Women in Asia: Tradition, Modernity and Globalisation

By Louise Edwards; Mina Roces | Go to book overview

8 Rhetoric or reality? Contesting
definitions of women in Korea

Sasha Hampson

National Korean Studies Centre
Swinburne University of Technology

The status of South Korean women has improved dramatically over the last thirty years and yet gender inequality is still a distinguishing feature of modern South Korean society (hereafter Korea and Korean). The rapid development of a capitalist economy and a democratic political system during these years has given Korea entry into the developed nations club.In emulation of other developed nations, and also in response to the active lobbying by Korean women's groups in the 1980s, the Korean government enacted several pieces of legislation that would apparently enhance gender equity in the nation.Undoubtedly these legislative changes, such as the Equal Employment Act, have improved the lives of Korean women by setting benchmarks for behaviour and providing avenues for redressing discriminatory practices.However, the full and effective implementation of this progressive legislation has been hindered by the resilience of traditional social and cultural norms restricting women's behaviour and participation in society. Korea's rapid social, political and economic transition has changed the family structure, weakened the traditional value system and broadened

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