Announcements: Two Very Worthy Causes to Support!

KUMFA

Today, some information about two very worthy causes.

First, on ongoing volunteer opportunities for the Korean Unwed Mothers’ Families Association in Daegu and the 3rd Single Moms’ Day Conference this May. Then, on a Kickstarter campaign for a full length documentary film seeking to help preserve and spread knowledge of the shamanistic practices and shrine religion of Jeju Island:

I. The Korean Unwed Mothers’ Families Association (KUMFA) is an organization that works to promote children’s human rights while addressing systemic discrimination. KUMFA advocates for the human rights of unwed pregnant women, unwed mothers and their children in Korea. KUMFA’s goal is to enable Korean women to have sufficient resources and support to keep their babies if they choose, and thrive in Korean society.

More information is available in the following interview and at the Single Moms’ Day event page:

Daegu KUMFA Volunteer Opportunities (ongoing):

The Daegu Branch of the Korean Unwed Mothers’ Families Association will hold meetings and provide classes for their members. KUMFA Daegu seeks volunteers to provide childcare during the classes. In the future other types of volunteer opportunities may arise. For additional details please visit the KUMFA Facebook Page or contact us directly at kumfa.volunteer@gmail dot com.

Seoul KUMFA Volunteer Opportunities (ongoing):

The Seoul Branch of Korean Unwed Mothers’ Families Association has ongoing volunteer and learning opportunities. Sign up by joining the Facebook group.

II. Seoul Conference (May 10-11, 2013): The 3rd Single Moms’ Day Conference:

SMD advocates for human rights in a number of important ways, in particularly by addressing systemic discrimination by “informing people inside and outside Korea about the factors that pressure unwed mothers to relinquish their children for adoption. Push factors include fathers’ child support obligations being unenforced; lack of adequate social welfare from the Korean government; social discrimination against unwed mothers and their children. Pull factors include the fact that more than half of unwed mothers in facilities are living in unwed mothers’ shelters that are owned and operated by adoption agencies; a money-driven international adoption system that does not conform to the UN CRC or the Hague Convention, i.e., it does not respect children’s humans rights.”

For more information or to make a donation, please visit the SMD event page. Here is some volunteer testimony:

“I have been involved with SMD and related projects for two years. I’ve learned a lot from this really inspiring collaboration of groups that fight for Korean children’s human rights, including: parents whose children were adopted by unethical means; unwed parents who are fighting workplace and social discrimination to raise their children; adult adoptees who campaign for ethical reforms to adoption laws; supporters and volunteers who work to bring policies into the framework of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

Next, on Jeju Documentarian Giuseppe Rositano’s Kickstarter campaign. Please do check the link for additional information, and on why your help is needed:

Jeju 1As a popular tourist destination in South Korea, Jeju Island has risen to fame predominantly for its natural wonders: hiking trails in abundance, scenic ocean views and South Korea’s highest mountain. It is possible to experience these in just a few short days, but staying on the island a bit longer or even making it a home provides the opportunities to get a deeper understanding and appreciation of some of the more interesting aspects of Jeju. Documentarian Giuseppe Rositano, Jeju Island resident of 7 years, explores some of these more interesting aspects of Jeju life, specifically the shamanistic beliefs and shrine religion of Jeju Island that is in danger due to the rapidly declining population of believers.

Jeju 2Spanning the course of 18 months and accumulating more than 500 hours of shamanistic ceremonies and traditional storytelling on film, Rositano captures the spiritual life of 5 villages through exploration of their native deities and traditional oral stories that have been passed down through generations. These stories, which describe the lives of Jeju’s extensive pantheon, are quickly disappearing. At Search is an attempt to preserve these unique indigenous beliefs.

Each village on Jeju Island has several shrines in which local deities specific to the island are ‘seated’. Each of these deities corresponds to a ‘bonpuli’ or oral myth. With an adventurous spirit, this documentary sets out to capture the retelling of these ‘bonpuli’ legends in the voice of what is likely the final generation of elders who received the stories from their parents and grandparents. Sadly, younger generations are seldom aware of these stories which serve as the cornerstones for their grandparents’ spiritual lives and cultural identity. With over 400 shrines on the island and a total of 18,000 gods on Jeju, that’s quite a loss to humanity’s cultural history!

Jeju 3Currently At Search for Spirits on the Island of Rocks, Wind and Women is in post-production. Rositano and team have launched a kickstarter campaign to raise funds to bring the project to completion and to get it out to film festivals around the world.

Horror Stories(?) About Korean OBGYN Clinics

(“Pretend not to know”, “Pretend not to go”, “Pretend it’s the first time”. Push! Push! {1997}. Source)

This was the most read society news story on Naver last week, undoubtedly because of the recent announcement that the pill is to be made prescription only (a similar article was #5), which will naturally require more visits to OBGYNs. I have my own article about that coming out in Busan Haps next month (update: here it is!), but in the meantime see here, here and here for further details, as well as Korean Gender Reader posts from June.

Without discounting the genuine negative experiences outlined below, for the sake of balance let add that my wife has had no problems with those OBGYNs she’s dealt with since her first pregnancy, nor this 19 year-old student who wrote about her first visit to a clinic for her university newspaper (although it’s true she was given some strange and/or unnecessary tests). Also, it seems somewhat naive of patients to be surprised at questions about their sexual experience, and a little churlish of them to complain about them.

Update — in addition to many helpful, practical reader comments on this post below, and on the previous one about the student’s visit, let me recommend this one by a friend on Facebook:

…to be honest, I think most women expect a trip to the gyno to be awkward, that’s par for the course. However, many of the questions mentioned in the article were definitely way out of line. I’ve come across some less than sensitive (aka prejudiced and or judgmental) docs here.. I just assumed their overly-direct statements/questions were just a translation issue. Obviously not!

One disheartening aspect of women’s clinics is that you have to speak to a nurse (or sometimes just the receptionist) first, often in crowded reception area, to explain why you’re there. They often ask for all your symptoms, check your weight and blood pressure and when you had your last period in front of countless strangers. One clinic I went to had an LCD screen with the waiting patients listed in order of their turn.. including the reason why there were there… So much for privacy! It just adds another layer of humiliation to an already uncomfortable situation.

