Maija Rhee Devine

Archive for January, 2016

“What’s in the Year of the Monkey for Us?”

Posted on: January 7th, 2016 by Maija Rhee Devine

“What’s in the Year of the Monkey for us?”

What will the Year of the Monkey bring us? The Chinese lunar New Year does not kick in until February 8, but a heads-up won’t hurt.

But before diving in, let me re-cap an old Korean story about three Confucian scholars travelling to Seoul to take the Civil Service Exams (Thoughts of the Times, 1/5/2015, “Your Fortune for 2015?”: When asked about their odds for the outcome of the exam, an ancient fortune teller merely held up one finger in answer. Each scholar believing that signified he would be the chosen one to pass the all-important exam, the trio happily took off.

Having watched this, the sage’s assistant asked, “Master, what’s the meaning of the one finger? Does it mean only one of them will pass the exams?”
“That is correct,” he replied.
“What happens if two of them succeed?”
“Then, the finger means only one of them will fail the exams.”
“‘What if all three of them pass?”
“That means not one of them will fail.”

In the absence of a sage within a driving distance to consult on the fortunes for 2016, I turned to my current master: the internet. It lifted two fingers. One for uhk-op (oppression) and the other choong-dol (conflict). Harsh. However, the internet “philosopher,” Wu Hyun, left a crumb of hope.

He said, “If S. Koreans can mobilize the traits of the monkey—smarts and agility—they’ll manage to have a good year.” He also had two words for North Korea, even without my asking: “oppression” from Kim Jong-un’s continuing need to crunch his people into submission and “conflict” from opposition forces, both domestic and international. He added the “roots” of N. Korea “can get shaken.”

Unfortunately, no internet sage paid attention to the fortunes of female babies waiting to be born in Korea. A year ago, before the Horse Year finally bit the dust and the Sheep Year baaa’d onto the world stage on February 19, I expressed my concern over the tragic ends of the Horse-Year girl fetuses (Thoughts of the Times, 2/1/15, “Girls Born in Sheep Year”:
). I re-checked the sex-ratio-at-birth chart produced by Korean National Statistical Office (2007) to see how the babies fared in the post-Korean-War Monkey Years (1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, and 2004). All of them showed the lowest numbers of aborted female fetuses for each of the12 years in the zodiac cycle. In contrast, the Horse Years had the highest rate every twelve years, with the 1990-1994 as the peak period with 30,000 females aborted in 1994 alone, as a result of boy preference. This phenomenon originates from a belief about Horse Year girl babies presumably carrying masculine trait, unwanted by Korean parents with patriarchal values.

Since late 1990s, for various reasons, including the dire shortage of brides and the influence of Christian anti-abortion perspective, S. Koreans began to slash the number of sex-selective abortions of females. For this, S. Korea is being held up as a model for China and India to follow. Korea moved from the ratio of 113 boys to 100 girls born in 1990 (CIA World Factbook, 2013), the highest jump from pre-Korean War rate of 98:100, to 107:100 in 2013. This still translated to about 9000 abortions of female fetuses as recently as 2013 and in the 2014 Horse Year, that number might have been overtaken. Still, S. Korea is close to realizing 104:100 ratio, generally considered ideal for a population.

If the girl babies waiting to join the world see a sage holding up one finger (between Feb. 8, 2016 and Jan. 28, 2017), they may go ahead and smile.

Bio: Maija Rhee Devine authored an autobiographical novel about Korea, The Voices of Heaven. (see TEDx Talk: The book won 4 book awards in 2014. Her works-in-progress are a nonfiction collection of stories of Korean Comfort Women based on their published testimonies and a novel, Journals of Comfort Women.

#comfortwomen #korea #apology #thevoicesofheaven #population #sexbias #abortion #koreanwar




KOAM TV report on Maija’s talk in Seattle, 12/21/15, on Comfort Women

Posted on: January 7th, 2016 by Maija Rhee Devine

The link to the KOAM TV news:


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