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Understanding migrant women in South Korea

In 2012, a migrant woman was elected to the South Korean National Assembly for the first time in South Korea. There were two major opinions regarding this. Many Korean people welcomed this further step towards a multicultural society while others were shocked and could not believe that this could happen. According to the Ministry of Gender Equality & Family in their survey ‘South Korean’s Attitude Survey Toward Intercultural Marriages’ 63.6% of Korean people who were surveyed believe South Korea to be a unitary nation(one blood) that is ethnically homogeneous however 72.6% said that there is now no reason to stubbornly hold on to this mindset and understand that Korean society is moving towards being a multicultural society. 79.4% were open to and had a positive attitude toward migrant women.6 On the contrary 56.5% rejected the idea of their children marrying a foreigner with only 43.4% saying that they would consider it (quoted by Yoon, Song & Bae 2008:335).7 This survey reveals a paradox in that 79.4% accepted and were open to migrant women but 56.5% would not allow their children to marry a foreigner. This reveals that although there is a new awareness and acceptance of migrant woman, they are still viewed as being different and are received differently by many Korean people.

Understanding prejudices against migrant women in South Korea 

2012 was a year that saw South Korea elect its first ever female president. This reveals how far the empowerment of Korean woman has developed in a society that up until around 50 years ago women had very little rights and opportunities. However, Moon (2007:204) says that, “Yet an absolute majority of working women (70 percent of 6 million working women) are currently employed in irregular positions, and 98.7 percent of these 4.2 million women work in temporary positions”. This reveals strong contrasting perspectives and prejudices concerning Korean women. In Korean families girls are usually viewed as being of less value than boys. This is evident in the work place where men are usually hired before women and usually paid more for doing the same job as well as being promoted before women. Therefore if a native Korean women still faces these prejudices how much more does a migrant woman face? Migrant women are often looked down upon because they often come from poorer less developed countries and people believe they only marry Korean men for money and to secure their residency and employment within South Korea. Based on this their marriage is viewed as not being a true marriage by many Korean people. Migrant women are often viewed as being the property of their husbands since many of the husbands pay for them to immigrate to South Korea as well as for the wedding. This mind set often leads to violence and abuse because the migrant women are almost seen as slaves.

The reality of migrant women in South Korea

In general all couples have problems when they are forming their own family. For example, there are economical problems, difficulties of having a baby, raising children and the differences in personalities within a family. A multicultural family has all of these problems that a normal family would have but these problems are compounded in a multicultural family and more difficult to overcome. It is far more difficult for foreign women who are married to Korean men than it is for the Korean husbands. Lee (2005:72) says that a Korean woman’s life can be divided into three main stages of development, “a woman’s life is conceptualized as comprising three stages of development: first as a daughter, second as a wife, and finally as a mother”. A migrant woman in South Korea also goes through three stages with the first being as a daughter-in-law, second as a wife, and finally as a mother. A Migrant woman feels the pressure and expectation placed upon her through these three stages and tries hard to live up to them. Korean women are expected to perform multiple roles all at the same time, such as the obedient, submissive daughter-in-law, the serving and accepting wife, and the caring mother who educates her children. Within Korean culture, migrant women are expected to be all of these even though they often come from a culture where women are more independent and free. Migrant women are faced with many kinds of discrimination and difficulties within their new culture, country and language this being the biggest difficulty. This problem with language involves nearly every situation in which they find themselves.
It can cause problems with their husband, mother-in-law, other Korean people and even their children. Moreover, it is very difficult to understand the hidden meanings and cultural understandings and interpretations of certain words. All of this is further compounded with a feeling of cultural shock which many of these women experience in their new culture. My companions who are woman who have married into a new culture, country and language have experienced many difficulties in their new culture including learning the language of their husband, finding a job and accepting behavioural norms. They have encountered many stressful events, which have often been beyond their control as a result of their Korean husbands and his family thinking that their culture is more superior. Often a Korean family treats a migrant woman as their property because they or the husband paid money to a marriage agency for the foreign bride. There are numerous women who can’t stand their marriages any more due to these problems and many desire to run away or to get divorced. However, they are worried about their visa and citizenship or child-rearing rights. So many women give up on divorce even though they are suffering within an unhappy marriage, even those who are suffering from domestic violence (Maureen 2009: 119-120).