That being said- there are some amazing gynos here. I hope these problems can be properly addressed- no one should have to feel ashamed in front of their doctor. The danger here is that women will stop seeing doctors about their gynecological/sexual health out of fear of embarrassment and risk greater health problems.

“성경험 유무는 왜…? 굳이 그것까지” 굴욕의 진료, 산부인과

“Why do they ask about sexual experience? Is that really necessary?” Humiliating Treatment at OBGYN Clinics

엄지원 / Uhm Ji-won, The Hankyoreh, 2 July 2012

여성이 불편한 산부인과 / Women find gynecology clinics uncomfortable
접수대부터 진료·시술까지 / From reception to treatment and surgery
의료진 노골적 발언에 민망 / OBGYNs make suggestive, embarrassing comments
사전피임약 처방전 필요한데… / The pill requires a prescription…
여성들 심리적 부담 커 고민 / Psychological pressure on women increases
환자 배려 의료지침 등 필요 / OBGYNs need guidance on bedside manners

지난 6월 정부는 사전피임약을 전문약으로 분류하는 약사법 개정안을 발표했다. 이 법안이 국회에서 통과되면 여성들이 산부인과를 찾을 일이 더 많아질 수 있다. 이를 두고 여성들은 산부인과에 가는 것 자체가 눈치 보이는 사회 분위기를 지적한 바 있다.

This June, the government announced that it was considering amending the Drugs, Cosmetics, and Medical Instruments Law to reclassify the pill as a prescription medicine. If passed by Congress, it will mean women will have to visit OBGYN clinics much more often. In light of this, women have been pointing out the [bad] atmosphere at them.

한국여성민 우회가 산부인과 진료 경험이 있는 여성 210명을 상대로 설문조사한 결과는 ‘외부의 시선’ 못지않게 산부인과 진료 자체에 대한 여성들의 두려움이 실제로 광범위하게 퍼져 있다는 사실을 확인해준다. 설문 특성상 응답자의 신상과 구체적인 피해 일시·장소 등을 밝히진 않았지만, 여성들은 산부인과에서 겪은 수치와 불편을 설문지에 빼곡히 적었다.

Korean Womenlink conducted a survey of 210 women who had received treatment at OBGYN clinics, and the results confirmed not just the endurance of public stereotypes that all women visiting OBGYN clinics had STDs, but also that women’s fears in visiting them were well-founded. The survey was anonymous, and respondents were asked to provide no details of the times or places in which they’d been made to feel embarrassed or humiliated, but many still felt compelled to write a great deal about their negative experiences.

(Source)

신지은(가명·36)씨는 얼마 전 산부인과에서 느낀 굴욕감이 생생하다. 아이를 낳고 정기검진차 방문한 신씨에게 의사는 은근히 ‘수술’을 권했다.

Shin Ji-eun (not her real name), 36, vividly remembers visiting a clinic for a regular check-up after her child was born, where the doctor implied she should have surgery:

“출산을 한 뒤니 부부관계를 오래 유지하고 싶으면 이참에 수술을 하라”고 말했다. 그가 권한 것은 여성 성기를 성형하는 수술이었다. “배려인지 희롱인지 알 수 없는 제안”이었다고 신씨는 말했다.

“After having a baby, and seeing as you’re already here, you should have surgery on your genitals for the sake of your married life”, the doctor said [James - what kind of surgery isn’t specified]. “I didn’t know whether to take it as a joke or a serious suggestion” Ji-eun said.

실제로 설문조사에 응한 여성들은 진료가 시작되는 접수대에서부터 낙태경험 또는 성경험을 묻는 수치스런 질문을 받았다고 증언했다. 어느 여성은 “진료 접수 때 ‘냉이 많아져서 병원에 왔다’고 했더니, 접수대 간호사가 큰 소리로 ‘성병이네요’라고 말해 매우 불쾌했다”고 적었다.

Respondents to the survey reported being asked embarrassing questions about their sexual experience and having abortions even as soon as arriving at the reception desk. One woman said “I went to the OBGYN clinic because I was having a heavy vaginal discharge, and the nurse at the desk loudly said ‘Oh, you must have an STD!’, which mortified me.”

진료 시작 뒤에도 수치심을 주는 의료진의 발언이 이어졌다고 응답자들은 적었다. 특히 “성경험이 있느냐”고 묻는 의료진의 태도가 당혹스러웠다고 여성들은 밝혔다. 어느 여성은 “성경험이 없다”고 답했다가 “검사할 때 번거롭다. 솔직히 말하라”는 의사의 말을 들었다. “그 뒤로 가급적 산부인과에 가지 않는다”고 이 여성은 밝혔다.

The shaming experiences continue after treatment starts too, because of doctors’ comments. In particular, after being asked if she had sexual experience, and replying that she didn’t, one woman found her doctor’s reply – “Be honest. Otherwise the examination will be more complicated” – perplexing, and said she’d rather not visit an OBGYN again.

(Source)

의료진이 성경험 여부를 묻는 것은 관련 진료에 필수적인 정보이기 때문이다. 그러나 성경험이 있든 없든 “왜 그런 정보가 필요한지 사전 설명 없이 다짜고짜 물어 불쾌했다”는 게 처음 산부인과를 방문한 여성들의 이구동성이다. 여성민우회 조사를 보면, 산부인과 방문 당시 성경험이 있었던 경우는 69.5%, 없었던 경우는 29.5%였다.

Before being treated, patients need an explanation of why being asked about their sexual experience was necessary. Without that, many women reported, they felt very embarrassed on their first visits to clinics.

Of the respondents, 69.5% had prior sexual experience, and 29.5% didn’t.

Top Left — Of 210 Respondents: 35.2% had no negative experiences, 64.3% did, and 0.5% didn’t reply.

Top Right — Of the 64.3% of women who reported negative experiences: 56.3% were related to fears and anxieties about their treatment; 30.4% to public perceptions [of OBGYN patients]; 3.7%  to questions about STDs; 3.0% to costs of treatment; and 6.7% to other things.

