Abstract

The article investigates the genealogies of “wise mother and good wife,” arguably the most influential gender ideology in modern Korea. Approaching it as a product of transcultural encounters in turn of the twentieth-century Korea, the article examines the ways in which Korea’s Confucian-prescribed gender norms were refashioned and reconstituted under the influence of the ideology of domesticity promoted by American Protestant women missionaries and the Meiji gender ideology of ryōsai kenbo, which transpired through Japanese colonial policies in Korea. I argue that the modern construct of “wise mother and good wife” ideology was the latest form of patriarchal gender arrangements designed to meet new challenges in the modern era. I further argue that this modern ideal of womanhood was both oppressive and liberating in the sense that it continued hierarchical gender practices of the past, and yet it also enabled women to carve out new space for power and authority within the circumscribed conditions.

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