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Seung-Hee Jeon

Between Overzealous Moms and Laudable Mothers: A Study on Motherhood Discourse During South Korea’s Yushin Period

Seung-Hee Jeon, Yonsei University

Abstract: Discourse on motherhood has changed constantly, reflecting the shifting roles required of mothers in different historical periods. Both in the West and in Korea, the role of a mother underwent a fundamental change from that of a producer to that of a consumer during the modern industrialization period. Likewise new discourse on motherhood has evolved around these changes, the debate continuing on how to accommodate or control these fundamental shifts. During the 1970s Yushin period of the Park Chung-Hee regime, a whole spectrum of positive and negative hegemonic discourses on this modern, industrialization-period of motherhood interacted intensively on various social and cultural platforms along with discourse on all other aspects of society. This paper attempts to analyze the major discourses on motherhood during theYushin period including the “overzealous mom (kuksong omma)” and the “laudable mother (changhan omoni)” and the effects of their interactions on mothers and society. This study will accomplish this by examining governmental statements, major newspaper articles, special reports, and articles in major current affairs and women’s magazines as well as examining how hegemonic discourse on motherhood is countered and complicated in Pak Wan-so’s novel Tosi’ui Hyungnyon [A Sterile Year in a City] and other short stories published during this period. Through this analysis, this paper aims to draft an in-depth topography of the Yushin-period conception of motherhood and, ultimately, a better understanding of the evolution of modern Korean motherhood within the context of modern motherhood in general.