I must reiterate – the following words are an amalgam of thoughts and inferences drawn from anecdotal conversations and observations made by myself and those with whom I interact here in SK.
I am studying for the Examination for Practicing Professional Psychologists (EPPP) at the moment, which can be likened to taking the bar exam for JDs. And I was reminded of Carol Gilligan’s work – After being fed up with psychology’s male centered research (i.e Freud and his damn penis envy, Erickson’s autonomous ego identity, Piaget’s focus on the concrete, and Kohlberg’s logic laden morals) (btw – my tone is sarcastic but I actually find great value in these theories), Gilligan created a theory of moral development, in response to Kohlberg’s male-centric moral development theory, by researching only female subjects. The outcome depicted that the prominent difference between m/f morality is that female morality was experienced via caretaking and cultivating connections with others while male morality was experienced by determining universal rules through use of logic. Thus, females tend to have a “make everyone happy” p.o.v. and males tend to have a “let’s determine and then do what is right” p.o.v.
Yin. yang. Who is to say which is better? I say we have both. (How very female-like of me to want to be agreeable and please the masses). And it appears to me that women in S. Korea have to have both – well, working women at least. Working women in the corporate sector seem to be hit with a double bind – the expectation is to be assertive enough to be taken seriously but to be “sweet” enough to be acceptable as a woman. I can see some of the readers cringing at this statement. The same battle is being fought by women around the world, even including the more liberal/progressive urban settings of the US; however, in SK it is exponentially more difficult. And it is so because you are not fighting the battle just for yourself, you are fighting for your family – their honor, their name. So you must be successful and do what it takes to achieve in the man’s world that is SK, but also do what it takes to represent your family – a.k.a. show that they raised you well as a woman which means: be sweet, diplomatic, serving, kind, generous, helpful, and caring. In other words – the working women of SK are essentially partaking in a complicated waltz with male and female morality, finding themselves being both the partner who follows and the partner that leads. What an image.
Additionally, like women in many countries around the world, some young ladies in SK are working women killing time until they meet a man and get married. At dinner with locals, SB inquired about a stereotype of SK women which he had heard from a SK woman who shared this in a (half) joking manner. The story is – all women (in SK) look for the “three keys” when determining a man’s datability – a key to his house, a key to his car, and a to his office. A man with three keys puts him in the game. (EPPP people: this is the “hurdle selection procedure” in the Industrial Org section). And once courtship has done its deed and has led the lovely couple into holy matrimony, the traditional Korean wife may or may not work and may or may not start a family but one thing is for sure – if one of those keys opens up doors to a corporate office, she will not see her husband most of the week since he will likely return home from work or work events (ahem, drinking soju and maegju over dinner with colleagues) late – often around midnight. This is normal and to be expected. (We often see men arm and arm, stumbling together down the streets, fully clothed in their business suits, on a M/T/W/Th/F night). On the weekends, if there are no other work related activities, the couple will spend some time together and mostly likely, with their parents as well. This is the traditional path for SK females.
Now what makes a woman datable? So far, from what I’ve gathered (which is very little at this point), datability of an SK woman has some to do with her education, her family background, but mostly – her physical appearance. Sigh.