Feature Paper:

Female Human Resources as a Source of Cultural Competitiveness

By Professor Lim, Chae-Suk
Professor, Department of Industrial Design, Multimedia College
Seoul Digital University, Seoul, Korea


IICW (International Interdisciplinary Congress on Women) called the UN Conference of Women was held in Seoul from June 19 to 24 (at Ihwa Women's University, Sogang University and Yonsei University). 3,000 female leaders from 80 countries announced about 2,100 articles in 500 fields under the theme : 'Embracing the Earth: East-West/North-South. Especially, there were hot debates in the field of Gender & Life Sciences over orientation of women's movement and areas of women's studies in the era in which gender border between men and women is blurred because of the state-of-the-art life sciences like human embryo duplication.

Though I am not a women's movement activist but a female intellectual. I am a daughter respecting my father, who is a man, and making efforts to become a 'proud woman' of Korea. In this paper, I want to say my usual opinion on the reason why female human resources are important and the way of how we should encourage women to advance into society. It is not women but society that is changed by development of science and technology. No matter how life science goes advanced, gender was, is and will be determined by the Creator. However, 'comparative advantage' (competitiveness) of men and women changes from hardware into software due to the IT revolution. It is not under the paradigm of vertical command and control but under horizontal relationship that women show autonomy, participation and leadership. Therefore, female leadership is more needed than ever in the contemporary and upcoming complex societies.

Rapid increase of women's advance into society

According to the New York Times (May 16, 1999) reported that the largest revolution among the changes of human society over last 10 centuries was the improvement of women's right. Recently, women have gone beyond the boundary of simple improvement of 'women's right' and have been so much active in the society so that we can call this era the one of 'women's power'. WEF (World Economic Forum) chose Finland as a country with top national competitiveness. The Forum said that Finland's national competitiveness comes from social transparency and high participation of women in society. This country has utilized actively female human resources in its parliamentary politics by introducing a 'target quota system for women' since 1975. The current president Tarja Halonen is female. In USA, Hillary Rodham Clinton exercising a strong influence over the politics, Condoleezza Rice who is Secretary of State, Karen Elliot House who is a publisher of Wall Street Journal, etc. shows strong women's power in the world.

Women's advance into society in Korea has increased rapidly. Ratio of male participation in economic activities increased by 2.5% up from 72.3% in 1985 to 74.8% in 2004, while that of women rose up 7.9% from 41.9% in 1985 to 49.8% in 2004. In addition to this quantitative growth of female advance into society, more women have entered into the high positions of society which have been almost exclusively taken by men. For instance, the number female law makers soared up from 9 (about 3% of total law makers) in 1998 to 39 (13%) in 2004. The portion of women passed state law examination rose up from 7.2% in 1996 to 24.4% in 2004. The portion of women appointed public prosecutors and judges was 44.6%. The portion of female public servants increased from 24.2% in 1990 to 32.9% in 2002. The portion of women's seats of government's committees affecting the decision of government policies was up from 10% in 1998 to 32% in 2003.

However, UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) said in its survey that Korea's GEM (Gender Empowerment Measure) in 2004 was the 68th place among 78 countries surveyed. GEM shows how much power is exercised by women in economics and politics on the basis of the factors including portion of women's seats in the parliament, portion of women's roles in the administrative positions and professional jobs and portion of women in income. This low GEM of Korea shows that Korean women have relatively lower position in politics, economy and society.

In the future, however, Korean society will be subject to fiercer conflict between men and women in labor market and over advance into high-class positions as well as current hierarchical, inter-generation, labor-capital, inter-region and ideal conflicts. The conflict is signaled by abolition of the system of the head of family. As is known, the Constitutional Court judged on February 3, 2005 that family registry system was unconstitutional, on the grounds that the system under the Civil Law violates the Section 1 of the Article 36 of the Constitution providing individual dignity and sexual equality in marriage and family life.

Factors causing rapid advance of women into society

The tendency of rapid advance of women into society will continue due to the following factors.

First, as recent IT development changes our industrial society into a knowledge-based society, new services using soft resources (IT, video media, culture and art) provide women with many job opportunities. This knowledge-based era does not require a simple product-selling company but a total service company based on product design, culture marketing, advertisement and promotion strategy. The lightness-thinness-and-compactness-oriented industry based on emotion, exquisiteness and creativity that needs less labor forces develops into a high value-added industry. This change needs emotion, exquisiteness and creativity, which are relative competitive advantages of women.

Second, more and more companies employ women in the areas of market survey, marketing, distribution, design and R&D for production of products meeting women. This trend increases employment of women.

Third, no matter how requirements of an era are high, they cannot be met unless they are supported by social conditions. Fortunately, new types of working like telecommuting and time-difference based attendance support women's advance into society due to the development of IT like cellular phone. Just as refrigerator, washing machine and vacuum cleaner shortened the time of women's household labor, IT development eliminates the limits of time and space, realizing the 'women's liberation', in the real sense of the term, from household duties and upbringing.

