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Religion and Political Theory: Secularism, Accommodation and The New Challenges of Religious Diversity, Edited by Jonathan Seglow and Andrew Shorten

“Spill-over” Effect of the Electoral Gender Quota in South Korea

Ki-young Shin
Institute for Gender Studies, Ochanomizu University
Ki-young Shin
Institute for Gender Studies, Ochanomizu University

Since electoral gender quota was introduced in South Korea as part of larger political reform in 2000, four national elections and three provincial/municipal elections were held under the new electoral laws. The outcome of the gender quota legislation for these elections confirms various previous studies that institutionalization of strong electoral gender quota is indeed a fast track leading to numerical increase of women legislators. However, despite such initial outcomes, debates were spurred over the effect of current quota practices on women’s representation and empowerment. For instance, the quota legislation applies only to PR lists, which comprise as small as 18% of the total electoral seats of the National Assembly. Moreover, a majority of women who entered the legislative body through PR quota end up leaving their political career after serving only one session. In this aspect, studies imply that quota practices in South Korea remain very limited in its impact on women’s political representation and empowerment. This paper, however, reexamines the validity of such arguments by comparing gender-based differences in “spill-over” effects of those elected through PR list who have successfully been relocated and reelected in constituencies. It argues that, firstly, women who enter the legislature do not voluntarily quit political career but they actually fail to get candidacy by political parties, secondly, almost half of those women who are elected in constituencies have experiences of having elected through PR quota in previous elections, thus, quota provides an important chance for women to start and continue their political career in constituencies, and finally, there is gender difference in the patterns of establishing political career, and quota plays a key role in establishing political careers of women legislators.
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