Free Participation of Women in Politics in South Korea Essay Sample
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Over the years, there has been the rising tide of gender inequality all over the world. This is mainly because of individual perceptions about the role of women and men in the society. Traditional beliefs and practices have greatly contributed to the continued stereotype in regards to the issue. Female activists all over the world have been on the forefront in a bid to ensure that they are heard. This has caused the rise of many gender inequality awareness programs so as to ensure that they this issue comes to an end (Inglehart & Norris 2003).
Throughout her works, Gilman states that women have been completely undermined by the society as people who have no ability to think scientifically. All the things that they are involved in leaves them at the mercy of their husbands. As a result, they are demeaned in the society. She also notes that the traditional division of labor created by the society leaves the woman economically dependent on her husband. As a result, the woman is completely deprived of her freedom and autonomy. She compares the woman situation to the domesticated horse. (Bruckner 2004).
South Korea is no exception to the ongoing gender inequality trends. This has been highly depicted through the politics of South Korea. Women in South Korea are portrayed as the marginalized sex on matters concerning politics. This is both as voters and as political leaders. This is highly attributed to the fact that it was not until 1948 that women attained political rights. This is a first class illustration of gender inequality in the country. In subsequent years, there was huge support for women participation in politics. This was indicated by the passing of laws that were in support of gender equality. However, this did not eliminate the stereotype that a woman's place is in the household. There were still cultural beliefs that women should submit themselves to their husbands. Also, they were not superior enough to be involved in the decision making process. This implied that they remained restrained from total political participation.
Statistics have shown that irrespective of the laws that support gender equality, there is still low participation of women in politics. This is because there are still numerous barriers that prevent the active participation of women in politics in South Korea. Studies have indicated that the political gap that persists in South Korea is due to a range of political and social factors. This has created the need for the women's movements in South Korea to implement various strategic measures in order to increase the rate of women participation in politics.
One of the main reasons for the political gap that is persistent in South Korea in regards to women participation in politics is greatly attributed to democratization. This implies that despite the fact that the women of South Korea attained their political rights in 1948; this does not automatically mean that men in politics will just pave the way for them to rise in politics. This means that women's movements have to, actively fight for positions in power during the transition period. This will ensure that they fight gender imbalance and that they are not marginalized in the decision making process. From the current representation of women in the South Korean politics it is evident that the women's movements are conforming to the marginalization in politics. This leads to the women's nationalist movement paradox.
In South Korea, women's nationalist movement paradox persists. Irrespective of the fact that there was transfer of power from the authoritarian Fifth Republic to the civilian government (Sixth Republic) in 1987, women have continued to hold 2-3 % of the National Assembly seats. Over the years, the figures consistently declined. It was not until the 2004 election that the percentage of women in the National assembly raised to 13%. This is a clear indication that the women's movement in South Korea eventually managed to leverage themselves. Therefore, it is extremely crucial that women's movements act decisively and quickly during the transition period in order to leverage themselves from the status quo male-dominated politics. However, if they are not affirmative in their actions, it is obvious that they will be by passed by the inception of democracy.
A study of South Korean politics indicates that reason as to why women continued to lag behind in participation in politics was because they assumed that national liberalization would automatically increase the opportunities for women involvement in politics. This is evident by the choice that the women's movements made such that they were detached from political parties. On their own, they were not able to incorporate women political leaders in the male dominated political sphere. As a result, the women's movements implemented a strategy that ensured that women candidates vied for the local seat as opposed to the national assembly seats. This was based on the notion that it would be easier for them to win in the local elections. Once in power, they would gradually become popular in readiness for the national assembly seats. This failed to get women into power. This is because they did not believe in themselves. They continued to demean themselves. This implied that they were conforming to traditional and cultural beliefs that men are superior to women.
South Korea enduring lack of commitment to increase participation of women in politics can be traced to the fact that there is patriarchal political culture. This is greatly attributed to the Confucian culture that is persistent in South Korea. Confucianism views all human relationships in a vertical light. This is such there are distinct roles of each of the parties in a particular relationship. This is such that women and men play dissimilar roles in the society and they belong to different spheres. Therefore, women are not allowed to be decision makers. As a result, they are not expected to be involved or participate in politics. This is unlike the Western liberal patriarchalism this has created cultural barriers for women's participation in politics across South Korea. This is especially the case for people from the upper class. This is such that married women hardly play any role outside the neighborhood and family circles. This has resulted in the persistent and largely pronounced male-female differences in political participation.
The impact of the Confucian legacy is so much felt that any attempts by women to be actively involved in politics are viewed as an example of Western imperialism. This has created a huge barrier due to the rigidity of the cultures and has over time become the conservative backlash against modernity targeting women's participation in South Korean politics. The continued conservativeness has continued to increase gender inequality since it is evident that women and men do not have equal opportunities. Though there are hopes of ensuring that the level of women participation scales up, it is evident that this cultural impediment persists as an outstanding barrier to gender equality.
Another major barrier to the participation of women in the political circles was the continued detachment from political parties. Upon democratization, women movements such as KWAU chose to go on independently from the political parties. The women groups' strategy was referred to as 'separatist'. This entailed stipulations amounting to the fact that they were going to be no involvement with any formal structure including political parties. Members of KWAU, therefore, were forbidden from any such affiliations. This was a disadvantage in regards to the increase of women in politics.
