Kang, Hyounju (2016-06). Work-Life Balance in South Korea: Experiences of the Highly Educated and Married Female Korean Employees with Flexible Workplace Arrangements. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon


  • South Korea is known as a country with a large number of highly educated women; however, it is also known as one with the lowest employment rate of female college graduates among the OECD nations. Underlying the low employment rate of women, there is a phenomenon of a high rate of career-interrupted Korean women, defined as women who have experienced a career break due to marriage, pregnancy, childbirth, and family responsibilities. As a result of unfair treatment at work and home, more married female professionals hesitate to have children. This is evidenced by the low birth rate in South Korea (1.19 children per woman), which is nearly the lowest in fertility worldwide. Recently, to address the critical needs of a nation and the individuals' quality of work and life, work-life balance (WLB) and women/family-friendly practices such as flexible workplace arrangements (FWA) have been promoted in Korea at a national level. Given the "newness" of FWA, few studies have been conducted to examine this alternative strategy. With this background knowledge, the purpose of this study was to explore the lived experiences of the highly educated and married female Korean employees (HEMFE) with WLB and the influence of FWA on their WLB. To accomplish this goal, I conducted phenomenological interviews with sixteen married Korean female employees with higher education who had experienced FWA. As a result of the data analysis I identified a number of the superordinate and subthemes about the participants' experiences with WLB, FWA, and the impact of FWA on their WLB. Regarding the women's experiences with WLB, six superordinate themes were drawn: (a) the meaning of work-life balance, (b) support systems, (c) career aspiration: "thin and long," (d) concerns, (e) WLB strategies, and (f) hope: expectations for future. In terms of the women's experiences with FWA and its influence on their WLB, they reported mixed experiences: positive experiences and challenges. The first superordinate theme, positive experience, was explicated in five categories: (a) childcare, (b) less stress, (c) job satisfaction, (d) autonomy to control work schedules, and (e) career continuity. The second superordinate theme, challenges, had four categories: (a) different challenges by types of FWA, (b) organizational culture, (c) job characteristics, and (d) limited FWA options. Findings from this phenomenological study provided valuable insights and practical implications regarding how to promote the quality of the professional career women's lives in the Korean context. They also shed light on a number of areas for future research.

publication date

  • August 2016