ABSTRACT

South Korea is one of several countries in East Asia to show increases in women’s labor force participation during a period of extremely rapid industrialization. Annual Gross Domestic Product growth rates in South Korea were close to 9 percent for many of the years between 1960 and 1990, and the female labor force participation rate rose from 31 to 45 percent (Lim 1993). East Asian economic growth was fueled by the rapid expansion of export-oriented industry and the creation of large exportprocessing zones in South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. These developments accelerated employment opportunities for women, especially in the manufacturing sector (Bai and Cho 1995; Koo 1985; Lim 1993; Wood 1991). In the wake of the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the ensuing economic difficulties of the late 1990s, the Korean economy made a speedy if painful recovery, and by 2000, Korean women’s labor force participation rate had risen to 56 percent (OECD 2002).