Bottom — Age at first visit to an OBGYN

자궁경부암 검사를 받으러 갔던 어느 여성은 “결혼 안 했으면 처녀막이 상할 수 있으니 검사하지 말라”는 의사의 말을 들었다. 자신을 배려하는 듯하면서도 ‘처녀성’ 운운하는 발언에 수치심을 느꼈다고 응답자는 적었다. “몇번 경험해봤나”, “최근엔 언제였나”, “첫 경험이 언제인가”, “남자친구 말고 섹스 파트너가 있나” 등을 아무렇지 않게 묻는 일은 점잖은 축에 속했다. 이들이 기록한 의료진의 어떤 발언은 그대로 옮기기에 민망할 정도다.

One woman who visited in order to be examined for cervical cancer was asked if she was married, “because if you haven’t, then you shouldn’t receive an examination that will break your hymen”; while possibly the doctor was just being considerate about her virginity, the woman still felt ashamed and embarrassed. Other embarrassing questions, like “How many times have you had sex?”; “When was the last time you had sex?”; “When did you lose your virginity?”; and “Do you have another partner in addition to your boyfriend”, don’t even begin to compare to what some doctors asked patients, which they reported were too shameful to write down in their surveys (source, right).

“성기 모양이 참 예쁘다. 남편이 함부로 하지 않는가 보다.” “가슴이 작아서 사진이 찍히려나 모르겠네.” “어린데 왜 산부인과에 왔을까?” 심지어 체모가 많은 것을 보고 “남편이 좋아했겠다”는 이야기를 들은 경우도 있었다.

“Your vagina is very pretty. Your husband wasn’t as rough as most men”; “Your breasts are so small I’m not sure they will even show in the mammogram”; ” You’re so young, why are you visiting an OBGYN?” and even, after seeing that a patient had lots of pubic hair, commenting that “Your husband must like it” are among some of the stories about doctors that respondents did provide.

환자보다 의사 중심으로 꾸며진 진료 환경에 대한 여성들의 성토도 이어졌다.

In general, respondents felt that the treatment environment was designed with doctors rather than patients in mind.

다리를 위로 향한 채 눕게 돼 있는 산부인과의 ‘진료의자’를 응답자들은 ‘굴욕의자’, ‘쩍벌의자’로 부르며 불쾌감을 표시했다. 한 여성은 “진찰대에 다리를 벌리고 올라가는 것 자체가 매우 불쾌해 다시 가고 싶지 않다”고 적었다.

(Source)

Women showed how upset they were by describing the treatment chair, in which patients lie with their legs in stirrups, as the “Chair of Shame”, or the “Spreadeagle Chair”. One woman wrote “I never want to go in that chair again. Having to spread my legs like that is very upsetting.”

자궁암 검사를 위해 병원을 찾았던 여성은 “의사가 들어오기 전 속옷을 벗고 다리를 벌린 채 준비했고 뒤이어 들어온 의사는 아무 설명도 없이 진료도구를 질 내부에 집어넣어 검사했다”고 불쾌감을 드러냈다.

Another woman who went to a hospital to be checked for cervical cancer wrote “Before the doctor came, I took off my underwear and got up and spread my legs, and when he arrived he just quickly put an instrument inside me, without any warning or explanation.”

‘진정으로 산부인과를 걱정하는 의사들 모임’의 최안나 대변인은 “산부인과 진료는 특히 예민한 분야이므로 성경험 여부 등 구체 정보가 왜 필요한지, 진료 과정은 어떻게 진행될 것인지 상세히 설명하고 의견을 구하는 건 당연한 절차”라며 “산부인과의 진료 서비스가 많이 나아지고 있다고 해도 여전히 일부 환자 눈높이에 부족한 점이 있다”고 말했다.

Choi Ahn-na, a spokesperson for the Korean Gynecological Physicians’ Association (GYNOB) [James — a notoriously anti-abortion group of OBGYNs. See here for more information about them] explained that “Gynecology and Obstetrics are very sensitive branches of medicine, for which it is both normal and essential for OBGYNs to have detailed information about patients, as this determines both the treatment type and how it’s administered. However, while OBGYNs have improved their services a great deal, it is also true that remaining weak spots need to be dealt with, as well as how things looks from patients’ perspectives.”

(Source)

여성민우회는 이달 중 1000여명에 대한 실태조사 최종 결과 분석이 끝나면 전문의·보건전문가 등과 간담회를 열어 환자를 배려하는 산부인과 의료 지침을 만들어 배포하는 등 ‘산부인과 바꾸기 프로젝트’를 이어갈 계획이다.

Continuing its “Transform OBGYN Clinics Project” [James — Yes, this is the first time it's been mentioned in the article], this month Womenlink is following-up by surveying 1000 women. After analyzing the results with health specialists, it will produce and distribute a guide for OBGYNs for dealing with patients.

김인숙 한국여성민우회 공동대표는 “왜 여성들이 산부인과에 가는 데 부담감을 느끼는지 구체적으로 확인해 앞으로 더 나은 산부인과 진료 문화를 만들어 갈 것”이라고 밝혔다.

Kim In-sook, a co-spokesperson of Womenlink, said “We will determine exactly why women feel so stressed about going to clinics, with the aim of making a better and more welcoming environment for them there.”

<한겨레>는 ‘여성이 불편한 산부인과’를 ‘여성이 행복한 산부인과’로 바꾸기 위한 제보와 의견을 받아 관련 보도를 이어갈 예정이다.

(Editor): In order to make women feel comfortable with visiting OBGYN clinics, The Hankyoreh will continue to receive and report on women’s opinions and experiences of them.

Help Sought for Pregnant Rape Victim — Update

(Source: unknown)

Last month, a reader emailed asking for help and information about in-vitro paternity testing, after his wife was raped and became pregnant while they were already trying to have a baby. With his permission, I’m very happy to pass on the following update:

…We got the test results back today and the baby is ours. We are naturally overjoyed.

