Is Ladies' Paradise a Man's Creation?

Le Bon Marche
This week we welcome guest blogger Tamara Gater

What does 19th century Paris have in common with today’s Seoul? 
What democratically seduces the common girls and noble ladies alike?
What simultaneously exploits and caters to your feverish desire?

The department store.

Although Emile Zola’s novel ‘Au Bonheur des Dames’ is situated in 19th century Paris and borrows heavily from the experience of managing the world’s first ever department store ‘Le Bon Marche’,[1] Zola’s revealing portrayal of Woman in the grips of a one sided love affair with consumerism is as relevant to the ladies in Gangnam today as it was to the mass consumption pioneers – les dames of the Rive Gauche at the turn of the century.[2]  

The timing, as always, is everything. When the book was published in 1883, Paris, and Europe as a whole was making enormous strides towards modernisation and progress. Zola’s intention was to capture this sentiment and to write “a poem of modern day activity.” The department store is in fact instrumental in this quest because it is a material product of the socio-economic transformation taking place at the time.
The department store is thus an emblem of progress. The old ideas are declared bankrupt with the insolvency of each family business and every time a draper’s shop closes its doors, it unravels the threads holding together the very fabric of society. Yet Zola welcomes this change, bids adieu to pessimism and proclaims that ‘this manure of misery was necessary for the Paris of tomorrow.’

Was it for Seoul?

It may not be so easy to draw parallels between the late 19th century Rive Gauche of Paris and the South Bank of the Han River in the 1980’s, yet one commonality is undeniable – the unrelenting march of modernisation.[3] Sure, it’s not so easy to picture the agricultural wasteland that Gangnam once was with PSY’s catchy lyrics blaring on every corner ridiculing the neighbourhood’s lust for luxury, but as the pictures below show Gangnam had to go through an extreme cosmetic make over before it became the metropolis that it is today. So how do you go from straddling an ox to straddling a horse in an imitation of the now infectiously popular dance move?

Contrasts of Gangnam
Well just as PSY’s lyrics suggest, it’s all got to do with a sexy lady and although Zola would have been a touch more poetic about it, in the end he’d agree that Woman is the muse of modernity. In fact this is what Zola had to say about Octave Mouret, the founder of Ladies’ Paradise, who basically personifies the modern self made man.[4]
“Mouret’s sole passion was the conquest of Woman. He wanted her to be queen in his shop; he had built this temple for her in order to hold her at his mercy. His tactics were to intoxicate her with amorous attention, to trade on her desires, and to exploit her excitement.”[5]
So according to Emile Zola, the man (Mouret) had to go out there and build a magnificently giant shop, stock it with everything from ‘you can’t do without’ to ‘you will regret this purchase when the visa bill comes in at the end of the month’ and finally force every other shop on the block out of business so as to eliminate any sort of competition… all so he could impress a girl? Maybe impress is too noble of a word because I’m pretty sure ‘conquest’ means the same thing as it did a hundred years ago… so did he manage to conquer the Parisian mademoiselles and mesdames?

Oh did he ever! In fact, he did it with such gusto that the idea pretty soon caught on in other European capitals eventually spreading to the United States.[6] It seems there were in fact many men out there wanting to ‘intoxicate her with amorous attention’ and to ‘trade on her desires.’ But here’s the bit where it gets confusing. If the whole point was to create an environment where the Woman could satisfy her insatiable craving[7] to spend her husband’s hard earned cash, then why does Mouret fall in love with the one woman who is described as holding ‘the powerful position of a woman who will not yield’ and while we’re on the topic, why does PSY rap about the superficiality of Gangnam ladies while at the same time quite literally shaking with excitement over miss Hyuna who by and large is a made in Gangnam poster child?

You already know the answer. It’s a gender relations Catch 22 as old as time. It goes something like this. A man changes the face of Parisian topography by building a shop so big it takes up an entire district and stocks it with everything your heart desires, or alternatively the man sings a song that becomes an international anthem. He’s kinda hoping you’ll be impressed. But the minute you go and buy that revealing little black dress from the mannequin in the shop window and seductively dance to the beat of his song… he gets the clear signal that you’re interested in him. This is also about the same time he loses interest in you. I’d wager that the first cave man who discovered fire married the woman who accidently threw the dirty dish water on the flame.

