Living in Wonju South Korea, These Many Long Years

Living in Wonju South Korea, These Many Long Years: Version 2.0!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Harassment Seminar!

This afternoon all employees had to attend a sexual harassment seminar.

Every year we have to attend.  Last year I was less than impressed since a majority of the examples discussed were foreign ones.  If harassment is a serious enough issue in Korea that we need to discuss it, why not bring in some Korean examples?

This year was much better: many examples were Korean.

The gist of her presentation was: if there is a power discrepancy, advances should not be made.  If advances are made between equals and this causes discomfort in the recipient, an immediate apology should be made and the behavior should be ceased.  Politically correct and civil language should always be used in the work place.

I am far from the pinnacle of politically correct, and should probably ease up on swearing like a sailor when projects are behind schedule.  But, what if a nurse wants to jump the doctor?  Or vice versa?  It shouldn't happen?  Tread lightly, don't abuse your position, and if both parties are aware and ok with it, consenting informed adults should be able to do what they feel.

It ultimately is all about ensuring a comfortable and respectful work environment.  It was surprising to hear the presenter say that if you do feel attraction towards a coworker, expressing it in a proper way isn't necessarily inappropriate, but if it isn't mutual be prepared to suck it up and act like an adult.

This made me think the presentation wasn't that bad, considering that in many respects the feminist movement is still addressing issues associated with second wave feminism.  

Pretty standard stuff generally.  Back in my undergrad days I read and summarized over 80 sexual harassment policies from different schools when I worked as a research assistant, so I know more than the average bear and consider most of it common sense.  I've seen how ugly it can get when the hysteria kicks in, creating an environment that is so tense productivity is negativity affected.  I kept waiting for the shoe to drop and the accusing diatribe to begin, but everyone behaved themselves.

For this kudos to Mr. Jeon.  He's an older adjosshi, and the presenter seemed to call on him a lot when asking questions.

His responses were generally: 'if I knew the answer to your question, I wouldn't be here', and 'could you tell me please'.

Wise and said with just the right amount of cheek, which wasn't lost on many.  This helped keep the overall mood light.  I did have to stop myself from smiling, since the presenter had gone on at length about her own experiences dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace, and how terrible it had made her feel.  It was after all very, very serious.

I wondered as I usually do during this thing how much she was getting paid.

Sexual Harassment: how to make a career of it.

I'm going to preface a lot of what I say for the next few days with: 'I don't want to make you uncomfortable, so I shouldn't say this.'  Let's see how that flies.  I haven't had any corn in a while.

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