If, god forbid, you get a similar question from a reader in the future, I can report that Paternity Testing Corporation (PTC), recommended by commenter Maria, came through for us. I would insist that a third party be a go-between between the victim and the company though (or at least the Japan branch) because they don’t seem to be used to dealing directly with victims, and can come across as insensitive. Also they’re not a travel agent, and people should make sure they know what clinic they’re going to and how to get there. We almost missed our chance to get the test done because we didn’t realize the clinic was actually in a neighboring province that took two hours to get to from Tokyo.

The strange thing is, the company says they are opening a branch soon in Seoul, after we were told several times that in-vitro paternity testing is completely forbidden in Korea. So I wonder if the roadblocks we were running into in Korea were more about the people not really knowing the answers to our questions and trying to save face.

Or maybe PTC will be focusing on paternity testing of young children and not doing any in-vitro testing. Who knows…

James — and later in his email, he again thanks Maria especially for directing his wife and him to PTC, and to all the other commenters for their help and support!

Korean Family Planning Advertisements, 1960s-1980s — Are Today’s Young Couples Less Informed than Their Parents Were?

…American military officers helped make abortion the population control tool of choice in those Asian countries where they wielded influence, first in Japan in the late 1940s and 1950s, then South Korea in the 1960s. USAID, America’s aid agency, provided Jeeps for mobile clinics which roamed South Korea performing abortions. At one point, a quarter of the country’s health budget was going on population control and the number of abortions hit an all-time record in Seoul, where, in 1977, there were 2.75 abortions for every live birth. “What would have happened if the government hadn’t allowed for such easy abortion?” asks one sociologist. “I don’t think sex-selective abortion would have become so popular.”

Apropos of the above quote, from The Economist’s review of Mara Hvistendahl’s Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men (2011), let me present some government advertisements of the period to give you a better impression of that amazing zeal for population control back then.  More specifically, they also show that whereas couples were encouraged to have two children in the 1970s, and not to favor boys over girls, this would be reduced to only one child by the 1980s, and messages about the sex-ratio invariably diluted.

Obviously, these would come to play a huge role in today’s world-low birthrate, the difficulty many Korean men are now having in finding wives (although fortunately the sex-ratio among newborns has since been normalized), and the ensuing massive influx of overseas brides. Less obviously, they defy stereotypes about Koreans’ squeamishness when it comes to sexual matters, as I’ll explain.

But first, some context. All 30 or so advertisements I’ve been able to find were produced by the Planned Parenthood Federation of Korea (대한가족계획협회; now known as the Planned Population Federation of Korea {PPFK; 인구보선복지협회}) and/or the now defunct Ministry of Health and Social Affairs (보건사회부), and can be found here, here, here, and here, as well as (best) on the PPFK’s website.

Text, both calenders — Did you know that the most effective, safest, and simplest device is the loop (IUD)? People who want one, please go to a welfare or family planning center / Black headline, right calender — Let's have the proper number of babies, and raise them well!

Formed in April 1961 just before the coup, the PPFK would soon have the strong support of the military government. But according to Seungsook Moon in Militarized Modernity and Gendered Citizenship in South Korea (2005; pp. 81-2), its activities wouldn’t really take off until the 1970s, which possibly explains its rather uninspired efforts above (but note though, that the government itself was extremely active in population control well before then):

The modernizing state had to launch aggressive propaganda for family planning because the idea of contraception was foreign to most Koreans, who tended to believe that having many children meant good luck and that every child would bring his or her own food into the world….

….The state…worked closely with the PPFK to change the public perception of birth control, establishing a department of public relations in 1970 to make the idea and practice of contraception familiar to the populace. The PPFK increasingly relied on mass media (radio, television, newspapers, magazines and education texts of its own) to disseminate positive images and information about families with a small number of children. To encourage popular participation, the PPFK organized popular contests of various kinds, ranging from posters, songs, and slogans to stories of personal experiences by mothers and wives concerning contraception.

A fascinating book, it’s difficult not to quote much more here, as the next few pages make it clear that Korea’s population policies were just as systematic and draconian as China’s. In light of what is revealed in Hvistendahl’s more recent book though, it is strange that it doesn’t also discuss abortions, but it does mention that while IUDs insertions were offered freely in the 1960s (with the Marine Corps mobilized to provide them to isolated islanders), and considered the “patriotic” and “ideal” form of contraception (but with the pill also introduced in 1968 to alleviate their effects, in stark contrast to Japan), by the second half of the 1970s it would be female sterilization that was offered and aggressively applied, becoming “what can only be described as a sterilization mania” by the 1980s. Between 1982 and 1987, over 2 million Korean women would be sterilized, a “semiforced mass sterilization” that “led to abrupt reductions in the fertility rate and the rate of population growth in the 1980s” (p. 85).

Left, umbrella — The path to youth and beauty is family planning / Both posters — Don't discriminate between boys and girls, have only two children and raise them well (This slogan can be seen on many 1970s posters)

Left, headline — Which method is good?; cup — Family planning consultations; man, text — "I'll do it"; text, bottom — 1975 is International Women's Year / Right, 19th Family Weekly Magazine May 5-12 1974 — The World has One Destiny; NCC= The National Council of Churches in Korea (한국기독교교회협의회)

This poster on the left above is particularly interesting, and not just because that was the year that March 8 — which *cough* happens to be my birthday — was made International Women’s Day (alas, I was born a year later). Rather, it’s because of the guy saying “I’ll do it”, which couldn’t help but remind me of young Koreans’ surprising attitude that contraception is exclusively men’s responsibility (as indeed the Japanese think too). However, women were overwhemingly the focus of population control drives back then (Moon notes that only 1 vasectomy was performed for every 10 IUD insertions, although I think the ratio to female sterilizations would have been more useful), and women’s organizations co-opted or specifically created by the state to carry them out, so it seems anachronistic to see a connection between young Koreans’ attitudes today and those of their parents at the same age.

