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             The term ¡°socialization¡± has different definitions depending on which science it is applied to. ¡°In psychology, socialization refers to the process of behavioral adjustment and . . . psychological development.¡±[1] That is, how an individual adjusts his behavior to the environment around him. In sociology it refers to the process by which an individual learns social norms in order to function in a modern society.[2] And in anthropology, it is the adoption and transmission of culture, and a particular lifestyle which is based on tradition.[3] These three definitions have one thing in common; they all suggest that the process of socialization shapes the way individuals think and act to fit within the framework of society.[4] They also reject the possibility of the society conforming to the individual!

             Where does the socialization process occur? Do we learn it in school, at home or at work? The answer is all three. We are affected in every part of our lives; whenever we come in contact with others we are becoming socialized by the parts of society we see, touch or interact with. There are many steps in the socialization process; the first and most important is the first three months of life when it is said that our basic character is formed. After that, as a child learns his first language and interacts with others around him, he becomes aware of ¡°normal¡± behavior[5] and other skills that will carry him through life. While raising a baby the parents, either consciously or unconsciously, begin preparing him or her, through ¡°anticipatory socialization¡±, for the society[6] as the parents perceive it. He is told how big and strong he is and she is told of the beauty and charm she possesses. Upon entering their first school the traditional ideas children received at home are reinforced by the institutionalized ideas supported in the education system.[7] The school system further encourages the aggressive natures and athletic capabilities of the boys and suppresses those of the girls. By the time a child has finished the 6 years of mandatory education, 6 more years of nearly universal education and possibly 4 or more years of higher education there is little possibility that all those years of indoctrination will, or can, be ignored. When the proper age is reached, the call to marry is fulfilled; when the baby is born, the wife¡¯s job is sacrificed for the good of the child; and when the bell rings, the dog begins to salivate!


             The true power of the socialization process is difficult to grasp unless we are confronted by one socialized in such a radically different manner than ourselves that its true power becomes apparent. Such is the case of Amala and Kamala, two baby girls who were raised by wolves. Amala was only three years old when the pack of wolves who raised the girls were killed and the girls were ¡°rescued¡± (they had to be taken into captivity like . . . well, like wild wolves, they fought, snarled  and tried to bite their rescuers). Amala died shortly after the rescue. Kamala, who was six years old when her wolf family was killed lived for about nine more years. During that time she was only able to learn a few words and although she did learn to walk upright, like a human, when she got excited or ran she would move on all fours like a wolf. She never learned to be comfortable wearing clothes and did not like to eat anything but raw meat.[8] All this, of course, seemed normal to Kamala, she did not know ¡°civilized¡± humans ate only cooked food, wore clothes and walked erect. These were all unfathomable concepts to her. Of course Amala and Kamala are extreme cases of how a radically different socialization process can turn a young girl, who would otherwise be wearing dresses and playing with dolls, into a snarling animal trying to bite and claw her rescuers. But it also sheds new light on the established concepts humans have about what part of human behavior is innate, and what is learned from the environment.

             It seems clear from the example of the wolf girls that Korean women do not fulfill their predestined roles as women because they are born women,[9] indeed they could just as easily have been raised to be wolves. No, with the exception of some basic instincts required by, and ingrained in all of us by the evolutionary process, we are products of our environment. From the foods we eat to the thoughts we think, most is not of our own design. We only have the flexibility to vary our thoughts and actions within the framework imposed on us by our society. Compared to Kamala the socialization of women in Korea does not seem too far removed from that of other women throughout the world but does tend to make one wonder what part of their behavior is learned and what part is inborn.

             All societies have a long history of specific socialization roles for women to adapt to, that with few exceptions, expect the common traits of maternal instinct, fidelity, and dependence on males.[10] Korean society, like most others, has a long history of expecting these same characteristics if not in a stricter form. In all societies history has served as a shaping force on modern thought; Korea¡¯s history of strict Confucianism has influenced the modern society in proportions equal to its severity.



             Prior to the Chosôn Dynasty and its attendant laws controlling women¡¯s behavior, Korean women enjoyed a considerable amount of freedom.[11] During the Unified Shilla Dynasty (668-935) there were queens, and females often fulfilled the role of head of household.[12] Later in the Koryô period (935-1392) the laws that were applied to women were relatively relaxed, remarriage was a common occurrence and rather than the woman going to the husband¡¯s house after marriage, the man frequently went to the house of his wife¡¯s family.[13] A reversal of the more recent practice in which the wife went to the in-law¡¯s house and served the whole family as the newest, and therefore lowest, member of the family.

