Project: Korean Women in their Thirties

June 12, 2011 § 1 Comment

In Korea, becoming thirty is the turning point of a woman’s life. By the time women reach their late twenties, they face a dilemma. They face a conflict between their private life, a key factor being marriage, and their social achievement, such as their career goals.

Marriage can serve a source for emotional stability. However, the general public’s opinion on Korean women’s marriage seems to push women towards marital obligations and responsibilities at a much earlier age than many women’s desire as well as in many different nations. As I have mentioned earlier on my previous post, twenty-three is considered the highlighting age for marriage. The expectations are for women to graduate from college, get married, for a family, and live happily ever after. Too much education is not good for women; excessive education is associated with arrogance for women while in the case for men, it is the sign for cultural superiority. This indicates how public opinions rely heavily on the male-based authoritative society. As a portrayal of such phenomenon, women who reach their late twenties are the prime customers for marriage or coupling industries, a similar concept as the American dating industry except for the fact that it is much heavily geared towards marriage compared to the dating industry. This drastically contrasts with the main customers for the American dating industries, who are generally within or over their forties. In terms of the acceptance of ideas, Korean public act as if they have accepted “Gold Misses”, a culturally created term for successful and independent women who are unmarried. However, the irony is how the media portrays Gold Miss actresses as financially stable but still filled with the desire to marry.

Work and professional life is an indication for financial and social stability. However, the rule does not always apply to Korean women. Age often becomes a barrier when it comes to employing women in Korea despite their education, extraordinary skills, and background. Companies generally want have male employees and if they were to hire a woman, being young was an unofficial prerequisite. The job opportunities and availabilities for the women are very limited. The main reason why companies do not employ relatively older women, including women who are in their late twenties, is the notion that if the company employs a woman, the female employee will quit after she marries. The employers described this as women “enjoying” their work as if it was an amusing experience in life rather than a pursuit in life. Employers think that women are generally not as devoted to their career as men would be. An employer exclaimed, “Why employ them when you know that they are going to quit so quickly?” People assume that, in the case for a woman, it is obvious that they would get married and stay home once they become a certain age. This assumption rules the women out in the professional world.

However, according to the research and interviews I have done, women generally tend to consider themselves beautiful, attractive, and confident when they reach their thirties. Their twenties, including the glorious twenty-three, is a time for youth and energy but also for immaturity and carelessness. Women generally thought that they were content with their lives once they had a clear idea of what they wanted and also had mental stability. Does this mean Korean women do not get a chance to explore their lives to the full and are forced into marriage beforehand?

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