In the case of the Ladies Paradise, Zola glorifies the character of Denise Baudu, who is the protagonist of the novel. She is described as a humble virtuous woman who brings up two of her younger brothers all on her own, evoking all sorts of Madonna comparisons. Even though she works at the Ladies’ Paradise, she, unlike her more extravagant colleagues, wears a simple silk dress and no accessories.  This demonstrates her refusal to be seduced by the luxuries Mouret and his shop offers her. Professionally, Denise embraces the modern opportunities and advances herself up the career ladder, yet personally she maintains the same traditional social constructs that encourage her to remain chaste and child-like prior to marriage. As the story goes, Baudu only agrees to marry Mouret once he comes to understand that not the shop, nor its merchandise, nor its profits will seduce Mademoiselle Baudu. Ironically and significantly, he built the shop to seduce Woman, and in the end marries the Woman who refuses to be seduced.

Meanwhile, the jury is still out on PSY. Will he choose a woman who is an embodiment of Gangnam style or a woman more like Denise Baudu who is not seduced by the glitzy Apgujeong Hyundai Department store and its merchandise? Perhaps his lyrics can offer us a clue. Even though PSY makes fun of Gangnam girls in his song, and asks them to be more sensible, at the same time he asks them to choose him over guys with bulging muscles. So in that sense, PSY is contradicting himself by critiquing the Gangnam girls’ luxury lifestyles, while at the same time putting them on a pedestal as desirable girlfriends. Additionally, Hyuna’s response video[8] is also very revealing about what’s on offer dating wise. Hyuna’s video is largely a parody of the “aegyo” style that is so common place among young Korean women. The best way I can describe “aegyo” is a child-like sexiness a girl plays up to make herself more attractive to the opposite sex (think woman sucking on a lolly pop making Bambi eyes at you while wearing a tartan print mini skirt). Although I myself found Hyuna’s interpretation of “aegyo” (which by default encompasses what it means to be a sexy Korean girl) quite refreshing, she nonetheless failed to provide an alternative. Thus, although Hyuna may laugh at the “aegyo” style, she spends the entire video clip imitating it. It would be braver if she actually dropped the “aegyo” act altogether and offered her own version of a sexy lady.

Having discussed the effects of consumerism on the external environment in which the interplay between Man and Woman takes place, let’s turn our attention to the inner working of the consumerist machine – the department store. In Zola’s novel, the universe inside the department store with all the sales clerks and their intrigues, the customers and their attitudes, the managers and their ambitions serves as a microcosm of the world outside its walls. Among the many observations, the key social changes are: the women’s active participation in the work force, the creation of the middle class, the democratic equality among the customers despite their socio-economic backgrounds, the men’s absence from the large queues lining up outside the department store but their visible presence inside as clerks, shop assistants and eventually as managers.

Although a lot can be said about all these social changes, the primary concern of this article is of course with the women’s participation in the evolution of the department store. Thus, it is helpful to have a read of T.S. Eliot’s poem aptly titled “In The Department Store”, presumably written in 1915. Even though the poem is written only three short decades after “The Ladies’ Paradise”, we can see significant changes in how the Woman has been altered by the department store. Whereas Zola takes special care to point out the youthful good looks of Mouret’s shop girls, T.S. Eliot strips the Woman of her aloof femininity and paints her with the dimness of disappointment.
The lady of the porcelain department Smiles as the world through a set of false teeth. She is business like and keeps a pencil in her hair But behind her sharpened eyes take flight
The summer evenings in the park And heated nights in second story dance halls. Man’s life is powerless and brief and dark. It is not possible for me to make her happy.
First of all, T.S. Eliot is correct to point out that it is ‘a lady of the department store’ because today it is more likely than not that it will indeed be a woman serving you. Not a man. At the beginning of the department store history, as Zola shows us, it was the young men who were the dominant group at The Ladies’ Paradise. The men had the natural ability to flatter the female customers into making a purchase. Yet, already by the time T.S. Eliot’s poem was published, the gender tables have turned and the women replaced the men behind the counter.

Today, men have all but abandoned the shop floor. On a recent trip to the Hyundai Department store in Apgujeong, I didn’t see any male shop assistants, except for those selling men’s brand clothing or men’s luxury watches. Where did all the men go? The simplest and most probable explanation is that women, like in other professions, were fired when discovered to be pregnant,[9] so they lost their place in the career queue which allowed men to be promoted to management roles. Men did. So it’s not that men disappeared from the retail business, it’s just that they moved from the shop floor space into an office space.

