But still, one thing is clear: the number — well, percentage — of Korean women working has little changed in the last 15 years, and remains very very low by the standards of other developed countries. So it can not be the cause of increasing gender friction.
The perception that Korean women are making significant inroads into the Korean economy though? That’s entirely possible, and indeed I highly recommend KoreaBANG for much more on that (indeed, especially the remainder of Justin’s post), as well as many posts by Gord Sellar too (source, right).
To start, I’m a big fan of The Grand Narrative, always have been, always will be. Mostly because he usually gets most of the facts right. The crushingly sad thing about articles that highlight facts like this though, are the comments in the comment section. Not necessarily at the grand narrative per se, although I did see some vitriol on topics related to abortion, but in the Korean articles as perceived by Korean netizens themselves.
Granted, men have an overwhelmingly huge presence (or so I’ve always felt, perhaps because on the internet we girls all know better than to outright say that we’re girls) on the Korean internet, so perhaps the vitriol shouldn’t be that surprising, but still.
Real excuses I’ve seen made by Korean men (or presumably Korean men) on articles like these:
“That’s because the girls don’t want to work, they’re lazy, so they just decide to get married”
“You know when we hire girls in the company they’re uncooperative so they get fired easily”
“Riiiiiight I bet most of the girls are married and living off their husbands’ money”
It’s just so disheartening sometimes.
If you want to see comments like this yourself, Naver has a lot of these comments.
This is something Busan and I have gone round and round about, with him sometimes making claims that he would know better than I would, given that he’s Korean. And that’s fair enough, but I do like to remind him that I have far more close relationships with Korean women of working age than he does, and also the perspective of a woman who will naturally be inclined to view things in a different light to begin with.
We’ve been over a lot of subjects, such as how female employees “don’t work as hard” (his take), otherwise known as not being given more responsibilities and higher positions, or “don’t bond with the bosses as well”, otherwise known as not being included in hwaeshik events, because they bring down the bro-moral with their resistance to being around drunk bosses who might act inappropriately, or being kicked out entirely for making unseemly 2-cha activities impossible. Or how women always quit their jobs to get married and have children, also known as women aren’t given as many opportunities to rise in the ranks because of these precise expectations, and many do eventually get frustrated and give up. Or, women are expected, in the first place, to make the choice between career OR family, whereas men are allowed to have both.
Now, Busan has a female boss, and we have near-monthly tense stare-downs, as he begins a sentence, every now and then, about his boss’s dedication to the job and “workaholic” tendencies being the reason why she doesn’t have a h——- uh…. never mind. I know, I know. I didn’t finish saying it.
I think the struggle itself may be becoming a stronger reality in Busan’s life, as he deals with me. There’s a whole long story behind how the conversation came about (a very funny one, in fact, which I may get to later), but Busan has recently been told under no uncertain terms that I will not be marrying anyone until I’ve finished grad school and secured a prime work position. Every time the subject comes up, I can see him doing mental math, and then he pauses and says, “But you will marry eventually, won’t you?”
He also gets a little perturbed when I make it clear that the reasoning behind it is that I will never, ever depend on a man financially. “But you can depend on me!” That’s what they all say, buddy. But we don’t live in a world where a woman has to rest on that anymore — believe it or not, it hasn’t been the luxury it’s been made out to be for some reason, so much as a kind of prison cell of dependency. I don’t feel that I’m a minority, and I think that realization is frustrating to many men. A lot of women these days, when being told that they’ll have to choose between a career and family, are going to go in a direction that a lot of men won’t like. Despite claims to the opposite, that all a woman really wants is to sit at home and be taken care of.
I have heard a lot of Korean men talk about wanting a wife who will work — that much is true. In theory, they don’t want to carry the (in Korea, kind of enormous) burden of providing for children and their education all on their own. That’s why teachers are said to make the most sought after wives — a stable position with a good financial future, a decent income, reasonable work hours and even potentially the ability to help cut down on education costs by teaching the kids themselves. But are men willing to come around and accept that not all women can be teachers, and a wife who earns money in Korean working culture may have her own yakeun and late night hwaeshik that he will have to work around? Will he put the kids to bed and prepare breakfast in the morning, on occasion?
You can’t have both. And you can’t call women lazy when they do it your way, and then call them loveless bitches when they go the other way and choose the career, because you are the ones who are limiting them to one or the other.