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Single Mothers In South Korea Struggle To Remove Social Stigma

Single Mothers In South Korea

Being a single mother in South Korea is an experience you would not wish to encounter. In the 1980s children were sent for adoption abroad; 90% of them were from the unmarried mothers. The communities in South Korea have become too conservative to accept the presence of single mothers.

Testimony from Choi Hyung –Sook is evidence enough of what you are likely to face as a single mum in South Korea. Her family cut ties with her and bonding again has not been a walk in the park. She had to quit her job because of the underground talks.

Single Mothers In South Korea

According to Shannon Heit, who was adopted by American parents after her grandmother gave her out when her mother had gone to work, she feels it is disgusting to value other parents with more money to raise your child.

The Deputy Director for the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family says the government has expanded its budget to create more awareness campaign to alleviate social prejudice against the single mothers.

Ironically, according to Heit, the government of South Korea offers twice the financial support to domestic adoptive parents than the single biological mothers.

There is a need for the cultural and government support to create a conducive environment for the single mothers to raise their children. The children need to be happy like any others in South Korea. Choi hopes that one day the society will appreciate the fact that raising the child alone is a personal choice.

Choi and Heit have taken leading roles in the awareness campaigns through rallies and celebrating the single women’s day.

Jun Ahn The Self-Portrait Photographer

Jun Ahn

Jun Ahn is a professional photographer with a rich education background in photography. Jun has many years of experience working both in New York and South Korea.


Jun acquired her first degree in Art History at the South California University in 2006. She continued to pursue her post-graduate degree at Pratt Institute where she began her project; the Self-Portrait.

2009-2011, Jun acquired a Dean’s scholarship from Parsons The New School of Design. In 2011, she acquired both the Dean’s and departmental scholarships. Parson Awarded Ahn Jun a masters in fine arts (honors) which gave her the mileage to pursue a Ph.D. in photography at Hongik University, Seoul.

Jun Ahn

She has had her introductory joint exhibition at PS 122 with Kazue Taguchi in New York.

The journey of self-portrait began in Pratt when she was still a student. She took a photo of her feet while seated at the edge of a building. It excited her, and she pushed on thereafter.

Ahns photos center on Invisible Seascape, Self-Portrait, and Float. She seeks to get legitimacy to access the buildings, and at times, it takes months. She agrees that it is dangerous to take the photos from the top buildings though she tries to play safe at the same time.

Lim Ji-Young-The First Korea Ever to Win Queen Elisabeth Competition

Lim Ji-Young-The First Korea Ever to Win Queen Elisabeth Competition

The young violinist was born in 1995 in Seoul, South Korea. She is a great and renowned violinist who has gained momentum due to her aficionado in violins. She obtained the first prize as the winner in Queen Elizabeth Competition in 2005 that was held in Brussels.  She studies at the Korea National Arts University with Yun Kim.

Lim young has always become successful in numerous other competitions. After she became the second runners-up in the 2011 International Violin Competition Henri Marteau, Ji won the 2012 Japan’s Ishikawa Music Award.  She also performed exemplary in the Concerto Competition which was held at Korea’s International Great Mountains Music Festival. Similarly, she succeeded at International Eurasia Music competition in the year 2013 in Japan. She couldn’t fail to show her expertise in playing the violins at the Indianapolis music competition where she got a Mozart and MIMC prize.

Lim Ji-Young-The First Korea Ever to Win Queen Elisabeth Competition

The professional in general has performed in Belgium, Germany, United States, Korea, Japan, Canada, Switzerland, Joell Smirnoff, and Maxim Vengerov.

What happened in the 2005’s Queen Elisabeth competition was weird and amazing at the same time. At the time of prize announcements for the violinists, her name got misheard which made a fellow competitor by the name Lee Yoon to get the prize but unfortunately, for her Lim Young was the real winner hence she got the prize which was inclusive of twenty-five thousand Euros. In that same prize, she was offered a loan of four years of “Huggins” Stradivarius violins, Antonio Stradivari explicitly made that in 1708 who was a violin expert by then.