Consequently, today one finds that the majority of the women working in the department store are middle aged. This is because, as mentioned above, young working women eventually got pregnant. Lost their jobs. Raised their kids. Then decided to get back into the work force. But alas, the only jobs they were eligible for now in their 40’s with no work experience for the last x amount of years, were part time or temporary roles, like in … you guessed it, retail.[10].

However, the young female shop assistants are present at the department store but they are usually confined to the first floor in the non-Western branded cosmetics shops, like Face Shop, Skin Food, Tony Moly. These girls are a special breed of shop assistants and fit no previously mentioned stereotypes. Firstly, judging by her skimpy, leave little to the imagination outfit, she is almost certainly modelled after a member of a Kpop band. As you ascend up the escalator, you will no doubt notice that it is strictly the cosmetics girls of the first floor who are so liberally clad, while the rest of the women be it in the makeup department or ladies’ wear opt for modest grey or black uniforms.

Secondly, she is a polyglot with 20/20 vision. While you are distracted by all the free testers of Krispy Kreme donuts and Activia yoghurt, she already spotted you, correctly identified your nationality and prepared a welcome message which she will suddenly recite at you as you walk past her shop unawares. Finally, she is a trained bodyguard. Don’t be fooled by her ‘your wish is my command’ smile, because no amount of ‘I’m just looking’ will deter her from shadowing your every move in the little cramped store as you pick up a lip gloss only to watch her whip it out of your hands in an attempt to help you apply it. The only proven method of retaliation is to ask a question in English and breathe a sigh of relief as you watch the girl run away giggling. In fact, you know that scene in Pretty Woman, when Julia Roberts is denied service by a snotty shop assistant on Rodeo Drive? That would never happen in Korea. For one, you wouldn’t be able to tell scantily dressed Julia apart from the shop girls and two, they would have showered Julia with so much attention that she would have most definitely maxed out all of Richard Gere’s credit cards.

So in the end, is there a fundamental difference between Zola’s Woman, T.S. Eliot’s ‘lady of the porcelain department’ and PSY’s sexy lady? Of course. Maybe even these differences mean more to you than the similarities and I hope you share those opinions. Yet for me, the message is in the commonality of the men’s dissatisfaction with the image they created. Zola marries off his modern man, Mouret to the only woman in Paris who has refused to dress herself in his fabrications of Woman; T.S. Eliot openly expresses his powerlessness at the hands of consumerism which dimmed the lustre of intimacy that has no place inside the walls of a departments store, and finally PSY laughs at the social standard for women promoted by the Gangnam brand. Are all these books and poems written and songs sung to simply confess that the non-mass produced original Woman is far superior to the imitation created with the help of consumerism?

[1] The picture is of Le Bon Marche around 1910.
[2] “Au Bonheur des Dames “ was published in 1883.
[3] The construction of Hyundai Department store in Apgujeong, which has since become their flagship store, was finished in 1985
[4] The Ladies’ Paradise was based on Le Bon Marche and Zola spent a lot of his time in Le Bon Marche observing and researching the way the founder Aristide Boucicaut.ran his giant shop. Also, Zola paid particular attention to the minutest detail from how many emergency fire escapes the shop had to the intimate relationships among the staff. Thus although the book is obviously fiction, it employs a lot of factual information to truly encapsulate l’ambiance de l’époque.
[5] Emile Zola, ‘Ladie’s Paradise’, page 274
[6] Harrod’s and Selfridge’s in England and Macy’s in America just to name a few examples
[7] Interestingly enough, kleptomania only came about around the same time as department stores. It is proposed that the desire to own a thing becomes almost parallel to sexual gratification where a woman simply succumbs to her urges.
[8] Sadly, PSY and Hyuna’s collaboration on Hyuna’s answer to Oppa Gangnam style did not reach such a wide international audience. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wcLNteez3c4
[9] There is in fact an example of this in Zola’s novel.
[10] This is a typical scenario which has lead many women to accept unstable temporary positions which largely did not pay well.


