News / Asia

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

TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Parents of Disaster Ferry Passengers Lash Out at Authorities

Twenty-nine bodies recovered from water but some 270 remain trapped on board More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

US congressional delegation initiates $84 million Agent Orange cleanup project More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid