The ASU professor’s new book condemns South Korea’s recent discriminatory policies
Women, members of the LGTBQ community, persons with disabilities And other marginalized groups in South Korea face no discrimination in education or job opportunities, according to the country’s president, Yoon Sok-yul.
Activist Hyun Kim Differs.
The ASU assistant professor has written a book in Korean that she says is roughly titled “The Post-World: Refuting the Fairness Myth.” In it, the South Korean-born scholar argues against the country’s unjust policies and expresses her concerns about what she believes are the inevitable consequences of the country’s recent political plans.
Kim’s passion for justice and fairness, which is also a focus of her research at Hue Downs School of Human Communicationpouring into a volume of 264 pages.
It was recently selected by the Korea Democracy Foundation as “one of 10 books that enhance our understanding of democracy.”
Arizona State University News spoke with Kim about her book.
A question: What drew you to the politics of a country 6,400 miles away from ASU?
Answer: Korea was facing a threat to democracy due to the rise of reactionary politics. These concerns became more prominent when incumbent President Yoon ran for president and emerged as a major political figure.
He explicitly stated that “there is no such thing as structural gender inequality.” He advocates the “free market” model and argues that everyone should compete freely and receive fair rewards based solely on one’s merit.
This is where the concept of fairness was weaponized to remove the social safety net for women, queers, the disabled, and other socially marginalized groups. Yoon’s management believes that everyone should compete and work harder to win anything – because everyone is on a level playing field. The administration recently announced that it would abolish the Ministry of Gender Equality and the Family.
s: What do you think of President Yoon’s new agenda?
a: It is disgraceful and disturbing to witness how the administration has already begun to roll back important programs and legal protections, especially for women and LGBTQ individuals.
The Ministry of Gender Equality and the Family was created to oversee government agencies and ensure that they comply with policies of non-discrimination and gender-responsive budgeting. The ministry also protects victims of sexual violence. Without this centralized institution, women, queers, and youth—particularly in lower socioeconomic groups—would be severely affected by loosened safety nets.
s: How have you responded to these changes?
a: I began writing numerous editorials for the South Korean media, problematizing the distorted idea of fairness. Then she began calling for urgent action to protect the marginalized and emphasizing the values of caring and justice for a world where everyone can thrive. From there, she began giving lectures and speeches on equity issues for many organizations, such as the Democratic Party of Korea, UNESCO in Korea (Korea National Commission for UNESCO), SK Group, National Human Rights Commission of Korea and Korea. Democracy Foundation.
After all these experiences and conversations, I felt the need to write a book that offers political criticism and an alternative vision to combat reactionary politics and social discourses.
s: Can you explain the book?
a: My book’s title doesn’t translate well into English – especially if it’s out of context. But roughly speaking, I’d say the title is “Beyond World: Refuting the Fairness Myth.” The book criticizes social discourses about fairness and suggests other ignored values, such as care and justice.
s: How was it received?
a: Fortunately, my book has been well received so far. Immediately after publication, it was covered by all major news outlets in South Korea, and I did some interviews. I’ve received a number of letters from readers, especially women, saying they are touched and healed after reading my book, because they live in a country where politicians blatantly say things like: “There is no gender discrimination. There is no protection for you. You are on your own.”
s: What are your hopes for the book?
a: The final chapter of my book ends with grassroots organizing, transformative justice, and politics for the future. He was thinking of the younger generations when writing this book. … I hope that people who want to make this world more inclusive will find some insight and strength from my book. Although things are certainly frustrating right now, I hope people don’t lose their political will until readers of this book are comrades.
s: Justice in all its forms seems to be of great importance to you. Did something specific happen in your life that fueled this passion?
a: Just Witnessing Experiences…how women and queers suffer different forms of violence. I have worked closely with victims of gender violence who have to confront a range of injustices. Not to mention the violence itself, but in addition to it, victims often receive unfair treatment from legal institutions. Despite the potential for increased social awareness following the #MeToo movement, there is still a long way to go to implement physical and structural changes.
Top image courtesy iStock.com
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