Saturday, June 6, 2009

Women's Rights in South Korea

Living in South Korea has brought many challenges to me. I haven't spent much time focusing on the negatives on this blog, but I've been thinking about them the whole time I've been here. So, here we go.

One of the most widespread problems I see in South Korean society is the treatment of women. Traditionally, this poor treatment came from Confucianism. While I've been told things are getting much better - women aren't beaten for smoking cigarettes, pay equity coming closer to parity, many jobs are open to women now - there are still a lot of problems.
  • Only recently have married women gained the status of "human". This came during a spousal rape court case - a man was actually found guilty of raping his wife. The judge noted that this must be taken on a case-by-case basis and should not be used as precedent.
  • Ajumas, generally middle aged or older women from poor backgrounds, are considered a neuter or third sex who are neither a women or a man.
  • When marrying, a woman's name is crossed off her parent's records and added to her husband's.
  • A euphemism for a widow is "A woman who has not died yet".
  • Most women are expected to do all of the child-raising.
  • Women feel they have to choose between having a career or raising a family.
The other day, the Supreme Court ruled that the "heirs of the late actress Choi Jin-sil must compensate an advertiser since she failed to maintain her dignity as a model when pictures of her after a beating by her then-husband Cho Sung-min were publicized in media."

Basically, she was a celebrity, married to pro baseball player. She had a modeling job that required her to maintain personal dignity. Her husband beat her, photos got out on the internet, they got a divorce. She moved on, an actor friend of her's committed suicide, she committed suicide.

Now, since she "broke her contract" by getting beaten by her husband and not hiding it, her two young children who are in the care of her mother have to pony up the cash to pay the settlement.

Chosun Ilbo - Choi Jin-Sil
Chosun Ilbo - Spousal Rape
"How Koreans Talk", Choe, Torchia

1 comment:

Sasha Friedman said...

Check out the great blog
for more info on gender issues and roles in Korea.