Indeed, this one on the left below turns out not to be about family-planning at all, but rather women’s rights (update: unfortunately, I’m having formatting problems sorry, so let me translate here instead):

Left, headline — We are all [the same] human; Man (clockwise from hat) — Family registry rights, parental rights, inheritance, children, estate; Text — Women’s Family Law Change Committee / Right, arrow — The path to a Gross National Income of of $1000 in 1981; Text, below — (Previous 1970s’ slogan)

Next, before moving on to posters from the 1980s, note that sterilization campaigns would come to be complimented by various economic incentives (p. 85):

In 1981, confronting negative economic growth for the first time since 1982, along with a decrease in the number of sterilization acceptors, the state issued “Countermeasures to Population Growth.” These measures were characterized by incentives to a family with one or two [James - ?] children; priority in getting housing loans and business loans, monetary support of low-income families, and free medical service for the first visit. During the 1980s, variations of these kinds of incentives were introduced almost every year.

Left — Two children is many too! / Right — Korea's population has already exceeded 40 million

And here are two posters with sons, and then two with daughters. But note that, confusedly, there were also some with two children like those in the 1970s though, and that clearly the government and PPFK were still very much concerned about the sex-ratio.

However, like I said that message was surely somewhat diluted by having some posters featuring and explicitly praising having a son, and it would be interesting to do a content analysis to determine the ratio of those that depicted sons to daughters, two children, or (preferably) a sex-neutral image like the eggs above:

Left — One family, full of love. One child, full of health / Right, headline — Because of one son; Text — Overpopulation is everybody's responsibility

Again, apologies for having formatting problems above:

Top — A blessing of one child, loved strongly / Bottom — Raise one daughter well, and you won’t envy [those who have] ten sons

Left, sign — Korea's current population: 40,524,837, Korea is overflowing; Text in map — Even if you only have one child, Korea is overflowing / Right — Korea is already overflowing

Finally, please note that these posters are just a handful of those available on the PPFK website, and which in turn must be a small sample of all that were produced. But in combination with what I’ve learnt from Militarized Modernity, they’ve still lead me to an interesting conclusion. Which is that, bearing in mind Koreans’ reputation for procrastination, yet doing things with outstanding zeal and efficiency once they set their minds to them (albeit usually precisely because of putting them off for so long), sexual matters are no exception, despite Koreans’ conservative reputation. Moreover, and intriguingly, it appears that young Korean couples of the 1970s and 1980s were likely to have been much better educated and informed than their children are now.

Assuming it does exist, what on Earth happened in the 1990s and 2000s to account for this curious generation gap? And why, even though technically adults rather than children were the target of government campaigns in the 1970s and 1980s, is sex education in Korea today so appalling?

“Single Mothers are Ignorant Whores”: Update

(Source)

As you’ll recall from last month’s article, about the Ministry of Health and Welfare (보건복지부; MOHW) once defining single mothers as having “low levels of education [and] impulsive sexual drives”, I promised to find out how recently that had been posted on the Ministry’s website, speculating that it was sometime within, say, the last decade or so.

You can imagine my surprise then, when Seunghee Han of the Korean Unwed Mothers Support Network (한국미혼모지원네트워크; KUMSN) informed me that wasn’t removed until as recently as May 2010. This was in response to Executive Director Heejung Kwon posting the definition on the Missmammamia (미스맘마미아) website, which prompted many mothers to write directly to the Ministry to complain.

Unfortunately however, the definition that has replaced it is also a little problematic, implying that most Korean single mothers are in their teens. Whereas that is certainly true of most Western countries though, and – if the 2008 Drama Little Mom Scandal (리틀맘 스캔들) above is any guide – may also be the Korean public’s perception, the reality is that most are in their late-twenties or early-thirties, as the following post on the KUMSN website makes clear:

(For a good introductory article to the plight of single mothers in Korea, see the New York Times here)

건강길라잡이사이트문제있습니다 / A Problem with the Health Guide Website

건강길라잡이는 보건복지가족부와 건강증진사업지원단에서 운영 중인 국민 모두의 건강증진을 위한 건강증진사업 홈페이지입니다. 그런데 여기에 쓰인 미혼모의 정의는 이상합니다.

The “Health Guide” is a website jointly run by the MOHW and the Management Center for Health Promotion for the public health of all citizens. However, the definition of single mothers on it is strange.

합법적이고 정당한 결혼절차 없이 임신중이거나 출산한 여자를 미혼모라고 정의내리고 있는데 마치 미혼 임신, 출산을 하면 모두 불법을 저지르고 있는 범죄인으로 여기고 있는 것 같습니다.

According to the definition, single mothers are women who are pregnant or who have given birth who have not gone through the legal and proper marriage procedures. Put this way, it sounds like all unmarried pregnant women or mothers have committed some sort of crime!

그리고 기본적으로 미혼모를 대부분 10대라 여기고 있습니다. 그러나 2010년 조사한 바로는 한 지역사회에 있는 미혼모의 경우, 평균 나이는 20대 후반 30대초반이라는 결과도 있었습니다.

Also, it basically says that most single mothers are in their teens, whereas according to the results of a survey of single mothers in one local area [James - unnamed] in 2010, most were in their late-twenties or early-thirties.

국민들의 건강을 증진하기 위해 유익한 정보를 제공하는 사이트에서도 이런 잘못된 정보를 제공하기 때문에 미혼모들에 대한 사회적인 인식이 더디게 바뀌고 있습니다. 잘못된 정보는 정정되어야 합니다.

Because there is wrong information even in a guide aimed at promoting citizens’ health, the public perception of single mothers is slow to change. This wrong information needs to be corrected.

(Source)

And here is the section of the guide/website referred to:

10임신과미혼모 / Teen Pregnancy and Single Mothers

미혼모 : 합법적이고 정당한 결혼절차 없이 임신중이거나 출산한 여자.

Single Mother: A pregnant woman or mother who has not gone through the correct and proper marriage procedures.

산업화 도시화 과정, 성에 대한 가치관이나 태도의 변화, 이성교재의 범위가 늘어남에 따라 미혼모의 수가 계속적으로 증가. 미혼모 중 약 25%는 10대.

Because of industrialization and urbanization, people’s sense of values about and attitudes towards sex are changing, and more people [James - I think it means unmarried people] are having sexual relationships. Accordingly, the number of single mothers is rising, and roughly 25% of those are in their teens.

