The Effects of South Korea's Gender Quota on Women Candidates in Single Member Districts: The Low Transition of Party List Assemblywomen to SMD Seats
The 2012 South Korean presidential elections made headlines around the world with the election of the country's first woman president, Park Geun-Hye. While some media outlets glossed over the story with remarks of South Korea's "forward" and "progressive" thinking, many others were quick to point out the extremely unique case of President Park Geun-Hye's election and the continuing gender inequality that exists in South Korea. Among statistics that indicate gender inequality within a country, South Korea's percentage of women's representation in its National Assembly currently sits at 15.6%, one of the lowest among similarly developed countries. South Korea first adopted its gender quota system in 2000. But after the initial jump in women's representation from 3% in 1996 to 13% in 2004 election, there has been no significant rise in women's representation in South Korea. This paper looks into the low transition of Assemblywomen in Proportional Representation seats to Single Member Districts following their first term in the Korean National Assembly as an indicator of the inability for sustainable growth in women's representation in South Korea to occur despite their gender quota legislation. I look at committee assignments, a key reelection tool, in order to measure the electability of Assemblywomen after they are termed out of the PR seat. The results indicate that Assemblywomen are sidelined to women's issues and social issues committee. But results also indicate that it is difficult for their male PR seatmates to transition into SMD seats as well. This leads to the conclusion that it is the PR system as a whole that makes it difficult for PR Assemblymembers to create a political career by transitioning into a SMD seat.