BRIANNA HIRAMI WRITES – The revealing novel by Cho Nam-Joo, Kim Jiyoung, born in 1982, shows how South Korea’s demoralizing rules and societal norms negatively affect the lives of Korean women. This simple novel wastes no time by delving directly into the story of protagonist Kim Jiyoung of how sexism casually dictates the lives of most Korean women. This novel focuses on the hard truths that women, including Jiyoung, face regarding cases of sexual assault, unfair sexism, family pressures on women, and loss of personal identity.
At all stages of her life, Kim Jiyoung has suffered countless demeaning criticisms, from both men and women, who have positioned her status as inferior to that of men. From blood relatives berating her for sharing her younger brother’s food, to sexist employers seeing her as an incompetent and unreliable worker, and even random strangers calling her a “lazy mother,” Jiyoung has suffered greatly from the brutal patriarchy. Korean. The reader can correctly assume that societal pressures led to the collapse of Jiyoung’s sanity, and by the end of the novel, she is a victim of psychosis.
Kim Jiyoung, born in 1982, is Cho Nam-Joo’s most successful novel due to its palpable honesty surrounding the uncomfortable and heartbreaking reality of the Korean patriarchy. With over a million copies sold, Nam-Joo’s famous novel was finally translated into English four years after its release in South Korea, and months after the release. movie adaptation. Even though this novel has only been translated into English once, English-speaking readers rave about the raw and terrible experiences that led to Jiyoung’s downfall and the collapse of his sanity. This novel captivates the hearts of Koreans because of its precise portrayal of the real pain and suffering that Korean women have faced for generations. The only translator for the English version of the novel, Jamie Chang, translated other Korean novels like Summer by Choi Eunyoung. Chang states that Kim Jiyoung: Born in 1982 not only describes a woman’s point of view, but covers the experience of many Korean women. Even though this is a fictional novel, Nam-Joo notes that Jiyoung’s story is not much different from hers and is filled with statistics and real-life stories about gender inequality.
From a young age, Kim Jiyoung suffered the effects of Korea’s misogynistic society. This novel goes through every major stage in Jiyoung’s life, leading to his psychosis as an adult. The reader quickly sees that throughout her difficult childhood, Jiyoung’s own grandmother constantly downplayed her importance in the family over her younger brother. This can be seen through one of Jiyoung’s earliest childhood memories when her grandmother berated her for eating her younger brother’s formula. Her grandmother was upset not because she ate formula, but because she “stole” her younger brother’s food. Jiyoung expressed the feeling that her grandmother openly prioritizes the happiness and health of her grandson over that of her and her sisters. This painful feeling is emphasized by the line,
“Her grandson and his belongings were valuable and should be cherished; she wasn’t going to let anyone touch them, and Jiyoung ranked below that “anyone”.
Since adolescence, Jiyoung has discerned that there is a big difference in the way men and women are treated in Korea. Nowadays, children always joke with their parents that they are the preferred child over their siblings. However, for Jiyoung, there was no family favoritism joke. She already knew the answer.
Throughout her life, Jiyoung suffered numerous cases of sexual assault and discrimination as a worker. While Jiyoung was in school, many male teachers sexually assaulted young girls like her without suffering the consequences. Jiyoung even claims that one of his high school teachers inappropriately touched female students in class with a pointing stick,
“…[he] wore around a pointer that had a hand pointing just the index finger on the tip, which he used to push girls into the chest under the guise of calling attention to missing badges, or to lift girls’ skirts to “check their school uniform”. ‘
This line shows how, even from an early age, girls are programmed to tolerate sexual harassment from men. This normalization of sexual assault among Korean women has led men not to be held responsible for the mental and physical torments these women face.
Often when women complain of being sexually harassed, the blame falls on the woman or society is often blamed for “feeling bad” for the guilty men.