(James – Before you quite rightly point out that 25% isn’t “most” single mothers, the guide contradicts itself just two lines further down)

미혼모에 대한 정확한 통계는 없으나 전국 출산력 조사결과 18~34세 미만의 미혼여성들 중 3.4%가 임신의 경험이 있는 것으로 추정.

While it is difficult to get accurate statistics about single mothers, based on the results of a national birthrate survey [James - unnamed] it is estimated that 3.4% of single women aged between 18 and under 34 have had the experience of being pregnant (source, right).

미혼모는 대부분 10대 임신으로 교육적 경제적 정도가 낮아 충분한 건강관리를 받을 수 없으며 부모로서의 발달과업을 달성할 수 없다.

As most single mothers are teenagers, with inadequate access to healthcare and low levels of education and earning ability, then they can not really succeed as parents.

신체적인 미숙과 영양부족으로 유산, 조산, 저체중아 출산 등 고위험 임산부와 고위험 태아 및 신생아가 된다.

Teenagers that are not fully physically developed, and/or are malnourished, are at high risk of having miscarriages, premature births, underweight children, and/or complications during their pregnancy.

미혼인 여성이 임신을 하면 임신한 결과를 인공유산과 분만 중 어느 쪽을 선택할 것인지를 결정해야 하고 분만을 할 경우는 자신이 키울 것인지 입양을 시킬 것인지를 결정해야 한다.

If a single woman becomes pregnant, her two options are having an abortion or delivering the baby. If she chooses the latter, then she has to decide if she will raise it herself or offer it for adoption.

우리나라의 경우 84.8%가 인공유산, 분만은 15.2%(김승권, 1992)

In Korea, 84.8% of women in such a situation choose to have an abortion, and 15.2% choose to deliver it. (Kim Sung-gwon, 1992)

(Source)

Apologies for not being able to find the title of the book referred to for the last figure, but I’m afraid I’ll have to recover from the shock of seeing a 19 year-old source used before I start looking. Moreover, combine that with the sloppily-written, contradictory, and incorrect information provided earlier, then frankly – and ironically – it’s only as I type this that I realize how bad things must be for single mothers here.

Sure, call me melodramatic, and/or reading too much into what is most likely simply a hastily-written piece of work, but recall that it comes from an organization presumably charged with supporting single mothers, promoting their rights, and trying to overcome stereotypes. Yet if that’s the best that it can do, then I shudder to think of how other organizations and segments of society treat them, with the sterling exception of the KUMSN.

But to end on a lighter note: has anybody seen Little Mom Scandal, and/or know how sympathetic it was to single mothers? Please let me know!

(Thanks to Seunghee Han of the KUMSN for the information. And also to Marilyn for putting me in touch with her, and again for translating October’s much longer article!)

Ministry of Health and Welfare: “Unwed Mothers are Ignorant Whores”

(Source)

What? It said that? In 2011??

No, hopefully not so recently, especially with the increasing criminalization of abortion since last year. But as you’ll soon see, the Ministry of Health and Welfare (보건복지부) certainly did once define unwed mothers as such, and I’d wager within at least the last decade.

It was just in 2008, for instance, that singer Ivy (아이비) was vilified in the media for the heinous crime of having sex with her boyfriend, so by those standards the Ministry’s comments were not particularly outlandish. And while Ivy did eventually rehabilitate her reputation, unfortunately Korean society is still far from accepting women being so sexually “open and impulsive”, let alone so blatantly so as to have a child out of wedlock.

Whatever the date though, when even the organization charged with helping unwed mothers once stigmatized them, then you can imagine how badly they fare in society today.

Despite that, abortion opponents seem to have quite a sanguine image of what it’s like to raise a child as a single mother. Which is what prompted this anonymous Korean woman, who kindly recently wrote on TGN about how and why she got an abortion, to post a link to this imomNews article outlining how the reality is anything but. With thanks to Marilyn for translating it, here it is in full:

(Update – To my shock and disappointment, the Ministry’s appalling definition was actually on its website until as recently as May 2010)

‘동성애자’ 다음으로 차별 받는 집단 ‘미혼모 / Unwed Mothers Most Discriminated Group after Homosexuals

인식 개선 선행…정부지원 확대 /[With] improvement in perception as precedent. . . expansion of government aid

Image Caption: 최근 정치권을 중심으로 ‘미혼모’ 지원방안이 활발히 이루어지고 있다. 지난 3일 서울 여의도 국회에서는 ‘미혼모 지원정책 개선방안’ 포럼이 개최됐다 /Currently, political methods for supporting unwed mothers are actively becoming reality.  On Aug. 3, at the National Assembly in Yeouido, Seoul, an “Unwed Mothers Support Measures Improvement” forum was held.

‘학력이 대체로 낮고, 불안정한 직업에 종사한다. 자취나 하숙을 하고, 성에 대한 가치관이 개방적이고 충동적이다. 사회경제적 상태가 낮고 부모와 떨어져 사는 사람’이라고 과거 보건복지부가 운영하는 웹사이트 건강길라잡이는 미혼모에 대한 정의를 이렇게 내렸다.

“Usually low levels of education, with an unstable job. Lives by herself or in a boarding house, has open and impulsive sexual values.  A person whose socioeconomic situation is low, and who lives apart from her parents,” is how a website health guide operated by the past Ministry of Health and Welfare defined unwed mothers.

이처럼 사회의 부정적인 시선 탓에 미혼모에 대한 관심과 지원은 일부 사회복지시설을 제외하곤 전무후무한 것이 사실이었다.

Because of society’s negative views like these, it was true that, as for interest in and support for unwed mothers, a few social welfare facilities were the first and seemed like they would be the last.

특히, 1990년대 이후 정부와 시민단체 등의 노력으로 조손가정, 다문화 가정, 한부모 가정 등은 상당부분 인식개선이 이루어 졌으나 미혼모 가족만은 사회의 편견 속에 여전히 ‘눈총’의 대상이 되고 있다.

In particular, through the efforts of the government and civic organizations since the 1990s, perception of grandparent-grandchild families, multicultural families, and single-parent families has improved; among society’s prejudices, only unwed-mother families continue to be the target of stares.

