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Thursday, March 18, 2004

(Social categories) "Even aunties are angry at the impeachment"

Hankyoreh (or to be precise Internet Hankyoreh) notes that even "aunties" (ajumma) have begun to show interest in politics with the impeachment process, and are condemning the matter "almost unanimously."
caption from Internet Hankyoreh, 2004.3.18
Discussion in women's portals have been thus far concentrating on sex, love, fashion, childrearing and so on, so political discussion has been very rare, says the text.
Leaving the issue on impeachment aside (see Oranckay for more) or Hankyoreh's take on the matter (reporting on what's beneficial for pres. Noh and "Uri" party), I'm paying attention to the use of ajumma here. There's the idea of political uninterest and immaturity (but also mobilizability at the time of elections) associated with "auntie"; they just talk about the things mentioned above, while the formally important matters are left for men. (See the Hankyoreh intention: the impeachment is so outrageous that even aunties are against it.)
Calling oneself ajumma - there's for example the site azoomma.com - does not necessarily mean acknowledging that one is ignorant of politics and so on, but it can also be used as kind of a way to get recognition based on "Korean values" of being able to relate to others, feel chông (情) and so on, especially compared to samonim. (That means literally "teacher's wife", but is widely used for "high people's" wifes. (Note that this is how things are told to be (represented), not necessarily how they are.)

(At least back in '99 during the "clothing lobby scandal" hearings, ajumma gained some status as a term compared to samonim, which came to symbolize much what was seen wrong in Korea; inequality, corruption, lavishness etc. Oh, there's this funny piece on (anthropologically speaking) terms of reference of women, from my "family source". In a southern coastal town where there's a huge ROK naval base and subsequently a lot of officers and their wives who think they are entitled to be called samonim, the shopkeepers avoid trouble of irritated customers by calling all the women of appropriate age by that term. Well, I guess there must be some ajummas in that town, too.