Emile Zola "Au Bonheur des Dames" (English translation)
Ramazani, Vaheed K "Gender, War, and the Department Store: Zola's Au Bonheur des Dames", Substance, Issue 113 (Volume 36, Number 2), 2007, pp. 126-146
Melita Schaum, "Just Looking Glass": Class, Desire and the Consuming Vision in T.S. Eliot's "In the Department Store", University of Michigan-Dearborn.


Korean Male Union & Sexual Harassment 남성연대와 성희롱

 The group Korean Male Union (Man of Korea) has been in the news frequently in the past few months and our regular contributer Jenderole has introduced some of there ideas here, here and here.

In my opinion, Man of Korea may have some important messages to share about fairness in censoring lyrics or content offensive toward men or boys, for example, after the movie "You are my Pet/너는 " or the song "Good Boy." They also may provide useful resources to men who suffer sexual harassment on their website.

남성연대가 페미니즘을 비판할때 남성화 이론을 선립하고 있다? 남성연대의 페미니즘 이해한 의식은 무엇인가? 남성연대의 구성원들이 페미니즘을 배우기 대신 압축적 근대성에 대해 생각하며 '세계 최저의 출산율, 최고의 이혼율, 가족의 해체, 한국남성의 가족 부양 경제생활비 부담률 세계 1, 가족에 대한 한국 남성들의 의무와 책임은 다양화되가고 있으나 가정은 오히려 붕괴되고 있다고 말하고 있으며 이러한 원인' 다르게 이해할 있다.

However, a casual browsing of their site shows a serious lack of understanding about violence against women in Korean society, or even about the purpose of Korean law. In the screen grab below, some members debate about the sexual harassment laws, and the online misogyny is apparent. This quote is representative of a subset of discussion on the site that not infrequently centers on the supposed oppression of men brought about by feminism, or that feminists are making "too big a deal" out of jokes and calling it sexual harassment, or that the sexual harassment law should just be scrapped: 

KoreaBang has also shown the comments made by netizens about the recent Man of Korea Twitter debate and a sexual harassment case reveals that the majority of the translated posts support the rights of the girl child to be free from molestation, but there are also the odd posts that encourage violent attitudes toward women and children. For example, one post reads:

junp****: "If you think she’s cute, just beat her up instead. Punch her in the face, in her ears, in her jaws. You’ll still be fined about 20 million won.. It’s better to get a crime record by hitting her instead of being accused of sexual harassment. And if someone asks you why you beat her up, then tell him you beat her cos she was too cute.. That’s still better than sexually harassing her…"
junp****: "차라리 귀여우면 주먹으로 귀빵망이 갈겨버리고 죽통 아작내 버려라.. 반쯤 죽여놔도 벌금 2 안나온다.. 같은 전과라도 성범죄보단 폭행죄가 낫다.. 때렸 나고 물으면 대답해라.. 존나 빡치게 귀여워서 그랬 다고.."

We can see there are some misunderstandings about the sexual harassment laws that are clouded by criticism of feminism or reinforced by causal dismissal of the rights of women or calls to violent abuse of women. Rather than mirror these attitudes by random netizens, the Man of Korea membership could take a different path and work toward achieving gender equality. 



Korea – U.S. International Adoption Ornament is Racist and Ugly

There is one amazing and thoughtful review of this product, a review that gives it 1 star and is titled “From the point of view of an actual Korean & Adopted person...” wherein Amazon Customer Reviewer Amie Kim writes,
Yes, I'm an actual person who was affected by this legalized child trafficking deal they call "adoption" - no longer an idealized baby or helpless child. Warning: your adopted children will grow up to have their own opinions, and it's more than likely if you purchase this item, they will have a low opinion of you.
Not only is the imagery offensive to my sensibilities as a person who was adopted from Korea to the U.S., but it's Just. Plain. Bad. Design. It looks like it was thrown together in the mid-90s by a person who just discovered desktop publishing for the first time.
And jeez, the "oriental" font? What are we, Chinese take-out?”
Thank you Amie Kim for sharing your review and your words. In addition to critiquing the product, I share this review hoping that anyone who stumbles onto this ornament’s product page or our blog to takes a moment for thoughtful introspection and discussion about the meaning of this ornament and the meaning of their actions and possibly their ignorance of international adoption from Korea. We all need to listen and think about the current international adoption system, particularly between South Korea and the U.S. Thus the KGC reposts the review because we think it rocks and because Amazon reviews aren’t a great place for discussion (short of saying the review is “helpful” we can’t do much more at Amazon), but we hope to have a discussion here on our blog.

