Ajummas are cheering for the Garlic Girls! (Korea’s women’s curling team)

Uiseong county is very famous for garlic in South Korea. So our women’s curling team is called as garlic girls because four of them (the team) are from Uiseong. They’re friends and sisters each other whom were born and grew up in the same town, Uiseong.

This is our first time that our curling team went to the final (and even semi-final) so our nation is very exciting to watch their match and especially their hometown is now enjoying this winter olympic because of those amazing Garlic Girls. Many of international reporters reported about them (e.g. NYT) and their hometown through different types of media during last few days. And they were very interested in the people of Uiseong and how they’re cheering for their hometown girls. Most of them are ajummas and they brought their homemade signs, screamed and even danced together! This is amazing!!! When I read their articles and watched videos on YouTube, I was so glad to know that those international reporters filmed about our energetic and sweet ajummas. They are not mothers of garlic girls but they are those girls’ neighbours so they prepared homemade signs and danced together to cheer for their ‘hometown daughters’. Because they feel like those garlic girls are their daughter (even though they’re not their biological mother but they’re mother!).

These ajummas are cheering for their daughters because they want to share their ‘Jeong’ with those girls, I think. This video of people in Uiseong makes me laugh and cry. Beautiful ajummas with warmheartedness.

Ajumma fans at the concert, so what?

Fandom culture is very strong in Korea as well as other countries. A variety types of fan clubs are formed and those fans do many activities for their ‘stars’. Like other communities, fan clubs are considered as one of communities with people who got the similar interests each other. In this case, similar interest should be a ‘star’. A star could be sportswoman/man, actors, artists, singers, models, writers, filmmakers, politicians (maybe?), or even characters of animation or comic books whom are living in the imaginary space. Among these examples of fan club, I would like to talk about a case of one of band’s fan club in Korea.

Twitter is a sort of an intersection for people to share common or uncommon ideas and thoughts. I didn’t use tweeter for last few years but now I’m one of active users of tweeter. There are many reasons why I use twitter but one reason could be that it is useful to share information from other fans about my favourite singer. At the same time, we could share the concert review with each other after every concert. Actually I’m not a very active fan like other fans, but I could be an active fan through interactive communication with other fans on twitter whom I followed. Even though we never tweetup before but we meet almost everyday on twitter. It is so glad to know someone who have same interests with me and share our thoughts about the same thing together.

However, it happened few days ago. There is another online community website for this singer and a sort of a quarrel between fans was occurred. These fans argue about something related to the singer on the BBS. I have no interest in this online community website at all, so I didn’t know about this website that much. But one thing I knew about this website is that most of them who take very active roles are quite younger than other old fans of the singer. Anyway, there’s a quarrel between fans and one of fans wrote her or his thought on the BBS. I was outraged at the way she/he had written. Here is a sentence that makes me uncomfortable.

“Some of old fans are annoying and they’re mean towards younger fans, and you know what? The concert was teeming with ajumma fans!!!”

Well, it was interesting to me to know what younger people consider old woman (they think over 30s is ‘old’, she/he wrote). And it’s not shocking the way this kind of people think about ajummas or old woman because I’m a researcher or a sort of expert of ajumma research, so I know. But I was angry to read that sentence because of their old-fashioned mind or thinking about women, especially old women (over 30s is OLD? of course it is not young age but not too old yet?).


(Ajumma fans at the Yong Pil Cho‘s concert, image from: http://5505.ohmynews.com, or click the image to visit the website)

What’s wrong with old women? (over 30s?) Is there any law and regulations that old women (over 30s) are prohibited to come to the concert? And what’s wrong with ajummas? Okay, if they’re official ajummas, SO WHAT? You know what? The singers you like are over 30s too. Then, why do you think only female fans who are over 30s should be treated as annoying ajummas? As I mentioned in previous post, I think they have a sort of misogynistic perspective towards women, especially non-younger women.

According to them, I’m an ajumma because I’m over 30. But I will keep going and enjoying their concert as much as I can. I don’t care what others think about ajummas (women who are over 30s, they said). But one thing that I feel disappointed is their prejudiced and outdated view of ajummas. Oh, don’t forget! You’ll be an ajumma very soon, too.


