Sorry, I’m not an ajumma


In several years ago, I worked as a casual lecturer at university in Seoul. At that time, I was preparing for applying PhD and some required documents for the applications (i.e. research proposal) were stored in my laptop. The document folder for research proposal was named ‘ajumma’ and it was on my laptop. One day, after the class two students came to me and hesitated for a moment. Few seconds later, they finally asked, “Are you an ajumma?”

I said “No, why?”

“Then why you have so many ajumma folders on your laptop?”

I replied “No, I’m not, I’m not an ajumma (laugh)”


They thought I was an ajumma for sure because there are so many folders named as ‘ajumma’.



During my field research in Seoul, South Korea, I participated in the ‘ajumma day'( on 31st May. I suffered from chronic back pain so I walked very slowly at that time so I almost missed the elevator. (I planned to catch the next elevator because I didn’t want to run or walk faster)

Suddenly, a caretaker for that building saw me and he tried to hold an elevator for me. The elevator was jam packed with ajummas and all of them includes a kind caretaker were waiting for me. (Oh no)

And he yelled at me, “Ajumma!! I hold an elevator for you so walk slowly!!”

I looked around and I realised that ‘ajumma’ was me. Yes, that ajumma was me…I was an ajumma…he reckon…

Thanks for his kindness, I could catch that elevator but I felt awkward. I know I research about ajummas and I really admire them in many ways but when I was called as an ajumma by someone, I felt strange. I reckon maybe I still have prejudice about ajummas? I still think being recognised as an ajumma is unwelcome thing? Why did I feel strange?


Ajumma is strong!

Whenever I go to the market, I can observe the lives of various types of people. While I am staying in Melbourne or Seoul, going to the market on Saturday is a part of weekly routine for me. Now I more often go to the market since I’ve started doing my PhD research project about ajummas. In the market, I can meet so many types of ajummas who are yelling loudly to sell vegetables or haggling over the price of fruits between seller ajummas and customer ajummas. In addition, it is amazing that snack stall ajummas could remember every order without bills or calculators in the market! And there are strong ajummas who carry heavy shopping baskets for their family.

For last several years and even now, ajummas made contributions to Korean economic development. These ajummas in Korea, they are strong enough to support their family and Korean society.

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