Women Becoming Greater Force in Foreign Service

      September 28, 2009 09:12

      The proportion of successful female candidates in the higher foreign service exam was over two-thirds in 2007 and 2008, only dipping slightly below half this year when the lifting of the age cap for civil-service recruitment brought a surge of older male candidates. Successful women have outnumbered men in the test since 2005.

      Currently 167 women in the foreign service have passed the higher foreign or civil service exam -- 139 with the former and 28 with the latter. The proportion of female foreign service officers has risen to over 20 percent in the last decade.

      Since early this year, the Foreign Ministry has been assigning women to remote areas and putting them on night duty, after years when they were given special treatment while their numbers were small.

      At the moment, 89 women are assigned to Korean missions overseas, and 38 of them work in hotspots like Congo, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

      Female diplomats talk at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

      The Foreign Ministry is not the only government agency where women outnumber their male counterparts in the foreign and international affairs. Successful women candidates in the Junior Professional Officer exam, a test given by the ministry to recruit five officers every year to post with international organizations, have constantly outnumbered their male counterparts.

      One foreign service officer said so many competitive women are applying for the higher foreign service exam that it is very hard to find equally competitive men."

      Many graduates from university foreign language departments or graduate schools of international studies are applying for the exams, and the proportion of women studying there is higher than in other departments or graduate schools. In other words, it is a natural progression, since women make up the majority in educational institutions whose graduates make up most of the candidates for the exams.

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