Challenges Confronting Working Mothers in S Korea

Miliann Kang
Tuesday, July 24, 2018 -
7:30pm to 9:00pm
Second floor Residents’ Lounge, Somerset Palace
10,000 won for non-members and 5,000 won for students (with student ID); free for members

What Are the Challenges Confronting Working Mothers in South Korea? Negotiating Gender,
Work and Family Issues

A presentation by Miliann Kang, Associate Professor in Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies, University of Massachusetts, Amherst and Fulbright Senior Research Fellow, Ewha University.  This presentation examines the structural constraints which limit women’s abilities to combine work and family responsibilities in South Korea. While South Korea has achieved high rates of college-education for women, it has one of the lowest rates among OECD nations for labor force participation by college-educated women, especially after they become mothers. Thus, it challenges the assumption that women’s higher education levels translates into greater gender equality in the workplace.

As a case study, it focuses on public and private school elementary through high school teachers who are mothers. The teaching profession in South Korea is widely regarded as the best job for women to balance work-family responsibilities. Nonetheless, interview data with 45 South Korean teachers who are raising families reveal that they still confront various challenges and constraints. Analyzing both the supports and barriers for working mothers in the teaching profession, it draws conclusions regarding the current dilemmas of work and family life in South Korea and proposes directions for further research and policy initiatives.

Miliann Kang is Associate Professor in Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies and affiliated faculty in Sociology and Asian/Asian American Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is currently a Fulbright Senior Research Scholar at Ewha Womans University, where she is researching gender, work and family issues for South Korean working mothers. Her book, The Managed Hand: Race, Gender and the Body in Beauty Service Work (2010, University of California Press) addresses gendered processes and relations in immigrant women’s work focusing on Asian-owned nail salons. It won four awards from the American Sociological Association (Sections on Racial and Ethnic Minorities; Sex and Gender; Race, Gender, and Class; and Asia/Asian America) and the Sara Whaley book prize from the National Women’s Studies Association. Her writing has been published in Gender and Society, Contexts, Newsweek, Women’s Review of Books,Huffington Post, Daily Hampshire Gazette and Korea Times.

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