This book is about the role of women in Korean and Japanese politics over the past century. It is exceedingly rare to have a comparative analysis of politics in Japan and the Republic of Korea, which gives this book a special status. At the same time these are countries with remarkably low levels of political participation by women, so it is very important to have an analysis of the reasons for this outcome. In the 1970s women accounted for less than two percent of legislative representatives in Japan, and less than one percent in Korea; today women constitute about seven percent of the members in each legislature, but these levels are still comparatively low in the developed world: about forty-three percent of Sweden's legislators are women, and women constitute more than 30 percent of Germany's Bundestag; the level in the U.S. Congress is about thirteen per cent.
The explanation for this phenomenon is by no means simple, and the author traverses a complex argument beginning with the "late" industrialization of both countries, followed by long periods of military rule and excesses of nationalism in both that until relatively recently subordinated women to state-sponsored goals of rapid development and national unity, to the situation today where, at least in Korea, the role of women in politics is growing rapidly. Her account is based on numerous interviews in Korea and Japan, a deft use of public opinion polls, and a wide comparative reading in the literature on the history and politics of both countries. After examining a host of theoretical and conceptual approaches to understanding the role of women in politics, she combines an historical analysis with an examination of patriarchal culture in Japan and Korea, and then scrutinizes the way in which the two respective political systems have both formal and informal mechanisms that militate against women's participation. Furthermore at many points in the text she makes comparative judgments concerning women's participation in Europe and the United States.
Youngtae Shin is a professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond, USA. She earned her Ph.D. in political science at the University of Washington in Seattle. She has published widely on various women's issues. Her research interests include relations between state and society, especially in the areas of protest politics and social change. She is currently writing a book on the role of housewives in protest politics in South Korea.
Acknowledgments; Preface by Bruce Cumings; 1. Introduction; 2. Nationalism and Feminism; 3. Political Institutions and Cultural Operations; 4. Selection and Recruitment of Candidates; 5. Women, Political Aliens and Grassroots Movements; 6. Conclusion; Appendixes; Bibliography; Index