childbirth

James Turnbull's picture

It’s Official: UNDP Says Korea Now Feminist Paradise (NOT April 1 Joke!)

 

(Source: unknown)

If there was only one statistic that best sums up contemporary Korean society, then that would be its “Gender Empowerment Measure” (GEM). Calculated by the UNDP, it is:

…an indicator of women’s degree of participation in political and economic activity and the policy-making process, using for its evaluation factors such as the number of female legislators, the percentage of women in senior official and managerial positions, the percentage of women in professional and technical positions, and the income differential between men and women (source).

Or, to put it graphically (see here for more details):

And why Korea’s GEM is so revealing is not just because of its abysmal ranking, which, at 68th out of 179 countries surveyed, is bested even by developing countries such as Kyrgyzstan, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, Vietnam, Moldova, Botswana, and Nicaragua. Rather, it’s because that rank is so out of sync with its other rank of 25 in the Human Development Index (HDI), which measures a country’s  standard of living. Surely, as I explained two years ago, there is no greater testament to the palpable gender apartheid here, than the fact that Korea does such a good job of educating and taking care of the health its citizens, only then to effectively exclude fully half of them from political and economic power?

James Turnbull's picture

Resisting the Criminalization of Abortion in South Korea

( Source )

Like Lindsay Lohan says, some stories do indeed keep on growing. And the more I’ve learned about abortion in recent weeks, the more certain I am that if it doesn’t become a hot political issue for Lee Myung-bak in the remaining years of his presidency, then it certainly will be if not addressed by his successor.

Not so much because Koreans feel strongly about the issue itself however. Rather, because this is the same president that despite campaign promises not to, immediately tried to abolish the (then) Ministry of Gender Equality for instance. And also, because a year later, he encouraged targeting women for mass layoffs as a solution to the financial crisis.

Criminalizing abortion simply in order to increase the birthrate rate then, is really part and parcel of a wider mentality that is fundamentally failing to get to grips with women’s entrenched inequality here. And perhaps could come be the symbol and/or catalyst for later volatile protests about any number of related issues, much like those in 2008 were never really simply about imported beef.

James Turnbull's picture

Newsflash: Korean Doctor Sent to Jail for Performing Abortion, Korean Woman Fined for Planning to Have One

 

( Source: Dramabeans )

Yes, those really did happen in the last couple of months.

Perhaps it was naive of me to be so shocked and surprised however? After all, according to the Korea Herald, “about 30 [doctors] have been brought to the court over the past 5 years, mostly resulting in probation or fines”, so presumably this latest case technically isn’t the first time a Korean doctor has been incarcerated for performing an abortion (for 1 year, with probation for 2 years). And then the Lee Myung-bak Administration did signal it would begin enforcing Korea’s long-ignored abortion laws over a year ago too, in a vain and wholly misguided effort to increase the record-low birthrate, so prosecutions had to emerge sooner or later.

Still, I’d be surprised if this wasn’t the first time a pregnant woman has been fined for just planning an abortion, and according to the law she could even face having her baby in jail herself if she tries again. And the fact that she was charged as a result of her husband informing the police? It sounds positively Dickensian.

Seriously, is he physically confining her to their home as I type this? Is she still allowed to divorce him, or has she been stripped of that right too?

My second surprise was that, yet again, I didn’t actually learn of this important news via any English-language media, but rather via the following humble-looking video passed on to me by my Facebook friend Mee-young Cherry, who in turn found it via her friend Heejung Paik of Gwangju Womenlink (광주여성민우회). Simply a very brief overview of Korean’s draconian abortion laws in the global context rather than a discussion of the cases themselves though, I’ve just translated those parts relevant to Korea below:

exposing body image issues's picture

Female body image; the search for REAL visuals

by Colette Coughlin



This is one of my less-flattering self-portraits; not only could I not stand the sight of myself that day, I was also in a nasty mood. I took pictures anyways and later turned this one into a drawing.  By the time I'd finishing sketching my scowl, I'd forgotten the disgust I felt about the picture. Everybody has rotten days, feels ugly, wishes things were different sometimes. So what? This too, passes... yet the visual models (as in examples) most of us feel we need to live up to are rarely less than super-models. Super made-up, super-fixed-up, super dressed-up people with ideal figures who we see on every magazine cover, poster, publicity, movie, and TV show we come across. It's become so pervasive that we've forgotten it's not real life!


I share my scowling self with you hoping it might make you feel better about how you look... but how often do we really see people, regular people, at their less-than-best, particularly when it comes to nudity?


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