About the Author(s)

Anna Cho Email symbol
Department of Systematic Theology and Ecclesiology, Faculty of Theology, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa


Cho, A., 2022, ‘Korean women’s theology and misogyny’, HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 78(2), a7514. https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v78i2.7514

Note: Special Collection: Women Theologies, sub-edited by Sinenhlanhla S. Chisale (Midlands State University, Zimbabwe) and Tanya van Wyk (University of Pretoria).

Original Research

Korean women’s theology and misogyny

Anna Cho

Received: 04 Mar. 2022; Accepted: 10 Aug. 2022; Published: 22 Sept. 2022

Copyright: © 2022. The Author(s). Licensee: AOSIS.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


In this article, it is argued that the reason why Korean women’s theology could not be systematically established lies in the deeply rooted misogyny in society and church. Thus, the issue of misogyny was considered from the perspective of womanism in terms of the performative language that carries out misogyny. This was designed to find a way to overcome the problem of misogyny in society. The socialisation and practice of misogyny becomes effective through language, which creates social values and systemic institutions, thus creating a language-society. Therefore, this article proposes to look at misogyny, which is the basis of discrimination against women, in terms of the performative language. In addition, methods to overcome the problem of misogyny and to establish a constructive theology of women are presented through the performative language.

Contribution: A study on ‘misogyny-language’, a mechanism of discrimination and oppression against women, reveals that social structures, systems and institutions are the result of the performative language and will help to overcome the problem of misogyny. In addition, it will contribute to the promotion of women’s theology and women’s rights around the world.

Keywords: Korean womanist theology; misogyny; the performativity of language; sense of community; religious awareness.


Discussion on women’s theology in Korea began in the 1980s after the Minjung theology. Minjung theology emerged in the 1970s in a minority of protestant churches of South Korea (the Presbyterian Gijang church) from the experience of South Korean Christians in the struggle for social justice, human rights and liberation (Suh 1983:17). Minjung is a Korean word, which means ‘the masses’ or ‘the people’ who are marginalised, those suffering from oppression, exploitation and alienation. Wickeri (1985:461) estimated that Minjung theology ‘is firmly rooted in a particular situation and growing out of the struggles of Christians who embrace their own history and the universal message of the Bible’.

Some women theologians and church women participated in the Minjung movement (Choon 2002:103). However, unfortunately, Minjung theology failed to deal with the issues of inequality, pain, suffering and human rights that Korean women face (Chung 1989:135–146). Gender-specific oppression of women was not taken seriously by the male Minjung theologians. Choon (2002) pointed out that:

[T]he manifold forms of discrimination against women in patriarchal structures, combined with the modernized socio-economic, political, and religious-cultural situation of the country, were not a subject of interest for the liberation theologians. (p. 103)

Korean womanist theologian Chung (1989:31–32) expressed han as the pain and suffering that Korean woman face in the patriarchal system. Han is occurring from a situation of silence and powerlessness that is prevalent among women; it presents how:

[U]nexpressed anger and resentment stemming from social powerlessness forms a lump in their spirit. It often leads to lump in the body, by which […] the oppressed often disintegrate bodily as well as psychologically. (Chung 1997:65–66)

In this context, Korean women theologians had criticised the patriarchal concept of God, the patriarchal interpretation of the Bible and the male-centred Christian family and church system. Also, they disclosed the femininity of God and Jesus and emphasised women’s experience through women in the Bible (Ryu 2022:250–280). These efforts have created the following associations: the Korean Association of Women Theologians (1980), the Korean Society of Feminist Theology (1986), the Asia Women’s Theological Academy (1989) and the Women’s Church (1989). This association’s primary goal is to promote women’s ordination and bring female ministers to the rectification of patriarchal church culture (Ryu 2022:250–280).

