“Is there a single day where you didn’t think about this?” This was the reply from a friend when I tried to impose my everyday preachings about career and study on her. It made me realize afterward that I haven’t passed a day without such thoughts. It meant that I have become a servant to the serious mode of life where there were very few memories of me having a good laugh. I too have a scale of enjoyment and seriousness for the way of life but it might not have a proper balance between the two.
Then I find someone/some people who are more into enjoyment and less serious (if compared to my state) of life. They also have “things to do” but they do not hesitate to make a good laugh over anything with or without a purpose. Their minds do not restrict them from bursting out like my monkey who has tamed me to discipline for the sake of I don’t know what.
It has always been a worry to live a life where one achieves many things but does not find much of memories when looking back. But at the same time, one cannot forget to struggle to make a better future while busy making good memories.
SOLUTION- Balance the time between the two conditions according to the choice of interest. One may prefer to sacrifice making good memories to achieve a higher level of life while another may sacrifice the option of achieving a good career for many good memories. But the best way to balance is to make sacrifices of one for the other according to the conditions. In other words, priority towards enjoyment or career should be balanced as they are required.
The other problem aroused from such inspiration is getting addicted to such companies where I can escape from my worries and engage in everyday conversations for a good laugh or peace of mind. Here the dependence on companies for peace of mind becomes an incomplete solution in the long run. One will not always find such companies around them for the whole day or the whole life. If I need someone to make me happy means I have not learned to make peace with myself permanently. It means I still seek attention, validation, or acceptance even if in a minor part.
SOLUTION- The true value of enjoyment and peace should also come through solitude. One should learn to enjoy being alone by self-treating such as doing things that one loves to do, using “important productive time” to make a good meal without any rush, or even having a good sound sleep.
In the end, such criticisms made me rethink many of my actions and time usage. It made me realize how important it is to give a break from the serious mode of life once in a while and make a good laugh. It made me change the balance of both conditions according to the necessity- seriousness and enjoyment, company and solitude.
According to Bell Hooks in her work “Understanding Patriarchy”, arrogate that patriarchy maintained dominance throughout history with the practices of subjugation, subordination, and submission. She also claims the presence of women’s role in the maintenance of such dominance throughout the time. In the novel “Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982”(2006), the depiction of the character Koh Boon Soon who is also the protagonist’s grandmother, reflects on the contributions of a woman in the maintenance of patriarchy passing through generations. The three female characters in the novel of three generations reflect their contemporary conditions and responses.
Koh Boon Soon’s life reflects the condition of the male dominance of her period very evidently with the confession about her husband to be descent just because he didn’t sleep around or hit her. The thought of praising someone for not being like others shows the characteristics of a male person of the period and the society which accepted the abusing of a wife or having an extramarital relationship for a husband as a common practice. Such an ideological mindset accepted by a woman makes her consciously or unconsciously taking part in the maintenance of male dominance.
Koh Boon Soon also has the misconception of sons to be the only caretaker of the family without realizing her daughter-in-law (protagonist’s mother) who was the one helping her in doing every day to day activities. The idea of caretaker of a family can only be a son influenced her thought process up to a level where she ignores her own struggle and hard work in raising the four children by herself without her husband’s contribution. This also shows that the Korean male members enjoyed the status of power and caretaking of a family without actually doing their part of the work.
Contributing to the family is equal to the husband’s
Oh Misook is the mother of the protagonist in the novel who represents the generation of women who put equal effort into the caretaking of the family but never achieved equal status to the male in the respect of their contribution. She has been a very hard worker who never pointed out any complaints regarding her difficulties. Her age represented a time when daughters gladly supported their male siblings in pursuing their career and rising in lifestyle but realise there was no opportunity for them to achieve that in return. It has been a way to marginalize and shutting down the opportunity for women to stand equally with men in society.
To observe the characteristic of Oh Misook, there is evidence of her effort and contribution in raising her family compared to her husband. She contributed with every little contractual work she found which can be pursued staying at home as she also had to look over her children. When her husband proposed about investing in an international business with his colleagues she replied “I know you better than you know yourself” which exposes the real householder to be herself who knows all her family members better than themselves.
Breaking the norms and oppressions
Kim Jiyoung is the protagonist of the novel and her character depicts the issues regarding the struggle for inequality in Korean society and at the same time fighting for free choices. The struggle starts from her home itself where her younger brother has been prioritized in every decision and opportunity by her parents and her grandmother. Kim Jiyoung found it to be an excuse from her mother to justify such partiality was because he was the youngest of the family. After that, there is a struggle right from the primary school with bench mate pranks and restricted dress codes only for females, and males being first in everything. Although the Korean Financial crisis of 1997 brought the opportunity for women to participate in the rebuilding of the economy by getting into factory works and other technical jobs, an equal opportunity was socially restricted with the “male gaze” by the co-workers who were arrogant to be equal with a woman, and also faced with the issues of maternity breaks.
