Skip to main content

AAS Panel: Low Birth and Aging Society in Korea and Japan: What Kind of “Crisis?”

October 2, 2023

Organized by Acting Assistant Professor and Interim Chair of the Korea Program, Dr. Andrea Gevurtz Arai, Low Birth and Aging Society in Korea and Japan: What Kind of “Crisis?” addresses some of the most pressing issues in East Asia and the world at-large.

Professor Arai will chair the panel and contribute a paper to the greater project. Presenters include Professor Sunyoung Yang (University of Arizona), Professor Kazue Harada (Miami University), and Professor Chong Eun Ahn (Central Washington University). The panel will also feature Professor Ki-young Shin (Ochanomizu University) as discussant.

This cross-national panel contextualizes and counters discourses of “crisis” surrounding women and ultra-low birth rates in N.E. Asia. We bring together careful critiques of the anxiety surrounding declining population and alternative ways of understanding Korean and Japanese women’s natural and social reproductive choices. In interdisciplinary ways, our papers focus on the gap between social and cultural expectations of women’s reproductive labor and the effects of over two decades of socio-economic precaritization (following 1990’s neoliberal reforms).

Precarity conditions in education, labor, and heightened burdens on the family (further exacerbated by 3.11 and Sewol Ferry disasters) have elicited new forms of protest, defiance and empowerment responses around women’s unremunerated care work. Arai’s paper ethnographically explores the notions of “silent strike” and “deficit of care” in post 3.11, after-pandemic Japan and Korea from the perspectives of young women’s alternative spaces and a feminist biopolitics of low birth. Yang looks at how South Korean online radical feminist groups have transformed the country’s rapidly declining birth rate into a social movement, combating gender inequality and the exploitation of women’s unpaid domestic labor, while also promoting women’s careers. Harada uncovers literary expressions of resistance in the aesthetics of the invisible in Kobayashi Erika’s writings that challenge top-down control, while embracing the feminist idea of “negative capability.” Through the examination of ideals, problems, and daily struggles, Ahn questions “crisis” in the family and society across time in East Asia. While grounded in the examination of past struggles of women, her paper highlights connections between imperialism and neoliberalism.

CKS hopes you will be able to join us for this panel and the other excellent goings-on at AAS 2024!