Category: Women’s Issues

The Story of Jeju, in Pictures

This is the story of an island called Jeju, in the South Sea…a place like no other, with several thousand years of human civilization in harmony with nature and today the first and only place in the world to receive all 3 UNESCO natural science designations…and a place in the throes of modernization….
This is the story of Jeju Island…and the story of indigenous peoples and unique, sacred lands…all over the world.

‘Better to be Born a Cow than a Woman’

The historical figure of Kim Mandeok [Jeju Island, Korea] provides a model for today’s women, with timeless and universal themes such as women’s empowerment, gender equality, and social responsibility in the form of compassionate yet pragmatic philanthropy, for a more equitable distribution of wealth and global poverty reduction.

Women’s Empowerment: Jeju-style, Part 3

(For Parts 1 and 2, see previous posts.)

And so, we can view the 7 Women’s Empowerment Principles within the context of Jeju’s cultural heritage:

  1. “Establish high-level corporate leadership for gender equality”: For Jeju, place emphasis on the traditionally matrifocal and egalitarian cultural principles, reviving and even modernizing the goddess mythology;

  1. “Treat all women and men fairly at work – respect and support human rights and nondiscrimination”: For Jeju, emphasize the traditional communal labor practices and reorganize them to fit modern society; also, support and increase the current peace and human rights initiatives;

  1. “Ensure the health, safety, and well-being of all women and men workers”: For Jeju, expand upon the “eochongye” model of collective economics which also provides for the well-being of its workers, including retirees and those in need; and, provides support to those of lesser skill;

  1. “Promote education, training and professional development for women”: For Jeju, continue to emphasize the Confucian value of lifelong education; provide a variety of business and leadership courses for women [such as a recent training course for female CEOs and entrepreneurs, provided by Jeju Small and Medium Business Administration];

  1. “Implement enterprise development, supply chain and marketing practices that empower women”: For Jeju, this is also an expansion of the “eochongye” model, in particular as it relates to the diving women’s economic cooperatives and decision-making processes; additionally, emphasize Jeju women’s self-reliance and independence, and provide networking opportunities;

  1. “Promote equality through community initiatives and advocacy”: For Jeju, re-conceptualize the island-wide system of small villages with their local councils, applying ideas of “town hall” and “community” also to city life and provincial governance; secondly, make the best use of strong community bonds known as ‘kwendang’; thirdly, support relevant NGOs and similar structures, and develop new ones as needed;

  1. “Measure and publicly report on progress to achieve gender equality”: For Jeju, utilize and perhaps even coordinate the island’s numerous research institutes [NGOs, private and public] and government initiatives.


Each principle can be supported by an existing or traditional feature of Jeju’s culture, if highlighted and enhanced for this purpose. This also reorders features of Jeju’s traditional culture in modern terms, which may serve the purpose of cultural preservation and encourage a renewed value of traditions.

There is no need to invent new ways of empowering women. Nor is it appropriate to import methods from another, remarkably different culture.

Rather, a strengths-based model such as this begins with an analysis of the culture within which women are to be further empowered, looking at both positive and negative features of that culture.

Then, for maximum results and cooperation among both women and men, we must creatively build upon that foundation – finding methods to strengthen women’s position in the society which draw from the attributes that women already have, and other methods to understand, decrease and ultimately eliminate those features which stand in their way.

The most important consideration should be the cultural features to be found in each region.


On Jeju, it has been said for some time that Seolmundae Halmang, the island’s giant, grandmotherly, yet all-powerful creator Goddess, is sleeping.

In the words of Korean scholar and mythologist Koh Hea Kyoung, from her nationally recognized 2010 book on Jeju’s creator goddess Seolmundae, “In the Beginning was the Goddess”:

“Discovering great goddesses from the beginning of the world and reviving them in today’s world is my dream as well as the path to a new era – when reason and emotion, humans and nature, and men and women can co-exist in true harmony.”

For the empowerment and equality of Jeju women, to the benefit of both women and men: it is time to awaken Seolmundae Halmang.