I don’t think this will interest anyone except for family, so Avrams – this is for you guys.
This paper was written by my lecturer, David Webber, and is a great summary of a lot of the cultural nuances that as a foreigner, I’ve been working hard to understand.
Obviously full credit goes to Prof. David Webber from the University of Missouri.
Gender and Families in South Korea
David Webber February 27, 2015
I. Background on South Korea
In a short sentence: South Korea is a Confucian society merging with modern globalism. In a longer sentence: Daily life in South Korea in 2015 is a result of the Chosun dynasty, Japanese Occupation, the Korean War, and two decades of unsurpassed economic advancement confronting the uncertainty due to its geographical location and the challenges of international trade and communication. Changes in families and gender role offer a clear focus for understanding Korea broader changes.
Rapid economic recovery from the Korean War (early 1950s) because of a very demanding and disciplined president (Park Cheng Hee, 1961-1979). Most important economic decisions are made by “chaebols.”—often translated as “conglomerates” but that’s not quite right. Chaebols are originally family based organizations active in many industries that have strong political and social connections, e.g. Samsung, LG, and Hyundai.
Korea is ethnically homogenous (of “one blood”) but religiously very tolerant (50 percent “no religion” with more Christians than Buddhist dividing the rest).
Population is 52 million on a land mass about the half the size of Missouri, so very urban; aging population; low birth rate (1.2 births per family compared to 2.1 needed for steady population)
International relations with North Korea, Japan, and China are a major focus of public policy. This includes not only military and defense policies but also trade, intellectual property, and cultural policies.
Most college students live with their parents; many Korean children are raised by grandparents.
Korea’s leading industries are high tech, advanced medicine, and entertainment (the K-wave). It is the site of the 2018 Winter Olympics. You will be hearing about Pyeongchang, South Korea in the next few years.
II. Important Cultural Influences: Confucianism, Jeong, and Han
Similar to many Asian nations, Korea’s history is Confucianism—patriarchal; importance of sons; women marry into a son’s family; importance of honoring families; ancestors and traditions, obligations to parents, families, and communities. Also importance of education. (Koreans are at the top of international education tests—but stressed out).
Jeong is a “special kind of love” in Korea, also compassion, affection, sense of belonging. Koreans share food, avoid showing off, avoid arguments and conflict. Jeong can be the basis of obligation and kindness.
Han is often described as a “unique Korean trait” of sorrow, bitterness, passive acceptance, historical burden, and/or resentment stemming from years of foreign repression. Han is written about mysteriously but several Korean-Americans told me it is essential for understanding Korea. It seems to fall more heavily on women. Thought to be decreasing with generational change.
III. Current Political Status of Women
A. Constitutional protection (adopted in 1948) –Article 11: All citizens shall be equal before the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic, social, or cultural life on account of sex, religion or social status” and Article 36 : (1) Marriage and family life shall be entered into and sustained on the basis of individual dignity and equality of the sexes, and the State shall do everything in its power to achieve that goal and (2) The State shall endeavor to protect mothers.
B. In the 1980s women secured rights in divorce, can own property in their own name. Korean, and most Asian, women keep their birth names upon marriage.
C. Korean president is Park Guen-Hye (since Feb 2013) –daughter of previous Pres Park Chung Hee.
D. Korean National Assembly (47 women out of 300—16 percent), fewer women in highest provincial and local elected positions compared to China).
E. Men are required to serve in the military for two years—college men don’t like it but it provides some benefits, a bond in jobs and politics, makes national security an issue dominated by men, contributes to women’s advantage in education causing a “social gap” in dating and marriage.
IV. Economic Status of Women
A. Income gap—“pay gap” is 15 percent on average in OECD countries with Korea having the highest at 30 percentage points. U.S. is 19 percent.
B. Labor participation gap—54 percent for women in 2011 compared to 75 percent for men (between ages of 15-64). Increasing women’s labor force participation is a goal of the current president. Family-career balance seems to be the gender challenge (similar to other OECD countries).
V. Social Status of Women
A. Sex ratio—Korea’s sex ratio at birth was 116.5 in 1990, meaning 116.5 boys were born per 100 girls, with the male bias being at least partly the result of selective abortions. By 2012, the ratio had declined to 105.7, comparable to ratios in Western countries. In 1987, Korea forbade doctors telling parents gender of their fetus.
B. Parental leave—since 1988 Korea has had maternity leave, with paternity leave being available since 1995. Benefit is now 1 million won (about $1,000) per month for one year. Reportedly few take it because of social pressure not to.
C. Education—parity in secondary education since the 1970s; now there is parity in higher education.
D. Unequal childcare and household responsibilities.
E. Abortion is technically legal but administratively discouraged but reportedly very common. Several articles said “Korea’s abortion rate is among the highest rates in the world.” A frequent reason given is because birth control is taboo.
F. Highly educated women, increased age of marriage and changed expectation of women to marry is creating a new social problem: Less educated men in rural areas are attracting wives from Cambodia, Vietnam and other Asian countries, thus presenting “multi-ethnic” challenges.
VI. Important Public Policies
A. Ministry of Gender Equality and Family http://english.mogef.go.kr/index.jsp is growing and has a full agenda. The ministry focuses on “gender sensitive policy” and promotes “gender impact statement.”
B. Political goal of 30 percent of public and private boards consisting of women.
C. An often discussed goal is to increase economic participation of women.
D. Parental leave—since 1988 Korea has had maternity leave, with paternity leave being available since 1995. Benefit is now 1 million won (about $1,000) per month for one year. Ministry of Gender Equality is to reimburse business. Reportedly few take it because of social pressure.
E. Child-care in the work place is now a goal—government subsidized, but underfunded.
VII. Good Information Resources