             Upon its establishment, the leaders of the Chosôn Dynasty felt threatened by the freedoms Buddhism had offered the people during the Koryô period. They were further distraught by the direct criticism Buddhist monks and Buddhist government officials leveled at the new regime. In an effort to cleanse the government of all such threats and enforce stricter control over the people, they called for the installation of a new form of Confucianism, Neo-Confucianism, which would serve to both control the people and offer an excuse to purge certain officials from their posts. Neo-Confucianism was a rigid set of standards controlling behaviors, proper actions and beliefs in all aspects of life. One of its principles was strict standards regulating the actions of women. With the inception of Neo-Confucianism in the Chosôn Dynasty most of the freedoms women had enjoyed up to that time were seriously threatened.[14]

             Neo-Confucianism had its roots in the original Confucian doctrines advocated by Confucius (551- 479 BC). After Confucius¡¯ death his doctrines continued to be taught and studied in both China and Korea but they also evolved over time and under different teachers who each interpreted his writings in their own way.[15] By the 14th century the brand of Neo-Confucianism adopted in Korea bore little resemblance to the original. Korean Neo-Confucianism was such a strict form of Confucianism and was practiced so fervently that the Chinese praised it as being purer than their own. It was further claimed by many Chinese that Korean women exemplified the ideal Confucian woman.

             The founders of the Chosôn Dynasty used Neo-Confucianism to regulate the activities of women and thereby stabilize the society.[16] As women were to serve as one of the stabilizing forces in the new order, they were made to read various texts from an early age which taught them of filial piety and a woman¡¯s proper behavior.[17] One of the texts they read was called Nae¡¯hun and taught girls the proper behavior for a Confucian woman.[18] Among its lessons were the four important activities for women. ¡°The first is women¡¯s virtue, the second is women¡¯s language, the third is women¡¯s appearance, and the fourth is women¡¯s skill.¡±[19] The book was divided into sections which covered the subjects of Fidelity to Parents, Marriage, Husband and Wife, Mother¡¯s Manners, Peace Making, and Thrift.[20] As they grew, other Confucian texts taught them to embrace the role of ¡°Wise mother, good wife¡± (Hyôn¡¯mo¡¯yang¡¯chô) and to be soft, weak, gentle, obedient, graceful and beautiful.[21] During the Chosôn Dynasty, women were educated to be inferior to, and dependent on, the men in their lives.[22] A woman was taught to obey her father as a child, her husband as a wife and her son as a widow.[23] ¡°Enormous resources and efforts were directed to train and indoctrinate women to conform to the Confucian ideals.¡±[24] As part of the shaping of a new society where women were to play a lesser role than they ever had before, the Chosôn founders introduced many laws regulating women¡¯s lives, the following 11 mandates are but a small portion of them:

1)    Marriage was arranged by parents. Prospective mates were given no voice in the selection process.

2)    At marriage, a woman belonged to her husband¡¯s family. Visits to her own family were to be kept to a minimum.

3)    Women were not to have names but were to be identified by positions relative to men or by the place of their geographic origin. At marriage, the name of the original family was recorded in the husband¡¯s household registry only.

4)    Women were not to carry on the family line. When there was no son from the first wife, either a male relative was adopted or the husband brought in another wife to bear a son.

5)    Women could not perform worship ceremonies for their own ancestors.

6)    Widows must not remarry. Women were expected to look after their in-laws even after the husband¡¯s death.

7)    From the age of seven, a boy should not sit with a girl. When a girl reached the age of ten she could not move at will outside the house.

8)    Women could not stroll in their gardens or venture out during the daytime.

9)    Outside the house, women were required to veil their face.

10)    Mature women were not to be seen by men who were not close relatives.

11)    Married women were not to speak to strangers directly.[25]


Though the rules were applied to the whole of the Chosôn Dynasty, the last 6 were primarily directed towards the Yang¡¯ban class[26] and out of economic necessity were never fully adopted by the lower classes.[27] The general concept of male superiority, however, became deeply rooted throughout all classes.[28]

              Throughout the Chosôn Dynasty¡¯s long history the institutionalized suppression of women continued to grow stronger until the late 18th century when the first organizations formed by women began to appear in Korea under the auspices of Catholic missionaries. The foreign influence of Catholicism and the Sil¡¯hak[29] scholars began to weaken the rigid class system and the ¡°barrier between the sexes¡± through the 19th century.[30] By the early 1900s under Japanese rule (1910-1945),[31] the movement began to increase dramatically but the emphasis switched from solely women¡¯s causes to a more nationalistic vein. Most of the women¡¯s groups formed during the Japanese Colonial Period were organized to raise money to help the independence movement while doing little to liberate women from the Confucian past. During the Japanese Colonial Period there was an opening of schools to females so that by the end of WW II all elementary schools had become co-educational,[32] and there were also a number of new schools established by missionary groups active in Korea. In spite of the improved educational opportunities, much of the Confucian bias against women remained.[33] At the end of the Japanese occupation, the position of Korean women was better than it had been under the Chosôn Dynasty, but there was still a lingering influence from the 11 mandates and other laws which had served to suppress women.

