Date: Sun, 10 Dec 1995 21:14:08 +0900
Message-Id: <>
Subject: Women in Korea

Women in Korea

By Thomas C. Ellis, <>, 10 December 1995

I found the article [which Ellis mistakenly attributed to me] interesting but a little flawed. [Does the author live] in Korea or [has he] lived in Korea for any length of time? The truth is women are the most nationalistic and patriotic people in Korea and are in business for the money. Korea's Confucian system has put Koreans in a subservient position and this has led to Korean women accepting the life dealt to them by their elders. Women here are probably less troubled than their European and American counterparts by feelings which haunt many women--isolation, loneliness, powerlessness, lack of identity or purpose in society, etc.

Women here have a family based identity. The Korean language addresses a woman by her age, marital status, and whether or not she has a child. The title a husband addresses his wife as is CHIBE SARAM or house person. The woman has total control over the living quarters and family income. She is the home manager and child manager--her status is respected and well kept. Since the woman was probably matched with husband as is the case with over 60% of marriages in Korea and China, she seeks a man who can provide a stable income and a nice apartment with good furnishings. Women here are married off in their twenties and after that they are not expected to work. Why? Because work in Asia is stressful and dangerous, and the men work as an army on the march. Korean society is divided into two camps: the male camp, and the female camp. This begins at the age of 7 and continues until the age of 18. The two camps don't admit homosexually or persons who may upset the social structure.

Prostitution in Korea is a terrible truth. But ever since the Japanese occupation when whorehouses where established, prostitution has continued through the liberation, the Korean War and Korea's industrialization in the 1960's and 1970's. Who owns and runs these houses? Not men mind you but women, old women who recruit girls from the countryside. Again it's generally a case of making money for survival. The funny thing is, most prostitutes cannot be identified in the Korean society. A person may sit next to a prostitute and never know. The US military doesn't keep a den of girls ready. The girls come because open prostitution in Asia is a way of making money. Besides most of the prostitutes serve Korean soldiers and not American soldiers. Anyway most young Korean women don't want to be prostitutes and can and do work in other occupations. Remember, Korea recently emerged from poverty and the women and men don't want to take any chances. A woman who sticks up gets hammered down as does anybody else. It's a Korean saying. This culture is much older than recent western ideas of the 20th century. The women I know in Korea, including my wife and students, are happier, mentally sharper, and more polite than most women I meet in the USA. This is maybe longwinded but women workers in Asia ensure the architecture of capitalism stands strong in Asia. Confucianism has created a strong but harsh society in Korea--women make it bearable for everybody. That's life, isn't it?