While women’s rights and gender equality were tremendously enhanced in the latter half of the twentieth century, inequality still exists in many areas of South Korea today. One example is gender disparities in the labor market. Despite the high level of female tertiary education, South Korea has one of the largest gender pay gaps among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. Guest edited by Youngjoo Cha and Seung-kyung Kim, “Time Divide, Gender Divide: Gender, Work, and Family in South Korea” is a timely special issue that discusses this deeply rooted gender disparity issue. It is timely because the COVID-19 pandemic reinforced the gender disparity in the labor market and domestic space. Although the special issue is not directly about the gender disparity during the pandemic, it addresses the central issues of the gender disparity that continue to discriminate against women in South Korea today. Cha and Kim use the concept of time to analyze various gender issues that emerged in the labor market. In their introduction, they argue that the time divide is intimately intertwined with the gender divide in generating gender inequality. It shows that the South Korean work culture of demanding long work hours and the gender expectations of women’s dedication to mothering at home are the two cultural forces that produce gender inequality.

Following the special issue’s introduction, the issue begins with Hyunjoon Park’s analysis of gender differences in time use in the last two decades. He primarily examines work outside the home and family life in general. In his analysis, he pays particular attention to the different levels of education of mothers and fathers. His article shows that a high level of education does not mean that they spend less time on housework. The next article, by Joohee Lee, examines how Korean women care workers work long hours but do so without appropriate compensation. It challenges the presumption that it is mostly Korean men who suffer from working long hours by demonstrating that it is also the case for women. The final article of the special issue, authored by Hyeyoung Woo, Lindsey Wilkinson, and Soo-Yeon Yoon, addresses the gender health gap from a comparative perspective by comparing South Korea, the United States, and Finland. In doing so, the authors examine the areas of education, employment, and family formation behaviors combined with other aggregate factors such as gender context, work cultures, and work-family policy. The authors demonstrate that while women have lower levels of health than their male counterparts in South Korea and the United States, Finnish women show relatively equal health levels as men. Their findings show that South Korea and the United States share similar gender disparities due to their traditional gender roles, long hours at work, and unequal work-family balance. As in Finland, the authors argue that South Korea and the United States should enforce more gender equality policies in the labor market.

In addition to the special issue section, this volume includes two general articles. Hyun Suk Park’s article explores female courtesans’ martial dance performance during the late Chosŏn period. Park specifically examines the martial spectacles of the courtesans of Ŭiju, where they performed in front of Qing envoys and Chosŏn government officials. Park demonstrates the agency of the courtesans by showing how they appropriated a variety of resources from the local culture that often challenged Confucian values, gender, social status, and state slavery. The last article, by Mi-Ryong Shim, explores the linguistic aspect of Ch’ae Mansik’s novels from the early 1940s. Recent scholarship on late colonial literature has primarily focused on the Japanese-language writings of Korean writers. By focusing on Ch’ae Mansik’s writings, Shim shows how Ch’ae resisted Japanese linguistic hegemony and how the “plurality and materiality” of the Korean language in literature was diminished during wartime as the meanings carried across borders.

The editorial office of the Journal of Korean Studies (JKS) is housed at the Institute for Korean Studies, George Washington University. JKS is published by Duke University Press. Publication of the Journal of Korean Studies is made possible by a generous grant from the Korea Foundation. We are currently accepting submissions for the spring general issues as well as proposals for our annual fall special issues. For more information on JKS, please visit https://www.dukeupress.edu/journal-of-korean-studies/.

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