Yuna Kim Is The SweetHeart Of Korea and The First Female Figure Skater To Win The Olympics

Sochi, RUSSIA - February 22, 2014: Yuna KIM at Figure Skating Exhibition Gala at Sochi 2014 XXII Olympic Winter Games

Yuna Kim was born in the Bucheon, Gyeonggi Province on September 5th of 1990. She was a professional figure skater in South Koreas and the Olympic champion for 2014. She was the World champion in 2009 and 2013, the Four Continents champion for 2009, the Grand Prix Final champion for 2006 through 2007, 2007 through 2008 and 2009 through 2010, the Junior Grand Prix Final champion for 2005 and the South Korean national champion for 2014, 2013, 2006, 2005, 2004 and 2003.

Yuna Kim is the first figure skater from South Korea to receive a medal at the Senior or Junior Grand Prix event, the Olympic Games and the ISU Championship. She is the first to win the Grand Prix Final, the Four Continents Championships and the World Championships as a female skater. She is a highly recognized media figure and athlete in South Korea and referred to as the ice queen. A large portion of the media across the globe calls her Queen Yuna.


Yuna Kim holds the former record for females in the combined total, free skate and short program according to the ISU Judging System. Since 2007, she has beaten the scores for the world record eleven times according to the ISU Judging System. Eight of these records were originally set by her. She is the first female skater to exceed the 150 and 140-point free shaking mark and the 220, 210 and 200-point total mark according to the ISU Judging System. Many people regard her as the best skater for ladies singles in history due to her musical and artistry sense, nearly textbook jumps, exceptional speed, unprecedented depth, competitive record, longevity, quality, consistency and grace.


During the XXI Olympic Winter Games, Yuna Kim was the athlete with the highest pay and in 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2010 she earned more than any other sportswoman on the globe according to Forbes. She was also included in Forbes Philanthropy and Under 30 lists. Time magazine included her as one of 2010’s 100 Most Influential People. She was ranked by Forbes from 2010 until 2015 in the top ten as a Korea Power Celebrity. During the Winter Olympics opening ceremony for 2018, she lit the Olympic cauldron in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Yuna Kim began skating when she was six with Ryu Jong-hyun as her coach. Her coach predicted she would become a famous figure skater as time passed. During an interview in 2011, she thanked her coaches for realizing her body structure and muscles were perfect for skating. She feels lucky her coaches helped her develop her talent. The facilities in South Korea were limited during her junior years. She had an interview with CNN in 2010 and spoke of the few ice rinks in existence in South Korea, stating the majority were public.


Even now, when an athlete in South Korea wants to practice skating, they must do so either late at night or early in the morning. The figure skaters must train in different rinks on a consistent basis because there are not enough rinks available for all the skating teams. She believes the possibility of injury always exists because the skating rinks are too cold. While she was a teenager, she often wore skates that did not fit properly due to the lack of proper skate shops. She suffered from many injuries and had a hard time keeping her balance because of this.


Yuna Kim’s first international competition was in 2002 at the Triglav Trophy in Slovenia. She received the gold medal for winning the novice competition. She won the South Korean Championships senior title at age twelve and her second international title at the Golden Bear of Zagreb.

Kyung-won Park – the first female civilian pilot in the country

World war II era propeller fighter planes on a mission

August 7 marks the eighty-fifth anniversary (1933) of the tragic death of Kyung-won Park, celebrated as Korea’s first civilian female aviator.


Born June 24, 1901 in Daegu, Gyeongsang-do, Korea to wealthy parents, she was the youngest of five children. A precocious and lively child, Park’s intelligence and curious nature, along with a playful, adventurous spirit and a relentless determination easily distinguished her from other youngsters her age. When her schooling began, she excelled while attending the Simsang Girl’s Primary and High Schools. Later, she received her secondary education at the esteemed Myeongsin Women’s School, an American Presbyterian Church mission-sponsored school in Daegu. Following completion of her studies in 1917 (with the highest honors), Park received the blessing of her parents and relocated to Japan where she studied for two-and-a-half-years at Yokohama’s Kasahara Industrial Training School. While living in Yokohama, along with her studies, she attended a local Korean church, eventually converting to the Christian faith.