However, there are few female theologians and female church leaders, and women are rarely found in the ranks of leaders in a specific church denomination. There has not been a forum for public dialogue where women or women leaders will have a voice and transform the church, theology and denomination in discussion with men for the constructive development of theology and the church. Many churches in Korea still do not legally recognise the ordination of female pastors and even churches that do recognise the ordination of female pastors do not really welcome them as ministers.1 Thus, Korean women’s theology did not form a sufficient discourse in the public sphere. Even in a dark space where light cannot enter, a cry can be heard, but a woman’s voice would not easily be heard in the public arena. Of course, discussions about feminism and womanism in Korean society are taking place in the public arena. However, it is still in an incomplete stage and the scope of the dissertation discussion is about women’s theology in the church and theology. In addition, it is difficult to establish a theological system in the Korean context, because womanist theology is not a discipline as a consensual and institutionalised canon law, but a theology that comes from the historical experiences and circumstances of women’s oppression and discrimination. Therefore, for the reasons mentioned here, it is difficult to realise Korean women’s theology in practice in the real world.

The reason why Korea’s womanist theology could not be systematically established in this way is the misogyny that is deeply rooted in society and the church. Discrimination and inequality, exclusion, ignorance and condemnation against women stem from the already formed misogyny in society (David 2016:209). The socialisation and performance of misogyny are done through language (Butler 1997:161). The power and performativity of hatred are executed by language. Hate cannot be practiced unless hate speech and hate discourse are spread. Thus, while discussing the theology of women, it is important to look at the linguistic aspect of the ‘hate’ that supports and promotes discrimination, inequality and exclusion of women. This is because language conveys the content and meaning of speech, and by carrying it out, it creates the culture, tradition, system and values of society by which such a society is guided. However, it seems that there are few studies on the linguistic aspect of hate speech, which is the basis of discrimination against women, in Korea’s womanist theology. Hate speech creates a performative society and a community’s ideologies, customs, institutions and laws. Thus, to resolve and overcome the various problems of discrimination, inequality, exclusion and the demeaning of women in the church today, hate speech must be looked at in terms of language. Although the article discusses the theology of women starting from the situation in Korea, research on hate language seems to be able to contribute to the promotion of womanist theology and women’s rights around the world. This article will create an awareness of the causes of gender discrimination and the need for a womanist theology and help to promote the development of womanist theology. This is because the circumstances and contexts of each country are different, but the basis of the environment and problems faced by womanism are the same as misogyny. Therefore, this article examines the problem of misogyny, which is the basis of discrimination and oppression against women, through the performance of language and how the church community can overcome the problem of misogyny and what kind of effort should be made to establish a correct theology of women.

The beginning of the discussion of misogyny in Korea

The long history of misogyny is a common aspect shared by many countries, such as China, Croatia, India, Saudi Arabia and Korea, and is still ongoing. Korean society has developed in various fields economically, culturally and educationally, and although it is a democratic country, unfortunately, it has not been able to completely remove the frame of social and religious perceptions regarding misogyny (Lee 2005:67–116). Korean society follows the long-standing Confucian tradition of patriarchal culture and the three bonds and five relationships in Confucianism. It follows the custom that there is a distinction between husband and wife, and a proper society can be maintained only when the order of adults and children, that is, upper and lower, remains unshaken and straight. In the long-standing Confucian tradition, women were regarded as inferior to men; men worked in society and took responsibility for the household economy and women made housework and raising children their main duties (Lee 2005:73–78). Sometimes a man is economically powerful, and even when a man used physical and mental violence against his wife at home, the woman could not easily divorce from her husband. In many cases, she would rather endure all the pain and suffering. This is because even if a woman is divorced, it was not easy for her to have a job in society. Thus, many Korean women did not even have the strength to unconditionally endure or resist the physical and psychological violence of their husbands, so they silently obeyed. Of course, many of these examples have now disappeared (Cho 2005:236–245). However, in this discriminatory system of customs, cultures and traditions, misogyny and belittlement were common and that is why some women in Korea are fighting misogyny to this day. Unfair treatment and discrimination against women may limit women’s opportunities to advance in society or may prevent them from being promoted despite their superior qualities and abilities. It might also prevent them from attaining positions commensurate with their abilities in a company or society. Often hatred, discrimination and inequality against women are not just gender discrimination, but they limit women’s social activities, which prevents them from having economic power. Consequently, it makes impossible for women to exercise their rights and power.

