a discriminatory act (Baek, 2023). It was thus recommended to the head of the Credit Union Federation to establish measures to prevent reoccurence, such as supplementing recruitment guidelines (Baek, 2023). The Human Rights Commission argued that the interviewers’ questions were “actions stemming from a sexist culture, custom, or perception” (Baek, 2023). The fact that the interviewer spent a considerable amount of time on questions related to appearance, singing, and dancing rather than questions about job duties was questioned (Baek, 2023). Furthermore, in considering the hierarchical relationship between the interviewer and the interviewer, the Commission pointed out that “the interviewer has to consider the possibility of disadvantaging the interviewee if their request is rejected” (Baek, 2023).
Article 7 of the South Korean Equal Employment Opportunity Act stipulates that when recruiting and hiring female workers, physical conditions such as appearance, height, and weight (that are not necessary for job performance), marriage status, and other conditions prescribed by the Ordinance of the Ministry of Employment and Labor shall not be presented or demanded (Baek, 2023). The Human Rights Violation Act also sees the act of excluding or discriminating a specific person from employment on the grounds of gender as a 'discriminatory act in violation of equal rights' (Baek, 2023). In international human rights law, discrimination is a violation of Article 2 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which South Korea ratified in 1990 (Ratification Status by Country). Thus, this act is a violation of human rights law, both domestically and internationally.
In moving forward, the credit union federation has stated that they, "will promote the revision of the regulations to include outsiders in the interviewers and include interviewer-related training in the mandatory training for employees" (Baek, 2023).
Sources and further reading:
Baek S, “인권위, 면접자에 춤 춰봐 요구한 신협에 인권교육 권고” (아주경제January 12, 2023) <https://www.ajunews.com/view/20230112091911308> accessed January 13, 2023.
“Ratification Status by Country” (United Nations Human Rights Treaty Body Database) <https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/TreatyBodyExternal/Treaty.aspx?CountryID=141&Lang=EN> accessed January 13, 2023.