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Supreme Court of South Korea Found Earlier Retirement Age for Women Discriminatory

      Ms. Chung Yeong-im, who had been employed by an association in South Korea, was forced to retire in December 2001 at the age of forty because of the mandatory retirement system in accordance with the work grades. Since then, she had sought for remedies for this unfair dismissal at the local and central labour commissions as well as at the administrative court, arguing that this was a manifest of sex discrimination, but in vain. She thus took action against the Central Labour Commission at the High Court in August 2004, requesting that the original decisions be declared null and void. On 12 January 2006, the High Court found that there had been sex discrimination in terms of promotion and mandatory retirement on the part of the employer and that the dismissal had been illegal. On 28 July 2006, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal by the Central Labour Commission and the final decision was made in favor of Ms. Chung.
      Ms. Chung was recruited as a clerical worker by the association in 1985, starting at the sixth grade. The association later established a new category of female employees, "long-term part-timers", and Ms. Chung served in the category for ten years. Fifteen years after the recruitment, she was promoted to the fifth grade in June 2000. Since employees at lower grades must retire at earlier ages, she was forced into retirement at the age of forty in December 2001. According to the evidence, men with the same qualifications started to work in the association at the fifth grade and had been promoted to higher grades in a shorter period (a few years).
      Womenlink, a private organization working for the promotion of women's human rights, welcomes the Supreme Court judgment, stating that it acknowledged indirect discrimination. It is critical, however, that the Supreme Court did not recognize sex discrimination at recruitment in 1985 (lower work grades for female employees). It is nothing but a form of sex discrimination, argues the organization, that the association had recruited male and female workers at different grades, considering that females are fit for typing, accounting and other assistant work (sixth grade) and that males are fit for public relations (fifth grade).

· The decision in favor of Ms. Chung by the High Court (The Hankyoreh, 26 January 2006, Korean)
· Womenlink's comment welcoming the Supreme Court judgment