The Grand Narrative in The Washington Post

Photo by Dương Nhân from Pexels

While the background will be very familiar to regular readers, I confess I was still intrigued when Washington Post reporter Blaine Harden emailed me about this last month:

With pressures high, South Korean women put off marriage and childbirth

SEOUL — In a full-page newspaper advertisement headlined “I Am a Bad Woman,” Hwang Myoung-eun (황명은) explained the trauma of being a working mom in South Korea.

“I may be a good employee, but to my family I am a failure,” wrote Hwang, a marketing executive and mother of a 6-year-old son. “In their eyes, I am a bad daughter-in-law, bad wife and bad mother.”

The highly unusual ad gave voice to the resentment and repressed anger that are common to working women across South Korea…

With thanks to Blaine Harden for asking for my input, see here for the full report, and further details are included in this similar report from the JoongAng Daily last week also.

New readers further interested in any of the issues mentioned in either, please see: #2 here for more on Korea’s extremely low score in the UNDP’s “Gender Empowerment Measure” on which I based my email statement “….despite Korean women having good health and excellent education, they still have a much greater chance of becoming a politician or even a middle manager or computer programmer in countries like Kyrgyzstan, the Dominican Republic, Botswana or Nicaragua” that Blaine Harden quoted, and here for a recent survey on the discrimination expectant mothers face in Korean workplaces, which mentions that nearly 25% of them either got fired or were forced to quit once their pregnancies were revealed. For all others, please see the list of links I provided when I was involved in a report on a very similar topic for TIME Magazine last year, and another in a more recent post on childcare and socialization.

Unfortunately, judging by the handful of news articles available on the internet, then this story seemed to get little attention in the Korean-language media, although as I type this the Washington Post article itself has prompted a couple more. But see here for the original text of the advertisements, and here, here and here for some of the original reports from October and November last year, and I’d be very grateful to hear from anybody who saw her television interviews!

If you reside in South Korea, you can donate via wire transfer: Turnbull James Edward (Kookmin Bank/국민은행, 563401-01-214324)

2 thoughts on “The Grand Narrative in The Washington Post

  1. This story got picked up on Jezebel too, and the general tone of the comments seems to be
    1) that sucks
    2) (in reply) it’s not that much better in the US
    Though regarding #2, they probably wouldn’t say that if they were more familiar with Korean mother-in-law stereotypes.


    1. Thanks: would never have noticed it myself because I don’t have time to read Jezebel unfortunately, and its post doesn’t mention my blog (grrr).

      I definitely hear you about #2 though, and if you haven’t looked at it yourself already, the New York Times article it links to about women flocking to the government instead of the private (much more sexist) sector is very good, although hardly news. Indeed, my sister in-law did that for precisely that reason last year, finally passing her exams and interviews to become a civil servant after 3 years of study and 3 failed previous attempts.


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