“Don’t call us as ajumma!”, “You just try to glorify ajummas!”, “Ajummas are different people from us, they’re low-educated and from the countryside!”

I can’t write every single reaction from people when I presented my research about Ajumma in one conference last time. Yes, I was pretty shock to get those reactions. They were Korean middle-aged women. They’re all working moms and I don’t want to specify their personal backgrounds any more.

When I wrote about Yeohyeom (misogyny in some way) before, I thought there is ‘miso-ajumma in Korea as well. Misogyny is combined by two words, miso+gyny so I just combined miso and ajumma which means dislike of ajummas. I know the people (not every one) are not happy about ajummas and people don’t want to be (or called as) ‘ajummas’ at the same time. The title of ajumma is for middle-aged women in Korea. I already explained the origin of the word ajumma, there’s no such negative meanings are included with the word ajumma. One of the women from the conference argued that using the word ajumma is only for the maid women or women who served in the restaurants.  And another woman also told me that the word ajummas should be used only for older women who are low-educated, full-time housewives with ajummarous fashion style. WHAT?????

I know calling as ‘ajummas’ are still unwelcome thing for women in Korea because of biased perspective about ajummas through various types of media (TV dramas, commercials, blogs, social media etc.) we meet everyday. But I don’t understand why calling women as ‘ajummas’ is such insulting remarks? And why those middle-aged women (who don’t want to be called as ajummas) have condescending attitude and thought about ajummas? (the maid, low-educated, etc.)

I found miso-ajumma from this experience. Why did they think ‘middle-aged women’ are better than ‘ajummas’? What kind of standards do they base their conclusion on? Like an example of Kim Yeo-sa (Mrs. Kim), some or many of ajummas are the target of hatred only because they are ajummas. (I don’t mean that ‘Kim Yeo-sa’ have no problem at all, you should read the related article about Kim Yeo-sa (pink coloured linked one just above)). It was very difficult to keep writing this post about misoajumma or misogyny. Maybe it is still complicated to understand what misogyny is in contemporary society in Korea. At the same time, it is very careful to write about this issue in Korea at this time. So it takes so long to finish this post and I will write more about this later for sure.




Kim Yeo-sa (Mrs. Kim)

Have you heard about Kim Yeo-sa? In the previous post I mentioned about biased views about ajummas (e.g. The Third Gender) I mentioned how ajummas are treated generally in Korea. Kim Yeo-sa is another representative example to show how people have prejudice against ajummas especially for ajumma drivers.


(Be Aware an Ajumma!!)

(image from http://gift.kyobobook.co.kr/ht/product/detail?barcode=2310003451616)


Kim Yeo-sa illustrates how ajumma drivers are satirically applied to Korean society. The most ajumma drivers were known and called collectively as Kim Yeo-sa. Kim is the most common surname in Korea and Yeo-sa means Madame in English so Kim Yeo-sa means Mrs. Kim. Various new media reports that Mrs. Kim caused car accidents due to her unskilled driving. However, one thing needs to be considered that there is dispute about the word Mrs. Kim. It is a (sexual) prejudice against female drivers as unskilled and inexperienced compared with male drivers. For example, there is not such a word, Mr. Kim for unskilled and inexperienced male drivers. Moreover, Mrs. Kim is only for middle-aged and married women, ajummas. (The word Mrs. Kim is not used for single and younger female drivers) And even other non ajumma female drivers call ajumma drivers as Mrs. Kim.

HJ Kim:

I’ve been driving for more than 15 years but I still feel scared and expect insults when I drive. I think they (men and non-ajummas) look down ajummas only because we are ajummas. 

RK Hwang:

They just ignored us because we are ajummas. And people don’t care whether we are well experienced drivers or not.

(Focus group Interview from my research)

Ajumma drivers were treated just as Mrs. Kim who are unskilled drivers whether these ajumma drivers are really good at driving or not. People just don’t care about their skills, rather they put ajumma drivers together and dismiss them as Mrs. Kim.

There is an episode about Mrs. Kim when non-ajumma drivers met unskilled Mrs. Kim on the road. They (non-ajumma drivers, mostly male drivers) yelled to Mrs. Kim “Go home and cook dinner instead!!!”

How rude they are!

However, you know ajummas, they are strong and superwomen. They seem undaunted by these biased views about Kim Yeo-sa. Their responses for this are,

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 3.27.05 PMScreen Shot 2015-12-29 at 3.27.12 PM

They accepted themselves as Mrs. Kim and they are now trying to improve their driving skills (if they’re unskilled or inexperienced drivers).

Of course some of Mrs. Kim and also Mr. Kim are nuisances on the road. However, we have to remember that all of ajumma drivers should not be considered as Mrs. Kim. Many of ajummas drivers are very good at driving and many of non ajumma drivers are not good at driving as well. Thus, we should have fair-minded about ajumma drivers.