Gender in Korean Language

In traditional society, Korean women often place themselves in a position of powerlessness, and this in turn is observed in their everyday speech patterns. Some examples of this can be seen in:

(1) a woman’s use of softer tone in order to minimize conflict or aggression;

(2) a married woman introducing herself as someone’s mother or wife, not with her own name;

(3) the presence of gender differences in titles and occupational terms (for example, a sajang is a company president and yŏsajang is a female company president.);

(4) and females sometimes using more tag questions and rising tones in statements, much like the way that young children talk.

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In western societies, individuals will avoid expressions of power asymmetry, mutually addressing each other by their first names for the sake of solidarity. Between two people of asymmetrical status in a Korean society, people tend to emphasize differences in status for the sake of solidarity. Koreans prefer to use kinship terms rather than any other terms of reference.

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In traditional Korean society, women have long been in disadvantaged positions. Korean social structure traditionally consisted of a royal monarch, a patriarchically dominated family system that emphasizes the maintenance of family lines. This structure has tended to separate roles of women from those of men.

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