YTN: Sexual Questions and Jokes Common at Job Interviews

A brief report from YTN on Wednesday, which you can see the video of here (I can’t embed it sorry). Unfortunately, it provides no actual sources for its assertion that sexual harassment is common at interviews, but I’m inclined to believe it given how invasive and often needlessly humiliating the job interview process already is in Korea.

Indeed, when even Samsung admits that many Koreans “take it for granted that they have to tolerate anything in return for getting paid”, then it’s difficult not to see such an interview style as an integral and deliberate part of indoctrinating new workers.

Lest you scoff at the ensuing passivity and regular unpaid overtime however, and claim that you would never tolerate that crap from your boss, note that a 2011 OECD report found that “Korean workers [are the] most vulnerable to an economic crisis compared with their counterparts in other OECD countries, due to the country’s extraordinarily low levels of unemployment benefits” (i.e., lose your job in Korea, and you’re screwed). Also, that it’s very common to be interviewed in a group rather than individually, especially at larger companies, and that particularly stressful and demeaning interviews are so common as to have their own special name (abbak-myeonjob/압박면접, or ‘pressure interview’), mentioned at the end of the report.

면접 성적 모욕감 느꼈다면 성희롱” / “If you feel insulted from sexual jokes at a job interview, that’s sexual harassment”

Anchor Comment:

여성 구직자들이 입사 면접을 볼 때 면접관들이 성적인 농담을 던질 때가 종종 있습니다.

구직자가 이런 말을 듣고 모욕감을 느꼈다면 성희롱에 해당된다는 국가인권위원회의 판단이 나왔습니다.

조임정 기자가 보도합니다.

Female job seekers report frequently receiving jokes of a sexual nature from interviewers at job interviews. If they feel insulted as a result, that’s sexual harassment according to a judgment of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). Jo Im-jeong reports.


취업을 앞두고 면접에 다녀온 여성들은 종종 무력감에 빠지곤 합니다.

면접 때 던져지는 이상한 질문들 때문입니다.

Prior to getting a job, women feel powerless after having an interview. That’s because they receive such strange questions in them.

Interview — Miss Gomo, a student preparing to start working:

“성적인 수치심을 느끼는 질문을 한다면, 사실 면접자 입장에서는 어떻게 강하게 대응할 수 있는 부분이 아니고…”

“If an interviewee feels a sense of sexual shame [from the questions in an interview], they’re not in a strong position to do anything about that…”

Interview — Son Ji-hee, 4th year university student:

“성품을 보기 위해서 그렇게 자극적으로 얘기하는 것에 대해서, 정말 실효성이 있는지는 두고봐야겠지만, 그렇게까지 상처를 받는 사람이 있다면, 자제될 필요는 있다고 생각합니다.”

“Saying provocative things like that in order to determine one’s personality…it has to be seen if that’s effective. And if it’s done to the extent that people are hurt by it, then it needs reconsidering.”

이처럼 면접을 비롯한 구직 과정에서 성적 굴욕감을 느꼈다는 진정이 잇따라 국가인권위원회에 접수되고 있습니다.

지원자에게 “남자친구 몇 명을 사귀어봤는지”처럼 업무와 관련 없는 질문을 던지거나, 심지어 회사 대표가 면접 과정에서 지원자의 특정 신체 부위를 만지는 경우도 있었고, 채용이 확정된 뒤 회식 자리에서 남자 직장 상사와 블루스를 출 것을 강요한 경우도 있었습니다.

인권위는 입사 면접 과정에서 면접관의 발언 때문에 구직자가 성적 굴욕감을 느꼈다면 성희롱에 해당한다고 판단했습니다.

문제는, 면접에서 결정적인 권한을 가진 회사 관계자가 성희롱을 해도 절대적 약자인 구직자가 제대로 대처하기 힘들다는 겁니다.

People who have felt humiliated like this in interviews have appealed to the NHRC.

Applicants report being asked questions like “How many boyfriends have you had?” that have no relationship to the job, and there have even been cases of company representatives touching certain body parts of theirs during the interview. Or, after they’re hired, of male superiors forcing them to dance the blues with them at company dinners.

Feeling sexual shame because of comments by interviewers has been judged sexual harassment by the NHRC.

The problem is that when the final decision about hiring is by the sexual harassers themselves, interviewees are in a weak position and find it difficult to cope with what has happened.

Interview — Kim Min-jeong, NHRC Discrimination Department Investigator

“압박면접을 시행하더라도 개인의 직무 능력이나 본인의 가치관 등을 알아볼 수 있는 질문을 하는 것이 훨씬 더 중요하다고 생각합니다.”

인권위원회는 해당 기업 관계자에게 인권위가 주최하는 특별 인권교육을 받고 피해자들에게 손해배상금을 지급하라고 권고했습니다.
YTN 조임정[]입니다.

“Even if people are doing a ‘pressure interview’, we think questions about one’s work ability and the person’s value and so on are far far more important.”

The NHRC recommends that offending employees are given human rights education, while the victims should receive financial compensation.

YTN Reporter Jo Im-jeong reporting (end).