In my opinion, this ornament is UGLY because it has a very offensive whitewashing of race, and of the history of U.S.-Korea relations. So, some prospective adoptive parents are waiting for a “good THING” in the form of a Korean baby (not a thing, not not not a “thing” – we are talking about a human child whose rights must be enforced), to arrive in America, hangs this ornament at Christmas. What an allegory for erasing identity and commodifying a human being.

I view this as racist whitewashing on two:

First, it is racist by assuming a Korean child or the boundaries of Korea (represented by the map of Korea) can be simply “absorbed” into the U.S. (as symbolized by the U.S. map surrounding or consuming the Korean map. It isn’t like this is topographically accurate, so why is Korea placed INSIDE of the U.S. as opposed to alongside or above).

By placing Korea inside the U.S., America is symbolically put in an unquestionably superior position to Korea. This positioning further erases or ignores all of the opposition that exists in Korea – now and throughout history – to the circumstances political, social and economic that give rise to the abrogation of children’s rights in the current and historic adoption regime; to political, cultural and historic tensions in KORUS relations; and also ignores the allegory for conquest, colonization, annexation represented by this imagery.

Second, the racist allegory bothers me because of the historical repetition of the absorption of American Indians into American founding mythology. I personally resonate with this issue because my own ancestor was stolen from her mother by a system that forcefully placed American Indian children with white families (and thereby distanced her from me and my family not only by time/generation but also by a coerced adoption that strips my family of kin, history and heritage). Further, even contemporary U.S. politics refuse to acknowledge and address the decades of forced sterilization of Black women, American Indian women and “socially undesirable” women. Maybe because as a person with privilege I also grew up feeling close to this personal family story of genocide because I (or my grandmother, maybe not exactly/directly me) was robbed of a mother (my great-great-grandmother) that our family and future generations can never ever know. So it hurts me to imagine a child seeing this ornament on a Christmas tree and it hurts me to imagine the seemingly willful ignorance that went into the creation of this product.

Please join our discussion of Single Parenthood in South Korea on the Korean Gender Cafe.  Better yet, anyone interested can visit TRACK’s site and read the entire report critiquing the human rights violations in the current system of adoption from Korea or join the Korea Gender Café in listening to and supporting the inspiring people at TRACKASKKUMSN and KUMFA and many others whom help us be more a more thoughtful international society.


Reaction to Seoulbeats Review of K.Will’s Please Don’t music video 케이윌 이러지마 제발

Contributed by Enzo Cho'Gath in our continuing Queer Corner series

K.Will’s Please Don’t music video


I had heard of K.Will quite a few times but with an overall lack of interest in Kpop, I didn't give him much of a fair chance. But when The Kimchi Queen posted a link  to the singer's most recently released music video, I decided to give it a chance. K.Will’s music video is ground-breaking.

Homosexuality has, for (too) many years, been a subject of controversy throughout the world. However, Korea has taken a relatively unique stance for quite some time- Korean society largely just acts like homosexuality doesn't exist. In a society where genders are separated eagerly and early, where men - via their forced conscription into the army - are pushed into all-male environments for nearly two years at a time,  even acknowledging the fact that homosexuality exists as an orientation could be awkward to many people. The consequences of sex segregation go beyond gender discrimination, and may obscure social dialog about homosexuality. As one friend put it, "It's not gay when you do it because there are no women around."

But attitudes are changing and the Korean media, over the course of the last decade, has finally begun to represent homosexuality across its various mediums. Starting with the outing of popular actor Hong Suk-cheon, the visibility of homosexuality went from invisible to camouflaged and eventually to Blockbuster status.

Films in the early 2000s such as Bungee Jumping of Their Own (2001) and Momento Mori (2001) often silenced the subjects of homosexuality that they presented by claiming other realities about them- for example, that the gay relationship wasn't really gay because one man was actually a woman reborn into a man's body (oh, woe is me!), or that the lesbian relationship was somehow an allegory for the 'otherness' of communism. What?

