Thursday, December 15, 2011

Three Generations

Since the end of the Korean War, South Korean society has undergone a complete political, economic and social transformation. In 1953, after a brutal Japanese occupation and civil war, the country was on life support. Most Koreans lived in the countryside and worked the land. After just 50 years, South Korea has transformed itself into an industrial powerhouse in Asia. The country's largest automaker even built a $1.1 billion dollar auto assembly plant in Alabama.

This photograph of my wife's grandmother was taken in a farmhouse in 1983. The story of her rough life mirrors the transformation undergone by the country. When she was sixteen years old, she was forced into an arranged marriage.

My wife's great-grandparents traded a small plot of land & a cow for their son's new bride. Basically, she was treated as a piece of property.

During the Japanese occupation, the laws regarding marriage changed. While a woman could no longer be bought or sold, families still arranged marriages for their children. In the case of my wife's mother, she actually meet her new husband (my wife's father) on their wedding night. My mother-in-law had ZERO control over her future. Love was not a requirement for marriage.

In 1983, for the first time in my wife's family, a woman controlled who she married. In just three generations, a woman's status in Korean society changed forever.

One of my wife's favorite movies is "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." Why? Well, when we announced our engagement, her older brother attempted to stop the marriage. However, unlike two-generations before, he had no legal authority over his sister. Just like the movie, my brother-in-law invited dozens of Korean men home for dinner. When the movie came out, even my brother-in-law recognized his character as the Greek father.

Globalization has contributed to the rise of Islamic Fundamentalism. The dramatic changes for the status of women in Asia mirror the modern pressures currently underway in the Islamic World.

Century of Struggle:
The Woman's Rights Movement in the United States, Enlarged Edition (Paperback)