Why South Korean Women Feel Like Second Class Citizens

South Korean Women: Feeling Like a Second-Class Citizen

Why South Korean Women Feel Like Second Class Citizens

Generally, women in South Korea are fragile.

I sat on my couch, in my new apartment, on my first night in Korea, reading the orientation booklet that my new boss had handed me earlier that day.

“Korea has been a male dominated society for a long time. Korean women have not been educated to stand alone.”

Having this knowledge upon arrival probably got me started on the wrong foot. From day one, I had my eyes peeled for any signs that men dominated society here. Turns out I didn’t have to search very hard.

My students love to to ask me, “Are you married?” It’s a perfectly innocent question, but it is one only asked to women, never men.

I was told early on by my recruitment agent and fellow teachers, that if I was a smoker, I should avoid doing it in public. It’s okay for men, but it is very frowned upon for women to do so.

My students love to to ask me, “Are you married?” It’s a perfectly innocent question, but it is one only asked to women, never men.

Recently one of my young female students asked me why I wasn’t married. “I don’t want to be married right now,” I told her.

She nodded seriously, “Me neither. My mom told me when you get married, you take care of the whole house and cook all the time.” I had to laugh. We agreed that wouldn’t be any fun.

I thought it would be different among Korean youth, and that young men and women would be more equal, but I’m not convinced yet.

I was told early on that if I was a smoker, I should avoid doing it in public. It’s okay for men, but it is very frowned upon for women to do so.

As my boyfriend, Luke, and I sat at a local bar recently, we were approached by a young couple who invited us to play darts with them. We had a good time, speaking English and broken Korean, and being generally terrible at darts. At the end of the game, the young guy introduced himself to Luke. After they shook hands, I readied myself for my turn, but it never came. They both turned to leave with a smile and a wave. My name wasn’t important.

I want to be patient, to understand that this is a cultural norm that goes back to their Confucian roots. I want to be more accepting and open my eyes to all of the good things that come from these societal positions. But my all-girls-school, tough-chick, feminist side is screaming inside. I am an equal.

The longer I’m here, the more I hear these kinds of stories or experience the female role in Korean society. Female teachers do not speak up in meetings or lose control of their emotions in upsetting situations. I know it’s getting better all the time and a lot of what I experience could probably be said about my very own country.  In fact, Korea has beaten the United States to their first female president. It can make a girl wonder.

 

Why South Korean Women Feel Like Second Class Citizens

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Life at Sea: 48 Hours in Busan, Korea

Have you traveled to South Korea? What were your impressions? Email us at editor@pinkpangea.com for information about sharing your experience and advice with the Pink Pangea community. We can’t wait to hear from you.

Why South Korean Women Feel Like Second Class Citizens photo credit: unsplash.

About Laura Bronner

Laura BronnerLaura Bronner is an American girl addicted to life abroad. After graduating from college she set off on what was meant to be a year of travel. That was four years ago. Since then she has lived in New Zealand, Australia and now calls South Korea home. You can follow along with her experiences on An American Abroad

2 thoughts on “Why South Korean Women Feel Like Second Class Citizens

  1. Avatar
    Luana
    May 24, 2014
    Reply

    Guess it’s a change that takes time. When something is so rooted into the culture and mind of a people, change can take decades or centuries to happen.

    I’m Italian, and while Italy is generally on the equality side, women are still underpaid at work, they easily get fired when they get pregnant, and in the family girls are still told they should learn how to cook and dedicate more time to housework “for their future husband”.

    LOL my grandma and mom still tell me that. And it’s why I hate housework with a passion (I only do it for hygiene reasons, not because I’m a woman). Honestly, if I had to get married to be a ‘slave’, then I’d rather stay single forever. Gladly, my fiance doesn’t care about all that. He thinks of us as equal and that’s why we make a great team. 😉

    • Avatar
      Shannon
      January 17, 2016
      Reply

      I can’t stand being treated unequally. And, you’re totally right that inequality does still exist in America too.

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