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Feminist Resources for Teaching about Japanese and South Korean Women

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Photo of a building of Korean Women’s Development Institute (KWDI)
Photo courtesy of Korean Women’s Development Institute (KWDI)

A keen interest in building women’s networks at local, national, and international levels continues to inspire feminist activity in both Japan and South Korea. Centers for Women’s Studies, activist movements, and feminist research programs are numerous and varied in both countries.

Education About Asia readers may easily gain information about much of the latest feminist activity and research through the national women’s centers in Japan and South Korea.

The Korean Women’s Development Institute (KWDI) in Seoul and the National Women’s Education Centre (NWEC), about one hour outside of Tokyo, offer free English-language newsletters and other publications, and on-line resources that provide useful research tools to both faculty and students. This article introduces these centers, highlights their publications in English, describes their websites, and includes contact information.

As government-funded yet largely autonomous institutions, KWDI and NWEC engage in a wide range of activities. All these activities target increasing women’s power over their personal lives and in public life. Since both centers operate on the principle that access to information of all kinds plays a key role in empowering women, much of the efforts of both focus on the gathering and dissemination of information relevant to women.

A key part of this project involves using technology as a tool in feminist consciousness-raising and organizing. Thus, both KWDI and NWEC are building comprehensive data­bases, working to increase women’s access to the Internet, and attempting to create a nationwide “electronic network” of women’s groups.

KWDI and NWEC also encourage feminist exchange of information, opinion, and research by sponsoring domes­tic and international confer­ences. Both centers welcome communication from scholars, students, and activists abroad, and consciously seek to pro­mote international ties, especial­ly through their English-lan­guage newsletters.

Korean Women’s Develop­ment Institute

(KWDI) (122-707)

1-363 Pulgwang-dong Eunpyong-gu, Seoul

Republic of Korea

Phone: 82-2-356-0070

Fax: 82-2-384-7163

Home page: (in Korean)

Contact persons: Mr. Chul­Mo Park, Administrative Offi­cer, Information Center (for newsletter requests at fax num­ber above); Ms. Sun-Hye Kang, Program Specialist, Education Division III (for other queries, at fax: 82-2-384-7166).

For Internet access to KWDI’s English-language pub­lications, “Korean Women Today” and Women’s Studies Forum, visit the database for Contemporary Women’s Issues at or search through OCLC First-Search, an electronic database provided by many academic institutions, for ContmpWom­enIss.

KWDI issues two valuable and quite different English-lan­guage publications: Women’s Studies Forum, an annual schol­arly publication, and “Korean Women Today,” an informative quarterly newsletter. Subscrip­tion requests should be sent by fax to Mr. Chul-Mo Park at the fax number above.

Because KWDI sends the newsletter free of charge, the Institute prefers to send this to libraries, government organiza­tions, and researchers. This sug­gests that EAA readers request a subscription for their campus library rather than asking for numerous individual copies.

Although the KWDI web-site is only available in Korean at this time, an English-lan­guage page is planned for the near future. EAA readers may access the English-language publications of KWDI, howev­er, by visiting the commercial database for “Contemporary Women’s Issues” at the Internet address provided earlier in this article.

Women’s Studies Forum contains scholarly articles con­tributed by KWDI research teams and scholars. Articles in one recent issue (Vol. 13, 1997) point to the diversity of feminist research being conducted in South Korea. Studies highlight­ed in this issue, for example, include work on women in poli­tics, the education of women prisoners, gender discrimination in the mass media, and a com­parative study of traditional fairy tales. At the end of each issue, the reader will find the tables of contents of previous issues, dating back to the jour­nal’s inception in 1985, and revealing an especially rich literature on issues central to Korean women’s labor participation.

“Korean Women Today,” a most readable and well-orga­nized newsletter, provides an excellent guide to the issues and activities that comprise feminist activism in South Korea today. Each issue reports on KWDI projects, summarizes findings of KWDI-sponsored gender studies, and describes feminist academic and political work throughout the country. Editori­al comments by KWDI leaders and contributed essays explore topics such as equality in the workplace and women’s access to information, bringing per­spective and context to the shorter reports throughout the newsletter.

