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South Korea: woman presents the news for the first time - France 24


South Korea: woman presents news for the first time

Seoul (AFP)

With her eyes riveted on a prompter, presenter Lee So-jeong rehearsed her text a few minutes from South Korea's most watched television news.

Since November, she is the first woman to hold such a position in a country where, for decades, this prestigious role was reserved for men.

Five times a week, this forties invites herself into the home with "News 9", the television news of the public channel KBS.

Although economically and technologically very advanced, South Korea remains culturally dominated by men.

Until Ms. Lee's arrival, the news was no exception to this rule: a mature man reported the main news of the day seriously, and a much younger woman succeeded her for the lighter news.

Some of these young presenters have disappeared from the screens after giving up their career to marry a member of one of the "chaebol" families, the name given to the South Korean conglomerates.

The arrival of Ms. Lee came to shake up traditions. At 43, she officiates alongside a man younger than her and has great ambitions.

The journalist explained to AFP wanting to shake up the traditional side of KBS, in particular to capture the young audience put off by programs that tend to "give lessons to viewers".

Since arriving at the head of the newspaper in November, the audience share of its program has increased from 9.6 to 11%.

But she is well aware that she has no right to make mistakes.

- High pressure -

"If I fail, it could dishonor all women journalists," she said, anxious to "do the right thing" in order to offer her female colleagues "more opportunities".

She even admits that this pressure is stronger than that felt during the live presentation of the information.

In South Korea, the twelfth largest economy in the world, traditional social values ​​persist.

The pay gap between men and women is the highest in developed countries.

On average, women earn only 66% of the salary of men and working mothers must be just as faultless in raising children as in their professional environment.

Many find it difficult to combine professional and family life and find themselves forced to give up their careers.

This social pressure has led many South Korean women to give up motherhood.

Fertility rate fell to 0.98 in 2018, well below the 2.1 needed to allow population renewal

Ms. Lee, the mother of a 6-year-old boy, also faced this issue.

"I have seen many experienced female journalists whose careers have been cut short," she said.

- "An encouraging sign" -

This type of difficulty is at the heart of the recent successful film "Kim Ji-young, Born 1982". Based on a feminist novel, it tells the story of an ordinary woman, in her thirties, juggling work and family.

The journalist, who started on television in 2003, admits having encountered such difficulties upon her return from maternity leave.

"I felt like I was neither a good mom nor a good journalist," recalls Ms. Lee, who calls "young women to do their best at work without blaming themselves for the things that 'they cannot control ".

Things are slowly starting to change in the country which also experienced a #MeToo movement in 2018.

For the director general of information at KBS, the time had therefore come to appoint a woman to present the news to meet "the requirements of the time".

Such an appointment was "unthinkable" in the 1980s, he admits.

For women's rights activist Bae Bok-ju, the arrival of Ms. Lee "upsets" the roles generally assigned to men and women in South Korean society and is "an encouraging sign" for the country.

"Announcing the main political and social news has long been seen as a task for men and women were on the sidelines," she said.

"The fact that a woman now presents the main newspaper is a sign that South Korea is at a crossroads to finally end gender stereotypes."

© 2020 AFP

Source: france24

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