South Korea's human rights commission has recommended that the country's second-largest airline allow its female cabin crew to wear trousers, adding weight to a union campaign to ease strict dress rules.
The commission's ruling made Monday is non-binding but represents a small victory for the 3400 female flight attendants at Asiana Airlines.
Since last year, they have been asking the company to relax appearance requirements that range from how many hairpins they can wear to the length of their earrings.
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea said Asiana Airlines required a uniform appearance through very specific rules on hairstyle and makeup, indicating that the company assumed women's role to be that of a service provider.
Asiana said that its skirt-only policy was meant to emphasize the company's brand of "high-class Korean beauty." It said aesthetic elements such as the appearance of female flight attendants are part of its service for passengers and an essential tool for staying competitive.
Still, the company said it will review trouser options in future uniform redesigns. It did not say when the next one is scheduled.
Asiana is the only South Korean airline with a no-trouser rule for its female flight attendants.
Even though the company did not openly ban specific hairstyles, all but four of its female flight attendants wore their hair in a tight bun because of pressure from senior crew and a group evaluation system that examines appearance, said Kweon Soo-joung, head of Asiana's labor union.
Kweon said Asiana's meticulous rules for female cabin crew reached 10 pages, including a ban on wearing glasses, having to cover up facial blemishes, and requirements for the length of earrings and the amount of eye liner. About 200 male flight attendants had to conform to a 2-page guide and were allowed to wear glasses, she said.
Asiana said it eased appearance rules for its female employees as of January, including allowing glasses.
"I hope the decision would help change similar discriminatory rules that govern how women in service industries, such as hotels, dress and do their hair and makeup," Kweon said.