Not a single woman holds an executive position in Korea's biggest state-run companies. The Chosun Ilbo looked at the 13 public corporations with assets over W10 trillion out of 288 in total and found that all of their 81 executives are men.
That could become a huge headache if a bill is passed requiring public enterprises to boost the number of women in management to 30 percent within five years. The bill is now before the National Assembly.
At electricity monopoly KEPCO, Korea's largest public enterprise with 20,000 staff, none of the full-time executives are women.
Women at any rate account for only 14.9 percent of staff, or a measly one in seven, in the 13 largest public enterprises.
One reason is the comparatively rigid adherence to seniority in state-run firms. Women only entered the workforce in large numbers in the 1990s and have not been able to crawl far enough up the ladder.
Human resources managers at state-run companies agree that the problem cannot be solved in a short period because there are not enough women in middle management who could be promoted to executive jobs.
"Expanding the number of female executives is the right thing to do over the long term, but it is too early to do that right now," one HR manager said.
"It would be reverse discrimination to select women as executives simply because they are women when such decisions should be based on achievement," said Lee Kyung-mook at Seoul National University. "It is an admirable objective, but the timing must be adjusted given the staff structure in state-run companies."