115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Socialist Discourse of Motherhood in Colonial Korea

Jude Y. Yang, University of Hawaii, Manoa

The fundamental argument of this presentation will be that research on motherhood in Korean socialist literature should be conducted in conjunction with or from the perspective of how the concept of “mother” as advocated by Korean socialist thinkers was developed and implemented.


For the early socialists of colonial Korea, the issue of motherhood became important because of its connection to the issue of children’s welfare, as well as the fact that both mothers and children were considered second-class citizens and victims of the traditional patriarchy. Additionally, socialists at the time were clearly cognizant of the fact that mothers played an important role in both class warfare and the people’s liberation.  This is the same reason why mothers appeared so frequently in socialist novels of this period, as well as why we can find so many of these stories written about motherhood.

Fundamentally, I believe that within Korean socialist literature, the image of the mother was created in such a way to be used as a vehicle for the dissemination of socialist ideas.  Not only that, but these mother figures were also depicted as incredibly multifaceted and important characters. On the other hand, however, it is also true that up until this point, very little attention has been given to research on motherhood in Korean socialist literature from 1920-30, or motherhood in this period at all, in the body of scholarship that encompasses motherhood in Korean literature or the history of motherhood in Korea as a whole.

In my study, I argue that the notion of motherhood appearing in Korean socialist literature also needs to be studied on the basis of how the motherhood advocated by the socialists at the time was formed within political ideology. This argument will be supported by a thorough consideration of the following questions -how did socialist writers individually (or collectively) present and then apply the concept of ideal motherhoodin their works, how did these writers' different negotiations with motherhood occur, and for what reason did their approaches differ, and what social and ideological milieu influenced the shift in interpretations of the concept of motherhood.


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