Holiday Syndrome?

Time flies and it’s already February in 2016! Of course we had new year holidays at the beginning of this year, January. However, we (Koreans) have another new year on this coming Monday (8th Feb 2016). From yesterday we’re having a new year holiday until mid of next week. Most people (non-Koreans) think this late new year is called ‘Chinese New Year’. It is so true but we say Korean new year or just Lunar new year. I love holiday (who doesn’t?) especially Korean holidays because I can meet my cousins, aunties, uncles etc. Sadly, my grandma had passed away two years ago so I can’t see her lovely smile any more but still I love to meet my relatives.

Whenever I say I love Korean holidays to my friends especially married ones, all of them told me, “if you are married, you couldn’t love Korean holidays any more, for sure!”. I know what they mean because this is very controversial topic for every Korean woman (especially married women). It is ‘Holiday Syndrome’!

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Ajummas in the supermarket to do grocery shopping for Korean New Year 2016

Traditionally, we have a memorial service for ancestors (e.g. great-great-grandparents, great-grandparents, grandparents) on every Korean holiday such as Korean new year, Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving day) etc. On these holidays, we have to prepare food for ancestral rites table and at the same time for ourselves (family members). This is very good Korean tradition to admire our ancestors on every Korean holiday and relatives could be able to reunite together regularly through enjoying these Korean holidays. However, there is a big problem.

As I mentioned before in my blog post about Women in Korea (2) Before IMF on 11th Jan 2016, Korean society was severe patriarchal society from 1980s to 1990s. Women (mothers, wives, ajummas) had to sacrifice their lives to support husbands and children. This happened in the past and now the society has been changed a lot. Women are also working outside and they push themselves hardly to build their careers. They’re not staying at home to support their family by sacrificing their lives any more. I don’t mean that sacrificing their lives to support husbands and children like our mothers in the past were worthless. I mean the women in today have more opportunities to build their careers than 1980s so they can’t just be a stay-at-home mother rather they should work outside for their careers.

However, the problem is that the social structure and people’s mind haven’t changed a lot. It is like we can do real-time free video chatting through our smartphones  but people still use only voice calling with their high-tech smartphones. Society forces women to build their careers and get higher education but this society doesn’t allow women to be free from their family affairs that the society thinks ‘women’s full time job’. This can be a jump of logic but I think Korea is still very much patriarchal society even though there are so many opportunities for women, especially married women to work outside to build their careers compared with before in 1980s.

Holiday syndrome was also came from this patriarchal social structure, I think. All the daughters-in-law must go to their mothers-in-law’ houses to prepare food for their ancestors on every Korean holiday. And the problem is that many of husbands (or sons of mother-in-law, father-in-law or any ‘male’ human beings) don’t support, help or assist their wives at all. They think preparation of food for their ancestors are entirely ‘women’s duty’ for a very long time so these husbands never try to help their wives. Also mother-in-law don’t want their sons to work in the kitchen. This is also related to the Korean concept of predominance of man over woman. For this reason, there was a saying that ‘male must not come in the kitchen’. 


daughters in law with a mother in law prepare food
image from <http://blog.daum.net/youngho7995/99>

I understand how Korean society had the feudalistic convention of regarding men as superior to women in the past. But the past is past and now is now. We have to change our wrong feudalistic thinking about men and women. Korean holidays are more than worth to enjoy because we can learn our histories, traditions and even ‘Jeong’ with our family and relatives. We are also allowed to think about our ancestors and our roots as well. If our mothers and daughter in law can’t enjoy these holidays, preparing food for other family members can’t be women’s duty any more. It become just women’s stressful work.


image from <http://news.kmib.co.kr>

The news reports about holiday syndrome of married women can be seen on TV or in the Internet every year. Our ajummas are suffering from Korean holiday syndrome for many years. The resolution is very simple. Holidays are for everyone. Please do prepare together and enjoy together.

‘Male must come in the kitchen. You’re more than welcome’


image from Pocket Monster, <http://bbs2.ruliweb.daum.net/gaia/do/ruliweb/family/230/read?bbsId=G005&articleId=7994370&itemId=75>

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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