[VIEWPOINT]Showing women’s value to societyMoney is indispensable to all people, whether rich or poor. Although it is nothing but an object made of paper or metal, money has a central position in all our lives because everyone accepts its value and symbols. The design of money plays an important role in giving it value. By inscribing its money with the figures or objects it would like to advocate, each country enhances the authority of its currency and, through this effort, displays its pride at the same time.
On the Korean currency, King Sejong, scholars Yi Yulgok and Lee Toe-gye, the turtle ship, the Dabotap Pagoda, rice, and a crane are inscribed. Men, an animal, a plant and cultural properties serve as symbols that represent Korea. But there are no women on our currency. This may be because women have long been treated as if they did not exist in our society.
Along with men, however, women have played a major role in leading our society. They have not only devoted themselves to the family but also displayed excellent capability in many fields and contributed to the development of our society despite various restrictions.
Most people remember Shin Saimdang and Ryu Kwan-soon as representative women in our history, but there are many others who deserve high praise. For example, Lee Tae-young, the first Korean woman lawyer, established the Korea Legal Aid Center For Family Relations, shared the difficulties of numerous suffering women and took the lead in removing discrimination against women within the family through her efforts to revise the family law.
Kim Man-duk, a kisaeng, or woman trained to provide entertainment in the Joseon Dynasty, who turned to business to make a big fortune, spent her money unreservedly on saving people in Jeju island from starvation. Heo Nanseolheon was an unfortunate genius poet. Queen Sundeok showed excellent leadership as the first queen of the Silla Dynasty.
Na Hye-suk, the first female Western-style painter, resisted the feudal patriarchal system with all her might. Kim Maria, an anti-Japanese independent fighter, rode on horseback in the wilderness of Manchuria and fired two pistols at a time against the Japanese army. These are just a few of the many women whose achievements are not well-known to the public or are being gradually forgotten.
It is unlikely that Korea has no women on its currency because it is less proud of women in our society than of cranes or rice. Probably, it simply did not occur to people that these respectable women should be remembered by engraving their images on money.
If we re-evaluate women in our history and engrave them on currency, everyone will be able to appreciate them for their contributions to our society. Also, if we proudly introduce them to the world by inscribing them on money, this will encourage today’s women to take pride in themselves.
This effort will also give men, who have a debt of love to women, opportunities to express their love and gratitude to their mother, daughter, sister and wife, and will be a driving force for women in future generations to have dreams and carve out a future by finding role models in them.
Many countries inscribe the images of women on their currency. For instance, Britain and the British Commonwealth of Nations have engraved their money with Queen Elizabeth II, the United States with Susan B. Anthony, a feminist activist, and France with Madame Curie. Recently, Japan decided to issue its currency in 2004 with the portrait of Ichiyo Higuchi (1872-1896), a woman novelist of the Meiji era.
I don’t think that only Korea lacks women qualified to be inscribed on money. Nor do I believe that only our country is stingy in evaluating women who have contributed to our society. Now Korea should also engrave the portraits of women on our currency.
* The writer, a professor of women’s studies at Dongduk Women’s University, is chairwoman of the Citizen’s Federation for “Inscribe Women on our Currency!” Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Kim Kyung-ae