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Forced "free divorce', the divorce issue and 'the old-fashioned woman' during the colonial period in Korea

  • The Review of Korean History
  • 2011, (104), pp.123-164
  • Publisher : The Historical Society Of Korea
  • Research Area : Humanities > History

Hyunsoog So 1

1한양대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

By analyzing the divorce issue between the new intellectual male and 'the old fashioned woman' in the 1920s to 30s, this thesis aimed to reveal the change that appeared in family relations and its aspects during the colonial period and also the experiences of 'the old fashioned woman' who had to face these changes from a different position than 'the new woman'. Together with the trend in love marriages, the divorce issue between new intellectual males and 'the old fashioned woman' caused heated debate in the press concerning its validity, rising as a social issue. New intellectual males, who sought their rights in marriage and attempted to build a 'new family' with 'the new woman',could not avoid divorcing their uneducated 'old fashioned wives' whom they had to marry out of their parents' coercion. However, in a society where the economic independence of women was difficult and the ideological taboo on women remarrying persisted, these demands for 'a free divorce' from men was felt as 'a forced divorce' to the old-fashioned woman. The demand of the argument supporting marriage toward old-fashioned women to accept divorce and show the wake up of the self, or the message of the argument against divorce saying divorce can be avoided by becoming the new woman both leveled the responsibility for the loveless marital discord to the 'ignorant' wife. However, the old fashioned woman, who, as the victim, was the object of sympathy and enlightenment, did not simply remain as the victim. Although,at the time, the effort to defend the position of wife was denigrated as depending on the husband, it was an active struggle against husbands who easily cast away their wives without any security for their livelihood. On the other hand, the resistance of the old fashioned woman was not limited just to adhering to the position of the wife. Ironically, during the 1930s, a current newly emerged blaming the 'knowledge' of the new woman as the cause of family discord, reviving the 'ignorant' old-fashioned woman as the 'ideal wife'while praising her as the symbol for 'upright fidelity', and a behavior toward refusing the forceful divorce of the husband and independently and exclusively possessing divorce arose within the old-fashioned woman. In short, in Korea of the 1920s and 30s, where daily struggle toward the restructuring of conjugal relations became visible, going beyond theoretical remarks on the revision of the family and the construction of the new family, the old-fashioned woman did not simply remain as the victim of the building the new family.

Citation status

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