Lecture on Korea

 The Ateneo Center for Asian Studies
invites you to
 
LECTURE ON KOREA

 By  Professor Inchoon Kim
Research Professor, Institute of East and West Studies,
Yonsei University, Seoul, South Korea

 
1987 Democratization Movement and Consolidation of Democracy in S. Korea
January 13, 2009, 4:30 to 6:00 pm, Ching Tan Room (SOM 111), Loyola Campus

Migrants, Multicultural Society and Consociational Politics in S. Korea: Democratic Representation and Social Integration
January 16, 2009, 4:30 to 5:50 pm, SEC LEC 2/SEC B 201A, Loyola Campus

Women’s Policy and Women's Status in S. Korea: Gender Equality Politics in Comparative Perspective
January 21, 2009, 4:30 to 5:50 pm, Loyola Campus  

 

 

ABSTRACTS

1987 Democratization Movement and Consolidation of Democracy in S. Korea
January 13, 2009, 4:30 to 6:00 pm, Ching Tan Room (SOM 111),
Loyola Campus

This lecture will introduce and examine an event, 1987 Democratization Movement and its resulting consolidation of democracy in S. Korea. June of 1987 Democratization Movement was the most massive outburst of democratization passion under the military rule since 1961. Huge rallies and street demonstrations mollified the oppressive power of the military regime and, eventually, S. Korea(hereafter Korea) made a democratic transition in 1987 when it held a direct presidential election in December, 1987 in 16 years.

1987 marks a decisive turning point in the democratization of Korea. The immediate impetus to the transition came from the people's protests in the streets. As struggles for democracy were gaining mass support from the people in June of 1987, the military regime conceded to modify the Constitution to change the electoral rules for the presidential election.

Immediately following the June 1987 Movement, workers raised wild strikes across the nation, demanding wage increases and workers' rights. The Korean working class broke down the foundations of a decades-old military rule with mass strikes in the years 1987-1990 which resulted in the creation of radical democratic labor unions and high wage increases. Democratic transition has produced severe ideological and political conflicts and struggles for a long time since the Liberation from Japan in 1945. Nevertheless, this apparent success in establishing democracy in a country without a democratic tradition, along with Stalinist N. Korea, has made S. Korea one of the more interesting cases of democratic transition and consolidation among the countries that have undergone the transition to democracy in the late twentieth century.

One of the hot debated issues in the study of democratization is what conditions or factors are most conducive to democracy. This lecture will explain the importance of structural factors such as levels of economic development, class structures, cultural traits as well as the role of strategic choices made by various actors.

 
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Migrants, Multicultural Society and Consociational Politics in S. Korea: Democratic Representation and Social Integration
January 16, 2009, 4:30 to 5:50 pm, SEC LEC 2/SEC B 201A,
Loyola Campus

S. Korea faces up to the multicultural challenges now. Most Koreans have believed that Korean national identity is a single-race and homogenous country. As migration has become common, a greater number of non-Koreans come to live in Korea every year and the issues of multiracial and multicultural society have become hot debate. Together with short-term foreign residents, the number of foreigners living in Korea reached 1.15 million as of June, 2008, over 2 percent of the total population. And the figure is projected to jump to 2.9 million by 2020, taking up more than 5 percent of the total population.

Policies toward foreign residents have taken increasing significance in Korea. The Korean government established the Korea Immigration Service in 2007 to deal with social integration, immigration and naturalization, and attempts to make Korea more open and welcoming to non-Koreans. School textbooks that describe Korea as a 'nation unified by one bloodline' will be changed to one that has a multiethnic and multicultural society'. Multiculturalism is booming.

However, most of the policies appear to favor only a select class of investors and professionals, as well as foreigners with Korean spouses. There are several laws and policies that support multicultural families. But migrant workers, totaled about 700,000, can stay for a maximum of 3 years, though 5 consecutive years staying is required for a citizenship application. There is still-lingering public unease about the society becoming increasingly heterogeneous. Also, the policies seeking to unilaterally integrate and assimilate foreign residents into Korea's mainstream culture have hampered the multicultural rhetoric to foster social harmony.

This lecture will introduce multicultural policies of Korean government and assess what impact they have on social integration in Korea. Also, this paper argues of the possibility of consociational politics of power sharing to deal with ideological and social cleavages effectively. Neo-liberal globalization and socio-economic polarization since the 1990s have been resulting social and political confrontations and, then, majoritarian governance is not working effectively in Korea. Political representations and interests of social minority groups could be regarded equitably in the context of democratic governance of social compromise and consensual political system.

 
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Women's Policy and Women's Status in S. Korea: Gender Equality Politics in Comparative Perspective
January 21, 2009, 4:30 to 5:50 pm, Loyola Campus

 Women's status in S. Korea (hereafter Korea) in family and labor market as well as in government and politics is relatively low in terms of the country's high socio-economic development. Even its form of individualized nuclear unit, family has been considered a conservative patrilineal and patriarchal institution seen as continuing across generations. Women's position in labor market has been sexually segregated and discriminated, and women's participation in government and politics has been restricted and marginalized. Though discrimination as well as violence against women is legally prohibited, gender inequality has been distinct and ubiquitous in all spheres of life.

Meanwhile, significant changes have also been realized in gender politics and gender relations since the late 1980s in Korea. Many laws and policies to promote gender equality have been introduced and women's movement organizations have spoken for themselves, making significant political voices. As one of 'the latecomers' in terms of women's policy and its public agency, Korea has speeded up development of women's policy surprisingly for the last two decades. The Presidential Commission for Women's Affairs, the first state agency charged with improving women's status through planning and coordinating women's policies, was established in February, 1998. The Commission was upgraded into the Ministry of Gender Equality in January, 2001. This governmental development has aimed at gender mainstreaming and gender equality in every spheres of society.

Women's movement, struggling against patriarchal gender order, pressing political parties and the government to intervene to promote women's status, and demanding gender equality policies, has been the most important actor who has brought these changes. Political parties and the government have introduced many important laws and policies including affirmative action policy to weaken patriarchal gender order and to enhance women's social and economic opportunities, such as employment and welfare benefits. There has been significant progress in formal laws and institutions for women's rights for the last two decades. Incidentally, an OECD report has ranked Korea as 4th with two other countries, Belgium and the Netherlands, in the Gender, Institutions and Development (GID) index among 162 countries globally in 2006(GID Data Base, OECD, 2006). Nevertheless, many feminists and women's studies scholars in Korea claim that gender equality is a 'mere myth'. They argue that women are disadvantaged in the labor market, legal status, welfare, and even in love. They point out that UNDP ranks Korea as 53rd in Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) and 25th in Gender-related Development Index (GDI) in 2006 and argue that formal rights and social institutions do not guarantee women's status and gender equality. Currently, 13.4%, the highest one up from 5.9% in 2004. of the Congress members are women and women are much more likely to experience low income and unstable employment in labor market and full responsibility of carework.

A number of studies have tried to explain gender inequality in Korea and have come to the realization that gender inequality can not be understood without tackling the fundamental question of patriarchal order. The state and employers in Korea have strongly supported the ideology of conventional authority and practical power of male breadwinner and the state's policies have oriented to sustaining private patriarchy. This lecture will introduce gender politics in Korea since the 1980s and examine the possibility and limitation of women's equal rights and power.