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Dance and Democracy

Dance and Democracy
Suh S.
Ewha Authors
Issue Date
Journal Title
Asian Journal of Women's Studies
1225-9276JCR Link
Asian Journal of Women's Studies vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 11 - 35
Document Type
Chung Biseok's novel, Madame O (Jayu puin) was a popular bestseller in South Korea after the Korean War. In the 1950s, Korean society was undergoing extraordinary economic, political, and cultural change, which comprises the background of this novel. Led by the United States of America, a liberal, democratic, and capitalistic system begins to gather force in the country. Madame O, the main female character of the novel, is portrayed as a prototype of new womanhood emerging in this historical situation. She tries to attain a self-awakening, via her desire to learn to dance with a college student, become a career woman, and explore a newly discovered sexuality in the new world. But this leads to the breakdown of existing social norms, gender roles and sexual mores. As such, society cannot allow the realization of Madame O's needs and aspirations. So she returns home demoralized. Her transgressions and return reflect the social and historical conditions of a time when a woman's search for agency and sexual identity could not be allowed to violate the established moral order. Nonetheless, Madame O's aberrations were refreshing and gratifying to readers who had survived the destruction of war. From a contemporary perspective, the story and its imagery signifies the modern woman's search for identity. Of course! How many of the young men and women roaming out there in the streets do you think understand democracy theoretically? Although they might not understand democracy, aren't they acting out democracy in practice? Don't you know that it is always action that signifies true victory? "Well.... That's something to think about. That's why you should at least know how to dance." Mrs. Oh Sunyoung once again links democracy with dance (Chung Biseok, 1985: 181).
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