An Awesome Advisor

I am very fortunate to have Dr. Helen Schneider as my advisor. Although her work is concentrated in China, she has extensive knowledge of East Asia, including Korea. She is also very familiar with Japanese colonialism. Japanese colonialism played a large role in Korea as the country was annexed by Japan in 1910. As a part of their colonial policies toward Korea, Japan tried to eradicate the Korean language and Korean culture.

In meeting with Dr. Schneider, we have discussed many preliminary, foundational lines of research and inquiry. She graciously shared a number of secondary sources with me, which I continue to learn from, interrogate and note implications for my research from. Through our discussions (as well as attending her undergraduate class on Chinese history), a key idea that has emerged and is shaping my thinking on my topic is Confucian ideas about women’s roles and proper “spaces”.

At the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century, Korea prided itself on being the most Confucian state in the world. Neo-Confucianism ideals played a prominent role in Korean society. For women this meant very fixed ideas about their role in the social order, in the family as well as their proper “space” for being. Societal norms put great pressure on women to conform to Confucian principles.

One of these customs was the “inside-outside rule”. The “inside-outside rule” proscribed spatial dimensions for women and men. Women’s place was inside. Men’s place was outside. And when they said inside, they meant inside. One of the first primary sources I have looked at is an article written by a Christian Korean evangelist in the Korean publication 신학 워보 Sinhak Weolbo (Monthly Magazine on Christian Theology founded in 1900). 문경호 (Mun Kyongho) writes a scathing article about the implications for women of the “inside-outside rule.” He laments that women are treated like material objects in Korea who are relegated to their homes as slaves who cook, sew and do all kinds of odd jobs for husbands who routinely criticize them and treat them as objects of domination. Mun continues by drawing a distinction between men who are free to move about and enjoy the finer things of life but “prohibit their wives from moving even one step outside the house.”[1] While this source will have to be investigated for its overarching language, I believe that at the crux of his argument lies a truth about the spatial area assigned to women and the real-life implications of that ideal. I believe these very strict spatial boundaries will have implications for my research on women missionaries and the rise of Christianity Korea.

I am very thankful and appreciative of Dr. Schneider’s guidance and illumination so far and her gracious agreement to be my advisor.

[1] Mun kyeongho,문경호 ,The Custom of the Inside-Outside Rule, in New Women in Colonial Korea: A Sourcebook, 1 edition, ed./translator Hyaeweol Choi (Routledge, 2013).


Filed under Uncategorized

4 Responses to An Awesome Advisor

  1. KJ

    Implications because women missionaries were banned from certain activities? Or implications because Korean women found the critique of inner-outer liberating? Or is this a question you have to investigate?

  2. faithskiles

    I certainly am just beginning to investigate, but early thoughts fall along a couple of lines. First, the inner-outer space rule prohibited women from moving much out of their homes and certainly prohibited them from much interaction with men, especially foreign men. Therefore, women missionaries and Korean Bible women would be the only ones allowed in their space. Women converts greatly outstripped male converts in early evangelization in Korea. This seems to point to a large role for female missionaries, as well as Korean Bible women, in the christianization of Korea.
    The second dynamic would have to do with ideas found in Blacherd’s book. First the idea of the shell, of the creature in the shell looking for, preparing a way out. For instance, Bible women were successful in entering Korean women’s home because the women desired to learn the Korean language, something Bible women taught with gospel lessons. Literacy pushed against the “shell” against the suffocating intimacy of knowing nothing of the outside world. Korean women also came to Bible schools because they gave out diplomas. Korean women wanted the diploma. A diploma indicated public recognition and the qualifications to do public work. A desire for “a way out” may have played into the overwhelming numbers of women who came to Christianity. Idealized images and memories of home also played into American missionaries philosophy of evangelization which centered on showing Korean women the felicities of the missionary home.

  3. Kate Good

    Short and sweet: it sounds like you found who you need to get the most out of your project. She seems like the perfect adviser for you (beyond the topic matter too – your personalities look like they click well, which is very helpful!). As I keep saying, I can’t wait to see how this project continues to form as we move forward!

  4. Claire

    Hi Faith,

    I am interested in your idea of focusing on women’s spaces in Confucian culture. Are you finding any sources about Confucian-Christian syncrety and how that has effected the role of women in Korea? Maybe I am kind of obsessed with cultural hybridity, but suspect there is a lot of information there.


Leave a Reply