Gold Collection

IMF (International Monetary Funds)  brought serious economic pain to every Korean family but people in Korea became one to overcome this economic crisis together at the same time.

Ten tons of gold was collected by people only in 2 days

video from KBS News in 6th January 1998 <>

Gold collection is one of the representative examples of campaigns during the IMF, from 1997 to 1998. The gold collection campaign was diffused to the whole nation regardless of age and gender. In particular, many housewives gave up their wedding rings and their children’s first-birthday rings to support the nation’s economy.

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People in Korea brought and donated their gold to the government with no string attached during 1997 to 1998. The only reason to donate their gold was for saving their country and “becoming a powerful nation”. This movement can be explained with Korean collectivism.

Ajumma 아줌마 by Pixcel

Ajumma! from Jung Moon on Vimeo.

아줌마 이미지를 Pixcel이라는 앱을 통해 만들어 보았습니다. 다음에는 좀 더 정교하게 한 번 더 만들어 볼께요. 아줌마 화이팅!

I tried to make an animated ajumma by using an app called ‘Pixcel’ on my smartphone. I will try better ‘ajummarous animated image’ for next time. Ajumma Fighting!

Have a good weekend all ajummas! 모든 아줌마분들! 좋은 주말 보내세요!

Have a good weekend all ajummas!

좋은 주말 보내시길 바랍니다. 우리 아줌마분들!


‘Ajumma Locksmith’ in Seoul

‘아줌마 열쇠’ 서울의 한 열쇠가게 이름

Women in Korea (3) IMF 1997

We had IMF in 1997. IMF (International Monetary Funds), this economic crisis leads to the “reversal of traditional gender roles and endangered the stability of the patriarchal nuclear family system” (Kim 2008, p.392). Due to the worsening of economic conditions, women had to come out of the houses to work rather than being good mothers and wives at home. They had to be good mothers and wives at home and at the same time, these women had to work outside of home to earn money. In other words, women in Korea during IMF, they became breadwinners as well. However, most ajumma were part time  lower-paid workers such as cashers at supermarkets.

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image from the movie ‘Cart (2014)’, <>

Even though they were part time workers who got low pay, they worked really hard because they believed that the improvement of each family’s economic condition can be a cornerstone of Korea’s economic growth. People in Korea during IMF, they tried to overcome the IMF together. However, still it blew to every family’s economy. In May 1998, more than 80% of households in Korea suffered very much in the reduction of income. Fathers lost their jobs so they could not fulfil the role of fathers and husbands in their family.


image from Monthly Chosun <>

In 1998, there were 42% increase of suicide rate compared to the previous year. Male had higher percentage than female in the report. It could be assume that fathers couldn’t able to do their duties to their families because of unemployments and crippling debts. Therefore, mass media encourages people to recognise the importance of their fathers in the family. For example, “save the head of the family”, “encourage men” and “support and cheer up our fathers”. Besides, people do various campaigns for the nation and gold collection was one of them. I will post about ‘gold collection’ campaign soon.



TV Commercial in 1997 by KIA motors “We can do it!”

Reference: (1) Kim, S 2008, ‘Feminist Discourse and the Hegemonic Role of Mass Media’, Feminist Media Studies, vol. 8, no. 4, pp. 391-406.


Digital swish of skirt

In the previous post, I talked about ‘Women in Korea (2)-1: swish of skirt in 1980s’. This education fever still remains in Korean society but mothers (ajummas) today followed different ways that I called ‘digital swish of skirt’. Compared with non-smartphone era which is from 1980s to early 2000, the use of smartphones change our life styles in many ways likewise the enthusiasm of education among ajummas. This means that ajummas could be able to get involved in supporting their children’s education easily through using their smartphones. There are various apps that helps mothers (ajummas) to share useful information about their children’s education for example, “Which Hak-won (private educational institution) do you go?“. This app provides people’s various opinions and useful information about private educational institutions for parents and their children. So it helps both parents and their children to choose better private educational institutions. This app determines the ranking of private educational institutions according to the actual statistical data. Parents can ask questions or answer others’ questions interactively through using app on their smartphones in real time.

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There are many types of apps for parents who concern their children’s education in Korea. I cannot enumerate every app in this blog but one thing that I can say is these types of apps for parents are increasing significantly. The term ‘swish of skirt’ is not used broadly today but I can see the swish of skirt phenomena still remains today. I call it ‘Digital swish of skirt’. Ajummas (mothers) are overly involved in their children’s education today through using education related apps on their smartphones. They becomes smart ajummas.

Women in Korea (2)-1 Swish of skirt in 1980s

The ‘swish of skirt’ means that mothers are getting overly involved in the schooling for their children. During the 1980s swish of skirt phenomena was serious social problem in Korea. Some mothers move into areas concentrated with of private academic educational institutions such as Gang Nam School District 8. Also the expensive private lessons were prevalent in that area so Korean government conducted crackdown people who were related to those expensive private lessons.