Despite these misogyny issues, it was not long before the word misogyny started to be publicised in Korean society. The public debate on the issue of misogyny was caused by the murder of a woman in a bathroom near Exit 10 of Gangnam Station on 17 May 2016 (Park 2017; The Kyunghyang Newspaper’s Social Affairs Team 2016; Wikipedia n.d.a). One of the motives for the man’s crime was the issue of misogyny. The man stated that he was working as an employee at a pub near Gangnam Station and the women at the pub ignored him, and therefore, he committed the crime (Park, Park & Lee 2016; Yonhap News Agency 2016). The motive for the horrific murder was misogyny. Unfortunately this incident did not arouse a consensus of sorrow and mourning across the nation. A misogynistic resistance movement was launched as it was believed that the cause of the unfortunate murder of a woman was misogony (Kim 2016). As a reaction to this, a movement to protest men hatred was launched by certain men, and the incident quickly became a hate debate. At Exit 10 of Gangnam Station, there are post-it notes with opposite messages such as ‘We commemorate a woman killed by a man’, ‘She died because she was a woman’, ‘The man survived’ and ‘Let’s not forget the soldiers of the Cheonan ship who died because they were men’2 (Lee 2016; Mizokami 2018; Wikipedia n.d.b) Although the tragic death of a woman should be commemorated, it became a fight of hatred rather than a ceremony of sorrow and mourning for the deceased. In the wake of the Gangnam Station murder case, memorial spaces were set up all over the country, including Seoul. From 18 May to 15 July, about 40 000 post-it notes were attached to the memorial space with more than a quarter of the messages to commemorate women, followed by self-help notes that they were lucky enough to survive and expressions of misogyny and fear of not being able to go to the bathroom because they were women (The Kyunghyang Newspaper’s Social Affairs Team 2016).

Moreover, what shocked the Korean society and church in this case was that the perpetrator was a university student preparing to become a pastor and had been working in the church after dropping out of theological seminary (유정선 기자 2016). Thus, it is likely that he was greatly influenced by the religious awareness and sense of community within the church and its culture, customs and traditions. What might have happened if the perpetrator had become a pastor and performed pastoral work in the church? Why did he go from an aspiring pastor to a murderer? There are many factors, but one of them is the patriarchal culture that the church has adhered to and supported for a long time (이은혜 2016). The church has promoted, supported and adhered to misogyny, strengthening the patriarchal relationship with the male-dominated traditional Christian ideology. In the conservative church, the Presbyterian Church in HapDong, work is directed and carried out in a clear hierarchical order according to a system of authority. Most senior pastors and associate pastors are male, while there are few female pastors; most women ministers are evangelists who take charge of Sunday School education and administrative work and help male pastors. In the church’s patriarchal culture, when a male minister gives an order to a female minister or a woman, the woman says ‘yes’ and obeys immediately. The culture of patriarchal relationships, obedience and devotion, and the Christian values of self-denial have made women silent and submissive to authority. The male perpetrator, who was accustomed to this church climate, was free in the ‘pub’ and the conversations, attitudes or rude words and actions of energetic women would have made him uncomfortable. However, for whatever reason, this murder cannot be justified nor be attributed to the woman’s behaviour. Through this case, we will have to face the problem of ‘misogyny’ that is rooted in Korean society and the church and seek a theological method to solve it.

Formation and mechanism of (Korean) misogyny

In general, for hatred to be fixed in society, ‘hate speech’, ‘hate discourse’ and ‘hate name-calling’ must be formed first. Aversion creates a performative society according to the meaning and intention of the language spoken. In other words, language creates reality. In a strict sense, all customs, institutions, systems, values, traditions and cultures that make up society are created through language (Butler 1997:147–152). Thus, language contains and reflects society and the world. Wittgenstein (1958:340), in his book Philosophical Investigations, argued that we do not use language to convey information or communicate but to do what language dictates by training our reactionary activity when using it. This presupposes the act of having to do something about what language indicates. Therefore, hate speech is itself a language act and carries out the customs and values, traditions and culture, ideologies and ideas of the social community in which the language is spoken.