However, in 2006, homosexuality was increasingly represented  in larger volumes and huge grossing films like The King and the Clown (2005)and later Frozen Flower (2008). Homosexual relationships were openly portrayed in these films, a big step for a society that still remained largely conservative toward accepting homosexuality. Dramas such as Coffee Prince (2007), Personal Preference (2010) and Life is Beautiful (2010) wrestled with the issues as well with the last even portraying the grueling efforts of coming out to one's family and the trials that come with it.

Starship Entertainment - K.Will
In the world of Kpop, however, there has been very little progress. With Hallyu resulting in Korean media being exported to countries that remain even more conservative, Korean pop companies appear to have avoided much interaction with homosexuality and its presence in society. K.Will's "Please Don't" music video features a very clear and inarguable reference to homosexual love; this is a big game changer.

The issues that homosexuals in Korea face with regard to societal and family pressure are no joke. Life is Beautiful also deals with these issues and there is a telling episode in which the gay character Tae-sub's own uncle calls him "mentally deficient" because of his homosexuality. K.Will's video leaves the exact relationship of the two men ambiguous, but it appears as if they lived together, and that the woman has not been around for terribly long. Therefore, it is not a stretch to argue that the two men had been involved with one another before one was pushed to marry, a story that parallels what happens all too often  in a country that places such high value on filial piety.
All in all, I am both surprised and pleased by K.Will's efforts and hope to see more progress like this in the world of Kpop.

What I was not pleased with was the response of the website 'Seoulbeats' to the video.
In their article, contributor Nicholas  reviews the video and somehow either misses the entire presence of homosexuality, or  obliquely refers to the main actor's pain and desire by writing simply that:
"The Music Video concludes with the Heartbreak Maserati stationary amongst flowing traffic, as the “ideal” pairing was shown..."
In fact, throughout the entire review there is no mention of homosexuality, queerness,and the word 'gay' cannot be found at all. References to the current drama "Reply Me 1997" abound in the article and the comments, and this a drama well known for it's portrayal of a homosexual relationship, yet somehow the author completely forgets that K.Will's video is an ode to unfulfilled gay love. I immediately left this comment at Seoulbeats:
"How can you write an article on this video without even using the word 'gay'? This is a big step for South Korea and you've completely ignored what are actually some very big social ramifications. This video is the story of a gay couple that was broke up when one of them decided to marry a woman. That is a huge social issue in Korea and one that is very real. By not even mentioning the homosexual content (and instead only obliquely referencing it as "the ideal pairing") you're erasing something that should be discussed. This is a huge oversight and overall poor journalism."
This review could be an opportunity to discuss the changing landscape of Korean culture and the opening up of sexuality in such a conservative country. Especially after Seoulbeat’s great coverage and discussion of Gain's solorelease "Bloom" I was very surprised to see how the K.Will Please Don’t review failed to cover an important issue in any society today.

Instead of bringing the issue at hand to the forefront, the writer has instead erased the presence of homosexuality and K.Will’s voice. Surely someone who writes for a Kpop website is aware of how rare these opportunities are and how this can signify a shift in society. Yet they choose to participate in the silencing of homosexuals and this is by no means acceptable.

In a society where people of alternative sexualities already have little voice, representation or rights (homosexuality is still classified as a mental disorder), taking away any opportunity to be treated as equals is unequivocally wrong. Social progress is made by the airing of these issues and silencing someone's voice or their identity is akin to shaming them for that identity.
I do not ask that every writer discussing homosexual content in Korean media be a fan; air your opinion when possible as openly as you'd like. Post openly about how homosexual content is ruining society- I don't care. It is everyone's right to express the opinions that they hold. What is not acceptable is when a Staff Writer speaks on behalf of a dedicated groupof writers who are interested in the larger picture in pop. Seoulbeats is an ongoing project of discussion and dissection” and  chooses to deny the existence of a group, for whatever reason that may be.

Since Seoulbeats comments standards indicate that they expect their readershipto respect all opinions. We will not tolerate racist, sexist, homophobic or any other vulgar comments that disrespect our writers and our readers I hope in the future that Seoulbeats will reconsider on the dialog they present on these topics.

