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[Opinion] Ewha Shining

Posted May. 30, 2006 03:08,   


“At the end of the Joseon era, women oppressed by convention wished to be born as a man in the next life.” The book: “110 Year History of Ewha,” published 10 years ago, starts with this phrase. American missionary Mary Scranton believed that for Joseon women to live like humans in this life, women needed an education organization of their own. The first Ewha Hakdang student enrolled on May 31, 1886.

The first Ewha student, and the student who finished her studies at Ewha during its earlier period are symbolic of the two sides of Ewha. There is the woman who is “somebody’s something,” and the woman who made what she was. The first student, a Mrs. Kim and a mistress of a high government official, wished to study English to become a translator, but had to give up in three months. The second student, Ggot-nim, was left in the custody of the school by her mother. She became a permanent pupil of the school. Kim Jeom-dong (Esther Park) entered the school the following year, and later became the first woman medical doctor.

As Korea’s first authorized university, Ewha has produced many firsts, such as the first woman doctor (Kim Hwal-lan), lawyer (Lee Tae-young), prime minister (Han Myeong-sook), and a justice of constitutional law (Jeon Hyo-sook). Twelve out of 25 past women generals, and 13 out of 40 members of the National Assembly are Ewha graduates. “Ewha’s sons-in-law” are even most famous. There have been two former First Ladies (Sohn Myeong-soon•Lee Hee-ho), and Goh Kun, Kim Geun-tae, Sohn Hak-gyu, Lee Myeong-bak (in Korean alphabetical order), who are being spotlighted as candidates for the next presidency election, are married to Ewha graduates. Befitting of the world’s biggest women’s university, Ewha graduates range from career women to housewives, and right-wing extremists to extreme leftists.

The Nobel Prize winner in economics, Amartya Sen, said a developed country can be distinguished by “whether there are women or not.” Ewha Women’s University held the first lectures on feminism, and worked to abolish the patriarchal family registry system, and therefore lead the way to becoming “a country with women.” While some view Ewha graduate feminists as the enemy of males, we must wait and see what developments “Frontier Ewha” will bring about.

Kim Sun-deok, Editorial Writer, yuri@donga.com