The abnormal behavior
Kim Jiyoung’s sudden change in behavior was first encountered by her husband Jung Daehyun in the morning of baengno(white dew) which was the first night of autumn when the temperature drops below dew points. Her imitating behaviors were of her mother in particular and also her friend Cha Seungyeon’s.
Kim Jiyoung has eye-witnessed her mother’s struggle from her childhood and it turned into repressed anxiety stored in her subconscious. Her mother represents the people who never complained about the difficulties in overworking to the extension of getting physically harmed like bleeding fingers while rolling weather strips. She started to act exactly like her mother staring into space and crying over sad songs which shocked her husband completely. After giving birth to her child, Kim Jiyoung was in the phase of undergoing postpartum depression and it was at the same time that her friend Cha Seungyeon died due to an amniotic fluid embolism.
Jung Dauhyun figured out the reason for Kim Jiyoung’s abnormal behavior as she got exhausted from taking care of the baby. And the only helpful thing he could do for her during that particular time was praising her with “You’re doing great! You’re working so hard! I appreciate you!”. Such responses put a question over the role of both parents whether caretaking of a baby is a responsibility only for the mother or the father also has a part to it.
The most important aspect to be critically observed on the notion of raising a child is the TV effects on postmodern society. The writer criticizes in the novel, “The babies on television or in movies were all pretty and cute, and mothers were always portrayed as beautiful and noble”. In the postmodern world, television has a big role in shaping society and an example of it is the promotion of fake propaganda over the meaning of “maternity love”. There is a promotion of natural birth and also demand by the society for a woman to “gladly endure the pain, exhaustion and mortal fear”. But a mother who experiences difficulty does not urge praise from people to such work as a noble because in reality that is not happy and sweet for a mother to go through.
The narrative technique used in the novel is storytelling from the viewpoint of a psychiatrist listening to the patient’s background, to point out the real-life influences which consequently formed the abnormal behavior. Kim Jiyoung was appointed for psychiatric counseling by her husband after the realization of her behavior getting exposed during their visit to Busan in his parent’s residence.
The writer’s motive behind the use of the narrator as a psychiatrist is an escape from maintaining the usual style of description and thematic concerns during the formation of a novel. It is an escape from the criticisms over the story to be a collection of complaints and does not have to worry about other perceptions of representation.
It can also be observed as experimentation in the narrative style but which is not entertaining enough if criticized from a subjective point of view. There is a necessity of entertainment in the novel rather than becoming a list of complaints or points made by a psychiatrist that affected the character due to social oppression. It is an easy way to directly complain or blame the patriarchal dominancy in a society that resulted in a completely normal woman becoming mentally disordered.
The characters in the story during Kim Jiyoung’s school are projected as very rebellious and brave. It was the beginning of the protests against the oppression of women in all sectors of life in Korean society. One of her classmates willingly participated in dress-codes violation and when she was asked about the reason for her rebel, she replied, “I wanted the teacher to see with his own eyes just how uncomfortable this outfit was”. The boys were free to wear comfortable shoes and shirts while girls were restricted to follow only certain dress codes and were also punished if they violated the given instructions. The girls also dragged a boy who’s named “Mister Flasher” in the story to the police station when their teachers punished them rather than the boy for his misdeeds in front of their classroom every day.
Although it seems impossible for a normal child at that age to rebel like that because everyone has the fear of the unknown. They fear the teacher and family’s responses to their actions in real life. The same criticism goes with the leakage of the pictures from the female bathroom and not a single man in Kim Jiyoung’s office felt it was wrong. But sometimes even fictional stories are inspired by real stories, therefore such incidents also might be possible if looked at from that perception.
Points to open discussion
This section includes few points which I have found necessary to think again and try to re-learn myself and therefore urging the readers to put their own opinions in the comment section below.
To me, the idea of a child care system varies according to the condition of the place and the society. Rural and urban areas have different lifestyles and according to that the priority of time also magnifies. Therefore time, job, and lifestyle have a direct connection to the way the child care system should be worked out.
But it should not go to the extent where the center and value of parenthood and childhood is discouraged. One should not be lost in the race of priority about time, and forget the value and necessity of parenthood and childhood.
The division of labor has led to the minimizing and shortening of the role of a parent and a child. In the future, it might end up with evidence of the relationships present only in the documents, signings, and financial bits of help.
According to my observation, in this contemporary world, families are lost and turned into orphanages. On one side, there is the rise from the system of orphanages to foster care: to learn about social relations and experience to be a part of a family, and on the other hand a family has their relation evident only in the documents and meet each other occasionally.
