This study explores the gap between the rhetoric and the reality of gender mainstreaming logic, paying special attention to women's bureaux in Korea. In response to international pressures for gender mainstreaming, the Korean government has established or relocated women's bureaux since the 1990s. At first glance, it appears that the government in Korea has been keen to integrate gender issues into the entire policy process. However, closer investigation draws a very different picture. Qualitative findings from interviews with civil servants in Korean women's bureaux show that the bureaux are characterised by institutionalised powerlessness in terms of peripheral structural arrangements, visible and invisible resistance from inside and outside government bureaucracy, and a lack of staff commitment. Therefore, it is hard to draw the conclusion that gender mainstreaming via the systematisation of women's bureaux would ever go beyond symbolic gestures in Korea.