Home > Education, Gender Rights, Women's Rights > Korea’s Top Women’s Law School Battles Reverse Discrimination Lawsuit

Korea’s Top Women’s Law School Battles Reverse Discrimination Lawsuit

Sangmin Lee

The Constitutional Court held a public hearing on 10 February 2011, discussing whether the women only admissions policy is in violation of the right of male students to equality and other constitutional rights. Three male students, who have been preparing for law school, filed a petition against Ewha Women’s University law school in 2009. At the hearing, the primary issues were the applicant’s claim of legality and whether or not it infringes on applicant’s constitutional rights.

According to Jeon Yong-woo, the male student representative, Ewha’s policy of restricting admission to only female students is a violation of constitutional rights, specifically the right to receive education, freedom of occupation and right to equality. The current law school system in Korea is set up in a way where the government limits the number of law school graduates to about 2,000 per year students. Ewha was one of the 25 universities authorized by the Ministry of Education and Science Technology (MEST), and allotted the third highest quota with 100 students. In particular, the fact that Ewha is the only women university to be given a license to run a law school eliminates the quota of 2,000 to 1,900 for male applicants.

Lawyer Jeon insisted that “law school is a training organization for national judicial officers and the admission rules of private law schools should be based on public interest as well. Ewha law school unfairly limits the opportunity to become a lawyer on the basis that the applicants are men. It violates the gender equality.” Therefore, claimants added Ewha law school should choose either to cancel the current guidelines for applicants or have their authorization to run a law school revoked in order to give fair opportunities between men and women.

Jeon stressed that prohibiting men’s admission itself is discriminatory in principle. If there is a need to protect women, preferential policies for women by giving additional points to female applicants will reasonably fit the benefit and protection of the law.

At the national bar examination as of 2010, 338 successful candidates (42%) were female, which was a record high. And the ratio has continued to increase in recent years.

On the contrary, Ewha Womans University’s representative, Lee Seon-ae refuted that Ewha is not a state institution and its guidelines for applicants are not under the state, thus it does not fall under constitutional acts. Furthermore, claimants have no eligibility to sue because they did not even apply to Ewha law school.

Kim Moon-hyun, dean of Ewha law school, said “women make up only 17 percent of the Korean legal circle, thus Ewha law school’s policy is an affirmative action and does not breach the Constitution. Ewha law school’s educational goal is to ‘train lawyers for sexual equality’ and ‘raising female leaders of the future.’ Specific educational goals and ideals of school should be guaranteed in terms of fundamental rights of autonomy of private school.” He also said, “it is desirable to have female-focused legal training institutes in the male-dominated Korean legal circles.”

Lawyer Seong seung-hwan for MEST also said women are proportionally still have a weak position in Korean society. “Ewha’s quota takes up just 5 percent of the total, thus its policy seems to be rational and a proper method,” he insisted.

The ruling is scheduled to be released in 3 to 4 months, according to court officials.

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