“In a world where doctors can cure cancer and do heart transplants, there isn’t a single pill to treat menstrual cramps. The world wants our uterus to be drug-free. Like sacred grounds in a virgin forest.”
The above lines are from the International Bestseller ‘Kim Ji-Young, born 1982’ written by a renowned South Korean author and feminist, Cho Nam-Joo. I watched this book’s movie adaptation which was released in 2019. I came to learn about the movie after reading about the ongoing outrage in South Korea due to its plot, direction, dialogues and above all, its message and portrayal of women’s suffering in Korean society. The movie highlights the life of a woman, named Kim Ji-Young, in her thirties who shares her childhood, teenage, adolescence and married life with her viewers. In the movie, she had gotten married three years ago and had had a daughter one year ago. She rents a small apartment on the outskirts of Seoul with her husband Jung Daehyun, thirty-six, and daughter Jung Jiwon. Daehyun works at a mid-size IT company, and Ji-Young used to work at a small marketing agency.
The main key of the movie is that almost every woman around the world can somehow relate to her. She was an ambitious student with a subtle nature. She wanted to be a successful businesswoman like her first boss, who despite being highly successful was judged by her employees for neglecting her household chores. What an irony! One of the most important scenes of the movie was when Kim Ji-Young was harassed during her school days. A boy touched her inappropriately during a bus ride and she ended up crying. Later, she discussed the incident with her father who then advised her not to wear a tight school uniform as it attracts boys of her age towards her. He was least bothered by the actions of the harasser but concerned more about her daughter’s clothes. An innocent and terrified Kim Ji-Young only then realized that no matter what boys do, girls are always held responsible even during heinous crimes like street harassment.
Another highlight of the movie is where Kim Ji-Young’s friend complains about the installation of hidden cameras in women’s restrooms of the company’s building. The movie successfully highlights the sufferings of women of all generations starting from Kim Ji-Young’s granny, mother and now, her own life’s struggle. The themes of the movie are gender-discrimination, misogyny, sexism, street/public harassment, issues of women’s safety in offices and mistreatment of daughters.
A major part of the movie deals with her mental condition during which she starts to act like the women around her like. Her husband realizes that there is something deeply wrong with her and takes help from a psychiatrist. Kim Ji-Young’s experiences and her mental health conditions reflect the true madness every woman in this world suffers from. Every scene has its own depth and pain. When she was harassed, she was blamed by her father. It is always considered to be the girl’s fault but no one dares to correct a boy. Her question over menstrual cramps medication highlighted that even science is only to cure men, not to cure a woman’s pain. Then comes her marriage and her unpaid labor. She works like a slave who receives no respect, compensation or even recognition of her unending efforts. She even leaves her career for her daughter but who cares about a woman’s career development and ambitions?
Kim Ji-young, Born 1982 is one of the most important movies of the century because of the following reasons:
1) Author’s authentic writing to highlight casual sexism occurring on a daily basis.
2) Woman’s unpaid labor and lack of recognition both inside and outside of the house.
3) A woman must always sacrifice everything for everyone, especially for the men (father, brother, or husband)
4) How every girl is trained to always be nice and submissive.
One can easily recognize or witness the highest level of misogyny by seeing how this book/movie is hated by many in Korea and the reason is considered to be that it distracts women from their responsibilities? Really? May I ask which responsibilities? Maybe domestic abuse, violence and harassment should be considered above her responsibilities.
This movie is all about the problems of the patriarchal structure of this world so that every human especially women can question this structure without falling into the trap of fake obligations or duty. I wholeheartedly appreciate the courage of Cho Nam-Joo to highlight the deep-rooted misogyny and horrors of this patriarchal world where a woman’s role, voice and existence is a mere joke for every misogynist. And in that case, keep fighting the misogyny and keep breaking the silence. I highly recommend all to watch this movie which reflects, highlights, investigates, and questions the plight of women in every corner of this world. I appreciate the great work of the actors and their portrayal of characters with such depth