This course is an introduction to the history and culture of women in Korea. The major focus of the course is on the various cultural, religious, political and economic factors that have served to define womanhood and change the role and status of women. The historical context that contributed to changes in the standing of women can be divided into three periods: 1) the Choson dynasty (1392-1910), when Confucian-prescribed gender ideologies prevailed; 2) the Japanese colonial period (1910-1945), during which women's movements were considered secondary to the movement for national independence, but which nonetheless saw some serious attempts to invent a new image for women; and 3) Independence (1945-present), which was marked by two major changes: the nation was divided into North Korea and South Korea; and South Korea begin a drive toward modernization in the midst of its own internal political struggles. The status of South Korean women has seen rapid changes since 1948 in terms of gender equity, education and work, and yet, women still face many barriers and challenges. North Korean women have also experienced major transformations in their relationship with the family and society since 1948 in the process of socialist nation building.
Throughout the semester, students will consider how social structures and cultural practices have affected women and how women themselves have struggled to gain basic human rights and opportunities equal to those of men. Students will examine a variety of texts and visual materials with the aim of investigating the following questions:
a. What specific influences from Confucianism has Korean society had?; In what aspects can we still detect the influence of Confucian ideologies on the lives of contemporary Korean women?
b. In what ways were the experiences of Korean women during the colonial period different from their lives prior to the colonial period?; What has been the legacy of the colonial experience in shaping women's lives in Korea?
c. How has the division of the nation and the modernization policies of South Korea affected women's lives?; What do the outcomes of “modernization” bring to women in terms of their rights in the legal, educational, political and economic arenas? How does popular culture represent the role and status of women in Korea?
d. In what ways have socialist programs in North Korea succeeded or failed in enhancing the status and role of women? What are the roles of women in adopting or appropriating the recently introduced capitalist market economy?
Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:
By the end of this course students should:
- Comprehend the overall historical changes in the status of women in Korea
- Relate the complex life experiences of women to specific historical circumstances
- Understand the history of women in Korea within a broader regional and global context
- Develop analytical skills in examining the intersections of gender, class and race.
This is a co-taught course. Any cap on enrolments in one course applies to both courses combined.
Presentation 5% (learning outcomes #1)
Participation in class and on Wattle 15% (learning outcomes #1, 2 and 4)
Mid-term Essay 40% (up to 2,000 words) (learning outcomes #2 and 4)
Final Essay 40% (up to 3,000 words) (learning outcomes #1,2,3, and 4)
In response to COVID-19: Please note that Semester 2 Class Summary information (available under the classes tab) is as up to date as possible. Changes to Class Summaries not captured by this publication will be available to enrolled students via Wattle.
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WorkloadTwo-hour lecture and one-hour tutorial per week; Six to seven hours for class preparation and course assignments per week
Requisite and Incompatibility
Hyaeweol Choi, Gender and Mission Encounters: New Women, Old Ways (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009) Available online
Elaine Kim and Chungmoo Choi, Dangerous Women: Gender and Korean Nationalism (New York: Routledge, 1998) (to be purchased)
Others: journal articles, films and photography. Available on Wattle
Elaine H. Kim and Chungmoo Choi (eds), Dangerous Women : Gender and Korean Nationalism, 1998;
Martina Deuchler, The Confucian transformation of Korea, 1992
Nicholson, Linda J., Gender and History, Columbia University Press, 1986
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- Unit value:
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