Chung-Hee Soh here contributes a unique perspective on women in politics by analyzing the ethnographic materials on the experiences of Korean women in their national legislature. Among the questions she raises are: Who are these women? How did they attain their political positions? What motivated their participation in male-dominated politics? Soh investigates the life histories of twenty-nine women who have been chosen to serve in the South Korean National Assembly. Her study sheds light on the dynamics of sociocultural change in male-female relations and gender role conceptions in a modernizing society.
Soh obtained unique insights into the processes of change in the gender role system by studying the chosen women in male-dominated Korean politics. The experiences of Korean women in politics not only delineate the systematic limits to female life in Korean culture, but also reveal some commonalities in social structural impediments to women in high-level public office. The author provides cross-cultural comparative perspectives on such topics as family backgrounds, gender role socialization, the patterns of recruitment, and the impact of the electoral system on the representation of women in national politics. Soh adds an important new dimension to the study of women in politics by situating her findings in the broader sociohistorical context of a modernizing nation and offers useful insights into the processes of sociohistorical change in the gender-role system. Her book will be welcomed by sociocultural anthropolgists, political scientists, Asian historians, and women's studies scholars.
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About the Author
Chung-Hee Soh is assistant professor of anthropology at Southwest Texas State University. She received her PhD from the University of Hawaii, where she was an East-West Center grantee. Her research on Korean women in politics was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. She was a visiting assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona from 1990-91. She has traveled extensively and accompanied and assisted her father in his foreign service posts as a career diplomat of the Republic of Korea.
Table of Contents
A Cultural Account
Family Backgrounds and Education
Other Personal Characteristics
Pathways to the National Assembly
Winning Legislative Seats
Patterns of Adaptive Response
Private Meanings and Public Images
Appendix: Biographical Notes on Elected Women Legislators
What People are Saying About This
This is a very welcome book, being the only study I know of dealing with women legislators in Korea. It not only provides detailed backgrounds and analysis of the careers of these women, but frequently makes useful comparisons with other societies. It also is particularly good at setting out the truly monumental obstacles to female political participation in South Korea, which remains a male bastion only outdone, perhaps, by Arab societies.