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South Korea airline ex-CEO fined for refusing time off

A former airline CEO who refused to allow female staff to take menstrual leave protected by employment law has been fined almost $1,800 (£1,300; 2m won) by a court in South Korea.

Kim Soo-cheon, the ex-head of Asiana Airlines, turned down 138 requests from 15 flight attendants in 2014 and 2015.

Mr Kim claimed the employees did not provide proof of menstruation.

Since 1953, women in South Korea have been allowed to take one day off a month if they have painful periods.

What is menstrual leave?

  • It allows women to take one or two days off a month, sometimes unpaid, when they are having their period
  • Exists in a number of jurisdictions, including Japan, Indonesia and Taiwan
  • However, the take-up among women is often low
  • Supporters say menstrual leave is as important for women as maternity leave, a recognition of a basic biological process.
  • But critics say it reinforces negative stereotypes of female workers and could even discourage employers from hiring women

A lower court first found against Mr Kim in 2017. He had argued there were “many suspicious cases” when employees requested leave around holidays or days off, the South Korean news agency Yonhap reports.

However, the court said that asking employees to prove they were having their period could “infringe upon privacy and human rights”.

The ruling was upheld by a higher court.


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