Rise of women's era for culture technology, culture industry and culture competitiveness

This 21st century can be characterized by 3F's, i.e. feeling, fiction and female. As industrial society changes into a knowledge-based industry through IT development, society's needs shift from simple hardware (physical) labor competitiveness of men to various software (emotional) 'culture competitiveness' of women.

By the term 'culture competitiveness' I mean that it is an abbreviation of soft competitiveness of culture industry. Culture industry is a digital contents industry (movie, broadcasting, music, game, animation, character, design, etc.) applying culture technology which is a software like emotion, exquisiteness and art, which supplements hardware like manufacturing and technology and increases added value. Soft competitiveness means a new competitiveness of enterprises in response to the trend toward softness that is one of the megatrends in this century. It is a management process seeking for customer-orientation, speedy response, creative ability, knowledge, corporate identity, brand, design, high-performance, and easiness-to-use.

In general, technology has experienced development changing from hardware (1970s) through software (1980s) and networking (1990s) to digital contents (21st century). This trend has shifted the core value of enterprise and society from industry through information and knowledge to emotion and culture. World culture industry blossoms with focus on movie, broadcasting, game, animation, character and design. For instance, Samsung cellular phone brand 'Anycall' is regarded as ‘an expensive and luxurious product due to the effect of emotional design showing a message that a cellular phone is a part of our body and a styling point’.

USA expects its movie industry to take a 70 percent share of world market in 2005. Calling digital contents industry a creation industry, UK aims at facilitating digital contents industry to take a 10 percent share of GDP and creating jobs in digital contents industry. Reflecting the national image of culture and art into global marketing activities of its enterprises, France creates world-class luxurious products (fashion/accessories, alcoholic beverages, jewelry, watch/handiworks, cosmetics/perfumes, etc.) on the basis of its unique culture encouraging taste and freedom of life, freedom of idea and freedom of creation.

Korean culture industry market (movie, music, animation, broadcasting, character, game, etc.) recorded KRW 13.8 trillion in 2001, showing high annual average growth rate at 28%. However, the share of Korean culture industry in world market is only 1.4%. Korea relies on developed countries in terms of core software related with culture industry. For example, Render Man software built by Pixar (Toy Story producer) dominates world market including Korea in terms of 3D graphics and video effects. Therefore, it is necessary to use IT base to develop digital contents like 3D animation, digital broadcasting program and online game.

Peter Ferdinand Drucker argued that the value of a company in knowledge-based society depends on whether it is able to strategically acquire, create, distribute and apply knowledge. Nonaka Ikujiro (a professor at Hitotsubashi University in Japan) put that today's success of Japanese firms comes from the 'ability of organizational knowledge production'. In his report Beyond the Crisis - Korea in the 21st Century (June 7, 2001), Alvin Toffler advised that Korea importing services should increase the portion of intangible asset in export.

However, Korea does not have enough statistics on digital contents like character, or traditional objects of craftworks, and specialized culture policies. The priority of culture policy inside the government is very low. Culture budget in 2001 was only KRW 145.8 billion, a little more than 1 percent of total government budget. Korean government should model itself after developed countries' culture industry support system (US Federal Art Fund, UK's Department of Culture, Media and Sport, French Department of Culture and Communication, etc.).

Since the concept of individual competitiveness or national competitiveness shifts from mechanical (input-output) material competitiveness to emotional 'culture competitiveness', if our whole community as well as individuals or families want better quality of life, more female human resources should be trained and employed, and more competent female leaders should have seats of higher administrative positions.

Actually, famous foreign and domestic companies provide female employees with training of leadership and use it as one of HR policies. For example, Deloitte Consulting provides employees not below administrative positions with higher-level education for promotion of corporate culture of sexual equality. Hankook Cosmetics provides specialized training for female employees according to the characteristics of their jobs. E-Land implements ability-based HR policies and ensures women's advance into administrative positions. Design House promotes female employees to the managers of core departments in order to grow female leaders. The most important thing that is needed to maximize potential abilities of female human resources is to build a working environment where women can devote themselves to work. For instance, child-care support (operation of company-run kindergarten, provision of subsidy for child care, provision of information service related with child care, etc.) and leave for upbringing after birth of child should be provided.

Recently, there have been many considerations and controversies about continued decrease of national competitiveness of Korea. The only strategy for survival and prosperity in this era of indefinite competition is to improve national competitiveness. To this end, it is necessary for all members of our society to recognize female human resources as a source of 'culture competitiveness', and realize the culture competitiveness as one of important factors of national competitiveness. And, the government should implement policies of talent education and HR on the basis of the realization that female human resources are a source of culture competitiveness, which is in turn a factor of national competitiveness.

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