In early 1920, with the intention of following her parent’s advice by entering nursing school, Park returned to Daegu to begin her studies. Although nursing was a popular and highly-respected profession for educated Korean women in the early twentieth century, Park had discovered a different passion. During her time in Japan, Park had become intrigued by aviation, and expressed her aspiration to become an airplane pilot. Unfortunately, opportunities for women in the early days of this relatively new technology were nearly non-existent, and the training and tuition costs were very expensive. When she revealed to her parents of her dream to make a career in the skies, they were, not surprisingly, shocked and voiced their opposition to the idea. Disappointed by their reaction, but rational enough to know that if she were to realize her dream, she would have to pursue it without family support, Park (for the time being) capitulated to her parent’s wishes and agreed to follow the original plan and attend nursing school. She dutifully completed her training and began working at Jayhe Hospital, the local medical facility. All the while, to help earn the finances needed to pay for her aviation training, Park not only saved much of her nurse’s salary, she also showed resourcefulness by obtaining a driver’s license to earn additional money by providing her services as a driver.


In January 1925, still intent on pursuing her dream and having accumulated the necessary funding, Park returned to Japan and enrolled at Tachikawa Flight School in Kamata where her intelligence and dogged determination helped her to quickly distinguish herself among the other (overwhelmingly male) trainees. Park graduated in two years, obtaining her 3rd-class commercial pilot’s license. Her abilities were readily apparent to her colleagues and instructors, and after completing the required training, she applied for and tested for the next level and succeeded, obtaining her 2nd-class license, making her Korea’s first female civilian pilot.


For the next five years, Kyung-won Park performed her duties admirably, serving as an inspiration for her fellow aviators, both male and female, including pilots from other countries. In addition, she also served honorably as an instructor at Tachikawa,


In May 1933, Park was selected to pilot the maiden voyage of a new aerial route linking Japan and Manchukuo (Manchuria). Being selected for this assignment was a great honor, made even more so by the selection of a woman pilot. On the morning of August 7, Park departed Haneda Airport in Tokyo in the Blue Swallow, a Salmon 2A2 biplane bound for Manchukuo. Encountering dense fog just 42 minutes into the flight, Park apparently became disoriented and tragically lost her life when the plane crashed near the Japanese town of Hakone.

Comfort women stories. What actually happened


The Comfort women stories from World War 2 have echoed throughout the world. The hardship and suffering that they faced during their days in the Comfort Women brothels has made a mark in world history.

Comfort Women served in military brothels before and during World War II. Comfort Women is a translation of the Japanese “ianfu,” which is a common euphemism for a prostitute. Though estimates on the number of women who took part in the brothels vary, they begin at 20,000 women. Stories of Comfort Women were revealed in different military and humanitarian reports after the war concluded.


There is a general lack of documentation, which keeps an exact number of Comfort Women from being determined. The Asahi Shibum, a Japanese newspaper, once published that the number of Comfort Women was over 100 000, which was redacted when it was discovered to be erroneous. The number likely refers to the number of women who started to work in the civil labor corp. as nurses and cleaners during the war.


Comfort Stations were found in many of the places occupied by Japan. Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaya, Taiwan, The Dutch East Indies, and Timor all had Comfort Stations. According to many testimonies, women from agricultural villages and with no educational opportunities were recruited by local brokers. The brokers, also called middlemen, then trafficked the women to locally owned brothels, so that they could provide “comfort” to soldiers during the war. When the war started, the brokers used conventional methods like newspaper advertisements to recruit women.


Kimiko Kaneda

Kimiko Kaneda was a South Korean Comfort Woman. She was half Japanese and half Korean, but she ended up living with her uncle in Korea. Kaneda’s father was a priest who was arrested for defaming Japanese shrines. At age 16, Kaneda worked as a housemaid in Seoul. She became addicted to opium after being sent to work as a Comfort Woman in Zaoqiang, which got her sent back to Seoul in 1945. The following is a part of her story transcribed from a video:


Forced to become a comfort woman

How did I feel? I felt as if we were taken here to be killed. I could not but weep. No one talked. All were weeping. That night we slept there and in the morning we were put in those rooms. Soldiers came to my room, but I resisted with all my might. The first soldier wasn’t drunk and when he tried to rip my clothes off, I shouted “No!” and he left. The second soldier was drunk. He waved a knife at me and threatened to kill me if I didn’t do what he said. But I didn’t care if I died, and in the end he stabbed me. Here (She pointed her chest).”

