Korean Book-Turned-Movie: Women Love It, Men Hate It

    01 November, 2019

    In South Korea, the most popular movie this week is about the everyday sexism women face there. It is based on the best-selling book called Kim Ji-young, Born 1982. Both the book and movie have people talking about the place of women in South Korea's historically male-dominated society.

    The film sold $8.3 million in tickets in its first week, says the Korean Film Council. Some of that comes from women who have not even seen the movie. Commenters on social media said they bought tickets as a way to show their support. The action is known in Korea as "sending one's soul."

    The new movie and 2016 book are about a married woman in her 30s. She feels forced by her social situation and other people's opinions to surrender her work and dreams. She leaves her job to raise her young child.

    "Kim Ji-young, Born 1982" tells about the common sexism girls and women face in South Korea. Here, a girl walks in front of performers to promote Christmas season at a shopping district in Seoul on November 13, 2017.

    A book review on the website dramasROK notes that Kim Ji-young was the most common name for a girl in 1982. The title suggests that the story is about the usual experiences of many girls and women in South Korea.

    The reviewer said the book describes a number of small events in the life of Kim Ji-young. At family meals, she is given her food last. At work, a client makes insulting comments to her, and she feels pressured to accept them. During a holiday, she is expected to help cook and clean with her husband's mother while the men rest.

    In time, Kim Ji-Young begins talking as if she is other people. She loses her own voice.

    A number of women cried loudly as they watched the movie at a theater in Seoul recently.

    Seo Mi-jeong was one of them. She is 23 years old. She said the movie was realistic. She said, "It touched on realities in South Korean society that keep women of different generations from the life they wanted to lead."

    Her comment was very different than that of a 29-year-old man who saw the film on opening day. Kim Won-koo said he did not connect emotionally with the idea that a woman born in 1982 faced discrimination growing up. "Many of the situations seem unrealistic or very, very rare," he said.

    Their answers show the difference of opinions among many women and men in South Korea. Women rated the film an average of 9.5 out of 10 stars on South Korea's top web search page. Men gave it an average of 2.5 stars.

    The film comes at a time when South Koreans are increasingly debating women's rights and whether men are being treated unfairly. As in other countries, in recent months a number of well-known male public officials, business leaders and performers have been accused of sexual harassment and abuse.

    I'm Kelly Jean Kelly.

    Kelly Jean Kelly wrote this story for Learning English based on a report from Reuters. Caty Weaver was the editor.


    Words in This Story

    male-dominated - adj. a situation in which men and boys have the control or power

    ticket - n. a piece of paper that allows you to see a show

    review - n. a report that gives someone's opinion about the quality of a book or performance

    client - n. a person who pays a professional person or organization for services

    voice - n. the ability to speak