The government's attempts to help women break the glass ceiling are slow to bear any fruit, and things are particularly bad in the private sector.
The Chosun Ilbo looked at 1,745 listed companies and found that although women account for 25 percent of total staff, they make up a paltry 7.1 percent of managers. Some 56 percent of the companies have no women at all in managerial positions.
The gender imbalance became even more pronounced at the executive level, with women accounting for just 1.9 percent.
The Ministry of Employment and Labor has been pursuing affirmative action since 2006, compelling firms with a proportion of women managers of less than 60 percent of the industry average to submit plans to improve the situation. But there are no penalties, and progress has been slow with few companies actually following through on their plans.
Although the National Assembly passed a regulation allowing the names of companies with low ratios of female managers to be publicized, it will not come into effect until 2016.
Kim Nan-joo at the Korean Women's Development Institute said, "We need to get businesses to discard their deep-rooted bias against women stemming from the Confucian tradition and put more female staff into managerial positions. Companies need to realize that it benefits them to let more women rise to higher positions."