News / Asia

Q&A: Seung-Kyung Kim on The Korean Women's Movement and the State

South Korea has changed dramatically since the rule of controversial military dictator Park Chung Hee. His grip on power from 1962 until his assassination in 1979 perpetuated a suppression of civil rights in the country and was especially harsh with regard to the role of women in society. Now, in Park Geun-hye, a woman is president of South Korea. Ironically, she is the dictator’s daughter.
 
Seung-Kyung Kim was a college student in the late 1970s and has since witnessed the changes in South Korea, especially with regard to the women’s movement. She is now Professor and Chair of the Women’s Studies Department and Director of the Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Maryland. Kim’s first book studied the economic development of young women factory workers in South Korea. She described to VOA’s Jim Stevenson her latest work, The Korean Women’s Movement and the State, as a continuation of her examination of resistance in social movements.
 
STEVENSON:  In just six chapters, you cover some of the seminal events of the women’s movement in South Korea over the past decade. The enactment of the law against prostitution in 2004 was a turning point in this movement.
 
KIM:  Yes. That law in 2004 which many, and I will say maybe most, Korean feminist scholars and women’s movement organization activists all thought prostitutes would embrace this law wholeheartedly. And they were surprised when prostitutes staged demonstration after demonstration, saying that this law does not and is not going to help them. So, given the fact if the law were to be effective, it would have to have a lot more of police force and other ways of implementing this law if the government was really determined to crack down on this issue. But they were not.
 
STEVENSON:  We like to say here in the United States that all politics is local. You write about the personal and family aspects of politics from the mid-2000s on, particularly the abolition of the family-head system and then rolling into the family law and childcare policy.
 

KIM:  Ever since the family law was established in 1948 and onward, women’s organizations wanted to revise the family law. And as you know, household-head system and family law has been a backbone of Korean society and [the] Korean family system. Having this law and abolishing the family-head system was a fundamental change in Korean society. It signaled in a way that there is no going back. The last chapter when I talk about childcare issues; that is what I am talking about “bargaining for change.”  The women’s movement was not able to push the public childcare system. As a result, I have to say the childcare system in Korea at this point is a mess, just like in the U.S.
 
STEVENSON:  No matter what the social change and the degrees of it, there is always something to look forward to and something to press ahead with, and that is pretty much your conclusion, that the Korean women’s movement is currently at a crossroads with such issues still needing some work and attention.
 
KIM:  The movement activism will again gather its forces and will deal with the issues that they are facing. I hope this book will be read by ordinary Korean women who want to find out about what happened to those legal changes and who made it happen and who were affected.

Jim Stevenson

For over 35 years, Jim Stevenson has been sharing stories with the world on the radio and internet. From both the field and the studio, Jim enjoys telling about specific events and uncovering the interesting periphery every story possesses. His broadcast career has been balanced between music, news, and sports, always blending the serious with the lighter side.

You May Like

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid