Half of Female Health Worker's Complain of Sexual Harassment

Michael Song, Jan. 19, 2016, 7:38 a.m.

A recent study by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea found that more than 50 percent of female health care workers who have filed complaints with the agency from 2001-2015 were about being sexually harassed at work. 

The NHRCK researched a total of 59 human rights abuse cases suffered by the nation’s female health care workers -- including physicians and nurses -- that were reported to the commission in the last 15 years. 

Among them, the largest proportion, 54.2 percent, were sexual harassment cases at the workplace. Meanwhile, 35.6 percent of the complaints were about being discriminated at work for being pregnant. Also, 5.1 percent experienced physical or emotional bullying at work.

The report found that the majority of those who have been sexually harassed at work were nursing assistants, referring to those who obtained a yearlong certification program offered in non-university institutions. In the local medical field, there is a defined hierarchy among physicians, registered nurses and nursing assistants, whose pay rate, responsibilities and duties vary.

Compared to registered nurses, who attended four-year university degree programs and whose responsibilities include providing doctor-ordered treatments, nursing assistants usually have a lower pay with their primary duties consisting of cleaning and bathing patients as well as administrative tasks. 

The report pointed out that such a hierarchy was one of the reasons behind the high number of sexual harassment victims among nursing assistants. The highest proportion of perpetrators were male patients (73.7 percent), and the second-highest proportion (13.8 percent) were doctors and owners of the medical institutions where the nursing assistants were employed.

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