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Delayed by Democracy: Justice for Women in Korea Introduction It is most important to note that the family head system which prevailed in Korea for many years was abolished only in the 2005 family law revision. Until then, it is the gender hierarchy of traditional feudal society that prevailed in a supposedly modern democracy…
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Download file to see previous pages The conservatives as usual took a pro-patriarchy position which aims at chaining the women to the clutches of family and patriarchy. They also highlight the role of gender hierarchy in shaping the wider Korean culture. It is also an open argument for preserving the structures which keep the Korean women subordinate to their male counterparts. The pro-women groups have always maintained that the essence of democracy lies in gender equality. Extension of Korean democracy is by definition linked to widening of democracy to transform the existing gender relations. The Women Sub-species and the Gendered Nation The very lack of discussion on issues affecting women was one of the defining features of the Korean political system. For instance, the issue sex workers in Korea who mainly live by the surrounding areas of American military bases were never discussed by the civil society as they were seen as the “comfort women”. Choi is of the view that “what should be shocking is that the chongsindae issue has never been debated in Korea or elsewhere” (98). The general invisibility of the women and marginalization of women’s issues in particular had been at the center of protecting patriarchy in Korea. According to Moon, the mainstream nationalist discourse in Korea presupposes that “while men are the founders of the nation with heavenly origins, righteous warriors or patriotic soldiers, and heads of households, women have sub-human origins and are the bearers of sons who will inherit the nation and defend it” (57). It means that men are consider to be the original citizens by the so-called Korean democracy and women degraded to the status of modern serfs. It has been pointed out that, especially by Choi, “long before World War II, the Japanese colonial exploitation left poor women with little choice but to perform hard labor in Japan. It was part of the way the Japanese exploited women in general to speed industrialization” (99). Therefore, one could easily argue that women’s empowerment is very much a question of decolonization in general as colonialism always consider the subjugation of women as a structural need. It is also important to look at the overlapping between colonialism, neo-colonialism and capitalism in women’s oppression in Korea. Choi points out that, as argued by the socialist feminists in Korea that “patriarchy is an essential instrument of capitalism and the never ending process of capitalist accumulation is not possible without an asymmetrical male-female relationship that enables domination and exploitation of women and thus maximizes the surplus value, the profit gained by holding down production costs, particularly wages” (115). As more women are working with multinational companies, the exploitation women is being enhanced. As a primary step for achieving greater gender equality, the old family laws must be totally eradicated. In Korea, the debate on nation-building is essentially linked to the question what role women must play in both family and the society in general. This standpoint is fortunately part of both the pro-feminist and anti-women discourses. In the colonial period, the family laws were considered as inherently part of the Korean tradition. ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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