Kim, Ee Sun and Keong Suk Park. 2019. “Life Course of Korean Women: Conflictual Gender Differentiation and Enforced Classification.” ECONOMY AND SOCIETY 122: 138-170.

Korean women’s aspirations and practices for gender equality have been increasingly prevalent. However, the foundation of life is growing fragmented according to economic stratification, and family and labor remain gender unequally. In such contradictory situations, how are Korean women doing family and work life, and how do they build their gender relations? This study aims to figure out the Korean women’s lives in the perspective of conflictual gender differentiation. For this purpose, 7 types of life course of Korean women are categorized according to the order of family and work life events: Work centered life, Work-family balance life, M-shape life, Latent M shape life, Work after marriage life, Family centered life, and NEET life.

Using Korea Labor and Income Panel Study data, this study found that work-family balance life is only 9% in 2016 where as M-shape and latent M-shape are almost 50%. It is also noted that over the years 2009 and 2016, work centered life without marriage and career disconnected M type greatly increased compared to work and family balanced life.

Women’s labor values are not properly assessed and both burden of labor and family roles characterize conflictual gender differentiation. Also increasing work centered life without marriage and the emergence of NEET life delaying work and family transition raise question whether Korean women’s lives change from conflictual gender differentiated life through de-family and de-labor life into de-gender differentiated life. It is also found that work and family balance is significantly influenced by women’s human and social capital and segmented welfare policies. Korean women have used diverse but stratified strategies to solve the problem of conflicting gender differentiation. While few women succeed in using their socioeconomic sources, many others could not use sufficient resources to maintain their work and family balance. Also, class segmented work-family policy enforced the stratification of women’s life.

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