International Women’s Day and Korea

International Women's Day

Today is 100th International Women’s Day. In different regions the focus of the celebrations ranges from general celebration of respect, appreciation and love towards women (its roots in primarily Eastern Europe, Russia, and the former Soviet bloc) to a celebration for women’s economic, political and social achievements (the United Nations sets a theme each year to raise awareness about certain issues). I asked my students who they thought was an important women in South Korean history, and these are who they chose:

Famous Women in South Korea

Shin Saimdang 신사임당 (1504-1551) was a Korean artist, writer, calligraphist, noted poet, and the mother of the Korean Confucian scholar Yulgok. She is seen as a model of Confucian ideals, her respectful nickname was Eojin Eomeoni (어진 어머니; “Wise Mother”). As she was raised in a son-less household, she spent much time at her parents’ house even after her marriage to Commander Yi Won-su at the age of 19. Having had no brothers, she received an education that would have only been bequeathed to a son, and this background greatly influenced the way she educated her children. Saimdang was able to cultivate her talents thanks to an unconventional household and understanding husband, in a rigid Confucian society. [Wikipedia]

In 2009, South Korea’s central bank chose the face of Korean motherhood, Saimdang, as the first woman to be featured on its banknotes, but women’s rights groups said the selection only reinforces sexist stereotypes. A paper on a government Web site describes Shin as “the best example of motherhood in Korean history,” while the central bank said she was selected “to promote gender equality and women’s participation in society.” [source]

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