In order to do away with marginalization of women in any society, it is extremely crucial to be part of the larger community. This implies that there is a necessity for relations with the rest of the society comprising mainly of men. This is because it is amongst them issues of gender inequality will be raised. Alps, it is in these formal structures such as political parties that women would learn the tactics about politics. It is also important to note that fighting for gender equality does not imply that there should exist bad blood between men and women. This is because it will only be the beginning of another problem after solving that of gender inequality. Cooperation should be enhanced irrespective of divergent in views. The alienation of the women's groups from the political parties in South Korea largely contributed to the delayed acceptance of women leaders in politics (Inglehart & Norris 2003).
Another contributor towards preventing the participation of women in politics in South Korea was the mistaken assumptions and misdirected energies. The women's groups' laxity after the liberation of the nation and democratization in 1948 when they were allowed to political rights was misguided. This is because they made the assumption that opportunities in politics had become automatic. This implied that they did not put much effort towards political leadership. As a result, the women's participation in politics remained low until the elections of April 2004.
There was the factor about misdirected energies. The KWAU advocated for a strategy that saw the women leaders run for the local seats instead of the national seats in the national assembly. This resulted in lagging behind and the strategy failed. They spent all their time fighting for positions in the local government thinking that this would clear the way for them to the top seats. However, they remained at the bottom and never rose up to the national sphere as they had anticipated. This implied that they still lagged behind irrespective of the assumption that they would rise to the top and be actively involved in politics. When they decided to run for the national seats and join the national political parties, the percentage of women in the South Korean national assembly rose to 13 % ( Iwanaga & Nordic Institute of Asian Studies 2008).
In order for women to rise to top political positions, it is vital that national machineries for women are put in place. This was confirmed by the stipulation by the United Nations. These mechanisms include reserved seats and gender quotas in support of gender equality. These national machineries operate within the government policy and they aim at supporting gender equality initiatives. This would encourage feminist scholars and this concept is referred to as gender mainstreaming. In South Korea, any attempts to engage in politics up to until the 1990s faced steady conservative backlash indicating that politics is a man's affair. This persistently secluded women from the picture.
The level of education has also greatly contributed towards the low participation of women in politics. This is because illiterate people are not willing to detach themselves from cultural practices. They still believe that the roles of women and men in society are completely different. This has resulted I n the participation of fewer women in politics. However, educated and literate individuals are less conservative and open to new ideas of civilization. This implies that they would be more willing to support the issues of gender equality. They would support the participation of women in politics (Lorber 2009).
The increased percentage rate of women who made it to the 2004 national assembly is greatly attributed to higher levels of education and economic development. This is because the sophistication that is associated with education seems to have had a constructive impact on the contribution of women in politics. This also had an effect on the voters who were now in a position to support the aspirations of female leaders. Therefore, earlier lack of participation of women in politics could be partially attributed to the low levels of education. Education increases the affects of Western civilization making the electorate pen to new ideas of gender equality.
The age factor is also important on the issues of women participation in South Korean politics. This is because the younger generations are less detached to traditions and cultural practices as opposed to the old folks. This implies that the lack of women participation in the past years was as a result of the conservative nature of the older generations. They were not willing to support the women leaders who anticipated capturing particular seats in the political sphere. This appear to have been because of the fact that they were still of the opinion that leadership and decision making was the role of men and not the women in society (Inglehart & Norris 2003).
In regards to the Confucian culture, women are regarded as being the "helpmates" of their husbands. This implies that their successes are hugely dependant on the success of their husbands. Their roles are within their households. There is also the notion that if they get involved in social activities such as political leadership they could cause destruction in the entire family. These traditional beliefs and practices are a huge contribution to South Korea's women lack of participation in civil society. These explanations aid in the determination of the reasons behind the underpinned feminist movement in South Korea. (Kim & Chang 2005, pp273).
Another major contribution of the low levels of women in politics in South Korea is the electoral system in place. The electoral system is based on majoritarian. This means that the women candidates have a relatively difficult time trying to win their votes. This is because their election into power is based on their individual capabilities. This is unlike the Public Relations (PR) system whereby a political party nominates the people to vie for seats under it. In this system, people vote on the basis of the political party rather than on individual grounds. In most cases, the political party will create a balance between women and men running under it. This means that even men who support the party will vote for women that have been put forward by the party.
The Public Relations system ensures that there is gender equality as there are relatively many female representatives in the political sphere. Majoritarian, on the other hand, is deviant in societies that are biased on either the basis of culture or anything else. This is because they vote for the individual and not the party. This means that in South Korea, there is a very high possibility that the people elected to power mainly comprise of men. This is because men are considered to be the leaders in society while women roles are found within their homes. The effects of cultural beliefs are highly elaborate in countries like South Korea. This leads to low participation of women in politics (Rives & Yousefi1997).
From the above analysis of the political situation in South Korea, it is evident that marginalized groups should be careful on the assumption that they make upon attaining national liberalization. There is a need to continue to push for the reforms that they wish for irrespective of having attained their rights. This is because the case of the women groups in South Korea is an indication of people who were liberalized but continued to assume that leadership positions and power would just fall into place (Besse, 1996).
It is also important for individuals to conform to the changes that happen in everyday's life. This is because the people of South Korea are depicted as a society that still lags behind because they continue to hold onto the traditions that have already been passed by the time. This is the era of modernism and there is no differentiation of individuals in terms of their role in a society based on their sex. Women rights have long been appreciated as human rights. This is because every person has a democratic right to get involved in activities that they wish provided that they do not cause any harm. It is time for the South Korean people to rise up against all odds in order to support women in their political ambitions. Modernism states that people should rise and take up those issues that they think best bring out who they are in reality. Therefore, the South Korean women interested in politics should indulge themselves without fear.
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