때문에 형편이 좋지 않아 자립이 힘든 미혼모들은 자연히 입양을 생각하거나 권유받게 되고, 우리사회도 ‘낳아 기르는 쪽’ 보다는 입양을 암묵적으로 유도했다.

(I Came From Busan, 2009. Source)

Because of that, unwed mothers, whose circumstances are not good and so have difficulty supporting themselves, think of adoption of their own accord or are induced to adopt, and our society also implicitly supports the “have and raise side” less than it does adoption.

사정이 이렇다 보니 지난해 우리나라의 해외입양아는 미혼모의 자녀가 90%를 차지한 것으로 나타났다. 그러나 최근 이들에 대한 지원방안이 정치권과 시민단체, 기업 등을 중심으로 활발하게 논의되면서 미혼모 가족에 대한 관심이 일고 있다.

Because of this situation, last year it emerged that 90% of internationally adopted children from our country were the children of unwed mothers.  However, as ways to support them are currently being actively discussed in political circles, civic organizations, and businesses, interest in unwed-mother families is rising.

Image Caption: 던킨도너츠는 미혼모 정소향(21세) 씨를 정규사원으로 채용하면서 미혼모 채용에 적극 나서기로 했다 /By hiring unwed mother Jeong So-Hyang (21) as a permanent employee, Dunkin Donuts is actively taking a stand for the hiring of unwed mothers.

미혼모 인식 개선이 우선 / Improvement of perception of unwed mothers the priority

미혼모에게 가장 필요한 부분은 부정적인 사회의 시선이 관심과 보호의 시선으로 바뀌어야 하는 것이라고 전문가들은 지적했다.

Experts indicate that the most important thing unwed mothers must do is change negative societal views into feelings of interest and protection.

실제 지난 2009년 한국미혼모지원네트워크와 한국여성정책연구원이 실시한 ‘미혼모ㆍ부에 대한 한국인의 태도와 인식’ 설문조사에 따르면 미혼모는 동성애자 다음으로 가장 많은 차별을 경험한 집단으로 조사됐다.

In fact, according to the survey “Koreans’ attitudes toward and perception of unwed mothers and fathers,” carried out in 2009 by the Korean Unwed Mothers Support Network and the Korean Women’s Development Institute, unwed mothers were found to be the group that experienced the most prejudice, after homosexuals.

또한 설문에 참가한 2,000명 중 60% 이상이 미혼모에 대해 ‘판단력과 책임감이 부족한 사람’이라고 답변했다.

Also, of the 2,000 people who participated in the survey, over 60% answered that unwed mothers “are people who lack judgment and a sense of responsibility.”

김혜영 한국여성정책연구원 연구위원은 “미혼모의 경우 일종의 일탈자로 낙인 받고 있다”며 “미혼 부모에 대한 과감한 지원정책이 필요하다”고 지적했다.

(Sources: left, top-right, bottom-right)

Kim Hye-young, a senior researcher at the Korean Women’s Development Institute, said, “An unwed mother is branded as a kind of deviant.  We need bold support policies for unwed parents.”

이영호 서울시 한부모가족지원센터장도 “우리사회는 다양한 가족이 있고 모든 가족은 행복할 권리가 있다”면서 “그러나 우리 사회에서 미혼모가 아기를 키우면서 자랑스럽게 또는 당당하게 양육의 경험을 공유하고 그 안에서 성장할 수 있을까란 의문이 들때가 많다”고 아쉬움을 드러냈다.

Lee Young-ho, head of the Seoul City Single Parent Family Support Center, also showed frustration:  “There are diverse families in our society, and all families have a right to be happy.  However, there are many times when I question whether unwed mothers, while raising their children, can proudly or confidently share their child-rearing experiences and develop in that [kind of environment], in our society.”

이에 최근 여성단체와 미혼모 보호 시설은 미혼모 인신 개선 사업을 적 극 펼치고 있다.

Accordingly, women’s organizations and unwed-mother shelters are currently actively engaging in a project to improve the perception of unwed mothers.

지난달 28일 서울시한부모가족지원센터와 20여 곳의 미혼모관련 단체들은 ‘미혼모지원단체협의체’를 발족하고 미혼모 인식 개선을 위한 다양한 논의를 시작했다.

On July 28, the Seoul City Single Parent Family Support Center and about twenty organizations for unwed mothers started the ‘Unwed Mother Support Organization Council” and began a variety of discussions designed to improve the perception of unwed mothers.

그 첫 번째 사업으로 사람들에게 부정적 이미지가 강했던 ‘미혼모’를 공모를 통해 ‘두리모’로 대체하기로 했다. 두리모란 ‘둥근’이라는 뜻과 둘이라는 숫자를 의미하는 방언 ‘둘레’가 조합된 것이다.

For their first project, they agreed through a public contest to replace “unwed mother”, which had a strong negative image, with “doo-ree mother.” “Doo-ree mother” combines the meaning “round” [doong-geun] with the regional dialect word dool-leh, which means “two people.”

(Source)

정치권ㆍ기업, 미혼모 자립위해 노력 / Efforts by political groups, business for unwed mothers’ independence [ability to support themselves]

정치권에선 ‘미혼모 자립’을 위해 관련법을 정비하고, 토론회를 통해 다양한 의견을 청취하고 있다. 기업들도 미혼모를 우선 채용하는 등 이들의 자립을 위해 힘을 쏟고 있다.

Political groups are modifying laws in order for ‘independence for unwed mothers,’ and through panels, they are listening to diverse opinions.  Through actions like prioritizing hiring unwed mothers, businesses are also devoting themselves to the cause of their independence.

특히 민주당 최영희 의원(국회 여성가족위원회)은 미혼모에 대한 지원을 확대하는 내용을 담은 ‘입양촉진 및 절차에 관한 특례법 전부개정안’ 등 관련법을 최근 국회에 제출하는 등 법 만들기에 앞장서고 있다.

Democratic Party Assemblywoman Choi Young-hee (National Assembly Gender Equality and Family Committee), in particular, is leading the way in making laws, some of which are currently submitted to the National Assembly, like “Overall Revision Bill for the Special Act Relating to Promotion and Procedure of Adoption,” the contents of which expand support for unwed mothers.