Tutors who were involved in the expensive private lessons were brought to the police station in 1988
image from Kyung Hyang Newspaper, <>

Mothers in 1980s, they thought that entering their children to good university (SKY, Seoul University, Korea University, Yonsei University) is their goal and duty as mothers because mothers believed that qualification (especially graduating a good university) determines their children’s lives.


Mothers (ajummas) waited and prayed for their children to pass a university entrance examination withough leaving while students were taking the exam.
image from: Samsung & You Premium, <>


This education fever of South Korean mothers was continuously overheated to make their children entering the good universities. Thus, Korea stands the first regarding domestic expenses on education in the world. Since 1980s, women in Korea playing both roles, “professional mother” and “professional housewives”. They are like a superwomen. As I mentioned before, ajummas are superwomen.

We still have education fever and ajummas of course still concern their children’s education. For example, there are Helicopter mothers and Kangaroo mothers. They are overly involved into not only their children’s education, but also their private lives (e.g. hobby, a network of friends, jobs and even marriage).


image from <>


 image from <>

But I think the way of ‘swish of skirt’ changes into sort of ‘digital swish of skirt’ in these days. In other words, mothers (ajummas) in these days became smart for their children’s education. This means that many of ajummas (mothers) use their smartphones to search information and useful sources for their children’s education. I will talk about ‘Digital swish of skirt’ in next post.

Women in Korea (2) Before IMF

As I mentioned in the previous post, women in Korea after the Korean War during 1960s to 1970s (of course women workers were still working hard in 1980s as well) made a significant economic growth. After that period,  the majority of middle-aged males led the remarkable economic growth in manufacturing especially 1970s to 1980s. Men as breadwinners and women as housewives were considered as a matter of course. Thus becoming a full time housewives was a common thing after marriage for women and being a ‘wise mother and good wife’ was dreaming image for married women in Korea at that time. Most married women during 1980s had to quit their jobs because they had less opportunity to work in the company compared with married men.

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Married women became ‘wise mother and good wife’ to raise their children and support husbands at home, whereas married men’s duty was ‘working hard to support their family’ as breadwinners. So Korean men worked the longest hours in the world because they had to work from early morning to midnight and even during the weekends. For this reason, most Korean families became ‘father-absent and mother-involved’ family.


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(image from ‘Reply 1988′ tvn

Role of mothers is increasingly significant for their children because most families were ‘father-absent and mother-involved’. At the same time, mothers made sacrifices for their children and they especially gave full support of their children’s education.

(This can’t be explained simply but I can assume that most Korean mothers were not working outside home at that time so they put their heart and soul into educating their children. They believed that entering good universities were the most important thing for their children in Korean society)

So ‘the swish of skirt’ was occurred among mothers in 1980s and 1990s. And it still remains. I will write about ‘the swish of skirt’ for next posting.


Ajumma is FAST! 아줌마는 빠르다!



Here is a TV commercial that describes how fast ajummas are. In this TV commercial, they emphasises that their LTE service is faster than ajummas in the subway. This means they’ve provided the fastest LTE service in Korea. In reality, ajummas are faster than Usain Bolt in the subway, for sure.

지금 보여지는 이 광고는 아줌마가 얼마나 빠른지에 대해서 보여주고 있다. 이 광고를 통해, 그들이 제공하는 LTE 서비는 아줌마보다 빠른, 즉 대한민국에서 가장 빠른 LTE서비스를 제공하고 있다는 것을 강조하고 있다. 진짜로 대한민국 아줌마들은 지하철에서만큼은, 우사인 볼트보다 빠르다! 정말로!


Women in Korea (1) 1970s

To talk about women in Korea is not easy and  complicated to explain in this blog post. However, one thing that I can say is Korean women became  great power to support whenever we have difficulties and they were backbone of the growth of Korean economy. So I will write about ‘Women in Korea’ and I categorised by chronological order because ‘Women in Korea’ is a big topic to write in one post.

(1)1970s (After the Korean War)

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 12.28.16 PMWomen in Korea, they have contributed to the country’s economic development. Just after the Korean War during 1950s to 1970s, large numbers of female factory workers made a significant contribution to export-led industrialisation. Today, there are so many things or almost everything is made in China, but during that time, especially 1970s made in Korea products were famous in the world. One of my aunty lives in the USA and she said that many of made in Korea products were easily found such as stuffed dolls (e.g. teddy bear), wigs, socks, etc.

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Representative Exports during 1960s-1970s (taken in Seoul Museum of History)

Young girls worked in the factory instead of going to schools because they had to earn money for their family. They stayed in the factory dormitory and worked all day. Those young girls are now became ajummas today and they are aged over 60s like my mother’s generation.

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I will talk about ‘Women in Korea (2) Before IMF (International Monetary Funds)’ for next post.

War of the mom (SBS Special, TV documentary)

Last Sunday on 3rd Jan 2016, I watched a TV documentary which titled ‘War of the Mom’ by SBS (Seoul Broadcasting System). It is the first of a trilogy and it tells how working moms struggled by themselves to handle the parenting as a mom and the careers as a human being.

This documentary brought two different cases of working moms in South Korea. Both of them are working full time and having two children. Their husbands also full time workers in the company so the raring of children is always a big issue for them.