9 thoughts on “YTN: Sexual Questions and Jokes Common at Job Interviews

  1. It sucks for women in Korea but it reminds me of an interview my sister once had for a job in the British Naval attache in Washington DC during which she was asked if she was a ‘nymphomaniac.’ This was over twenty five years ago and my sister was not long out of college and had no idea what one was. And I remember times in the British army when the promotion of soldiers depended on the reputation of their wives – of course, it’s all out the window now and replaced with the dictates of political correctness. As an aside, I had an interview at a university and was asked if I’d being willing to help set up rooms for conferences, including carrying the tea urn – they then gave the job to someone in a wheelchair. Nine years ago, I also taught in a school where a head teacher interviewed a woman for a secretarial job and two weeks later was caught having sex with her across the table of his office. The incident was front page news in the UK but the guy kept his job – and then fired the secretary! And there was no uproar from staff or parents! I add these only as interesting anecdotes only.


    1. Thanks for those – my mother has many similar anecdotes too, and provides a good reality check for me whenever I write posts like these that inadvertently imply that Korea is exceptional or something.

      Although Korea can be certainly be refreshing sometimes in its lack of political correctness though, at the end of the day I’d still much prefer to have it than not (not that I’m saying you’re disagreeing or anything). Living here has given me a real appreciation of how much it genuinely changes attitudes, even if it does go to silly extremes like you’ve experienced sometimes.


      1. On the other hand, people use political correctness to shield their racism, sexism or whateverism, from public eye. The question then becomes, are the covert or overt varieties worse? I know which one is harder to deal with (covert), but the harm that can come from overt prejudice is very real.


        1. Not that I necessarily disagree, but can you give some examples of people using political correctness to shield such things from the public eye? Being in Korea so long, nothing really comes to mind sorry!


          1. Well, the usual way I see it is when people talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk. People who pay lip service to Political Correctness, but treat people differently based on ethnicity. When you see someone sneer at people for being racist, but they are unhappy when their daughter is dating a PoC. Or the PC women who will huddle together when a big black man walks their way. Or the people who talk the talk but make incredibly racist jokes, but it’s okay because *they’re* not racist. If you ask them they’re making racist jokes to make fun of racists. O.o Because that makes *sense*. /sarcasm. Or the man who claims he’s not sexist, but won’t hire female workers in his auto shop. Or the non-sexist doctor who speaks only to the husband when seeing the wife for a problem (years later and this still pisses me off). The people who claim that class doesn’t matter, but treat wait staff with disdain. Or the people who are PC except for this *ONE* group of people because they had a bad experience with someone of that ethnicity so now they’re allowed to talk shit about *anyone* of that ethnicity. But it’s okay, because those are the only people they dislike and it’s not like they’re racist or anything.

            Hmm…I wish I had a recorder of some sort that I could turn on when I meet people like that. Because it’s not just the above situations. With tone and body language, PC speech can be just as prejudicial as the type of conversations we associate with racism. The way some feminists talk about stay at home moms is a prime example of this!

            I’m wondering if I used the right term there…because when I think about it it doesn’t neccessarily shield them from the public eye, so much as the public eye is conditioned to accept words at face value and not associate reactions with any sort of -ism. Unless someone does something really overt, they’re accepted as PC and OK. Gah, maybe shielding was the right word, but I’m not happy with it now *rolls eyes*

            Also, I should learn to answer questions when I’m not only on the internet because I can’t sleep. But I’m still going to post the comment because I *think* I communicated what I meant to in spite of tiredness.


          2. :-/ (long time listener/first time caller)

            amber makes some great points about socially acceptable behavior shielding racial, gender, sexual-orientation bias. however, i think a better term to use that in type situation describing would be ‘tolerance’ (read on for clarification below)

            i wholeheartedly agree with the point about people talking the talk but not walking the walk (it’s absolutely maddening!) but i think that has more to do with people being oblivious to actual classism, racism, sexism, homophobia, trans*phobia, ableism, etc and not necessarily recognizing their crappy behavior when called out on it. privilege does put blinders on people and people (especially here in the states) can only think of those awful phobias and ‘isms’ in historical or cultural extremes.

            the ‘tolerance’ facade is kept up because it’s deemed ‘socially acceptable’ (not necessarily ‘politically correct’*) and that facade is usually thrown back at you to negate any criticism for crappy behavior. people sometimes don’t see their own coded prejudicial behavior (especially the behaviors you describe above) as bad as THAT or mainstream sexist norms as bad as THAT

            the sad thing is, it is extremely telling when someone using the term ‘tolerant’ instead of ‘accepting’ or ‘respectful’ because it definitely reads as “well, i don’t like you but i’ll ‘deal’ with you because it’s not socially acceptable to outwardly hate you based upon that’.

            ok. goes back to reading now. i definitely do enjoy the site and the comment section here is a heck of a lot more intelligent than other blogs i frequent


            ***sidenote: as a womanist and POC, i kinda cringe when people rail against ‘political correctness’. being cautiously polite and respectful of others along with working self-identifying context out with a person different from you is a cool thing and i don’t think anyone should rail against that or find it much of a burden. if a group chooses to identify themselves by a certain term,


          3. derp”

            ” if a group chooses to identify themselves by a certain term, we should respect their wishes and identify them as such”


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