Hate speech refers to a person’s ‘degrading on the basis of race or ethnic origin, religion, sex, age, physical condition, disability, sexual orientation, etc.’ (Cortese 2006:1). Misogyny includes hate, ridicule, demeaning speech and behaviour towards women and is carried out by language. Misogynism (hate speech) separates members of a social community into men and women, where women are regarded as inferior and impure, causing discrimination, exclusion and inequality within the community, creating a hate problem. Misogyny (speech) aims to limit and deprive women of the rights they deserve as human beings by repeatedly demeaning them, thus excluding them as members of the community (Cortese 2006:4). Historically, Korea has been influenced by Chinese culture and traditions and uses many etymologies of Chinese characters in academic and daily life. Misogyny is written in Chinese characters as 女性 嫌惡 [female + hate]. Here, hateful 嫌惡 is a combination of 嫌 to dislike and 惡 to hate. In particular, it can be confirmed that in the long tradition, the existence of women was regarded as a disliked object in society as the Chinese character for hatred includes a 女, which refers to a woman. Also, in words that mean negative things, such as jealousy (嫉妬), adultery (姦淫) and cunning (奸詐), a 女 refers to a woman. This clearly proves that negative prejudice against women and gender discrimination are included. The use of these expressions in everyday life shows that women are treated in a demeaning, ridiculous and contemptuous manner within the social community. These misogynistic expressions support and reinforce the patriarchal culture and traditions, 男尊女卑 that men are noble and women are lowly and patriarchal relationships cannot exist without misogyny (speech) (The Kyunghyang Newspaper’s Social Affairs Team 2016:182–183).

Misogynistic language is not unique to Korea or China. According to Yaguello (1978:171–172), in France, ‘e’ is added after a masculine adjective to form a feminine adjective, and the meaning of the same adjective varies greatly depending on gender.

As shown in Table 1, masculine language is used as a positive expression, whereas feminine language is used as a negative expression. In addition, in French, surnames are added to nouns and large and handsome objects are expressed as masculine and small and shabby objects are expressed as feminine. For example, mansion is masculine (manoir), house is feminine (maison), ocean is masculine (océan) and sea is feminine (mer) (Yaguello 1978:109). Also, in most countries, men are called before women, like man and woman, husbands and wives and boys and girls. Naming order reflects social conventions, with important parts coming first and additional parts being called last. In addition, the English profanity ‘son of a bitch’ is an insult to men, but in it, the ‘bitch’ insults the woman (mother) more fundamentally. This shows that the male-centred ideologies, customs and ideas where most societies regard men as superior and women as inferior are used and reproduced and spread over a long.

TABLE 1: Differences in meaning of the same adjective according to gender.

Misogyny (speech) is not a problem with the language itself, but rather the meaning of what is said in a specific social context. The meaning of language serves as a solid mechanism for misogyny. Namely, degrading and discriminating against women is the basis of misogyny. The customs and ideas projected by misogyny are already universally recognised by us in social structures and situations. Thus, such misogyny (speech) gives legitimacy to demean, discriminate against and oppress women in the structure of the social community and regards women as invisible. Although women live in the community, they are not socially recognised as members of the community, cannot exercise their legitimate rights and are sometimes regarded as sinister beings that can shake the legacy and achievements of men (Sterba 2001:135). Patriarchal notions and cultures are expressed as misogynistic remarks in which men dominate, despise and demean women and hate speech actively carries out hate. This misogyny sometimes demeans or hates women in general and sometimes hates the same women. It freely expresses misogyny through a patriarchal order that discriminates between men and women and allows and enforces this discrimination. In this context, most members of the community explicitly or implicitly adhere to and support misogyny and are constantly reproducing (Adams 1994:211).

