Knotted Gun sculpture outside UN Headquarters in NYC.
Here, in South Korea, as in every other part of the world, there has been grief and shock over the shootings in Connecticut. The loss of so many young lives in such a vicious act of violence is incomprehensible across languages, religions, and cultures.
After tragedies like this one, which are all too commonplace in the US, people want as much information as possible about the shooter, their family, their upbringing. Any clue at all as to how this could have happened, even though we all know that no answer will ever satisfy us. There is nothing we could discover that would make this ok or comprehensible.
As people across the world ask why – why on earth would someone do this? – in many places people are asking why this young man had access to weapons that could fire 6 bullets per second. (more…)
I was 32-weeks pregnant with my son when we moved to Seoul from Seattle. When my spouse first got this assignment my knowledge of Korea was admittedly narrow, but because of all the research I had been doing on pregnancy and childbirth, the one bit of information that I did know was that Korea had an even higher rate of C-Section than the United States. The rate of c-section in the US is a staggering 30%, while here in South Korea it is an even more staggering 37.7%.
One of the things that is surprising about this number is that, in a study conducted in 2000, when polled, the majority of pregnant South Korean women said they prefer vaginal delivery. The study was done when the c-section rate was nearing 40% and researchers wanted to know if this rise had to do with women’s desires and attitudes towards childbirth. The study concluded that the rapid rise in C-section rates was related to health care practitioners and the health care system, not women’s attitudes or desires.
So, what’s happening? In a country that has skyrocketed to first world status in 50 short years, why aren’t women getting the medical care they desire?
Confucian ideals and principles lie at the heart of this rapidly modernizing society. They are the subtext to every interaction. The main principles of Confucianism can be very broadly summarized as:
- Follow the Golden Rule
- Be loyal to your family
- Respect your elders and superiors
- Worship your ancestors
- Know your role in society and fulfill it to the best of your ability
While I do not disagree in theory with all of these principles, their effects on this society have led to an inequity among men and women that, I believe, leads to difficult circumstances for women when it comes to birthing. Being loyal to family and respecting elders and superiors means being, if no longer submissive, at least deferential not only to the men in their lives but to anyone whose position in society is “higher” than theirs.
My little one is finally sleeping through the night for the most part. I never thought this day would come. You may remember one of my very first posts with World Moms Blog in which I bemoaned the sleep deprivation that comes with a newborn. Now that he’s sleeping, you’d think that I would be well-rested, but unfortunately a year of constant sleep interruption seems to have led to a bit of a sleeping problem. I’m fortunate if I get 4-6 consecutive hours these days.
I was feeling very sorry for myself until I recently met a school teacher here in Seoul who told me that the kids she teaches in primary school are getting about the same amount. Reflecting back on my pre-pubescent school days I remembered a strict 8pm bedtime and a 7am alarm clock. That’s 11 hours of sleep. After school I had to do my homework and chores, and then I was free to play until dinnertime.
Here in Seoul and in other parts of Korea parents are incredibly invested, monetarily and otherwise, in the education of their children. Academic success is crucial. Many children attend public school from early morning to mid-afternoon, after which they go to an academy, called a hagwon, where they often stay until 9 or 10pm. Yes, you read that right. (more…)
The month of May in Korea is “family month” and includes Children’s Day and Parents’ Day (as well as Teachers’ Day and Buddha’s birthday). It’s a celebratory time here, especially as it coincides with the mild temperatures and blossoms of spring. These last two years the month of May has also included a much quieter celebration – Single Mothers Day.
To be a single mother in Korea is no small thing. Women who find themselves pregnant out of wedlock are often pressured by their friends and family to have an abortion or to give up their child for adoption. 90% of children who are adopted from Korea are born to single mothers and, unlike in the West, the majority of unwed pregnant mothers in Korea are over the age of 25. The women who choose to keep their children and raise them as single parents are very few and the discrimination they face is astonishing to someone like me who is not from here.
The shame associated with unwed motherhood is not just the burden of the woman to bear. Her parents, her siblings, and her child are all subjected to it as well. It is often kept a secret for as long as possible since the repercussions of people knowing can be dire, including loss of job, home, and social status. Many of these women can no longer live with their families, as is the custom, the disgrace and shame is so great.
This is so interesting to me, coming from a country whose president was raised by a single mother. Single parenthood is by no means considered ideal in the West, but no person, politician or otherwise, would dream of speaking ill of mothers who are working hard to raise a family on their own without fear of immense (and well-deserved) backlash, the prevailing sentiment being: Don’t they have it hard enough? (more…)
Okay, I’m just going to come out and say it: Feminist. There, I said it. We can all absorb and try to move on.
I joke, but, like all jokes, there is a kernel of truth within. I think in the case of feminism, there is more than a kernel of truth to the fact that, for many, the word feminist has a negative connotation. It brings to mind gangs of hairy arm-pitted, bra-less, angry, man-hating women. (more…)
This week’s Saturday Sidebar Question comes from World Moms Blog writer Maggie Ellison. She asked our writers,
“Pregnancy/baby weight….where are you with this? What are the social norms about pregnancy/baby weight where you are from?”
Check out what some of our World Moms had to say…
Hamakkomommy of Japan writes:
“In Japan we are told the optimal weight gain is 7kg (~15.4 lbs)! Pregnant women are scolded, shamed, and berated for gaining too much weight. Women are told gaining too much weight will result in difficult labor, and often blamed when their labors are difficult. The flip side of this is that most women are able to lose the weight quickly. The average newborn baby weight here is 3kg (~6.6 lbs).” (more…)