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Women’s Issues in Korea

I am a Korean immigrant to the United States—female, forty-four years old, mixed (mostly middle) class, raised somewhat Catholic, and a proud union member.

The intersection of sexism, racism, and imperialism is heavy in South Korea. There is a giant beautification industry—including a lot of plastic surgery, some of which is dangerous to women’s health. A lot of the makeup and surgery is aimed at making women look white—with whiter skin, double-fold eyelids, longer noses, even longer limbs.

Plastic surgery was introduced to Korea right after the Korean War. It was initially offered by the U.S. military to Koreans who had been maimed during the war. South Korea now has one of the highest rates per capita of plastic surgery. A fifth to a third of all women have had some form of it.

Korean women face heavy pressure to get married. You are not a legitimate adult woman if you are not married. It is hard for people to know how to relate to me because I am a forty-four-year-old unmarried woman.

I am on the board of a Korean American domestic violence/sexual assault organization. We have been talking about creating spaces in which groups of women and male allies can talk about sexism and violence. Recently I asked a funder if she could think of any foundations that supported organizing around women’s issues—and she said no. This makes me angry.

I have been discharging recently about the idea of going to art school. It goes against early distress recordings from having been raised to serve people, and feelings that what I think or want is not important. It’s a giant contradiction to do something that is not “practical.” In my family growing up, my dad got to do something that was not practical and my mom had to do all of the “practical” work of child raising and housekeeping, as well as paid work.

JeeYeun Lee

Chicago, Illinois, USA

(Present Time 184, July 2016)

Last modified: 2019-05-02 14:41:35+00