Socio-linguistic structure of misogynistic speech and gender performativity

Under the patriarchal system and relationship, misogyny results in a clear class problem, not just a gender discrimination problem. The fact that misogyny is not a problem of sexism, but a problem of class means that discrimination and oppression experienced by women are already structurally fixed in the community. Discrimination contains the meaning of a kind of unfair treatment that distinguishes people by ‘separating’ them. However, as class means a ‘distinguished’ social group, it takes obedience according to authority for granted and considers the differentiated treatment as reasonable and just (Blau 2017:13). As long as humans exist, hierarchies will not disappear. A class is a human group that is distinguished in a society by criteria such as origin, status, property, education, occupation, housing, status and reputation (Blau 2017:128). Thus, the hierarchical order of the upper and lower classes is clear, and the class is divided into a higher group that commands work and a lower group (including the middle class) that obeys and executes orders, forming a social community. According to human dignity, it is impossible to divide people into superior and inferior. However, there is a distinction between superiors and inferiors according to social class. For a long time, men dominated women and enjoyed social status and authority. Mainly, men served as the ruling class and women as the subordinate class, helping men or performing auxiliary tasks (Wilmeth & Miller 1996:150).3 At first glance, misogyny appears to be a gender or a sexism problem, but the results and aspects appear as a problem of class. The issues of discrimination, demeaning, inequality and exclusion based on misogyny limit women’s opportunities to advance in society, engage in activities and promote themselves. Also, compared with men who have the same abilities as women, women are often unable to exercise the same social and economic status or rights as men. The logic of distinct classes in society includes patriarchal systems and hegemony. The allocation of work and income according to class, expressed as upper and lower classes, naturally conforms to authority and orders according to class and makes it difficult to properly recognise the problem of misogyny and social discrimination.

This misogyny has a socio-linguistic structure because it is carried out by language. The social-language structure of misogyny remarks can be briefly expressed in three main ways (see Table 2).4

TABLE 2: Social-language structure of misogynistic remarks.

Step 1 separates, distinguishes and categorises women and men. Categorisation creates discrimination and inequality in the objective social world. The distinction between men and women is not in itself a problem. However, by discriminating women as inferior and men as superior, the demeaning, discrimination, exclusion and inequality of misogynistic remarks begins. In Step 2, by focusing on ‘difference’, which is the factor that distinguishes women and men, stereotypes are created through distancing and emphasising women. For example, a Korean proverb such as ‘a hen crow, ruins the family’ or ‘women in the church should be silent’ make the social community distance themselves from women and emphasise these notions to create stereotypes. When stereotypes are created in this way, norms and values of a specific society are established. Thus, deviations from the scope of its norms and values, that is, discrimination against differences, are supported and practiced. In Step 3, hate speech begins in earnest by name calling, which unfolds the speaker’s subjective world through hate speech. When a title is called, the social meaning and intention of the title are fully implemented, and misogyny is tolerated and practiced in the social community.

When misogyny5 is fixed in society, a structure and system that discriminates and oppresses women are established. Glass ceilings are invisible barriers that prevent women or other groups from climbing higher or higher than a certain level. It is a barrier that is invisible but does exist and the mechanism of oppression and discrimination is strong, devaluing an individual’s abilities, talents and values and making it impossible to hold a proper position. Of course, there are more opportunities for women to advance into society than in the past, but in many cases, the status and tasks allowed for women in a social group are ‘up to there’. In a company, women often stay in the position of an employee or team leader rather than the position of a manager or executive. In the case of churches, there are many conservative churches such as the Presbyterian church in HapDong that do not legalise the ordination of women as pastors, and there are few opportunities to preach from the pulpit (Lee 2005:325). Discrimination and oppression against women because of such misogyny appears as ‘gender performativity’. Gender performativity is a concept founded by Judith Butler (1990:x–xi), and she conceived of gender performativity from the performativity of language in the speech act theory. Austin (1975:4–5) argued that the sentences that are considered as statements in our daily life function as performative sentences in real life, and rather, the meaning and authenticity of the statements are revealed because of the performativity of language. For example, for the statement ‘I went to the hospital’ to be true, the speaker must go to the hospital (perform). Also, in the wedding ceremony, the announcement that the officiants ‘are now the husband and wife’ implies that the two must fulfill their duties and responsibilities towards each other as the bride and groom, rather than simply explaining the ceremony (Austin 1975:4–5). Similarly, statements such as ‘I am a woman’ or ‘You are a woman’ imply that a woman should live a life that conforms to the social and cultural elements, system and values that she should live like a woman. In other words, although it is a factual statement such as ‘I am a woman’ or ‘You are a woman’, the meaning and intention of the statements are performative and implicit in the social community, allowing women to live in conformity with the image of women required by society, that is, gender performativity constitutes and performs identity. How a woman should live and how she should speak and act is performed. This gender performativity is implemented by ‘calling out’ as ‘woman’ (Butler 1990:179). ‘A woman, because she is a woman, as a woman’, the repetition of these discourses constantly imposes on women gender performance and makes them conform to the patriarchal frame established by society, preventing them from enjoying the rights and freedoms of independent women as a person.6