또한 지난 3일에는 한국미혼모가족협회·한국여성정책연구원와 공동주최로 ‘미혼모 지원정책 개선방안’ 포럼을 개최했다.

(Source)

Also, on June 3, the Korean Unwed Mother Families Association and the Korean Womens Development Institute co-hosted the “Unwed Mothers Support-Policy Improvement Measures” forum.

이날 최 의원은 “해외입양의 90%가 미혼모의  자녀라는 점은 우리 사회의 아픈 현실을 반영하는 것”이라며 “직접 양육하기를 원하는 미혼모가 늘어나고 있는 만큼 양육비 지원을 현실화 하고 지역사회에서 안정적인 생활을 할 수 있도록 정부의 적극적인 지원이 시급하다”고 지적했다.

On that day, Assemblywoman Choi said, “That 90% of international adoption is the children of unwed mothers reflects our society’s painful reality.  As the number of unwed mothers who want to raise their children themselves rises, the government’s active support is urgently needed to actualize aid for child-raising expenses for a stable life in a community.”

한편 이날 포럼에서 김혜영 한국여성정책연구원 박사는 ‘양육미혼모의 자립기반실태와 지원방안’에 대한 연구결과를 발표했다.

Also at this forum, Dr. Kim Hye-young, researcher at the Korean Women’s Development Institute, revealed the results of a study on the “Current State of Groundwork for Independence of and Ways to Support Unwed Mothers Raising Children.”

김 연구원은 “60%가 넘는 미혼모가 양육비와 교육비의 문제로 어려움을 겪고 있고, 80%이상은 월세와 같은 불안정적인 주거생활을 하는 것으로 나타났다”면서 “안정적인 자립기반 구축을 위해 미혼모 가족에 대한 조기 개입의 필요성과 함께 지원의 폭을 보다 확대할 필요가 있다”고 주장했다.

Dr. Kim said, “It showed that over 60% of unwed mothers are struggling because of the costs of child-rearing and education, and more than 80% live in unstable housing situations like [those requiring] monthly rent. In order to build stable foundations for independence, early intervention for unwed-mother families, together with an expansion of the range of support, is necessary.” (Source, right)

또 목경화 한국미혼모가족협회 대표도 “우리나라의 미혼모정책은 시설에만 초점이 맞춰져 있어 시설에서 벗어나 자립을 하려는 미혼모들은 빈곤 상황을 쉽게 개선하지 못하는 실정이다”고 지적했다.

Furthermore, Mok Gyeong-hwa, a representative from the Korean Unwed Mothers and Families Association, pointed out, “Policies regarding unwed mothers in our country only focus on facilities, so unwed mothers who want to break free from facilities and live independently can’t easily improve their state of poverty.”

최 의원은 이날 논의된 내용을 바탕으로 ‘한부모가족지원법 개정안’과 ‘국민기초생활보장법 개정안’을 제출할 예정이다.

Assemblywoman Choi will present the “Single-Parent Family Support Law Amendment” and “National Basic Living Security Law Amendment” based on the discussions of that day.

기업들도 미혼모 자립을 위해 적극적으로 나서고 있다. 던킨도너츠와 배스킨라빈스를 운영하는 비알코리아는 미혼모 시설인 사회복지법인 동방사회복지회와 함께 미혼모 고용지원 협약을 체결하고, 던킨도너츠 매장에서 파트타임으로 근무하던 미혼모 정소향(21세) 씨를 정식 사원을 채용했다

Businesses are also actively taking a stand for the independence of unwed mothers.  BR Korea, which operates Dunkin Donuts and Baskin Robbins, together with the  Eastern Social Welfare Society, a welfare corporation that is an unwed mother [support] facility, signed the Unwed Mothers Employment Support Agreement and recruited unwed mother Jeong So-hyang (21), who had been a part-time employee at a Dunkin Donuts shop,  as a permanent employee.

June 16, 2011.

Reporter: Cheon Won-gi (천원기, 000wonki@hanmail.net)

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?

(Source: unknown)

Mentioning this in a conference paper I’m writing on Korean girl groups however, as one does, earlier today my coauthor quite reasonably asked me if a more up to date ranking wasn’t available?

Alas, no. But there did appear to have been some recalculating of the 2008 figures done, with the first thing I saw from my search giving Korea a new ranking of, well, 20th best in the world:

Needless to say, I did a double-take. And indeed, as most of you have probably already guessed, actually the GEM has been abolished. Instead, Korea now has a ranking of 20 in what’s called the “Gender Inequality Index” (GII), calculated according to the following criteria:

What to take away from this? Well first, if I do say so myself, that it’s a pretty interesting thing to end up with, having originated from a paragraph that just one line earlier discusses Girls’ Generation’s signature hot pants.

But more seriously, I do want to stress the incredible achievements that Korea has made in terms of affordable, quality healthcare, well-illustrated by a recent anecdote from Ask a Korean! on a Korean stroke victim in New York, who quite rationally choose to fly 13 hours back to Korea rather than be treated in a hospital there. And it’s also indicative of how dangerous it can still be for women to give birth in many parts of the world, with 1 in 16 new mothers dying in Sub-Saharan Africa for instance, that the UNDP has good reason to think that the Maternal Mortality Ratio needs to be considered in any worldwide measure of gender inequality.

Nevertheless, while budding Canadian politicians, for example, are already taking advantage of their country’s new ranking behind Japan (yet another new paragon of feminist virtue) to say it’s all the government’s fault, it’s probably Korea jumping from 68th to 20th that should be getting the most attention. After all, albeit with apologies to long-term readers for the frequent mention, it does have: among the lowest female workforce participation rates in the OECD; the lowest rate of employment for educated women in the OECD (in fact, Korea is the only country in the OECD where the more educated the woman, the less likely she is to be employed); the largest gender wage gap in the OECD; only 13.7% of its legislators women; and a President that encouraged the mass firing of women to get over the latest financial crisis.

(Source)

At the very least then, Korea’s example seriously questions the applicability of the GII to developed countries. But can readers can think of any other issues raised?

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