“Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982: The Representation of Patriarchy Practice in the Asian Families” — A Review

There have been many debates on the novel “Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982” that is written by Cho Nam Joo. This eye-opening masterpiece about feminism becomes the center of controversy in South Korea since the story represents how women in South Korea are treated less than men. As quoted from koreaboo, many K-Pop artists namely Sooyoung SNSD, RM BTS, and Irene Red Velvet received a huge amount of backlash for reading and recommending this novel to their fans. However, regardless of the highly likely never-ending debate between pros and cons, the movie industry of South Korea decided to make a movie adapted from the novel; staring big actors Gong Yoo and Jung Yumi. The book as well as the movie displays how Kim Jiyoung’s health is destroyed by the brutal patriarchal system and sexism in South Korea. However, if people take a look closer, this patriarchal system happens not only in South Korea but also in most of the countries in Asia. There are hundreds or even thousands of Kim Jiyoung out there.

Since Jiyoung was young, her family has been treating her and her siblings with such a misogynistic society that she even got scolded by her grandma for eating her little brother formula milk. Her family also mentioned that having sons in the family is more beneficial than having daughters because, in the future, daughters will be away and serve their in-laws whereas sons can stay and take care of the parents. Growing up, Jiyoung and her sister were also treated differently from their brother. What seems to be little things actually build and shape the way Jiyoung lives and sees her life. For instance, her father only bought good things for his son. In this case, it is seen when Jiyoung and her sister only got sketchbooks when their brother got an expensive pen from London. This raw story of Kim Jiyoung is actually correlated to how important sons are in Asia. Back in the late 1970s, China adjusted the one-child policy and caused an imbalance ratio of male and female; three to four percent skewed towards male children. This happened since sons are preferred as they inherit the family's name. As a result, the number of daughter fetuses abortion raised, or even if they were born, daughters would be more likely to be placed in the orphanages.

Receiving discrimination from her own family for being a daughter, Jiyoung has to face the reality that the society she lives in is not much nicer. At school, she has to witness sexual assault done by the male teachers who then faced no consequences at all. There was also a time when she got stalked by a boy from school. She was horrified and trembling like an aspen leaf, but instead of comforting her, her dad blamed her for going to a far tutoring school, wearing a short skirt, and being too friendly to people. Ironically, Jiyoung’s dad decided to put the blame on Jiyoung instead of the boy who committed the crime. Time and again up to this day, women still need to undergo guilt-tripping for becoming the victim of sexual assault. This has caused emotional numbness in men to the fact of the mental struggle that women have to face in every second of their lives to ‘protect’ themselves; just like Jiyoung’s father words that females should always be aware and alert because if anything goes wrong, it will be their fault to not avoiding.

Throughout her life, it is as if Jiyoung is programmed to see and experience men’s domination towards her; she has to normalize any wrongdoings that men do. She saw her old female coworkers being spied with a hidden camera in the bathroom and the absence of justice in that case. People who are in charge tried to sweep the problem quickly without bothering to investigate or give sanctions to the perpetrators. Her marriage life is no different at all. She was stuck in her husband’s family; serving them as if Jiyoung is their maid. She has to help her mother-in-law to cook and prepare a huge feast whereas everyone else is busy chatting or playing. This part might seem usual as it has been happening in Asian society for such a long time. However, women are burdened with a very unearthly expectation that they can only be considered useful if they cook well, clean the house well, raise their kids well. In the story, Jiyoung’s female boss is even seen as a failure by her coworkers just because she chose to work instead of raising her kids at home; regardless of all the great achievements that she has at work. She even said it herself that she cannot be a good wife or daughter because of her career.

This novel can bring its reader to undergo and face the sad, green, and uncomfortable reality of gender inequality in South Korea, Asia, or even all around the globe. In society, women seem to be given this cosmic responsibility by the unknown to be aware of 24/7. In terms of work, men employees can have their promotion faster, a bigger paycheck, yet lesser workload. When it comes to the family as well, wives or mothers are expected to do more houseloads than men. It is so rigid that the role has been decided and women can do nothing besides do it. This merciless environment, slowly but surely, drive women like Jiyoung towards insanity. The sanctimonious standard and pressure that the patriarchal environment gives make women unable to live peacefully. [Chtrn]



One of thousands Jo March in this century.

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