“He was taken away by the military police and I was taken to the infirmary. My clothes were soaked with blood. I was treated in the infirmary for twenty days. I was sent back to my room. A soldier who had just returned from the fighting came in. Thanks to the treatment my wound was much improved, but I had a plaster on my chest.”

“Despite that the soldier attacked me, and when I wouldn’t do what he said, he seized my wrists and threw me out of the room. My wrists were broken, and they are still very weak. Here was broken…. There’s no bone here. I was kicked by a soldier here. It took the skin right off… you could see the bone.”


At the time, prostitution was legal in Japan. Since it was legal, the system of Comfort Women was invented to prevent battlefield conflicts. This would reduce hostility from native populations in occupied areas. After the war ended, Japan issued formal apologies that aimed to compensate Comfort Women monetarily (2015 Comfort Women Agreement).

Tai-young Lee Made Hiistoric Stride For Women In South Korea


Tai-young Lee was the first female lawyer in the history of South Korea. She was also later to become the first female judge in South Korea. She was born in North Korea in 1914. She passed away in 1998 at the age of 84. She was also known as Yi T’ai Yǒng,


Her achievements in the legal profession, especially in those days for a woman in Korea, are impressive to say the least. Tai-young Lee took the bar exam in 1952. She passed what was considered an extremely tough task for a male in Korea back in those days. It is no doubt considered to be highly unlikely for a female to ever even be a candidate to take the test.


Throughout her career and her adult life, she was an activist for women’s rights. A legal aid center started to aid women in need of legal services was also a first in Korea. It was founded in Seoul by Tai-young Lee. It was after her second attempt that she became a judge, having been denied the first time. The initial denial was reportedly due to political reasons. She is said to have frequently spoke that,”No society can or will prosper without the cooperation of women.”


She attended Chung Eui Girls’ High School, located in Pyongyang. She also attended Ewha Womans University in Seoul. She graduated from the university with a degree in Home Economics. Later Tai-young Lee went on to attend Seoul National University, from which she graduated having achieved a law degree. These were turbulant years for the people of Korea in the 1950’s, set amidst the war torn years of the Korean War. Tai-young Lee started her law practice in 1957, after the war had ended.


Her father and her mother were Methodists, and it was her grandfather who founded the Methodist Church in their town. Tai-young Lee married a Methodist minister with whom she had four children. During the 1940’s, she had to take on several different jobs when her husband was incarcerated for sedition. For many years, she taught school, she sang on radio, and she also took on jobs sewing and washing clothes. She was a dedicated wife and mother, and she did all she could to support herself and her children.


Decades later in the mid 1970’s, she and her husband took part in the Myongdong Declaration for the cause of civil liberties rights for the Korean people. Because of her political views and activism, she was arrested. She was disbarred for 10 years, and she received a 3 year suspended sentence. Tai-young Lee also suffered the loss of her own civil liberties. She then continued her work in her organization known as the Korea Legal Aid Center for Family Relations. It was well received and serves many thousands of clients per year.


She has achieved a great deal of recognition in her life. Tai-young Lee received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership. This renowned award is also named the Korean Peace Prize. She also was a recipient of an award from the International Legal Aid Society. Additionally, Drew University of New Jersey bestowed the distinctive honor of an Honorary Doctorate in Law upon Tai-young Lee. Another of her achievements was received in the form of the Conference Award from the World Peace Though Law Conference.

History of Family Law Revision in South Korea


On July 17, 1948, Article 9, Paragraph 1 of the South Korean Constitution read as follows: “All citizens shall be equal before the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic, social or cultural life on account of sex, religion, or social status.”


As forward-thinking as that was at the time, the reality for most Korean women was very different. Many of the cultural influences that poured into Korea over the next five decades would serve to prevent women from being free to function in their world without some type of male representation. The “traditional” gender roles were enforced then in much the same way as they are now, through family, education, religious beliefs and organizations, and the media at large.