The division of work between couples or spouses must be their duty. But to completely divide the work and never to experience each other’s work would be problematic. What I am trying to point out is Kim Jiyoung has been assigned to the caretaking of her child because she is a “mother” which is acceptable to me only to a certain extent. After a certain degree, it becomes a duty for both to look after the children. But her husband Jung Daehyun has the perception of it as only her duty and his role is to earn money for the family and therefore think of it as an act of helping out his wife to take care of the baby. She becomes furious at that statement of her husband’s which is quite reasonable according to me because the child belongs to both and there should be nothing as “helping out”. She made some important points because she sacrificed her dream and career for the sake of looking after the baby but he seems to have sacrificed nothing compared to hers.
To put a big question here about being a responsible person, I would like to ask
‘Can every woman be a mother, and can every man be a father?’
As I don’t have its answer now, I want to know what do readers think about it.
Men will be men?
There is an incident in the novel where Kim Jiyoung is consoled by her teacher when she complains about her deskmate by replying “Boys…are meaner to girls they like”. Is that a way to make her feel better and forget about complaining again or is that an arrogant behavior of a male person to act rudely even to the people they like?
The bus incident in the novel is another very common bad experience in most womens’ life. Kim Jiyoung got terrified seeing a boy from her class following her all the way and stopped at the end only when it was clarified that the boy had the misconception about Kim flirting with him. She got so much terrified after that incident she even stopped smiling at strangers. It appears as whatever a woman does, she is always doing something that shouldn’t be done, even taking a heavy breath might become a problem for some people.
There is an extreme level of inhumanity depicted in the novel where Kim Jiyoung’s male office colleagues distribute the pictures that were captured from the womens’ bathroom and found it not wrong to do that. Later on even the guards who planned it all were saved by their male boss when he requested Kang Hyseu was trying to destroy their lives and family by exposing their misdeeds. The first thing to be pointed out is why to worry about that if they found it not wrong to record and later distribute it in the first place, and the second point is already present there in the novel which is, didn’t they already destroy the womens’ lives by uploading those pictures on the internet.
As Bell Hooks described in her essay (which I have referred at the beginning of this discussion), that most men do not find it necessary to try understanding the notion of patriarchy and its consequence on the female identity. I find myself in the same space without any clear idea how to deal with such womens’ struggle due to mens’ dominancy or ill behaviors.
Although the contemporary world is described as “progressed”, there is still a fight for equal opportunity for women. Women are still used as a sexual objects in society. For example, the beach handball, where men are allowed to wear according to their comfort but women are obliged to wear bikinis. They provided the reason behind it as the traffic and the viewers decrease if the girls were wearing long suits. In protest of such inequality and sexualizing of women, recently Norwegian beach handball women team dressed in shorts during a match, and they were fined 15,000 euros by The Disciplinary Committee of the European Handball Federation for “improper clothing”.
Cho, Nam-ju, and Jamie Chang. Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982. , 2020. Print.
From the day of my first footstep, my parents taught me to play.I didn’t like to go out then, but they said it would give me strength to live.
Time went by, I fell in love with it and forgot where I started with the teams getting changed through time.Then mama asked”come home son”, and I felt confused ‘but mama where is that? I forgot where I belong’.She replied “alright son,when you find it come home again”.
Baba also feels alone at home sometimes. When we siblings along with mother make jokes and laugh in the kitchen Baba hears from his room and comes to join in the happiness with us. But me or my siblings stop making such funs at then, it might be in a way because of our ‘ respected fear ‘ or being not frank with him. It was also because we didn’t want him to join us as we feel he doesn’t deserve it, he doesn’t deserve a happy laughing memory with his own children because someday he made us frightened and fearful when he got angry. We just burried it with ‘we do not see you as a person with joy and sharing smile with us’.
We forget that he is not just an ATM card or a home security guard. He has the same care for us as our mother does, the only thing that differs between them is their parts where the father protects us from outside and mother inside and as the softness of inside is remembered more we easily forget the effort of the outside shield. Well I don’t know if realisation comes from irony or irony is found in the realisation, but it all come to be thought only when I found myself today around in that same situation, me in my room and Baba in his and my other siblings were making some funny gossips with mother. There my little sister was making the plan of the dishes to be made for the 30 days in the holy month of fasting and how many days of it were to be of chicken from market,of home, fish from market, of home, pulao and the few remaining days with only rice and chatni if we don’t have anything special for meal. Due to the heavy rain during the day and a clear weather after it, her plans were so clear to reach my ear that I found myself making a silent laugh with a smile. That’s when I thought of joining the ‘ 30 days package planning’ gossip but just felt of remaining seated in my chair thinking Baba must have heard that as well and smiled. I tried to think of me in those ‘family talks’ like that before and when Baba came to join us I use to stop talking. So, today I decided to break the wall between our ‘kitchen talks’ group and Baba, so the remaining chatni days can be shared together with him or we might get another chicken day additionally from that ATM card.