Kim and Singer. “Three Periods of Korean Queer Cinema” in Acta Koreana. Vol. 14 Num. 1 June 2011, pg. 117-136

Referenced websites:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=PdUiCJnRptk, Accessed 2012.10.16
http://www.starship-ent.com/kwill/, Accessed 2012.10.16
http://thekimchiqueen.blogspot.kr/2012/10/k-wills-new-single-is-fantastic.html, Accessed 2012.10.16
http://seoulbeats.com/2012/10/please-dont-give-k-wills-effort-a-miss/, Accessed 2012.10.16
http://seoulbeats.com/2012/10/why-ga-in-gets-a-pass-but-hyuna-doesnt/, Accessed 2012.10.16
http://seoulbeats.com/about/, Accessed 2012.10.16

Image credits:
005 K.Will.jpg - Source [http://rawr6127.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/img6811f.jpg], Accessed 2012.10.16
005 K.Will Starship Source [http://www.starship-ent.com/kwill/], Accessed 2012.10.16


Power & Gender in the Early Korean State

Early Korean State regulation of everyday practices in the home created hierarchies of power according to gender that significantly reordered both public and private life. Through ideological emphasis on morality Confucian elites created precedents that underlie even contemporary power relations between women and men, civilians and state in contemporary Korean society.

With the transformation of society according to Korean Confucian ideology, women’s rights and power were eroded. According to Martina Deuchler’s analysis of law and key Confucian literature dating back to the 14th century, a set of codes regulating funerals, ancestor worship and inheritance significantly shifted power in both the domestic and public spheres. Under Goryeo Buddhism, women enjoyed rights to equal inheritance but the Confucian transformation of Joseon increasingly required that an unequal share of family wealth, prestige and power be set aside for the son born into the ‘right status,’ which in turn transformed society at large by stripping women of inheritance, remarriage and property rights, and redefining the status of first and second wives’ offspring (Deuchler pp. 145, 155-61, 175, 186, 219-222). In the home, these laws slowly seat the eldest son (or ritual heir) in a position of increasing power above uncles, secondary sons, sisters and adoptive relations.

Moral and social obligation ruled Choson women’s lives on many levels, as its “social order has a tendency towards extension: from an intimate order to a social one” (Lee, 373). The morals imposed by the public sphere on the private sphere also came to be reproduced by the punishment of men for the sins of their women. For example, the grandson of a thrice remarried “licentious woman” could not become an official because of this extension (Deuchler, 277). Thus, an incredibly strong system of consequences encouraged male kin to keep women in check, while severely punishing transgressions. The stakes were high in enforcing Confucian social mores, as these were the foundation of social stability. Women became tools of social construction as the “asymmetry of the sexes was necessary… to restrain sexual indulgence and selfishness, which would lead to social disorder” (Deuchler, 231). Since a Confucian yangban’s virtue is an extension of his home, Confucian social hierarchy came to depend on the delineation of women’s roles, status and the control of women’s ‘base nature’ in the home. These roles and the regulation of women’s morality came to be defined by a woman’s position as obedient daughter, then dutiful wife and finally as a wise mother.

Thus, Confucian marriage status came to be the most important factor in a woman’s life, next to the birth of her son. Choson era marriage emphasized fertility, and producing a male heir became a woman’s most sure course to avoid divorce (Deuchler, 273). Further, a woman’s position within the domestic sphere was based upon her legal marriage status, her children’s’ status and her husbands’ rank. According to Deuchler, a primary wife deferred to her mother-in-law but might one day become the head of women in the family. Her male child secured her position in the family, whereas a secondary wife could not exercise parental authority over her offspring. Finally, she held a special position in the family as the mother of the ritual heir, setting her apart from the wives of other brothers. Thus a strict domestic hierarchy and the ranking of women reflected and also reproduced the Confucian social order.

The social classes became defined by the “proper social identification of women, and therefore women became the keepers as well as the victims of an unequal system” (Deuchler, 236). For this reason, the rituals surrounding marriage and the legislation that ranks wives confer certain rights to sons, and maintain lines of descent while ensuring a gap between the kinds of families that produce daughters that can be yangban wives and the kinds of daughters that can be concubines. Thus, over the course of time ‘half yangban’ sons (and all daughters) lose their Koryo era property and political rights, based on the social ranks accorded to them by their mothers’ marriage status. Publicly, merit subjects and the Confucian elite slowly codify their class power, land ownership and create shifts in the rights and social position of women, slaves and common people. In contrast with elites, commoners were excluded from these Confucian codes, reflecting a widening gap between the ‘high and low,’ and the consolidation of power and emphasis on corvée labor and military service (pp. 195) for ‘low’ classes that lacked inheritable properties.