The cult of female chastity that grew out of the ideal social states taught by Confucianism added to the problem of what is now termed “gender equality.” Confucius taught that a woman’s prime virtue was obedience, especially to men. Even into the 1990s, Korean women’s fight for equality was raging.


Two larger elements of Korean family law were even more damaging than the idea of a prime virtue: that of the legal family “head” system and the inability to marry a person with the same last name.


Surnames were once held to high importance because they showed, at a glance, the world at large where the family came from. This was more important during the Feudal Age (from the 1300’s) than they are today. Women are now permitted to chose whether they will take their husband’s last name or keep their maiden name. The new system allows women to pass their maiden names onto their children, should they choose. Children are permitted to accept their step-father’s last name should their mothers remarry. This is more inline with Western cultural thinking than older ideals. Adopted children may now be named with the surname of their adopted parent(s), allowing ties to their biological families to be legally broken.


Women were not allowed to remarry until six months after losing a spouse, regardless of the reason for the loss. In the case of remarriage, only the father of any children was permitted any rights regarding the children and their choices of which parent with whom they preferred to reside.


The legal family head system, or hojuje, was introduced into Korea through Japan in the late 1890s. This method of record keeping only permitted men to head families and affected how children inherited their surnames. Even more, however, this system discriminated against women in a larger way by ignoring the plain language guaranteeing that all Koreans are equal under the law.


By consistently defining a family as one headed by a man, women were stripped of their identity as rational adults. Starting in the 1960s, women called for changes to their country’s laws and began fighting for what was finally accepted in February 2005: a full revision of the Civil Code that eliminated many elements that forced women to be viewed by the culture at large as lower class citizens.


In conclusion, women in South Korea have waged a long uphill battle to gain the rights laid out in their own country’s constitution. Throughout the modern era, women around the world have fought this same battle: to be recognized as human beings in their own right and not children with no other abilities than to obey the patriarchy.

The Life of Emperor Sunjong of Korea

Emperor Sunjong second from the left.

In 1897, the Korean Empire was established. This resulted from the Donghak Peasant Revolution that lasted from 1894 to 1895. It was part of the Gabo Reforms. These reforms were put in place across Korea from 1894 to 1896, A member of the Korean royal family named King Gojong went to Deoksugung, Korea and proclaimed the creation of the Great Korean Empire. This ended Korea’s ties with China that had been in place since 1636. King Gojong became Emperor, and the head of state for the new Korean Empire. According to the Treaty of Shimonoseki signed in 1895, Korea had full and complete independence. Emperor Gojong was deposed in 1907 because of coercion from Japan. A member of the Korean family named Sunjong was then made Korea’s emperor.


Three Years Rule

Emperor Sunjong was only in power for three years. During his time as emperor, the Japanese government increased its military intervention in Korea. This intervention forced Emperor Sunjong to enter into the Japan-Korea Treaty of 1907. It was a treaty designed to permit the government of Japan to intervene and directly administer its governance of Korea. It permitted the appointment of ministers from Japan within the Korean government.


Japanese Control

During the time Korea was under Japanese supervision the Korean army was dismantled. The reason given was insufficient public funding regulations necessary to maintain a military. In 1909, implementation of the Japan-Korea Protocol was completed. This removed Korea’s judicial power over its own people. Certain key Korean politicians, such as Lee Wan-Yong and Song Byung-jun, defected to Japan. This was used to produce the false belief that Korea was willing to create the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty. It was signed on August 29, 1910.


Emperor Sunjong Rule Ends

After the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty was signed, the reign of Emperor Sunjong over the Korean Empire only existed on paper. Sunjong had no power over his country after ruling it for three years. The Korean Empire was officially abolished after having existed for over hundreds of years.


Post Abdication

The ousted Emperor Sunjong and his wife Empress Sunjeong lived like prisoners. Both of them were imprisoned in the Changdeokgung Palace located in Seoul. Emperor Sunjeong was unable to perform any duties associated with being an emperor. The Korean government at this time only had politicians who were pro-Japanese. With the ending of the Korean Empire, Emperor Sunjong was demoted. He went from being an emperor to only being a king. The Japanese did permit Sunjong to have the title of King Yi of Changdeok Palace. They also made it possible for this title to be inherited.