Korean women theology

Then, what should be done for womanist theology in the context of misogyny and how should we go about it? The misogyny, embodied in the patriarchal relationship deeply rooted in social communities and churches, creates social structures, systems, customs and institutions by the performativity of language. The social and cultural structure formed over a long period does not change easily and becomes more robust as time goes by. The power of speech (language) performs illocutionary acts according to the ‘meaning and intention’ of the culture, customs and traditions of the social community that language contains, and illocutionary acts must include the structure and context of the society (Searle 1995:27). To define whether a word or action is misogynistic or not, one must first be able to account for the customs, cultures and social structures that dominate the social context. However, it is difficult to explain clearly because the customs and culture that dominate the context of society are not fixed but are constantly changing. This suggests that the customs and contexts that create illocutionary acts of hate speech are not fixed but can change (Butler 1997:3). Herein lies the potential to overcome and solve the problem of misogyny. By creating new social customs and contexts7 through ‘language’, the illocutionary acts and the accompanying speech acts (performance of language) of misogyny that had been unfairly applied to the existing lifestyle are nullified.

Butler (1997:32) argued that the power of linguistic performativity is itself powerful and political and entails intentional action. However, not all languages necessarily lead to action. Butler points out this and asserts that language must be quoted and used ‘repeatedly’ for speech to become an action. When someone once said, ‘If a hen crows, the family is ruined’, it is not a hateful language or hateful act that demeans women socially. For remarks to become hate speech and behaviour, there is a history of repression and discrimination by repeatedly making derogatory remarks about women and the repeated citation and use of the language of the group who sympathised with it. In other words, speech acts are repeated within social structures and institutions and become social customs and ideas, which are the only meanings and actions to us. Although it is a constative statement that ‘all human beings are equal’ (of course, it is also a performative statement), once it is said, it is by no means a statement of truth. Until the statement ‘all human beings are equal’ becomes a constative statement, there is a hidden struggle and dedication that repeatedly emphasised human equality. In other words, until a single statement becomes an action and influence within a social system, when it is repeatedly cited and used, language becomes a meaning and an action.

Derrida (1991:9) argued that the power of words is achieved through a break with the existing context of the past. This means that the power of language performance does not come from past language use but from the severance of past language use contexts. Namely, the power of language performance opens the door to the possibility of creating a new world when it escapes the social context that dominates the language. The performative statements that constitute a verbal act itself support and defend an authoritative and powerful act as it includes the customs and culture of society. As Pierre Bourdieu (1991:137–162) pointed out, aspects of social customs are cunning that makes them difficult to resist strongly and because most everyday languages are politically moulded and political principles are recorded and preserved in them, it is not easy to change the language and social system. Thus, Derrida’s argument offers the possibility of achieving a constructive society through the severance of past contexts through the performance of improper language use. For language to exert its performance power, conventional language acts must be repeated and widely cited and used. To eradicate misogyny, the context of new values and customs must be created through ‘language’ by severing the context of the past and quoting, using and reproducing statements that reform society. In other words, it is the voice of women (theology). With this voice, new social customs and contexts should be created: a language and social structure that achieves harmony and equality between the sexes.

