Have you ever noticed, when it comes to things like chores, that men are portrayed as helping women rather than being just as involved in chores and parenting? Many of us may think this is common, but maybe things really shouldn’t be.
Born in 1982, a Korean girl is most commonly known as Ji Young (Jung Yu Mi), a quiet second daughter whose father goes out to work and her mother stays at home, observes and normalizes her life fast in a culture that favors boys. . When she was born, her grandmother was disappointed because she had hoped for a boy. While she was supposed to share everything from hospitality to her sister, her much younger brother got the best of food, better clothes, his own room, and his parents and grandmother probably got better much attention. But Ji Young’s kid didn’t think her brother was getting special treatment, so she wasn’t even jealous because he always was.
Kim Do-young’s 2019 movie “Kim Ji-young Born in 1982” is actually based on the novel of the same name by former TV screenwriter Cho Nam-joo. The novel was originally published in 2016 to coincide with the South Korean #MeToo movement. It has sold more than 1.3 million copies in the country and sold translation rights in about 20 countries. The book was endorsed by major politicians and K-pop icons, leading to increased sales.
In 2017, South Korean lawmakers purchased copies of “Kim Ji Young” for the entire legislature. Noh and Chan Justice Party politicians gave President Moon Jae-in a copy urging him to take care of women like Kim Ji-young. When Seoul passed a new budget with additional funding for childcare, the city’s mayor pledged to “no longer mourn for Kim Ji-young.” In the face of all this hype and controversy, you might imagine that the book and the movie are full of exaggeration. Instead, his story is mediocre, and that’s the point.
From childhood to adulthood, Zhiying’s behavior is protected by the male characters around her. From elementary school teachers forcing girls to wear school uniforms, to colleagues installing hidden cameras in women’s bathrooms and posting photos online. Although she worked hard, she was never promoted when unwanted male workers went places. In her father’s view, Ji Young’s fault was that she was harassed late at night by men. In the eyes of her husband, Zhiying gave up her career and looked after herself and her children, and it was her duty of courage to put her first.
Once a mother, she had to give up her career and her independence to care for her children. Zhiying is washing her two year old baby everyday and preparing breakfast for her husband. Then, she wrapped her arm around the baby to wash dishes and vacuum. When her husband comes home at night, he is washing the baby and putting him to bed. He repeated this procedure without a word.
She has to drive from Seoul to Busan, where her husband’s parents live, and cook and serve at least twice a year on Lunar New Year’s Day and the Korean October Harvest celebrations. Every year on her in-law’s birthday, she is assigned the same task. No one said that she would sacrifice her career and her life; instead, friends and family pointed out that she was doing what she had to do. Ji Young, a scared girl, takes everything to heart. She does not complain about her hard work and sacrifice, but failure has eroded her spirits. She needs an outlet to help her express her anger, sadness, or grief feelings.
Ji Young feels like a trespasser anywhere outside her home and is a slave to her duties as a housewife at home. She was bullied and abused by her mother-in-law because she was a weak and incompetent housewife. If all of this does not seem surprising to us, it is because most women in Asia are in the same position.
The film’s life segments further illustrate Ji Young’s daily struggles. Often there are quiet, lonely and depressing shots of Ji-young staring into space, sitting at home or in the park drinking coffee, reflecting her serious thinking about marriage and maternity options. We’ll see how Ji Young’s regime drains its energy from society’s microaggressions and becomes the cause of its collapse. Ji Young begins to act strangely, as if she were possessed by other women’s souls, including her mother, her living and dying, and then she does not remember to do so. Kim Ji Young is really all women. Here’s any 30-something housewife and mom you can walk down the street with. Marriage, pregnancy and childbirth are believed to still make women a drag on the workplace.
The flip side of the same argument is that a woman with a career cannot be a good wife and mother. Because of this stubborn belief, many women find themselves stuck at home fulfilling the mandatory social life goals of having and bringing up children, while men go to work to support their families.
It portrays men in contrast to other films about feminism, sexism and the #Metoo movement. This is far from hating human beings, as some would expect. Ji-young’s father is a stodgy, traditionally conservative Asian father who inadvertently and unintentionally withheld his own daughter simply because he inherited the practices of his previous generations. While her father represents the past, Ji Young’s husband, Jung Dae Hyun (Gong Yoo), is the present. He is supportive and caring, working hard to improve his wife’s mental health and make her happy. He is the ideal man to rush home from coming off work to give his toddler a bath and then put her to bed.
Then there’s future, brother Ji Young. He grew up with fair favor and better treatment than his sisters. As an adult, he realized this injustice and took the initiative to improve the situation, not repeat the mistakes of generations. It represents hope, and perhaps the image that the film hopes to elicit in a sympathetic audience.
It is a deeply held belief in Korean society that women must be mothers and care for the family, otherwise they will be considered worthless and damaged. However, once they fulfill this strict expectation, they will be hated and humiliated for doing the “work” they have been forced to do all their lives. South Korea’s toxic workplace is very biased toward male employees and often looks down on female candidates. Maternity and maternity leave are considered a “cost” to companies, which is why many companies avoid hiring women. Although one of the most educated countries, about half of all working-age women in the country remain at home and suffer from severe stigma around menstruation, pregnancy and childbirth.
All in all, “Jim Ji Young, born 1982” was a two-hour wake-up call for men about the daily challenges of misogyny that women face. It’s a good example of how few everyday happenings can drain women from the inside out. It also proves that Korean women cannot live peaceful lives without the social pressures that harm their mental health as Ji Young.