By Kang Hyun-kyung
The 2016 bestseller "Kim Ji-young, Born in 1982" is back in the spotlight as the feminist movement has gained momentum and attracted an unprecedentedly high number of women to rallies.
On Saturday, 22,000 protesters gathered near Hyehwa Station in Seoul for a feminist rally accusing the police of using a double standard in their investigation and punishment of voyeur video makers.
The fury of female protesters has raised a key question _ what made them so upset?
|Cho Nam-joo, author of the feminist book "Kim Ji-young, Born in 1982" / Korea Times file|
"Born in 1982" gives a sneak peek into their grievances and discontent.
The narrator Kim Ji-young, a college graduate who quit her job as a publicist at a PR company to take care of her newborn baby girl, says gender-based discrimination is widespread and equal opportunity for women is an empty slogan.
In the home, she says discrimination against women takes the form of special treatment of sons. While she was raised, the narrator says her younger brother got "first-class citizen" treatment from her grandmother, while she and her sister were treated as if they were second-class.
Confucian culture still exerts influence in this society and daughters suffer from male-dominated culture, according to the author.
Among others, the book addresses "relative discrimination" as a challenge women face today.
In general, the status of women has improved a lot, compared to that of the past.
A sex trade ban was introduced in 2004, about a decade after activists began campaigns to end the old practice.
Corporations are encouraged to hire more women and place them in decision-making positions. There has been other meaningful progress made in the 2000s after feminists became vocal.
The author compares the days of Kim and her mother to show the progress.
Her mother was encouraged to give up on higher education in favor of her brothers. After graduating from elementary school, she got a job at a sweatshop in Seoul. She spent part of her earnings to keep her older brothers in university. One of her brothers became a doctor but his success made no difference to her life.
She belatedly blamed herself for her sacrifice. Her sense of loss has led her to treat her three children _ two girls and a boy _ equally, regardless of their sex, and give them equal opportunities for education. Her two daughters, including Kim Ji-young, were able to obtain a college education with the full support of their mother.
Compared to her mother's generation, Kim Ji-young is living in a relatively better society as some of the worst forms of discrimination have been removed.
Despite this, the author observes the details of society have not changed dramatically. Women today still face a host of barriers in the workplace. The narrator was eliminated in the selection of a taskforce just because she is a woman. All those chosen were male.
Sexual harassment was common when she met and had dinner with her corporate clients.
In addition, the book says women face new challenges _ they can fall victim to hidden cameras.
The narrator's former coworker is one of the victims of an illegal video that was set up in a toilet. She said she has seen a psychiatrist to treat her trauma and came to fear meeting people.
"I try to pretend I am okay. I laugh louder than before," her former teammate said in the book. "In fact, I'm not okay. I have fear of meeting people and feel nervous when I accidentally make eye contact with strangers. If a stranger smiles at me, I feel like they are making fun of me. Most of the female workers of our company are taking medication, while some go to mental hospitals for treatment."
Together with implicit discrimination that is still in place, such new challenges have made women today feel insecure, the book says.