Monday, January 24, 2011

Their Heroinic Tears (面對阿珠媽們的我的態度)

Ajummas (아줌마, middle aged women), probably top expats in Korea's "list of hatred". They seems always bbali bbali (빨리빨리, hurriedly), they jump the queue, shout in public, push people to make way, obsessed with petty advantages... they just don't seem to make you feel comfortable.

I used to hate many things about this country, and I criticized a lot. But sometimes, when I passed by the Han River, overlooking the scenery outside the window, the beautiful riverside parks and bicycle tracks, carefully planted trees, expansive cross river bridges... I marveled at modern Korean people's achievements. And back to the roots, what had initially made all these possible?

The Ajummas. They gave birth to the generations that brought Korea from the WW2 ashes to this developed country today. Burdened by their various roles as mother, daughter in law, wife, producer, housekeeper... how can they not be how they are as of today? Whereas man, the so called "master of the family", can rest after coming back from work, leave his plates on the dining table after meal and go for a cigarette, put dirty clothes in the basket after shower, woman has to cook, do the dishes and laundry, and everything. So how can they not be bbali bbali? How can they behave with repose? They have to be tough and unyielding, only looking at desired results, at whatever expense.

Korean ajumma's classic outfit
for weekend's mountain hiking(left)
Now, they are supposed to be more released when they reached their 50s. So they go mountain hiking on Saturdays, church on Sundays, other than that they go han jeung mak (한증막, sauna) with their middle aged friends, gossip unsubstantiated things and complain about their husbands. This seem to be an ideal outcome for rewarding their efforts in the past decades. However, for woman in their mid 50s right now, everything is just superficial. A lot of them are still burdened with debts from house mortgage, children's university tuition loans, and preparation for children's wedding expenses (the groom's family is supposed to prepare house and car). Burden after burden makes them seek religion for recourse. According to report, whereas 11% of Danish middle aged women have religious belief, 78% of Korean middle aged women resort to religion for spiritual comfort. Therefore one should be be too surprised if the number of churches exceeds that of convenience stores (especially in Seoul city area).

Maybe I am just too sensitive. Maybe I am just too sentimental. I came to feel uneasy later on when I see churches in Korea. Along the steeples of the churches, I as though can see tears trickling down, telling of a story of a generation of Korean women from the 50s. It could be religion, it could be economy, it could be a better job for their children, I sincerely hope Ajummas be rewarded one day, with what they really deserved.

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