             Though the concept of women¡¯s equality was written into the constitution in 1948[34] the ingrained suppression of women was not to be exorcised by simply enacting a new law or offering new educational opportunities. Indeed, many of the women¡¯s schools established during, and after, the Japanese occupation which were intended to help enlighten women were little more than marriage-preparation institutions[35] whose curriculums stressed home management, cooking and garment making.


             Although things have changed greatly since the 11 Confucian mandates became entrenched in the culture of the later Chosôn Dynasty, one may think they are still in effect by looking at the current practices of women. Parents still play a major role in the final acceptance of prospective marriage partners and women still must bend to the wishes of their husband¡¯s family. As yet, Korean women retain their own surnames after marriage (the children adopt the father¡¯s surname) and a woman¡¯s name is seldom used, she is instead referred to by her position relative to a man; such as so and so¡¯s mother or so and so¡¯s wife. Barren women have a difficult time getting or staying married, ancestor worship ceremonies are the sole responsibility of the family head (the family head-ship is defined by the worship service) and young widows are still sometimes discouraged from remarrying and often live with the husband¡¯s family while raising a male child. Many Schools are still segregated, quite a few women are still expected to spend much of their day at home and married women are still reluctant to talk to a stranger (male) directly. Clearly, the spirit of most of the 11 Confucian Mandates endures even today.



             The process of socialization is accomplished in two ways; skills and knowledge are learned at school while roles and attitudes are learned at school, at home and from the society one lives in.[36]

             At home it starts with ¡°femininity training¡±; [37] girls are taught to sit, speak and act ladylike, to be passive and subdued, while boys are encouraged to be aggressive and assertive. A girl¡¯s choices of toys centers around dolls and common household goods like toy vacuum cleaners, kitchenware (tools of their future careers as housewives) and toy make up sets (tools to help them attain a marriage). Their parents incessantly tell them they are nice, beautiful and smart. Boy¡¯s toys revolve around war, weapons and sports; all of which will help promote the aggressiveness they will need to secure their status in society as businessmen. The parent¡¯s of the boys tell them to be strong, smart and diligent.

             ¡°Gender is the collective character of women [and men] that is produced by historical and social practices of institutional structures.¡±[38] like families and schools. The ¡°character¡± of a child is instilled by the parents who, either consciously or not, imbue in their children the respective skills they will need to be successful in their society, skills that were instilled in them by their parents and that have been passed on since the beginning of the Chosôn Dynasty. In the past Yang¡¯ban women attained economic security through their family¡¯s social status. Now, with the increased possibility of class mobility, the acquired status of a woman (like a college education) and her learned charms have greater importance. The level of her proficiency in these learned charms, and her acquired status will translate directly into the level of economic security she can attain. The parents¡¯ goal then, is to improve these skills and charms in their daughters. Men, achieve their status through their hard work and aggressiveness so parents naturally strive to instill those traits they will need for future economic security in their sons.


             A society¡¯s schools reflect that society¡¯s values. Korean schools are run by educators who are also parents. They share the same gender-biased attitudes, hopes and dreams as other Korean parents. As such, they want their daughters to attain happiness in life through the traditional method of marriage and, perhaps unconsciously, try to instill these same ideas in their schools¡¯ structure. This fact, and education¡¯s dual purpose of both cultivating the potential of, and socializing children, regardless of their potential, to better fit into society combine to create an environment that is not conducive to liberating women from the past.[39]

             Under the Japanese occupation all the elementary schools in Korea were co-educational, yet a regression has occurred. Though Korean elementary schools remain co-educational, many middle schools and more than half the high schools are now segregated;[40] even among schools that are termed ¡°co-educational¡± about half of the middle schools have segregated class rooms as do most of the high schools.[41] There are also an inordinate number of Women¡¯s Universities in Korea.

