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Freedom Of Religious Expression Of Contemporary Korean Women

1627 words - 7 pages

Korea has endured a long history of political turmoil and religious establishments weaving together a underlying foundation of expectations required of women within and through Korean culture as it exists even today. This traditional structure has survived into contemporary Korea fulfilling an obsolete role in this evolving society. Longstanding practices and roles requiring women to submit to their husbands and have a muted presence in public have provoked revolutionizing stances that strive to re-establish the female identity into one in which man and woman stand on a even playing field. This is primarily accomplished through theological intervention and conversion of women on a massive ...view middle of the document...

This negative reputation coupled with the fact that women were stripped of rites of inheritance resulting in the loss of their religious rites and social standing during this period of time lead to the oppression of women and severe lack of freedom of expression (4-104).
These social barriers imposed on women only put further strain upon them and their obligations. For instance, women were solely responsible for producing a healthy male heir for their spouse. There have been instances where the husband breaks the vows of marriage upon the female’s failure to do so. For this reason from a women’s perspective, “Confucian rituals focused on the wrong end of the family – ancestors rather than children” (1-185). Confucianism was simply an ideology that did not fulfill the emotional needs of women whereas Shamanism did, allowing women to derive emotional support from rituals specifically devoted to deities promoting child birth (1-186). Furthermore, during these times, females were prohibited from public ancestral rituals with Confucian elites. Their worship of the deceased was only secondary and isolated to the confines of their own homes through Mudang ritual (1-181). It is evident where the censorship and limitations of female religious expression derives its root. The continuation of these social ideas into the 20th century despite the disintegration of the Choson Dynasty only served to establish scaffolding for contemporary gender issues.
The appearance of Christianity in Korea was met with much resistance and even violence. Taking a few steps back to the late 18th century when Christianity made its debut in Korea, the major concern at hand was Christianity’s strong views against idolatry. The idea of ancestor worship in Confucianism and even spiritual communication in shamanism contradicted the idea of one God and saviour emphasized in Evangelical faith. This stance aligned itself with women’s views of redirecting focus on ancestors to children and so it was accepted to some degree within the female populace. The majority of its following however was derived from the lower orders of Korean society due to its strong emphasis on “Equality of all men and women under fatherhood of God” (3-8) and improvement of life. With this anchor in Korean society, Christianity stayed rooted and strong within the nation despite the severe persecution it faced at the time. It provided “competition and a model for growth” allowing it to survive into the 20th century at which point it would boom exponentially along with other religious denominations (3-22).
After the erosion of the Choson Dynasty and liberation of Korea from Japanese Rule, the nation underwent a phase of wide spread emergence of religious institutions, peaking at 300 new religions (5-112). This had the consequence of providing various religious focuses, targeting individuals and groups specific to their needs. This increase in Religious presence in the country served as a marker of religious freedom...

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