South Korea's national and private universities will be expected to fill at least 20 per cent of faculty posts with female professors under equal employment policies to be implemented this July.
According to the ministry, 6,111 female professors teach at the country's 136 private and 46 national universities - only 14.1 per cent of the total of 43,309 professors.
At national universities, the proportion of women professors was 8.8 per cent, barely half that of private universities at 16.1 per cent. At Seoul University, considered the nation's top university, it is only 7 per cent. This compares with the rise in the proportion of females earning doctorate degrees in South Korea, from 8.8 per cent in 1980 to 23.8 per cent now.
"The academic landscape is very conservative here," said Kim Jung-sang, a doctoral candidate in engineering. "Universities prefer to hire a man even when the female is more qualified. This has to change."
The education ministry is still undecided on whether to change the existing employment law framework to make it easier for universities to hire females or to give universities targets that they have to meet.
"By increasing the percentage of female professors at universities, we will not only be offering role models to female students, but will also contribute to the nation's academic development by opening gates for highly educated women, and establishing gender equality in academia," Shin Hyeon-ok of the ministry's women's education division said.
The ministry will monitor hiring policies of all universities and provide extra financial support to those employing female faculty.