For women theology in the context of misogyny, women must actively tell the stories of their lives of oppression, discrimination and suffering. Currently, Korean women’s theological discourse is mainly comprises only women theologians and women’s gatherings, so women’s voices have not sufficiently resonated with men and in the public arena. Male theologians, pastors and men’s interest in participation in women’s theology is very low,8 so women’s stories to men did not reach solidarity and sympathy. This is the result of not realising the need for a change in cognition and behaviour because the culture of patriarchal relationships still ingrained in Korean society and the church and the resulting misogyny perception, thinking and social structure are so firm. Therefore, women’s theology should actively open a field of discourse and public discussion where men and women can together discuss problems in women’s society. As Oduyoye (1995:174) emphasised, women’s problems are not simply women’s liberation from gender discrimination and oppression, but men’s cooperation for women’s social and economic liberation and restoration of women’s human rights. She further argues that the theology of women should not be a theology of only one wing, but a theology of both wings where men and women live in solidarity together. This does not mean that women cannot do anything without men. This is because women and men are a ‘community’ living together in this world. There can be no men without women, and there can be no women without men. The reason men cannot listen to women’s voices is because of the lack of a ‘sense of community’ where women and men must bear the burden of fate and cooperate with each other. As Williams points out, demonarchy9 is more than a patriarchal influence: it means the structure and system of oppression and inequality itself. To solve this problem, a new sense of community must be established from social structural oppression (Williams 1985:65–68).

A sense of community for women’s theology must go hand in hand with a correct ‘religion awareness’. Women’s theology requires biblical and theological grounds and teachings on how women can overcome the suffering from oppression and inequality because of social structures and systems. A healthy sense of community does not exist without proper religious awareness. Christianity supported and sympathised with racism and genocide through false theology and religious perceptions such as apartheid in South Africa and the Holocaust in Germany. Misconceptions about religion are effectively used as a tool to destroy communities and go against the teachings of the Bible. A church that is indifferent to the pain and sorrow of community members and cannot empathise with and promote solidarity among them is not the church of God, and Christ does not exist in that church. Thus, to build a sense of community and correct religious awareness, theological seminaries and churches should introduce women’s theology and, together with men, deeply explore biblical, religious and theological teachings to solve the social (church, religious) structural problems of women. The educational process and system for discussion should be established. There are only a few theological seminaries that teach women’s theology in Korea, and there are many cases where it is also an elective or liberal arts course that is not a compulsory major. Although women exist in seminaries, few schools systematically teach women’s theology, and they are not compulsory. Thus, naturally, there are often no men in the discussion of women’s theology, and women’s theology is still regarded as a discourse only for women. Moreover, as most Korean churches have male pastors, it is not easy for male pastors who have never heard of female theology to teach women’s theology or listen to women’s voices in churches. If this phenomenon continues, the church will more firmly maintain the patriarchal relationship that has been accumulated for a long time. Therefore, the tasks and directions for women’s theology to overcome and resolve the problem of misogyny in the era of misogyny, as discussed here, are summarised as follows: (1) raising the voice of women (theology), (2) inviting and engaging men in the arena of women’s theological discourse, (3) women and men working together: a sense of community of destiny, (4) establishing correct religious awareness and (5) teaching women’s theology in seminaries and churches.


The author believes that the reason why Korean women’s theology has not been systematically established so far is attributable to the ‘misogyny’ that is rooted in society and the church. Thus, the issue of misogyny was considered in terms of the performance of language that makes misogyny effective, how the church community can overcome the problem of misogyny and what kind of effort must be made to establish a correct womanism theology.

