|"The Biggest Lie: I am Happy to be a Woman" by Shin Joong-sun / Courtesy of Shin Joong-sun|
Author delves into what's inside in most marginalized sexual victims' minds
By Kim Se-jeong
The #MeToo movement, which swept Korea last year and brought down several prominent figures, revealed the dysfunctional side of Korea, particularly in relationships between men and women.
Yet, there are still many victims who were not courageous enough to blow the whistle and testify openly about what they went through.
They can't even dare to confront their assailants partly because they are too close to them and their revelations could deal a serious blow to other family members. These women are victimized by their fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins and boyfriends.
Shin Joong-sun's award-winning book, "The Biggest Lie: I am Happy to Live as a Woman," tells the stories of women who fall victim to sexual abuse but are forced to stay quiet, instead of speaking out and getting justice.
The book, written in Korean, comprises of seven fictional stories, with each story highlighting tragic, unfortunate female characters.
In "Jung-hee's Time," young Jung-hee is raped by one of her father's rural village friends. She doesn't know exactly who the assailant was because the attack occurred at night when she was very young and never told anyone in her family, let alone her father. For Jung-hee, speaking out could mean her family losing all their friends in the village. The story follows her as she tries to reckon with what happened.
"In sexual abuse cases, the predators are mostly people who are close," the author said, noting this caused her to write about victims like these. "Here, women are in the worst situation because they are mostly forced to be silent. The #MeToo movement is a sign of progress, but that doesn't help these victims speak out," Shin said during a telephone interview with The Korea Times.
In "The Karaoke Woman," the author depicts the life of a mid-aged woman who lives with her sick mother and sings at a karaoke business for money.
"She knows all too well her body is no longer wanted by her male clients, but she feels relieved that at least her voice is still appealing."
The main character was also abused by her boyfriend when she was young and gave a birth in a public toilet before discarding the infant in the trash bin. Gripped by guilt all her life, the woman takes a baby doll out of a public trash bin and starts to care for it as if it were her abandoned baby.
The book can serve well as a socio-cultural guidebook for how women were ― and still are ― treated in Korea.
Although having improved significantly over the last century, women in Korea are still degraded by men, and often even by other women themselves. When former President Park Geun-hye was detained for corruption charges, some old women openly said: "it was a mistake to give a woman a chance to lead. It was a big mistake." Yes, Korea is a tough place to be a woman.
"The Biggest Lie" received an award from Arts Council Korea last year. The book costs 14,000 won and copies are available in major bookstores and online bookstores.