South Koreans discriminate against Indians
Women's rights in South Korea
Barriers to Working Women in South Korea
How Confucianism Affected South Korean Society
Confucian ideas have been influential from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897) to the present day. Their ethical norms are still prevalent in today's society. In Confucianism, women play a subordinate role compared to men and represent patriarchal, authoritarian values. Women have to follow their husbands, practice the virtues of filial devotion to their parents, obey and have no freedom to exist as individuals (Sung 2003, 346). These traditional roles and expectations of South Korean women have remained to this day. They influence the consciousness and life of modern women as well. The subordinate position was internalized by the woman herself and she only recognized herself as part of the family. The formation of an autonomous self was impossible. The social status and honor of women were determined by their family, which made it impossible for women to have an individual ego.
As a result, the quest to maintain paternal lineage has long been deeply ingrained in South Korean history. And even today, many South Koreans consider it important to succeed the family name and to continue the legacy through sons. For this reason, the strong preference for boys through illegal fetal testing led to abortions of girls. In 1993, when the gender disparity was most pronounced, the gender ratio of births was 115.5 boys to 100 girls (Kwak et al 2017, 131).
The shift in the way women see themselves away from Confucianism did not come overnight, but is the result of gradual changes over the past few decades. In the course of the country's opening to the outside world in the late 19th century, Western Christian missionaries introduced modern schools for the first time. After its inception, the education of women was a specific goal that some of these schools set and achieved.¹ Through their education, women participated in artistic and religious activities and this eventually led to the education of other women. Along with the men, the women also took part in the independence movement against Japanese imperialism. With the establishment of the Republic of Korea in 1948, women acquired the constitutional right to equal opportunities in society. Thereafter, during the period of industrialization, the female workforce contributed to South Korea's rapid economic growth.
As the economy progressed and the living conditions of Koreans improved, so did the educational level of women. Since the re-industrialization after the Korean War (1950-1953), the economic participation of women has also increased steadily. In response to the increasing number of working women, the government passed the Employment Equality Act in 1987 to prevent discriminatory practices against women workers in terms of employment and promotion.
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