Discrimination and inequality, exclusion, ignorance and condemnation against women stem from the already formed misogyny in society and the church. The socialisation and performance of hate and the power and performance of hate are achieved through language. Thus, when we discuss women’s theology, it is important to look at the linguistic aspect of ‘hate’ that supported and promoted discrimination, oppression and exclusion of women. Language carries out the content and meaning of words to shape the culture, traditions, systems and institutions of society. In other words, it creates a language society. However, it seems that there are few studies on the linguistic aspect of hate, which is the basis of discrimination against women in Korean women’s theology. Therefore, this article proposes to look at hate, which is the basis of discrimination against women, in terms of the performance of language. Although this thesis discusses the theology of women starting from the situation in Korea, research on hate language seems to be able to contribute to the promotion of women’s theology and women’s rights around the world. This is because the circumstances and contexts that each country faces are different, but the basis of the environment and problems facing women’s theology is the same as ‘misogyny’.

As a result of long-standing patriarchal traditions and relationships, Korean women still suffer from discrimination and oppression. Although society has developed and there are discussions about women’s theology and womanism, most of these discussions are only discussed within the women’s community, so the interest and participation of men are low. In addition, even these discussions are insufficient to improve and reform the social structure and system of misogynistic discrimination and oppression because it only takes place within a small number of women. Therefore, for the theology of women in the era of misogyny, it is necessary to understand the mechanism of misogyny and break the context of misogyny that was used unfairly and supported in the past through the power of verbal performance. Furthermore, by creating new social customs and contexts through ‘language’, it is necessary to nullify the illocutionary act (performance of language) of misogyny that has been unfairly applied to the existing lifestyle. As a specific method, this article suggests the following: (1) raising the voice of women (theology), (2) inviting and engaging men in the arena of women’s theological discourse, (3) women and men working together: a sense of community of destiny, (4) establishing correct religious awareness and (5) teaching women’s theology in seminaries and churches.


The author would like to thank her beloved father, Gwangyeon Cho, mother, Sookyung Seo, sister, Sungim Cho and husband, Seongil Kwon for supporting her as a woman theologian.

Competing interests

The author declares that she has no financial or personal relationships that may have inappropriately influenced her in writing this article.

Author’s contribution

A.C. is the sole author of this article.

Ethical considerations

This article followed all ethical standards of research without direct contact with human or animal subjects.

Funding information

This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

Data availability

Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no new data were created or analysed in this study.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any affiliated agency of the author.


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1. The Presbyterian TongHap Church, the Presbyterian Gijang Church, the Methodist Church, the Holiness Yaseong Church and the Holiness Giseong Church in Korea allowed women to be ordained. However, Korea’s largest denomination, the Presbyterian HapDong Church, still does not allow female pastors to be ordained. About 50 years have passed since the first female pastor was produced in Korea, but the proportion of female pastors is still only 5.37%. This is based on the low awareness of female pastors (정이슬 기자 2009).

2. In Korea, men are responsible for national defense. The Cheonan ship incident (26 March 2010) was an incident in which the hull was damaged and sank after being attacked by a torpedo from a North Korean naval submarine while it was on patrol mission. In this incident, innocent male soldiers lost their lives.

3. Of course, men are also divided into upper class, middle class and lower class because of class distinction. However, as our discussion is examining the problem of sexism caused by misogyny, men are described as the ruling class and women as the ruled class.

4. The social discrimination model presented by Graumann and Wintermantel (1989:194) and Gelber’s (2002:118) hate speech based on Habermas’s theory of communication has been used to show the socio-linguistic structure of hate speech and borrow and reorganise their ideas.

5. It is difficult to clearly distinguish whether misogyny or discrimination comes first in Korean society. Discrimination sometimes comes out of a hatred of women. Unequal power relations with respect to gender are a source of discrimination and can even develop into hatred.

6. Of course, gender performance does not only have negative aspects but also positive aspects of gender performativity. However, as this article discusses misogyny and the patriarchal social framework of Korea, only the negative aspects of gender performativity are mentioned in the text.

7. To challenge current customs and traditions is also to create new ones.

8. Male theologians paid attention to Minjung theology and other fields of theology, not to women’s lives.

9. Williams (1985:52) defined demonarchy as the ‘demonic governance of black women’s lives by white male and white female ruled systems using racism, violence, violation, retardation and death as instruments of social control … [D]emonarchy is a traditional and collective expression of white government in relation to black women’.

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