Like in many –if not all –Asian cultures, Korean women are expected toconduct themselves in a way in which society believes to be appropriate,usually speaking with a submissive and respectful tone. Through the use of language, men can illustratetheir feelings of not wanting to accept women working as a legitimateprofessional activity and dismiss women in general. However, as times change and the spread of feminism becomes stronger andwider, Korean women are starting to challenge that stereotype by defyingstereotypes and taking on a more assertive tone when they speak.
Korean culture in particular appears to be rapidly casting asidemasculine and feminine language differences in favor of a much more balancedlanguage. While this trend tends to contradict earlier claims which maintainednumerous significant gender differences in language, more recent researchbetter explains the observations made which indicate that elements of masculineand feminine language are used by both males and females (Cameron 1998). Korean also has a general absence of gender-specific pronouns, grammar,and vocabulary, therefore freeing it from many of the problems that tend toarise from the “he / she” labels by using gender neutral equivalents. However,vocabulary reflecting male dominance is still found, usually containing words andphrases that hold negative connotations for women.
Korean also has a complexhierarchical politeness system, making relative age, social position, andcloseness important (and often troublesome) variables which can greatly affectthe language forms that are used. Although Korean society has undergoneextremely rapid change over recent decades, a misuse of honorifics by men towardwomen can still be found –again, in the case where a woman holds a positionsuperior to a man. Somewhat ironically, despite anemphasis on respect toward superiors, men still refuse to take orders fromwomen and most will only truly accept a male boss. They might implicitly oreven explicitly demonstrate their distaste, not necessarily through words butby actions –for example, ignoring or neglecting orders given to them by awoman.Several studieshave been done which have investigated differences in using Korean between menand women. Wang (1999) concluded that there were no significant genderdifferences between young Koreans when disagreeing, however, Wang did note thatwomen had a tendency to somehow include themselves in their arguments (e.g.
using “I / we” and other personalizing topics), and a more recent study foundthat in expressing gratitude, Korean women are more likely to use intensifying markersthan men, implying that Korean men are expected to restrain from expressing emotionsand/or from emphasizing gratitude. This follows an image that men are strong,in control of their emotions and have an unflappable personality. A commonfactor in both of these articles is the greater expressiveness andpersonalizing of women in their speech over the more emotionally distanced men.
This is in agreement with Bak (1983), who also highlights 5 politeness andexpressiveness as two aspects in which Korean and English similarly note genderdifferences. However, a concluding remark from Bak notes that younger Koreansare moving toward balance and becoming less formal through equal usage oflow-level informal speech forms (panmal)and relatively intimate titles –e.g. hyungand unni.There arethree models used to describe the “relationship” between the two sexes whenthey converse with one another: the deficit model, the dominance model, and thecultural difference model. In the deficit model, women are disadvantagedspeakers and their speech is a deviation because of early sex rolesocialization Referring tooneself as the husband’s wife, it is possible to explain in terms of thedeficit model, where men uses the name to provide himself with an individualidentity, but females use less identifying terms of her relationship to others–typically as “mother” or “wife.” The dominancemodel is as its name suggests; in a conversation, women are powerless and theydevelop a submissive mode of communication while the male half has more “socialprivilege” which is most commonly shown –in conversation –through interruption.
In the cultural difference model, there are different conversation “goals” andstyles which manifests in speech strategies employed by both men and women. Anexample of this would be the softer tone that woman uses in order to minimize conflictand increase the cooperation in their interactions with others –specificallymen. Some individuals have an ability to learn new strategies so a person’sexperience of different social roles and settings may lead to the acquisitionof speech goals and styles that cannot be easily labeled as “male” or “female.”Researchers have shown a wide range of opinions regarding genderdifferences in turn-taking. While early studies show that men who constantlyinterrupt women (an example of the dominance model) have been stronglycriticized, due to methodology and interpretation, such instances have notnecessarily been denied, even though it may be difficult to prove (Lakoff 2003,Holmes & Meyerhoff).