             As long ago as 1954 the US Supreme Court realized that a separate education is inherently unequal. That fact is no secret, yet the Korean education system continues to segregate many of their middle schools and most of their high schools. The most obvious reason for this is that there is indeed a, perhaps unconscious, desire for different types of education for boys and girls.[42] The powers that shape the education system in Korea are made up of the same parents who wish their daughter¡¯s happiness through a good marriage, and their son¡¯s happiness through success in business. In an effort to prepare theirs, and the children of others, they have shaped the system to fit the historically held beliefs for each gender. The different mottoes for boy¡¯s and girl¡¯s schools tell the story of their different goals:

Schools Mottos for Boys:

  1)  If you earnestly attempt something, you will succeed, using faith, creativity and effort.

  2)  On to victory, having set forth with ambition.

  3)  Let us explore and develop.

  4)  Let us practice one good deed a day.

  5)  Let us seek truth, create civilization and work for self-cultivation.

  6)  Let us become workers who lead the way to progress.

  7)  Be honest, be able and be hard working.

  8)  Fairness and justice, fight for your country and never retreat.

  9)  Exploration, development, cooperation and patriotism.

10)    Build a realm of peace and prosperity.

11)    Let us be honest and become men of high caliber.

12)    Sincerity, bravery and service.


Schools Mottos for Girls:

1)      Be tolerant, be patient, be helpful and be sacrificial.

2)      Be gentle, be beautiful, and be soft of voice and deft of hand.

3)      Enhance the virtue of women.

4)      Purity, sincerity and diligence.

5)      Love, faith and chastity.

6)      Mother of wisdom, wife of wisdom and citizen of wisdom.

7)      Love, purity and sincerity.

8)      Be humble, sincere and loving.

9)      Be a faithful woman and a gracious woman.

10)    Be a pious woman. Be a perfectionist in all details.

11)    Be upright, courteous and wise.

12)    Be a truthful worker, an obedient daughter and a good mother.

13)    Become a kind person, a person of wisdom and a person of beauty.

14)    Let us love, be upright and serve others.

15)    Be a cheerful woman.[43]


The differences in the mottoes for boys and girls clearly show the emphasis placed on achievement and progress for boys while girls are urged to embrace, purity, sacrifice, patience, and other characteristics long held to be the traditional image of Korean women.[44]


             Teacher¡¯s attitudes, school curricula and textbooks also play a role in the socialization of children. ¡°Textbooks are an important educational medium which transmit the main social norms, [and] values . . . to the student.¡±[45] In 1988 the Ministry of Education attempted to eliminate many of the stereotypical images of women and their roles from Korean text books.[46] A random sampling of elementary texts in use in 1991, which I conducted, revealed the following:

             In the third year, second semester reading textbook (Ilk¡¯gi), 34 of the drawings depict Korean people. Of those 34 drawings; 20 showed males and females interacting, 9 show only males and 5 show only females.

             Among the 20 drawings with both males and females, 12 portray the male in an active role (working, pointing, explaining teaching, etc.) and the female in a passive role (listening, walking behind, etc.). Two drawings place the female in an active role (speaking while a boy is listening). The remaining 6 show the male and female at the same level of activity (both studying, playing, etc.).

             Of the 9 drawings showing males alone, 8 show the male in an active role (hiking, working, teaching) and 1 shows a male in a passive role (a baby boy being cared for by his mother).

             The 5 which show only females portray 2 in active roles (one of which is a girl painting, considered a feminine role in Korea) and 3 showed them in passive roles (sleeping, listening or waiting).

             The remaining textbooks, fourth year, first semester Nature (Ja¡¯yôn) and Morals (Do¡¯dôk), run in the same vein, the majority of the pictures depict men in action and women watching or standing by in their skirts with their hands folded and bathed in a soft light. The women are usually tending children or the elderly, or are again, bathed in a soft light while working in the home. One of the texts even takes a classic Korean story, On¡¯dal gwa pyông¡¯gang gong¡¯ju, of a wife who brings her husband fame and respect through her own hard work, wit and prowess and turns it inside out; downplaying her role as the real hero and turning the foolish man from the story into the hero.


             Kamala showed us that commonly accepted ideas of femininity are not necessarily innate in females and that a young girl could just as easily be raised as a wolf instead of woman. It is no wonder then, that after all the ¡°anticipatory socialization¡± at home and school, twelve years of gender-specific socialization in school and indoctrination by the texts, children have little choice but to follow the path set out for them. As a result, their attitudes, actions and career aspirations are predictable. Girls do their best to emulate their mother¡¯s role of a wise mother and good wife while the boys follow the models provided by their hard working, financially secure fathers. Most boys aspire to be scientists, entrepreneurs, legal professionals or sports champions, while girls dream of becoming teachers, artists or clerks.[47] And both strive to find a life of happiness through the only socially acceptable method they have learned, for the men to get a job that offers financial security, and for the women to find financial security through a stable marriage.