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CHAPTER 1: PLANNING FOR THE JOURNEY 
1.1 PROLOGUE TO THE JOURNEY
1.2 THE CHOSEN PLACE OF THE JOURNEY
1.3 THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE CONTEXT AND MY STORY
1.4 UNDERSTANDING THE JOURNEY
1.5 RESEARCH GAP WITHIN EXISTING RESEARCH
1.6 SUMMARY
CHAPTER 2: PREPARING FOR THE JOURNEY 
2.1 INTRODUCTION
2.2 RESEARCH POSITIONING
2.3 RESEARCH METHODS
2.4 RESEARCH OUTLINE
2.5 SUMMARY
CHAPTER 3: STARTING THE JOURNEY 
3.1 INTRODUCTION
3.2 WHO AM I AS A RESEARCHER/COMPANION?
3.3 WHO WILL ACCOMPANY ME ON THIS JOURNEY?
3.4 A SPACE FOR COMMUNICATION ON THE JOURNEY
3.5 WHY ARE THE VOICES OF THE COMPANIONS SO IMPORTANT?
3.6 INTERPRETATION OF EXPERIENCES IN COLLABORATION WITH “COMPANIONS”
3.7 SUMMARY
CHAPTER 4: THE ADVENTURE OF THE FIRST JOURNEY 
4.1 INTRODUCTION AND RESEARCH PROCESSING
4.2 LISTENING TO THE VOICES THROUGH THE NOW AND BACKGROUND STORIES OF MY FIRST COMPANION
4.3 GIVING VOICE TO THE TRADITIONS OF INTERPRETATION
4.4 GAINING VOICE IN THE TRADITIONS OF INTERPRETATION
4.5 FINDING ALTERNATIVE VOICE THROUGH FINDING UNIQUE OUTCOMES AND EMPOWERING/RE-MEMBERING CONVERSATION
4.6 RETELLING/ REFINDING VOICE THROUGH REPOSITIONING/RECLAIMING AND RELIGIOUS/SPIRITURAL VOICE
4.7 REFLECTION ON THE ADVENTURE OF THE FIRST JOURNEY
4.8 SUMMARY
CHAPTER 5: THE ADVENTURE OF THE SECOND JOURNEY WITH MY TWO COMPANIONS 
5.1 INTRODUCTION AND RESEARCH PROCESSING
5.2 LISTENING TO THE VOICES THROUGH THE NOW AND BACKGROUND STORIES OF MY SECOND AND THIRD COMPANIONS
5.3 GIVING VOICE TO THE TRADITIONS OF INTERPRETATION
5.4 GAINING VOICE FROM THE TRADITIONS OF INTERPRETATION
5.5 FINDING ALTERNATIVE VOICE THROUGH FINDING UNIQUE OUTCOMES AND EMPOWERING/RE-MEMBERING CONVERSATION
5.6 RETELLING/ REFINDING VOICE THROUGH REPOSITIONING/RECLAIMING AND RELIGIOUS/SPIRITURAL VOICE
5.7 REFLECTION ON THE ADVENTURE OF THE SECOND JOURNEY, GROUP CONVERSATIONS WITH TWO COMPANIONS
5.8 SUMMARY
CHAPTER 6: CREATING FUTURE VOICE, EVALUATING THE JOURNEY AND INTERDISCIPLINARY VOICE 
6.1 INTRODUCTION
6.2 CREATING FUTURE VOICE TROUGH THE POWER OF IMAGINATION, RE-AUTHORING AND RE-WRITING STORY
6.3 EVALUATING THE JOURNEY
6.4 INTERDISCIPLINARY VOICE
6.5 SUMMARY
CHAPTER 7: THE FUTURE OF THE JOURNEY. MOVING FORWARD 
7.1 INTRODUCTION
7.2 CRITICAL REFLECTION ON THE JOURNEY
7.3 EMPOWERING MIGRANT WOMEN’S VOICES THROUGH THE NARRATIVE APPROACH
7.4 THE FUTURE OF THE JOURNEY
BIBLIOGRAPHY

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