Operation of Employment Equality Counseling Centers: Current Status and Suggestions for Improvement
Type Occasional Period 2019
Manager Nanjue Kim Date 2020-03-03
Fiie 7.(Occasion) Operation of Employment Equality Counseling Centers.pdf ( 759.29 KB )



Operation of Employment Equality Counseling Centers: Current Status and Suggestions for Improvement


Nanjue Kim

Seonyoung Park

Sunhaeng Lee


In accordance with the Equal Employment Opportunity and Work-Family Balance Assistance Act, Korea has regulations in place to prevent gender discrimination in employment, to ban sexual harassment in the workplace, to protect motherhood, and to ensure a work-family balance. The basic principle of the Act is that all disputes arising from employment relationships shall be autonomously settled within the business place. For autonomous settlement of grievances, the government supports “Employment Equality Counseling Centers (EECCs)” that are operated by private organizations such as women’s organizations and labor groups. EECCs aim to take full advantage of the counseling capacity of these private organizations, to swiftly find remedies for victims of gender discrimination in employment and victims of sexual harassment, and to prevent future conflicts by raising awareness of employment equality in their respective regions. Ten EECCs were established in 2000, followed by five more in 2001, and by 2017, a total of fifteen centers have been in operation. With the addition of six centers in 2018, there currently are twenty-one EECCs in Korea.


With several widely-publicized cases of gender discrimination in employment between 2017 and 2018, including the gender discriminatory hiring practices of financial corporations such as Kookmin Bank, Hana Bank and Shinhan Bank, and of public companies such as the Korea Gas Corporation and the sexual harassment scandal at the furniture manufacturer Hanssem, the functions and the roles of these counseling centers are growing more important, as they can provide remedies for victims through counseling services.


Despite the growing importance of EECC functions and their roles in the workplace, EECCs are disproportionately located across regions. Moreover, the current structure and the operation system of EECCs are inadequate for effectively responding to the need for counseling on labor issues that are growing evermore complex and diverse. The reality is that limited budgets, the lack of professional staff, the difficulties in publicizing EECCs and the insufficient coordination with Regional Employment and Labor Administrations are posing greater difficulties for EECCs in fulfilling their role of providing remedies to victims whose rights have been violated.


Currently, the number of counseling centers designated and operated as EECCs is limited to twenty-one nationwide. In addition, access to EECCs is also limited. Moreover, the annual budget allocated to EECCs has remained unchanged since 2017 without reflecting inflation rates, notwithstanding the significance of their functions and roles.


In today’s labor environment, which stresses the autonomous settlement and prevention of evermore complex and diverse disputes arising from gender discrimination in employment, EECCs are important organizations that communicate to female workers the government’s determination to eliminate gender discrimination in employment. This study was conducted to review how EECCs are currently being operated and to suggest improvements for providing a more practical assistance to the victims of gender discrimination and sexual violence.


To that end, the author first reviewed the operation status of EECCs by focusing on the legal grounds for their installation as well as their budgets and the current status of EECC counseling services. Second, suggestions for the improvement of EECCs were made by studying the main tasks, functions and operation status of counseling centers for victims of sexual violence by noting that their operation schemes and functions are similar to those of EECCs in that first, they were installed by the government to assist victims; second, they fulfill functions ranging from providing counseling service to victims to providing remedies for the violation of their rights; and third, the government determines assistance by evaluating cases based on an established evaluation system. Third, a focus group interview involving those working at EECCs was conducted for the purpose of reviewing EECCs’ achievements and direction for future improvement, and the results were analyzed. Last, based on the study results, the author suggested ideas for improvement as well as legislative tasks for expanding the roles of and promoting EECCs.


Suggestions for improving EECCs include the following: strengthening the stability of counseling services; improving evaluation systems; enhancing the stable and autonomous operation of EECCs; capacity-building of the workers at EECCs; publishing a white paper for publicizing EECCs’ achievements and for gathering feedback; improving and supporting the government’s communication with EECCs; and expanding the functions and the number of EECCs.


Revision of the Equal Employment Opportunity and Work-Family Balance Assistance Act was suggested to ensure the stable operation of EECCs for the objective of expanding the functions of EECCs in areas from preventing discrimination as set forth in the Act, offering counseling, preventing sexual abuses in the workplace and providing remedies for violation of victims’ rights to providing consulting services to business places and refining the EECC designation criteria and evaluation system. There is a need to amend the regulations governing EECCs as set forth in the Equal Employment Opportunity and Work-Family Balance Assistance Act, including Article 23 on assisting counseling services and Article 15 on designating private organizations.