|▲ Governor Woo Keun Min expresses his support for the Forum -- and also for Jeju Weekly. Photo provided by Jeju Special Self-Governing Province.
How to raise the status of women in Jeju society?
That and many other such questions and concerns were raised in a seminar at which 28 women leaders were gathered on Friday night, May 13.
A new “think-tank” for women's issues is forming in Jeju, and while there are many committees and organizations focused on women, the Jeju Women Governance Forum will be unlike any other.
Three aspects make this venture unique: structure, composition, and purpose.
The forum, identified as such to distinguish it from committees and other similar groups, is to be situated within the Provincial Government and will work closely with the Division of Women and Family. However, unlike all other government committees, the forum is not directly affiliated within any one division but stands alone. Further, it will have its own budget, staff, and office space. The forum will contain a variety of committees under its umbrella.
Its composition is also unique and broad-reaching.
The planning committee, still in formation but having met twice, thus far consists of 28 women who are appointed by the governor and equally distributed among five professional categories: women's organizations (primarily at a national level), academia, management / finance, media / culture, and health / welfare.
These women range in age from 36 to 66, with a median age of 53. One-third are from Seoul, another third are transplants from the mainland to Jeju, and the final third are Jeju natives. Two foreigners are also on the committee: one from China, and this writer, from the US.
Im Ae Duk has been appointed General Secretary of this forum, while Ryu Hyun Soon, a commentator for KBS in Seoul, chairs its meetings.
|▲ Forum Panelists (left to right): Moon Sook Kyung, director of KIGEPE; Kim Jung Sook, president of Korea National Council of Women; Ryu Hyeon Sun, KBS Commentator and Forum Chair; Im Ae Duk, professor and Forum General Secretary; Anne Hilty, cultural health psychologist. Photo provided by Jeju Special Self-Governing Province.
The purpose of the forum is simultaneously clear and still emerging.
At its heart, the forum will exist to highlight the needs of Jeju women and to advise and otherwise work with the government toward policy change in order that those needs be better met.
Though not limited in scope to women's issues, the forum is both for and by women. That is, the forum itself serves the purpose of empowering its members, and collectively they will act as advisors to the government on a wide variety of issues – from a female perspective.
The direction of this forum, like the forum itself, is still evolving, and its planning team is in regular discussions in order to crystallize the forum's mission, vision, and values.
Undoubtedly, it will operate in a bi-directional manner, both in being given the charge of conducting research into women's needs and other issues and in reporting back to the government in both an informational and advisory capacity.
It has also been suggested that this forum, as an umbrella for an array of committees which will include representatives from all aspects of Jeju women's community, has the potential for bringing the various women's groups closer together in order that they might work more collaboratively toward a common goal: the benefit of Jeju's women.
Motivating and supporting women to move into more high-level leadership roles within Jeju community is another emerging agenda.
On Friday and Saturday, May 13 and 14, the planning committee held a seminar to further clarify the purpose of the forum. Governor Woo Keun Min opened the session with a strong statement of his support. The meeting was closed to the public and media.
Moon Sook Kyung, director of the Korean Institute for Gender Equality Promotion and Education [KIGEPE: Seoul], delivered the keynote speech.
In it, she identified needs of all Korean women and outlined a possible model, based on the work of KIGEPE, for the newly emerging forum in order to maximize its effectiveness.
Moon particularly emphasized the need to build a powerful network and management skills.
Plenary speeches were then given by Im Ae Duk, forum general secretary; Kim Jeong Sook, president of Korea's National Council for Women; and this writer, cultural health psychologist.
Open and lively discussion ensued, and all members freely contributed their ideas for this forum in the manner of a think-tank. The 5-hour meeting stimulated several smaller group discussions to follow, which carried over into the next day's activities.
The forum will officially open, by public seminar, in mid-July. Until then, the planning team will continue to do its work to bring about this exciting new venture – for the good of Jeju's women, and the whole of Jeju society.
Disclosure: the writer is a member of the Jeju Women Governance Forum.
Dr. Hilty is a cultural health psychologist.