Rethinking Korean Family and Gender in the 21st Century

2011 Korean Studies Seminar
by Professor Okpyo Moon, The Academy of Korean Studies
“Rethinking Korean Family and Gender in the 21st Century”

Time and Date:   4:00-5:30 P.M., Thursday, 13 January 2011
Venue:                  Asian Centre Auditorium
Speaker:              Professor Okpyo Moon, Academy of Korean Studies
East Asian societies, or societies in the East in general for that matter, have often been perceived to be more “family-based” than those in the West. Family ties are thought to be stronger leading to a relatively stable emotional integrity and sense of belonging among its members and in the society at large. The traditional ideology of family continuity is believed to motivate a higher commitment to education, employment and other types of secular achievements. Some of the more recent developments, however, seem to seriously challenge this popular image, as most East Asian societies including Japan, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan are commonly confronted with avoidance of marriage (late- or non- marriages), unprecedented fertility decline, population shrinking, and inflow of foreign nationals, etc.
In this talk, I will first attempt to outline the nature of Korean family and gender relations from a historical and comparative perspective, and how they have undergone transformations in the process of urbanization, industrialization and modernization for the past decades. In the end, it will be attempted to understand the seemingly paradoxical phenomenon that we are facing today: why supposedly the most family based society like Korea appears to be shunning away from the very institution, the family, and what are the potential implications of this phenomenon on gender.
Okpyoo Moon is Professor of Anthropology and the Dean of the Graduate School at the Academy of Korean Studies. She taught at Harvard University as Edwin O. Reischauer Visiting Professor of Anthropology and Japanese Studies in 2000-2001 and has been a Visiting Professor at the National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka, Japan in 2006-2007. Professor Moon was educated at Seoul National University, Korea and at the University of Oxford in U.K. where she received a doctoral degree in social anthropology with her study of a Japanese ski resort village, which was later published in England under the title, From Paddy Field to Ski Slope: Revitalisation of Tradition in Japanese Village Life (Manchester University Press, England, 1989). Since then, Dr. Moon has carried out extensive field researches with particular focuses upon the comparative aspects of Japan and Korea in the areas of family and gender, urban and rural community making, ethnic minorities, tourism, popular culture and heritage maintenance policies, etc.
Her recent publications include New Women: Images of Modern Women in Japan and Korea (Seoul: Cheongnyeonsa, 2003, editor and co-author), Yangban: The Life World of Korean Scholar Gentry (Seoul: Baiksan, 2004, editor and co-author), Ethnic Relations of Overseas Koreans (Seoul: Acanet, 2006, editor and co-author), Japanese Tourism and Travel Culture (London: Routledge, 2009, co-edited with Sylvie Gichard-Anguis) and Consuming Korean Tradition in Early and Late Modernity: Commodification, Tourism, and Performance (Hawaii Univ. Press, 2010, co-author) among others. She has also translated important books in anthropology and women’s studies into Korean including Interpretation of Cultures by Clifford Geertz (Kkach’i, Seoul, 1998) and Revolution Postponed: Women in Contemporary China by Margery Wolf (Han’ul, Seoul, 1988).