However, unique to Korean conversations are “verbalunit boundaries,” which invite the listener(s) to collaboratively respondbefore sentences are completed (Kim 1997). This rapid changing of turns is notseen as competitive interrupting, but rather as the speaker offering thelistener(s) a chance to collaborate, aligning this form of turn taking withtraditionally feminine language. Generally, all four participants were observedto interrupt, overlap, and provide acknowledgement while listening. Therelationships of the participants meant that the conversation generallyoscillated between couples, meaning that each couple would “work together”during a turn, with the spouse of the main speaker providing support by addingextra information and assisting in communicating certain points. Despite thefact that gender imbalances do still exist in Korea, the sample reflects recenttrends in Korean society of gender increasingly becoming less of a definingfactor in social status and relationships.
However, the lack of gender specificwords (“he / she” pronouns) makes it difficult to compare many gender issues ofWestern languages to Korean, which has its own issues of inequality relatingmore to age, social status, and context.Since the middle of the 70’s, the relationship between language and genderhas been a major focus within the women’s movement. Sexist or ‘man-made’language affected and originated from a traditional patriarchal society and itssocio-political attitude, ignoring women as subordinated beings from theirbirth, providing justification men’s predominance over women. This kind ofthinking is accepted as social value and naturally expressed in language.The expressions that women tend to get upset about are usually ones thatattempt to “tame” them to the male-centered social system.
This is generallyregarded as standard, and –consequentially –if one deviates from suchstandards, they will be immediately criticized because those expressions areconsciously internalized and formalized. “Limiting women’s role and area” implies that women should keep withinthe traditional boundary of their lives. “Doing housework is a woman’s job,”is a good example, as are such expressions as: “this is what a female shoulddo,” “all a woman needs to do is housework,” and “why doyou still work when you’re even married?” Such phrases are often used andaim to dismiss and/or deride. Even though there are some expressions limitingmen’s boundary, for women they are used to limit their social roles and workingareas. Such types of expressions tend to emphasize a woman’s inferioritycomplex, debasing women as “unfortunate people,” expressions that reflect womenin a lower state than men, negative expressions about appearance, and so on. Afterthe system of employing both sexes with equal conditions, many companies turnedout to debase women’s ability more often. “If a crow-tit tries to walklike a stork, it will break its legs.
Tailor your ambitions to the measure ofyour abilities” is a Korean proverb basically stating that women (crow tit)cannot be equal as/to men (stork). A common statement housewives claim to hearis: “what did you do when you were home?” or “stupid,” which isusually used when the husband has a higher academic degree than that of hiswife. But when the husband and wife possess the same degree or if the wife hasa better skill of speech, the husband will criticize her by saying: “Idon’t like a clever woman.” So naturally, when a woman gets out of theboundary made for them, they become the target of –sometimes extreme –criticism.
Another issue involves expressions that denounce women as “bad luck.” Callinga someone “bad luck” is a huge slur toward any person, regardless of theirgender, but that does not mean it is unheard of, and it happens, especially towomen. Even though it is said to have decreased greatly, expressions such as:”today’s such an unlucky day because the first call this morning was froma female,” is still in use. Taking it one step further, there are now alot of sayings –made by men –that count all women as one to rule over, withphrases such as: “how dare does a woman …” and “how dare she… to a man.”Expressionsdescribing women with a lower personality than men are related to the beliefsin the expressions that degrade women as a bad luck. However, these expressionsare more widely applied to housewives. The idea that a husband tries to keephis wife behind himself leads to complain his wife by saying, “Don’t tryto play the same role.
” Also, such an expression was said to be by hermother-in-law. Although the mother-in-law is also a female, since she is awoman who gave birth to the husband, there is a different kind of superiorityand so she behaves herself as a man like the husband.Negativeexpressions about appearance are usually spoken out loud. However, standards onwomen’s appearances haven’t changed a bit and even became slowly getting worse.”Why don’t you wear make-up?” is one phrase that is used if a womandoes not wear make-up and in a paradoxical situation, there are also manynegative expressions about women who wear too much make-up. Moreover, there aremore criticism on ones’ physical appearance such as: “hey, stop eating,you pig!” and “what did you do while other kids were growingup?”The effects of sexually discriminatory language –while maybe not “vast”in the sense of numbers –is deep and even greatly affects a person’spsychological state. First, the women humble themselves. Languages that wereused to lower women are repeated and reinforced, therefore the women take it inand think of themselves as “a lacking criminal.