In this way, regulation of women’s power in society also controlled the power of their sons, resulting in a class system based on women’s reproduction of social hierarchies through marriage and child birth. These systems are echoed by contemporary laws governing the citizenship of so-called ‘multicultural family’ migrant wives, whom gain social acceptance and secure citizenship by performing as dutiful wives and mothers, reproducing Korean society (Cheng). Divorced marriage migrants, trafficked migrants, unmarried partners of Korean citizens, the migrant children (particularly those not ethnically Korean) of marriage migrants, and childless marriage migrants have at best a tenuous position in contemporary Korean society. Only through traditional conformity to gender roles, though reproduction of the family, do migrants secure their position in Korean society.   

Deuchler, Martina. 1995. The Confucian Transformation of Korea. Harvard University Press.

Lee, Jaehyuck. "Rational Rendering of Confucian Relationships in Contemporary Korea." Korea Journal, Summer, 2003.

Cheng, Sealing. "Sexual Protection, Citizenship and Nationhood: Prostituted Women and Migrant Wives in South Korea," Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. Vol. 37, No. 10, Dec. 2011.

조선 초기의 파워와 젠더체제

조선 초기에 한국생활의 규정으로 파워계급이 설립됬고 젠더 계급을 재조직을 했다. 유교자들이 유교적인 이데올로기와 도덕 중심으로 국가의 파워계급을 조선시대부터 현대사회까지 바꾸었다었다.

한국사회의 유교변화때문에 상속 결혼체제에 여성들의 평등권이 침해받음를 보여진다. Deuchler 따르면 14세기부터 장례식, 조상 숭배, 계승 계층 중에서 법의 변화로 권력이동은 공적생활과 집안생활에 영향을 주었다. 고려 불교가 여성의 상속에 자연스럽고 결혼체제에 조금 차별받는 결혼인식이 있었지만 조선의 육교 양반의 권력을 설립하려고 [종서-종손-장손FIRST SON] 사회지위를 올라가고 [종서-종손-장손FIRST SON] 부와 영향력을 유지하는 체제를 만들었다. 그래서 [적서Secondary Sons] 부와 영향력을 감소되고 [둘째부인-Secondary wife and Concubine] 성과 사회적 지위가 아주 조심하게 규제됬다 (Deuchler).

도덕과 사회책임에 여성의 생활은 지배를 동안 남자가 같은 여자의 버릇없음 행실때문에 처발을 받았다. 남자들이 법의 가혹한 처벌 결과에 대해 책임을 지기 때문에 여성의 도덕을 통제하고 억제하는 정책이 많아졌다 . 그렇게 여성의 생활을 규정하면서 남성의 생활도 규정했고 사회체제 바탕을 유지했다.

조선시대의 유교사상은 칠거지악에 근거하여 여성의 행동을 규제했다. 그래서 조선시대 동안 유교로 장손를 출산뿐만 아니라 여성의 사회지위를 인해 혼인 여부가 규제된다. 소박맞지 않기위해 아들을 출산 해야하거나 첩에 대해 관여할 없었고, 시부모의 권위에 굴복해야 했다. 또한 첩의 자식으로 태어난 서자들은 본부인의 자식들과 다른 대우를 받아야 했고 사회적 진출 또한 어려웠다. 그렇게 조선의 사회적 구분은 여성의 지위를 명확하게 하는 크게 의존하였으며, 따라서 여성은 불평등한 구조의 피해자이자 수호자였다 (Deuchler, 328).” 그리고 이혼을 예방하려고 여성들이계승자를 출산해야 했다 (Deuchler). 더구나 여성의 혼인 여부로 여성의 사회지위를 정의하고 집안 책임과 지위도 정의했다. 시어머니의 죽음까지 말을 동의하면서 며느리가 나중에 집안일을 단속해 준비해야 했다. 고려시대에는 남성중심의 계승에 근거하여 심지어 서자도 호주가 되어 모든 법적 권리를 가질 있지만 조선시대에는 둘째부인이나 첩의 아들의 지위과 위신을 잃었다. 그래서 둘째부인이나 첩의 지위도 잃었다. 여성들이 조선의 엄격한 사회 계금에 순응하고 비추기 뿐만 아니라 사회체제를 생식했다