There is a man who has been busy publishing two books on feminism and giving a number of lectures on it, too. This time, the Sookmyung Times (SMT) met Professor Cheong Yoo Seong of College of General Education in Sogang University. He seemed to be comfortable and sincere while discussing feminism in an interview with SMT.
His pet theory on feminism and the winds against it is simply called the equality of both sexes. In a sudden frost, this male professor’s saying may warm Sookmyungians up, and give inspiration on feminism to all of us.
SMT: Why are you so concerned about feminism though you are a male adult?
Cheong: Above all, I often receive such questions from other people too. Not because I am an unique man, but because I have thought that feminism is one paradigm to analyze such changes in our community and reach for new challenges to our country. While I looking at a variety of changes in Korea’s society including kinds of class strife, I have followed and pursued feminism.
Only in Korea, a male feminist like me seems to be an unusual person, but in general Western societies, most of the humanists have thought of feminism as a paradigm that requires analysis for conversion to new civilization and a society. Even, Korea itself does not have a general view of the world. Looking at specific conditions in Korea, there is a patriarchal system and exclusive nationalism now.
During the Joseon Dynasty one of the historical process of Korea, it is Korean men, not women that had pushed Joseon to the wall, before the Japanese colonial rule. Unfortunately, women had been forced to be comfort women under Japan's system, which originated from some commonless recognition and behaviors of Korean men at that time.
SMT: A variety of concepts of feminism and feminists are written in books or on the Internet. Can you tell me if you have your own definition or conclusion of that, please?
Cheong: I have never talked about myself as a feminist. Simultaneously, I am not a feminist because my biological sex is man. Many people commit a fault that feminism is considered one ideology or religion. However, I think feminism is the pursuit or aim of life for both sexes to live harmoniously, not under sex discrimination.
Above all, this is one harmonious life mode. Many wrong concepts of recent feminism have originated from a number of misunderstandings or misinterpretations, especially about the movement of feminism.
SMT: Why were there misunderstandings and how can they be corrected?
Cheong: Actually, there is room for misunderstanding. As Korean society has changed rapidly, after just 60 years from liberation from Japan, the industrialization has been accomplished. There are many changes such as continuous suggestion on the equality of both sexes and it took only 30 years from the establishment of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law to the hoju-je (heads the family) in the form of law and regime.
These works may have taken about 100 years in the West. Anyway, contrary to rapid changes in law and regime, consciousness and life of people have not been commensurate with the development of law or systems of our society, yet. In this situation, most men are uncomfortable and in a state of disorder due to the gap between their conventional thoughts and current laws.
However, feminism is one movement of finding out the rights for the socially underprivileged. Women composed of half the world’s population have begun to argue feminism differently from other minority movements, and that may confuse men who comprise the other half of humanity. Actually, such confusion also occurred in the West in 1970~1980. This is called backlash. In this situation, men tend to think all their disadvantages of something originated from feminism or a women’s blunder.
However, it will be calmed soon. Think about the equality between a minority race and the white race in America. This country had slavery just 100~150 years ago. Imagine the scene where children of two different races could not take a school bus together, before 1968, prior to the complete foundation of the Civil Rights Act in that year.
In our case, it had occurred as a more radical change in Korea than that of the United States of America, and then the change itself was difficult, therefore the reaction to feminism must be confusing.
SMT: You may know about the abolishment movement against the Ministry of Gender Equality & Family based on a faulty policy that gave cash supports to company employees were dining together without sexes. The striking criticisms have affected many women’s groups big and small. How do you see recent phenomena against feminism?
Cheong: Actually, the stories can be ignored. Korea's Gender‐related Development Index (GDI) is the lowermost level, which is much lower than that of the Arabs, now. Although the consolidation of law and the following system for women exists evidently, the level just seemed to become a little better than the past.
As previously stated, this is the backlash of men. In addition, we live in an Internet‐intensive area. In this world, one small incident may become a main focus, and simultaneously, can disappear easily. We need to view these phenomena as some of the reactions for new change in the world toward equality.
Feminism is the specific voice of specific classes, yet. It is one of society's attempts at working towards justice in society, equality between the sexes, and to escape from general convention. Professor, Cheon Yoo Seong, is not a special or unusual man but special importance to Korean feminism.
In the case of anti-feminism, the backlash against feminism is shown as a repulsion of original authorities, most of whom are mainly represented as men of authority, or as putting the blame for some faults on Korean women's groups both small and big. This is the time when all people should listen to feminism and anti-feminism and anti-feminism and find out a way that men and women can live together harmoniously, regardless of each other's ideology.