” Second, theyideologically think about being a “docile, obeying woman.” When theystay quietly behind their husbands, they are seen as good women, therefore,they try to become ‘docile, obeying woman’ to become other women’s role model.Also, being a quiet and reticent person is seen as the best way instead ofexpressing themselves. Third, lack of confidence in verbal expression can beseen. In women’s expression, there are lots of repeated words. Also, they speakin ambiguous ways such as “well and maybe.
” Fourth, they maintain acontradicting, double-faced attitude. Fifth, women fear to adapt to socialchanges due to lack of confidence and limit themselves to home activities.Sixth, when the women try to find out solutions to any problem, they wouldresort to indirect ways first instead of direct ones. Since society has been experiencing changes, the view of females in theworkplace has also begun to change. There is a growing recognition of thenecessity for women to be involved in society and for non-sexist educationsystemWhile it has been asserted that the mass media still reinforces a fixedidea of traditional gender roles rather than depicting the changing place ofwomen in society –a soap opera Men of the Public Bath House, women were seenmore often in the house than men and in settings outside the house and in theworkplace women appeared less than men –there is an increasing amount of selfsufficient, strong female characters who are not afraid to speak their minds, enterconfrontational situations and/or conversations with their male counterparts,or are simple just “badass.
” In the recent –and incredibly successful –drama Goblin: The Great and Lonely God, there is a woman, Sunny, whoalways speaks her mind and seems to even take a little pleasure in lecturingher “boyfriend,” even making him feel guilty and basically having him wrappedaround her finger –but not quite in the somewhat manipulative sense that aegyo can carry. In conversations, Sunnyis the one who usually dominates, and in fact does most of the talking, whilealso using confrontational words and tone. This goes against all three modelswhich explained how women will typically try to refrain from conflict and –insome cases –aggression and tend to give way to their male counterparts inconversations.
Bong Soon from the Korean drama, StrongWoman Do Bong Soon is not onlyphysically strong, but has just the right amount of sassy and sweet in herpersonality, and is a character that challenges the idea of a damsel indistress. Another example is the character Jang Hye Sun from the drama I Hear Your Voice. Jang Hye Sun issharp-witted, and with a sharp tongue to match, that and being a lawyer alsoseems to represent a woman who does not adhere to stereotypes and social”rules.” Jo Kang Ja from Angry Momdemonstrates how mothers are beings that are not to be messed with, which goesagainst the image of a docile, domestic stereotypical housewife and mother.
JoKang Ja is a mom who poses as a high schoolstudent in order to protect her bullied daughter. Not only does she change thelives of those around her with her unwavering spirit and sense of justice, butshe also has a past that demonstrates just how amazing and strong she is. Not all drama’s have female characters whose good points are theirresilience and feisty personality.
There are quite a few female characters indrama that are can be ruthless, selfish, and simple have admirable traits suchas just having unwavering faith in others –Hae Soo from Scarlet Heart: Goryeo. These traits, while not necessarily “tough,”are still characteristics that do not conform to the perceived definition ofhow a woman should be. Especially strong female characters –like Gil Ra Im fromSecret Garden –are respected andadmired by audiences. One can argue that the increasing amount of such impressivefemale characters is proof that Korean society is changing their opinions towardwomen and even becoming more acceptable of women who do not adhere totraditional stereotypes.Non conforming female characters do not necessarily have to be thetitular character or even part of the main cast.
In the beginning of Clash of the Families, when confrontedwith a couple of pushy off duty soldiers, a woman not only tells them off butalso makes an unseemly gesture to emphasize her point. Even small actions –orrather individuals with small roles –reflect how Korean women are changingand becoming more “daring” in their speech.Women –and everyone in general –develop more confidence in themselveswhen they are “allowed” to speak their minds without restrictions, and thatpermits them to their ambitions and become stronger in the face of adversity.When women are controlled, their self confidence is damaged, which can lead todepression which can result in numerous unpleasant outcomes –such as suicide.
Speech and language are major ways to raise one’s self confidence as it allowsthem the ability to stand up for themselves, state their opinions, overcomefear, and believe in themselves. It is important that people realize thateveryone is equal and entitled to be themselves, and as a result of speakingwithout limitations, Korean women can achieve a sense of power andindividuality that can only be beneficial to them.