At Jiyoung’s former job, his former colleague told him the horrific story of a hidden spy camera in the ladies’ room. Male colleagues casually passed nude photographs of their female colleagues without their consent or without their consent. Once this scandal was brought to the attention of everyone in the company and justice demanded, instead of holding male employees accountable and rightfully punishing them, the male manager of the company tried to sweep the matter up quietly and quickly. Jiyoung states that he even tries to gain the sympathy of others for male employees,
“It will ruin the reputation of this company if the word gets out on the ground. The accused male employees also have families and relatives to protect. Do you really want to destroy the lives of people like this? Do you want people to know your photos are there? “
The reader can once again testify that there is a complete lack of responsibility on the part of men in Korea to act justly. A woman’s sanity and well-being are constantly treated as throwaway and insignificant to a man’s success and reputation.
When Jiyoung graduates from college and starts looking for a job, she instantly notices Korea’s toxic workspace which greatly favors male employees and often despises female applicants. Not only are Korean women paid significantly less than Korean men, they are often seen as a disadvantage for the company. Maternity leave and caring responsibilities are seen as a “cost” to the business, which is why many businesses avoid hiring women. Jiyoung also describes how she heard the story of a highly skilled candidate who qualified for her dream job. The company refused to interview him, and when asked why she had not been chosen as a candidate, he replied that it was because he preferred to have male employees and that he also found intelligent “taxing” women.
In Jiyoung’s personal experience with his first job, his male colleagues were given the most difficult tasks of being part of the planning team, even though they had the same qualifications and were hired at the same time. Jiyoung discovers that the reasoning behind this unfair treatment is that the planning team is a long-term project, and the head of the company assumes that many employees become pregnant and have to take time off to care for their children. Jiyoung did not even have the opportunity to reach this higher position as her future was already decided for her. Her role as a mother was already taken on and she didn’t even have the chance to accept or decline a possible job opportunity.
South Korea places an extremely high standard on Korean women when it comes to their expected motherhood. Once she and her husband get married, Jiyoung’s in-laws wonder intensely why she and her husband haven’t produced children yet. They continuously pressure Jiyoung to have children, especially a son, although she has many doubts whether she is even ready to have a child. Although Jiyoung fully enjoys his job and earns extra money, society’s expectations dictate that he is her responsibility for raising her child and looking after the house while her husband is working. Once Jiyoung gets pregnant, she quits her job and faces the hypocrisy and degradation that many Korean mothers endure during and after pregnancy. Jiyoung discovers that many Korean pregnant mothers are treated inhumanely for being pregnant, even though this is what society expects of them. During Jiyoung’s pregnancy, she went to work on the subway and encountered a student who reluctantly gave way to Jiyoung. The encounter was made more vicious when,
“[The stranger] slapped Jiyoung’s shoulder and passed her, she said loud enough for Jiyoung to hear, “About to go out and still taking the subway to get some money – I clearly can’t. allow me a child “‘
After Jiyoung had her daughter, she faced even more unfair abuse from strangers who judged her to be a mother. When Jiyoung was pushing her daughter in a stroller one day and stopped to sit on the bench to relax and enjoy her coffee, Jiyoung above a group of office workers saying horrible things to her. topic. They called her a “cockroach mom” and claimed that her life was “so easy” since she could live on her husband’s salary and they would never marry a Korean woman.
Korean society has entrenched the idea that women must become mothers, while taking care of the household, otherwise they are considered unnecessary and damaged. However, once they fulfill this rigid expectation, they receive hatred and humiliation for doing the “job” they have been forced to do their whole lives. This novel proves how Korean women are unable to lead peaceful lives without societal pressures affecting their mental health. This is exactly what is happening to Kim Jiyoung – the pressures of Korea’s incredibly strict and hypocritical lifestyle have driven her to absolute madness.
New literary critic Brianna Hirami recently graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a major in English and a minor in Asian and Peaceful Studies. Brianna will continue to follow her passion in English and will attend LMU again to receive her MA in Literature. She wants to learn more about Asian culture by reading literature set in Korea and learning to speak Japanese.