Using this format, “Korean Women Today” succinctly pre­sents the scope of KWDI activi­ties and concerns. Stressing the connection between these con­cerns and government action, the newsletter clarifies the poli­cies under debate or in the midst of implementation by govern­ment ministries, concisely out­lining, and often critiquing, the main points of each. The Sum­mer 1998 issue, for example, carries a report on the “Presi­dential Commission on Women’s Affairs and Women’s policies,” consider­ing how the new government should aid women.

Photo of building of National Women’s Education Centre (NWEC)
Photo courtesy of National Women’s Education Centre (NWEC)

Moreover, the newsletter informs readers of domestic and international net­works of women’s groups, explaining how KWDI has worked to increase the participation of women all over the country in this kind of exchange. Recent issues, for example, discuss the success of feminist campaigns to elect women to public office, the work against domestic violence that centers around the Korean Women’s Hotline, and meetings by several women’s groups in Seoul and Pusan to promote equal employment opportunities for women.

National Women’s Education Centre (NWEC)

728 Sugaya, Ranzan-machi, Hiki-gun

Saitama 355-0292, Japan Phone: 81-493-62-6711

Fax: 81-493-62-6721


Home page:


Ms. Tokiwa Iwamura

International Exchange Unit

Information and Internation­al Exchange Division

English-language readers interested in gender studies will find the NWEC Newsletter a useful way to locate information on some of the latest research in Japan. Fortunately, this newslet­ter can be accessed by visiting the NWEC homepage, a website that not only gives information about NWEC but has several English-language links to major women’s centers in Japan such as Wings Kyoto, the Dawn Cen­ter in √saka, and the Aichi Cen­ter. Visiting these sites provides, in turn, links to women’s organi­zations of all sizes, though many of these pages tend to be in Japanese only. While NWEC also publishes English-language proceedings of its conferences and a wide range of Japaneselanguage pamphlets and reports, the NWEC Newsletter and the NWEC homepage offer the best starting points for gaining current information on women in Japan, making them especially quick and useful references for students to use in their term research projects.

The newsletter reports NWEC’s many activities, and in each issue, introduces a differ­ent Japanese women’s organiza­tion such as the YWCA of Japan or other women’s centers such as those in Nagoya and Adachi. The newsletter also includes brief essays about Japanese women such as “Changes in Women’s Aware­ness of and Participation in Poli­tics,” “Teaching Methods and Course Contents in Women’s Studies,” “The Childcare Leave Law,” and “1995 Status of Women as Seen in Statistics.” The back page of the newsletter provides short reviews of new English-language publications on Japanese women.

The publication of NWEC Newsletter is only a small part of the enormous energies NWEC directs toward the col­lecting, cataloguing and dissem­ination of information about women. The Information Centre for Women’s Education at NWEC houses an impressive library of books, journals, gov­ernment publications, newspa­pers and videotapes related to women. Though most are in Japanese, quite a few English-language and other Western-language materials on gender are also catalogued here. The Information Centre also oper­ates a large database devoted to information on women that can be accessed nationwide in Japan through WINET (Women’s Information Network System). The Information Centre uses this database to provide a refer­ence service, answering the inquiries for information that come from telephone, letter, and visitors to NWEC.

Lastly, EAA readers who wish to do gender-related research in Japan should be aware that they can apply to stay at the spacious hotel-like accommodations offered by NWEC. At 1,400 yen per night, room rates are well below hotel prices. Readers wishing to use these facilities should contact NWEC well in advance of their planned stay, the official requirement being “six months to ten days” before the begin­ning of the intended stay.

KWDI and NWEC offer ways for those who teach about Japan and South Korea to intro­duce feminist concerns and activities in these countries to our classrooms. KWDI and NWEC are making every effort to ensure that the information they gather is easily accessible, indisputably current, and highly relevant to feminist work domestically and international­ly. Both centers encourage the use of their resources and wel­come suggestions for enhanced international exchange.