Korean Women Rise over Inequality in Medicine

By Sarah Chesek, Staff Writer-

Women have dealt with the nature of inequality in all professions and within Korea, women have had to fight for their practices in the medical field.

On March 10, Dr. Sonja M. Kim, associate professor of Asian and Asian American studies at Binghamton University, discussed the upbringing of female medical professionals in Korea in the lecture entitled “Global Compassions of Care: Women, Medicine, and Nursing in Colonial Korea.”

In the late 1800s, women were denied from the Korean government’s medical school but by 1945 women’s professional health work had become a common practice in Korea.

Women were perceived as the trusted health care providers for their families, making them the target for health care education and related policies.

Kim explains that gender roles, class, and race cause inequities in how women are treated as both professionals in a health-related field as well as patients that receive new medical knowledge.

However, she explains that female physicians had a harder time being hired than their male counterparts. She stated that even after being hired in larger hospitals their positions tended to be temporary.

“Nurses were expected to be in tune with the needs and pains of their patients acting accordingly to relieve suffering and provide comfort,” Kim said. “On the other hand, they were to ignore their own needs, suppressing feelings of humiliation, ran justice to experience at the hands of supervisors, attending physicians, and even patients.”

Articles regarding infertility and birth control caused opposing arguments; however, these discussions alone began a movement for women’s choice in Korea.

Kim elaborated on the fact that women continued to advocate for their right to make informed decisions about their reproductive rights regardless of religion, family, or nation.

Overall, this presentation discussed how Korean women overcame sexist traditions and policies in health care.

Kim stated that her overall goal of the presentation was to provide a “gender analysis of medical history that offers us further insights into how medicine produced an intern was produced by gendered expectations,” she said. “Women, their bodies and their health embodied contradictions increase attempts to prevent, treat and manage disease and elements the early 20th century.”

She stated that currently there are more Korean women entering the medical field than male students, however, at the moment there are more male physicians.

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