This study compares the women's movements in the US and Korea in order to find out how modernity has affected women's lives and identities and what possibilities and limitations they faced. Although it may appear misguided to attempt to compare the women's movements in these two countries because they are different in every respect including historical, cultural, and societal backgrounds, after reviewing the extant literature on this topic, the preliminary hypotheses for cross-cultural analyses on women's movements presented by Diane R. Margolis was adopted for this study. Among Margolis' assumptions, the first three turned out to be valid in large part: i.e. (1) women's movements tend to be larger where industrialization and urbanization lead to increased education and expanded roles for women, (2) women's movements will tend toward more radical ideologies where women's educational and occupational status more closely parallels men's and where a greater proportion of women are in the labor force, (3) women's movements will reflect the national political structure ─ the more pluralistic the nation's politics, the more pluralistic and variegated will be the women's movement and its organizations.
However, the remaining hypotheses ─ such as (4) official pronouncements of gender equality may have a debilitating effect on women's movements, (5) women's movements are weakened by the appearance of foreign influences, especially in countries suffering from compromised autonomy either from a colonized past or from a beleaguered present, (6) official governmental committees can function as a spur to autonomous organization, but they cannot, on their own, address controversial issues such as violence against women ─ do not hold out in the US and Korean cases. Therefore, the hypotheses should be modified with further analyses and discussions.
Accordingly, a second method was also employed: i.e. a comparison was made between common women's issues/agenda emerging from the women's movements in both countries ─ family law, family planning/abortion, and sexual violence/violence against women. These issues were differently interpreted and developed in the two countries. Especially, the abortion issue, strictly speaking, has never been a feminist issue in Korea, while in the West and America the issue on women's rights to abortion was raised from the first in their women's movement In contrast, family planning (abortion) was undertaken as a means of birth control as a part of the governmental National Economic Development Project in the late 1960's and 1970's in Korea. Nevertheless, because this case clearly illustrates the differences between the socio-cultural contexts in both countries, it was included. These three issues are also very good examples to reveal Confucian patriarchal elements which are deeply rooted in Korean social and cultural backgrounds, and they are, at the same time, common feminist issues in Western women's movements. Among them, the issues on 'sexual violence/violence against women and girls' including 'comfort women' (who were forcibly drafted by the Japanese Imperial Military) have recently been recognized as an important issue in Korean society as well as by women's movements in Korea compared with other women's issues.
Women in America (and Europe) as well as Korea suffered from quite similar forms of oppression and discrimination in the past traditional society. However, in the course of different modernization and industrialization processes, women's status was impacted differently. The women's movement in Korea has steadily developed, although it was gathered or dispersed by ideologies and/or agendas in connection with national political situations. From the early 1990s with the collapse of the Communist Bloc, Korean activists from 'progressive women's NGOs' faced debates about the identity of the women's movement. As a result, the independent identity and sphere of women's movement was reconf