Empress Sunjeong

She became the wife of Emperor Sunjeong in 1904. Prior to her marriage, she was known as Lady Yun. She was born in 1893 and was 10 years old when married to Emperor Sunjong. When Korea was freed from the Japanese after World War II, Empress Sunjeong was barred from Changdeok Palace by Syngman Rhee Barred. He was the president of Korea. Empress Sunjeong was forced to live in a little cottage located on the grounds of the palace. Five years prior to her death, she was permitted to return to Changdeok Palace. She died there in 1966 at the age of 71.


Death Of Emperor Sunjong

On April 24, 1926, Emperor Sunjong died in Changdeokgung. It is believed he was the victim of poisoning. Emperor Sunjong is buried at the Imperial Tomb of Yureung. This is located in the city of Namyangju. Emperor Sunjong was given a state funeral for his burial on June 10, 1926.


Emperor Sunjong was the fourth son of Empress Myeongseong and Emperor Gojong. At the age of two, he was proclaimed to be a crown prince. He married his first wife in 1882. Her name was Princess Min Crown who became Empress Summyeonghyo. She was assassinated by the Japanese in 1895. The former Emperor Sunjong and his two wives are buried together at Imperial Tomb of Yureung.

The Status Of Women’s Rights In North Korea


Prior to 1945, women in North Korea had few rights. The expectations were to assure the family line continued with male heirs. Opportunities to participate in political, economic or social society were few. An academic education was considered unimportant for women. The Christian missionaries created schools for girls during the 19th century enabling Korean females to acquire an education. The exceptions were the female shamans who drove away evil spirits to cure illnesses, performed fortune telling and divination and prayed for rain in a drought.


The social status changed after 1945. A SEX Equality Law was passed by the thirty-eighth parallel authorities on July 30th of 1946. The 1972 constitution provided women with rights and social status equal to men. The 1990 constitution created conditions to enable women to advance in society. Women began participating in the labor force and gaining educations but were still considered inferior to men. Girls and boys were separated in elementary and middle schools. Economics was emphasized for girls and physical education for boys. By the fourth year in a university, women majored in literature, biology, foreign languages and medicine.


North Korea is a patriarchal society. The role of women has changed from the conclusion of World War II until today. Women helped rebuild the country after the war but the improvement in the economy placed women in more traditional roles. Most families survived on state rations until the famine of the 1990’s. They looked for financial support elsewhere because they were not paid for mandatory government jobs. The government is reliant on free labor from the males. Men are required to pay twenty to thirty times their salary to be free from work to find a profitable job. If the payment is not made, the men go to jail. Women in the informal sector are exposed to exploitation, sexual violence and sexual harassment and bribes from the government officials.


North Korea is well known for political prison camps. The deaths due to starvation were between 450,000 and 2 million people. A U.N. Commission of Inquiry found the government of North Korea guilty of crimes against humanity including murder, extermination, religious, gender, and racial persecution, enslavement, sexual violence, torture, causing prolonged starvation, forced abortions, rape and imprisonment. The women of Korea lower in the songbun system were forced into prostitution due to poverty. Medical care and drugs were unavailable causing some to use opium in the impossible hope of preventing sexually transmitted diseases. Thousands of women escaped to China and became the pawns of traffickers.


The North Korean prison camps were especially cruel to women. They feared being assigned to the mines during the night shift because they were raped by the guards in Political Prison Camp No. 18. These guards targeted teenage girls and the female inmates were sexually abused by one of the senior officials while visiting the camp. Once the women were raped, they were killed. Once raped by officials, several of the women disappeared. Women are also sexually assaulted and beaten in public. The officials are corrupt and use violence and sexual abuse as punishment and penalties. The dire food and economic situation has left many women responsible for feeding their families. This places them in public places to transport and sell goods. Acts of sexual assault are becoming more frequent by inspectors aboard trains and police in the marketplace. There are severe punishments for raping a minor but raping an adult is not a crime.


The most famous North Korean woman is Ri Chun-hee. She has been seen on television across the globe when the nation becomes interested in boasting about current achievements. She was believed to have retired but reappeared as a veteran news anchor for Kim Jung Un, the dictator of the country. She state the hydrogen bomb tests by North Korea had been executed.

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