It is true that living as working moms in Korea (maybe other countries as well) is not easy at all. Compared to so called ‘ajumma generation (approx 50 to 60 years old)’ most young moms (i.e. ‘mom generation’) are working outside. For this reason, it’s hard to maintain the proper balance between work and home for these working moms.

At the beginning, I thought this documentary tried to bring the issues of working moms in Korea how they have difficulties of being a mom and a human being (a  worker for her future career). However, I was disappointed after watching this documentary. It showed the difficulties of working mothers in some ways, but it still keeps repeating the same thing that we already know about it. For example,

What will be the most important to you, working moms?

Work or Home (Children)?

Furthermore, the last question that was asked by producer of that documentary was terrible. He asked a question to one of interviewees,

Do you think are you a mom or a woman?

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The interviewee didn’t answer about that question, I think she couldn’t answer.

This question is also related to ‘ajummas’ in Korea as well. Most people think ajummas are not women, they are just ajummas. However, I think this question includes so many problems such as the biased perspective about married women and ajummas.

Mothers are women and women are mothers.

Both mothers and women are human beings.

I really want to ask that producer of this documentary.

Are you a man or a father?


Ajumma vs Nuna (older/big sister)

It’s 2016!

I start blogging since last December as a part of my PhD project, ‘Smart Ajumma’. In this blog, I would like to introduce various photos of ajummas in Korea and the blog posts are more similar to written records like diary rather than academic thesis. I hope people in Korea and anywhere get chances to comprehend who ajummas are and redefine what ajummas are through having interactive communication on this blog for example making comments. So please come to this blog often and feel free to share your ideas about ajummas or Korea. Happy New Year again!

I went to Namdaemun Market today. Namdaemun Market is always my favourite to visit since I was very young (with my mum). There are small old shops in every alley ways and especially I loved to buying some imported snacks (e.g. sweets from USA) in Namdaemun. These days I can find them everywhere but it was rarely sold when I was very young.

Going to Namdaemum Market is not difficult by public transport (e.g. bus) from my town. Whenever I go to Namdaemun Market, I can have a chance to visit variety of shops in Myeong-dong because they are located close with each other. In addition, I can see many ajummas in Namdaemun Market especially a small shopping mall that is called ‘Common Plaza’. They sell mostly women’s clothing especially for middle-aged women, ajummas, whose age range is around over 50. Whenever I visit there, I never seen a male or a  younger female customer except me.

In that shopping mall (it is located in Namdaemun Market), I feel like I’m visiting an island of ajummas. It looks like someone bring all of those ajumma customers from somewhere (special planet) we never been before. So many ajummas with having similar hair styles, fashion styles and even body figures! (similar height etc.)

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Unfortunately, I couldn’t see many ajummas today because the weather wasn’t good and I arrived there almost at closing time (1:30 pm). For this reason, I headed to the street stall where it sells red bean porridge nearby that shopping mall. There are no table neither chair but customers still can enjoy their porridge. And most customers of this porridge stall are ajummas. Thus, I brought my porridge and leaned against the wall like other ajummas also do.

Then, a young male was selling cosmetics to those ajummas who were having red bean porridge. Those ajummas looked like over 50 and 60 years old. That young male seller said,

“Nuna! (older/big sister) You have pretty face! Why don’t you concern ‘skin care’ with this product! I guarantee you will be look like 10 years younger than your actual age with using this product!”

Ajummas were laughing together and one of them bought a facial cream from him. This ajumma asked the young male seller taking a selfie together and they took a photo with her smartphone. (Well, that young male seller is a lesser-known comedian so this ajumma wanted to take a selfie together). After selling a facial cream to one of ajummas, he left that place and said to ajummas,

“Nuna! I hope to see you all for next time again!”

Ajummas continued to eat red bean porridge and talked about that comedian who sold cosmetics few minutes ago. I really enjoyed that situation as an observer. How amazing this situation is! The ajummas and a young male seller who wanted to sell cosmetic products to ajummas! He called ajummas as ‘Nuna!’ instead of ‘Ajumma!’ and those ajummas were happy to be called as ‘Nuna!’ rather than ‘Ajumma’.

Yes, ajummas are women. If he call them, “Ajumma!”, was he still able to sell the facial cream? I think these ajummas felt happy because that young male seller call them as ‘Nuna’. Of course these ajummas know this young male seller call them as ‘Nuna’ because he tried to make these ajummas happy as a sort of marketing strategies. However, ajummas still enjoy that moments through communicating with other ajummas and a young male seller.

Why ‘ajumma’ became an unwelcome word to be called among women in Korea?

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Happy New Year! 새해에도 아줌마 화이팅!


Happy New Year all the ajummas in Korea and everywhere!! Ajummas, you ROCK!!!

올 한해도 모두 수고하셨습니다. 아줌마 여러분! 새해에도 멋지고 즐겁게 그리고 건강한 인생을 즐기시길 바랍니다. 늘 응원합니다! 대한민국 아줌마 모두 화이팅!