Surviving Hard Times: Women’s Movement under the Conservative Administration in South Korea and Australia

Publisher:
Hanul Academy
Publication Type:
Chapter
Citation:
Asian Feminisms and Transnational Activism, 2016, pp. 307 - 333
Issue Date:
2016-07-13
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Like the Australian women’s movement of the 1970s, the Korean women’s movement from the mid-1980s exploded into action. From out of nowhere, seemingly, came a plethora of newspapers, journals, cultural groups, rape and domestic violence support services and other women-focused activities – right down to the humble food co-op. Despite the 15-year time difference, the Australian and Korean women’s movements have seen women’s studies graduates and feminist scholars become the creative force behind new women’s organisations, the circulation of feminist discourses, the initial development of women’s policy machinery and the emergence of femocrats. Both countries are internationally recognised for advanced and successful women’s policies that were developed through close engagement with the state. There is little doubt that the women’s movement’s engagement with the state has produced significant advances in gender equality, including legislation and a range of programs in both countries that have seen a partial institutionalisation of feminist perspectives within state policy-making processes. However, during the conservative Howard government (1996-2007), the Australian women’s movement markedly lost its policy gains and energy. The Korean women’s movement had similar experiences when facing the conservative Lee government (2008-2013). Drawing on activists’ accounts in two countries, this chapter explores the challenges faced by the women’s movement amid a hostile political context. It also explores how the women’s movement might be reinvigorated. This chapter suggests the need for a critical assessment of the women’s movement in a new context, including a re-examination of what constitutes the women’s movement and how the success or failure of the women’s movement can be measured. This chapter finishes by arguing that the significance of activists in reconstructing and sustaining the women’s movement ought to be recognised.
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