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Contemporary Revision Of The Progressive Modern Korean “New Women” In The 1920s: Blue Swallow

1549 words - 7 pages

The deeply rooted history of a Confucian paradigm in Korea has for long limited women’s roles and rights. In the male-dominated and patriarchal society, women’s roles remained in the domestic sphere, where they were required to be submissive. However, with the introduction of westernization and modernity in the 1920s, modern generation was rapidly incorporated into colonial modernity. Korean women began to “redefine the Korean female identity” by displaying the “new woman” characteristics, in which some literate women initiated to “enhance their education, determine their own physical appearance, and contribute to the debate about changing gender roles and expectations”(Yoo, p.59) Fearing the threat of the emergence of the “new women” with the potential disturbance to the hegemony, Japanese colonial authorities as well as nationalist reformers veered the direction where the new ideologies of womanhood with modern sensibilities, also contained them within traditional gender boundaries, such as in education and social spheres(Yoo, 60). Park Kyung Won, the main female character in the film Blue Swallow, also lived during this era of the “new women” as well as restrictions under the Japanese colonial rule. In the film Blue Swallow, while her father encouraged her to stay at home for her to fit into the role of the traditional women, Park works as a taxi driver and eventually studies abroad to attend Tachikawa Flight academy, where she becomes the first civilian Korean female pilot. She displays the “new women” image, in which like the other “new women”, she does not conform to the traditional norms of a woman and strives in redefining the Korean female identity. However, her engagement in male-dominated education and profession, “masculine” gender performance, and decision to choose career and dream over love portrayal in the film Blue Swallow contains a contemporary revision of the “new women” in the 1920s of the Japanese colonial period, which justifies the shift in the social status of Korean women.

In the beginning of the film where Park as a young child is watching the Japanese soldiers during their march, the Japanese flag is shown in color while everything else is shown in black and white. This signifies the dominant presence of Japanese hegemony in Korea. Similarly, the dominance of Japanese colonialists’ educational agenda was evident, as the threat of the emergence of Korean women’s identity and role within the context of the new spaces created by education, led the colonial government to discharge advancements in female education(Yoo,60). Instead of creating equal opportunities for women and men, Japanese colonial authority’s educational agenda created “secondary education [that] aimed to create more ‘feminine’ women”, in which “the highly gendered division of courses encouraged women to select ‘feminine’ courses” (Yoo 70). This eventually led women to be in their original positions: to stay within the domestic sphere. For example,...

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