Process dynamics of gender policymaking: Acts of violence against women in South Korea

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Administration


Rosemary O'Leary


Gender policymaking, Policy process, Women's policy machinery, Policymaking, Women, Korea

Subject Categories

Public Administration | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Social and Behavioral Sciences


This is an exploratory, qualitative study conducted to analyze the gender policy- making process in a non-Western country by applying a theoretical lens to the issue. Through a case study on the legislative process of the three Violence Against Women (VAW) Acts in South Korea, this study focuses on why each kind of VAW issue grasped the public's attention at a certain point in time and why each policy-making process was dominated by the NGOs. It also explores how the process unfolded and what factors influenced it.

This study shows that the existing policy process theories, represented by the Kingdon's multiple streams theory and the Baumgartner & Jones' Punctuated Equilibrium theory, reveal some limitations, although they are helpful in presenting the holistic approach to the policy process. These limitations include less attention (or none at all) to the global influences or the role of the NGOs. Although Baumgartner & Jones pay attention to the role of the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), their role is generally confined to directing the attention of the government to a public issue. Therefore, to address these limitations, the conceptual framework of this study incorporates the theories of social movement, state feminism, constructivism, policy transfer.

Through this modified conceptual framework, this study shows that in each legislative process of the three VAW Acts, women's groups were indeed policy entrepreneurs who were engaged in a variety of activities in support of the new VAW legislations. In addition, this study clearly demonstrates that transnational influences played a significant role in each legislative process. However, the analysis on the policy process alone cannot answer the question of why governments' responses to the VAW issues and the involvement of the women's groups have showed a great variance among countries around the world. For example, some countries are quite responsive to the transnational influences, while others are very reluctant to make a move. The influence of the women's groups is stronger in some countries than in others, and the range of the influences varies in terms of the kinds of gender policies. This study pays keen attention to the role of the Women's Policy Machinery (WPM) in the gender policy process as a factor in bridging these differences.

This study shows that even the enabling environment fostered by the favorable political opportunities--domestic or international--cannot guarantee the successful enactment of the VAW Acts without the deliberate and intentional mobilization by the WPM. The impact that the WPM and the women's groups have exerted on the policy process has been strongly associated with the organizational power of the WPM. The stronger the organizational power of the WPM is, the more powerful the impact has become. In this sense, if a country tries to promote the advancement of women or gender equality, it needs to pay attention to the strengthening of the WPM in the beginning. However, this dissertation suggests that the WPM can make negative influences on the policy process because it plays another kind of an interest group with its own interests in mind. Therefore, there should be a forum where diverse interests or opinions on a public issue can be freely raised and coordinated.


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