In the 1970s, Korea underwent remarkable rapid economic growth and modernization during the rule of a repressive authoritarian regime. It was a time of contradictions and confrontations between ideologies – urban vs. rural, modernity vs. tradition. During a relatively short period of time many aspects of the lives of ordinary Koreans changed. But certain values that for Koreans constitute their distinctive identity have been firmly preserved, such as the importance placed on the institution of the family. Just like in Western societies industrialization and urbanization brought about a change in the family structure, with an increase of nuclear families. This in turn facilitated the family wage system and implementation of a gender-based division of labour. Men were solely responsible for supporting their families while women stayed at home and took care of the household and the children. But when it comes to the concept of nuclear family there are differences between a traditional family in Korea and the Western breadwinner model, such as a married woman’s responsibility for her parents-in-laws and the Confucian notion of women’s subordination to their husbands and their families. With the decrease of extended families, for a woman, marriage and family was the only safety net and modernization and economic prosperity meant both liberation and oppression at the same time.

Pak Wansô (1931-2011) often discussed the downsides of modernization and Western influence, and how the Korean traditional values were being challenged. She also described how socio-cultural changes affect the lives of women, and the patriarchal oppression they have to endure in everyday life.

Feminist narratology is a part of the reconceptualization of narratology which occurred in the 1980s, recognizing the connection between social identity of the author/narrator and narrative form. In my presentation I’ll discuss Pak Wansô’s short story Ôttôn nadûri (An Outing) from 1971, applying a feminist-narratological approach.

Eunah Kim is a PhD Candidate in Korean Studies.