Photographer shoots Korean gender gap

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Photographer shoots Korean gender gap

Korean women keep their surnames when they marry ― theoretically, that is. Once they have children and have lived long enough as housewives, many find themselves deprived of their identities.
Constantly referred to as somebody else’s mother or wife, they eventually lose their selves and their names amid the Korean patriarchal family.
That, at least, is how the situation is seen by photographer Lee Sun-min, 36, whose photos examining women’s role in Korean society are being screened at Gallery Lux until Tuesday under the title “A Woman’s House.”
To Ms. Lee, who is herself married with children, the patriarchal system reaches its peak at holiday family gatherings like Chuseok, when women spend most of their time in the kitchen.
Ms. Lee traveled around Korea for more than a year in pursuit of the right photographs depicting this tradition.
She visited more than 20 families from Seoul to Gangwon province, making friends with her hosts, staying with them and even doing household chores.
Such access eventually gave her the opportunity to photograph critical moments without any staging, as in the photo titled “The House of Lee Sun-ja,” of a family living in Uiseon, North Gyeongsang province.
In the photograph, three women of different generations are seen in dim light on the floor of a house. One is sitting, wearing an obvious look of fatigue from preparing all the special food for the ceremony.
The other two women look into the room where men are conducting the ceremony, observing the tradition that forbids the presence of women.
Ms. Lee shows her audience the chasm between the sexes in the family, implicitly asking why women suffer such unfairness.
The topic itself has been widely pursued, of course, but the photographs by Ms. Lee offer a new perspective.
Ms. Lee also looks at relationships between women.
Positioning women of different generations together but in different poses, Ms. Lee suggests a lack of communication among the women themselves.


by Chun Su-jin

Admission is free. Gallery Lux is in Insa-dong in the Jongno district, central Seoul; it’s best reached from Anguk station line No. 3, exit 6. For more information, call the gallery at (02) 720-8488.
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