SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea's official human rights watchdog urged Korean Air Lines Co. on Wednesday to stop banning male job seekers from applying for flight attendant positions, saying the policy violates a law banning sex discrimination.
However, Korean Air said it has no intention of abiding by the watchdog's advice because it "seriously" violates an individual company's rights to formulate its own hiring system.
The state-run National Human Rights Commission said the country's largest airline has not recruited new male cabin crew since 1997. It said Korean Air has been filling male crew positions from those working at other in-house divisions.
The commission's advice is not legally binding, but investigator Na Sang-won said that if Korean Air does not comply, the watchdog may ask the Labor Ministry to take punitive action.
Korea's law on equal opportunity in employment carries a maximum penalty of an approximately $3,800 fine.
The watchdog said Asiana Airlines Inc., the country's second-largest airline, had not also hired male cabin crew for its domestic flights but stopped the practice this year.
Korean Air said in a statement later Wednesday that it would not change its hiring practices, but aimed to deploy some male employees with experience to flight attendant positions.
The company said it was difficult to apply the same system on female employees because they have fewer years of service compared with their male counterparts.
Korean Air said it has about 3,150 flight attendants — 2,730 women and 420 men.