             Though the impact of the parents¡¯ attitudes at home, the teachers¡¯ gentle guiding at school and the subtle drawings in textbooks can be underestimated in the process of shaping a young girl¡¯s conscious or unconscious goals, let us remember that Kamala¡¯s only dream was to have her fill of raw meat and to grow up to be a big wolf like her mother.

Next Chapter - Chapter 3 Marriage


                  [1] Chung, Socialization and Women in Korea, 173.

                  [2] Ibid.

                  [3] Ibid.

                  [4] Ibid.

                  [5] Ibid., 174.

                  [6] ¡°¡®. . . Anticipatory socialization,¡¯ [is] the process of rearing or education in order to provide for a lifestyle.¡± Ibid., 173.

                  [7] Ibid., 178.

                  [8] Charles MacLean, The Wolf Children (New York: Hill and Wang, 1977).

                  [9] Chung, Socialization and Women in Korea, 188.

                  [10] Korean women fall in line with the well known theory that, through the evolutionary process, women have developed characteristics such as maternal instinct while men have developed characteristics such as promiscuity. And in both cases, it has led to the propagation of offspring with those characteristics.

                  [11] Research Center for Asian Women, Women of the Yi Dynasty (Seoul: Sookmyung Women¡¯s University, 1986), 110.

                  [12] Eui-Young Yu and Earl Phillips, eds., Korean Women in Transition: At Home and Abroad (California State University, 1984), 15.

                  [13] Kendall and Peterson, View From the Inner Room, 10.

                  [14] Research Center for Asian Women, Women of the Yi Dynasty, 111.

                  [15] H.G. Creel, Chinese Thought: From Confucius to Mao Tsê-Tung (New York: Mentor Books, 1960), 29-176.

                  [16] Kendall and Peterson, View From the Inner Room, 2.

                  [17] Research Center for Asian Women, Women of the Yi Dynasty, 84.

                  [18] Sandra Mattielli, Virtues in Conflict: Tradition and the Korean Woman Today (Seoul: Samhwa Publishing Co. Ltd, 1977), 81.

                  [19] Research Center for Asian Women, Women of the Yi Dynasty, 88.

                  [20] Ibid., 87.

                  [21] Ibid., 97.

                  [22] Yu and Phillips, Korean Women in Transition, 16.

                  [23] Ibid.

                  [24] Ibid.

                  [25] Ibid.

                  [26] Ibid. The term Yang¡¯ban designated one who held both a military and civil position in the Koryô government but over time came to be applied to anyone from the upper classes in Korea.

                  [27] Ibid., 17.

                  [28] Ibid.

                  [29] Sil¡¯hak. Or ¡°Practical Learning¡± began in the early 1600s by groups of scholars who wished to reform and improve many of the current institutions and areas of knowledge through he use of scientific methodology applied to society¡¯s problems. Carter J. Eckert, (et al). Korea Old and New: A History (Seoul: Ilchokak Publishers, 1990), 164-165.

                  [30] Yu and Phillips, Korean Women in Transition, 18.

                  [31] The Japanese Colonial Period began with Japan¡¯s forced annexation of Korea in 1910 and lasted until the end of World War II. During that time Japan oppressed the Korean people and drained Korea of wealth and resources.

                  [32] Ibid., 21.

                  [33] Ibid.

                  [34] Ibid., 22.

                  [35] Chung, Socialization and Women in Korea, 178.

                  [36] Ibid., 185.

                  [37] Takie Sugiyama Lebra, Japanese Women: Constraint and Fulfillment (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1984), 44.

                  [38] Eun-Shil Kim, ¡°The Political Discourse of Modernity and Gender in Korean Family Planning Policy,¡± in The International Conference on Gender and Sexuality in East and Southeast Asia, 9-11 December 1990, 2.

                  [39] Chung, Socialization and Women in Korea, 174.

                  [40] Ministry of Education Republic of Korea, Education in Korea: 1995-1996, (Seoul: By the author, 1995), 147.

                  [41] Based on personal interviews with over 100 married women between the ages of 35 and 52, which covered subjects ranging from career goals, education of themselves and their children, to motivations behind their own marriages to marital goals for their children.

                  [42] Chung, Socialization and Women in Korea, 189.

                  [43] Ibid., 180.

                  [44] Ibid., 181.

                  [45] Korean Women¡¯s Development Institute, Korean Women Now (Seoul: By the author, 1994), 14.

                  [46] Ibid., 15.

                  [47] Chung, Socialization and Women in Korea, 187.