South Korea may score highly when it comes to global economic and democracy ratings, but the Asian powerhouse gets a big thumb's down in one key area.

The Republic of Korea has been named and shamed over its failure to adequately protect women from discrimination, sexual abuse and violence.

Human Rights Watch senior researcher in the Women's Rights Division, Heather Barr said the Weinstein allegations had struck a real chord in South Korea with women sharing their own experiences of sexual harassment and assault online.

This week the South Korean government announced it will crack down on workplaces that fail to address harassment claims, warning of potential prison terms, reported.


However, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to everyday life for many women living in the world's 11th biggest economy.

According to HRW, South Korea also had a serious problem with violence against women with 80 per cent of the country's men admitting to physically or psychologically abusing a female partner.

The country also ranks 116th out of 144 in global gender equality rankings.

Alarmingly, South Korea had the third-highest rate at 52.5 per cent, of female murder victims in the world, a United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime report in 2014 revealed.

According to Ms Barr, the figures were down, in part to "the murder of women by intimate partners and the government's failure to effectively enforce laws against domestic violence".

South Korean nurses said they were forced to dance to comfort patients. Photo / Supplied / Korea Times
South Korean nurses said they were forced to dance to comfort patients. Photo / Supplied / Korea Times

The UN report showed that Asia had the highest of number of women killed by intimate partners or family members with 19,700 killed in 2012. This compared to 13,400 in Africa, 6900 in the Americas, 3300 in Europe and 200 in Oceania.

However, overall homicide rates in South Korea, which has a population of 51.25 million people, were among the lowest in the world - below one per 100,000 people in 2012, the UN report said.


Last week footage showed Korean nurses reportedly "crying with shame" while being forced to perform a "sexy dance" wearing skimpy outfits in front of high-ranking officials.

The Korean Nurses Association called for a thorough investigation of Hallym University's Sacred Heart Hospital, located in the northern city of Chuncheon.

According to the Korea Times, a nurse posted a complaint on social media, along with photos and video of nurses in short pants and tube tops performing a sexually suggestive dance during an annual sports event last month.

Other nurses came forward to claim they were also asked to perform similar dances for events held throughout the year meant to "comfort" patients.

Writing for HRW, Ms Barr said while the new laws protecting women were welcome they didn't go far enough to address the problem many still faced.

She also criticised government guidelines, intended for high-school teachers, that women risked rape if they go on dates with men that pay for an expensive meal as they may expect sex.

The behaviour of some South Korean men, especially towards women, has come under the spotlight in recent months.

A growing community of ultra-right-wing South Korean men have been sharing their beliefs online for some time on their own website to avoid having the content deleted.

Ilbe Storehouse, which translates to daily best, is now the 24th most popular website in all of South Korea, receiving close to 30.8 million visits in August this year alone.

Hate speech against women was the driving force for majority of the site's content.

In August this year, South Korean women staged a protest to urge tech giants including Google, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to work harder to curb hi-tech sex crimes in Seoul.

There were 7325 requests to have intimate videos removed from the internet were made last year in South Korea, according to government figures, a sevenfold increase in only four years.

It wouldn't be the first time women's rights have come under the spotlight in South Korea.

Last year, the government was slammed over an online website which revealed the number of women in child-bearing age by each city district and region.

The Ministry of the Interior unveiled a pink birth map which critics said shamed women who didn't have children.

The website was pulled down within hours following the backlash, the Associated Press reported.

Lee Min-kyung, a 24-year-old feminist writer was among those who slammed the website which the government said was designed to increase the public's understanding of the country's low birth rate.

"I felt so angered that it blatantly showed how the government saw women's bodies as the country's reproductive tools, not belonging to the woman," she said.