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Female executives scarce in Korea's car industry

SEOUL--It's not news that Hyundai Motor and its affiliate Kia Motors are behind on including women among their board members or highest-paid executives like other manufacturing companies here.

But a fresh alarm bell is ringing with the Korean duo these days as their Detroit rival General Motors has recently named a woman as its new CEO.

On Dec. 10, GM made a surprise announcement appointing Mary Barra, senior vice president for global product development, the company's first female CEO. She is also the first woman to lead a global carmaker.

“This is truly the next chapter in GM's recovery and turnaround history,” Barra told employees the day of her appointment at company headquarters in Detroit. “And I'm proud to be a part of it.”

Hyundai and Kia, both considered among the most male-dominant workplaces in Korea, are also seeking to lure more talented women as they renew welfare benefits for them to start and continue their careers at the companies.

Those attempts, however, seem to have failed to trigger major changes thus far.

Over the past five years, there has been no big difference in the female ratio both at Hyundai and Kia. At the end of 2012, 57,052 men and 2,575 women were working at Hyundai, with female workers making up less than 5 percent. The female ratio at Kia was a tiny 2.5 percent.

In recent years, the companies had two high-profile nominations. They picked female marketing specialists from outside the companies.

Kia named its first female executive in 2010, appointing Chae Yang-sun, a former vice president at L'Oreal Korea, to head its marketing team.

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