[INSIGHT] The Revolt of Our Daughters

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[INSIGHT] The Revolt of Our Daughters

Recently a woman whose mother had died demanded that the reporter writing the obituary list the woman's sister-in-law, her brother's wife, as a survivor of the deceased. When she was told that the custom does not allow the name of a sister-in-law in the obituary, she asked, protestingly, why her sister-in-law's name is not allowed while her husband, a son-in-law of the deceased, is on the list.

This incident implies that a great social change has taken place. No more than ten years ago, it was the custom for only sons and sons-in-law to be printed in the obituary as survivors of the deceased, even if the deceased had daughters and daughters-in-law.

Across society daughters are taking up arms against the long-established customs of Korean society. There are daughters who have challenged the traditional concept of the clan. Unfortunately, their efforts are in vain so far, because according to an earlier Supreme Court ruling: Clans are spontaneously generated communities consisting of male descendants of a common ancestor above adult age, which maintains tombs of common ancestors, hold memorial services and promote mutual friendship among each other. The daughters who filed the suit lost their case, which challenged the concept of the clan, in one court after another. Nevertheless this did not depress the daughters, who asserted that in the era of gender equality, daughters should also be accepted as descendants. They are appealing the case, which may not only end up back at the Supreme Court but also at the Constitutional Court, if necessary.

The revolt of daughters is happening in and outside the home, especially in the distribution of estates. It is taking place quietly and loudly. While much of the debate centers around inheritance, if the demands to recognize women as progeny are treated as mere money problem the intrinsic correctness of the revolt will not be recognized.

It is noteworthy that the demand that the wife of the woman's brother be listed as a survivor of the deceased is a protest not against discrimination against daughters-in-law in favor of daughters, but against discrimination against daughters-in-law and in favor of sons-in-law.

The wave of changes in our women's world keep changing its focus of attention from outside of the society to more intimate personal level issues. Previously, women pointed out problems on general issues, such as social inequities, inequality in work places and sexual harassment, but recently their attention is moving into more private issues of family life and the dynamics of the family.

A public survey conducted by the Presidential Commission on Women's Affairs, the former body of the Ministry of Gender Equality, last November, shows that a majority of women think unwanted sexual intercourse with their spouse can be categorized as rape. The tendency to think in this way increases as the age group becomes younger. An overwhelming number of women (80.6 percent), say that a child's name should be entered in the family register of either side of the separated couple who performs the upbringing. A total of 84.4 percent of women cite the urgent need to teach equality in family relations and married life. These figures mean that we should not look upon the revolt of daughters as mere spectators.

Most of problems in the home derive from the differences in perception between men and women. Husbands and fathers have not changed much from the old days, but wives and daughters are no longer belonging to their mothers' contemporaries. If one group darts forward, while the other stays put, there will be a gap that will be difficult to close. If men do not change their perceptions on the revolt of daughters, understanding them will become more difficult. The people leading the changes are not distant creatures. Fathers should acknowledge the pioneers as "my loving daughters."


by Hong Eun-hee

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