The New ICTs and Gender Inequality in Korea

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 9:50 AM
Room: Booth 44
Oral Presentation
Jeong-Ro YOON , Humanities and Social Sciences, KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology), Daejeon, South Korea
Hye-Kyung PARK , Dept. of Sociology, Chungnam National University, Daejeon, South Korea
This presentation aims to explore the implications for gender inequality of the increased access to and usage of mobile ICTs, based on the data collected in Korea. Korea used to be no exception to the conventional digital divide in which women, compared to men, are disadvantaged in the use of ICTs. In recent years, however, there has been a remarkable increase in Korean women’s access to internet and, specifically, mobile internet technology. Women have surpassed men in the number and proportion of ‘smart’ mobile phone users. Among young generations, in particular, girls, compared to boys, tend to have access to the mobile phone earlier and use it more frequently and longer in duration of time. In 2011, Korean children are reported to own their first mobile phone at the average age of 10.4 years (fifth grade at elementary school), and 80% of the third graders at elementary school owned it.

What would be consequences in terms of gender inequality of this earlier and increased exposure to mobile internet technology represented by the ‘smart’ phone? On the one hand, the user friendliness of the new technology has the potential of narrowing or eliminating the gender gap in its professional and financially lucrative utilization, and its mobility in time and space potentially brings the liberating effect for women both in employment and domestic labor. On the other hand, however, there are concerns that the easy availability and access to the mobile technology would lead to continued gender inequality, in which women remained mere consumers, and increased vulnerability to the new problems brought by the new technology, such as digital/mobile addiction. This presentation investigates the consequences of the new ICTs in gender inequality and their implications to cope with the gender inequality at present and in the future.