The Korean Catholic Church and feminism: A study of four Korean Catholic feminist groups and their members

Jung Woo Park, Fordham University


Until the early 1990s, feminist issues had been rarely discussed in the Korean Catholic Church. However, during the 1990s, four Catholic feminist groups emerged; they are The Korean Catholic Women's Community for a New World (KCWC), The Women's Community in the Sisters Association in Korea, The Catholic Women's Research Institute of Korea (CWRIK), and The Association of Catholic Feminist Theologians (ACFT). In order to understand this new phenomenon, this study focused on three specific areas: the background of Korean Catholic feminism, the activities of the Catholic feminist groups, and the feminist consciousness of the members by conducting a survey and in-depth interviews. For historical context and for comparative study, six main social phenomena were examined. They were: (1) the patriarchal Confucian culture; (2) the American feminist movement and feminist theology; (3) the influence of the American Maryknoll Sisters; (4) the Catholic social movement in Korea; (5) the modern feminist movement in Korea; and (6) the influence of the Korean Protestant feminist theologians. KCWC (1993), a group of Catholic social activist women, was formed to raise women's issues and to spread feminist theology among Catholics. The Women's Committee of the Sisters' Association (1993) was formed to raise feminist consciousness among Korean nuns. CWRIK (1996) was formed as a group of Catholic intellectual women to encourage Catholic professional women to contribute to academic achievements on women's issues. ACFT (1997) was created as a group of nuns and laywomen who have degrees in theology by the Sisters' Association, which felt the need for new interpretations of the Scriptures from feminist perspectives. Korean Catholic feminism, influenced by feminist theology, has provided Korean Catholic women with a critical tool for realizing their value and their equal dignity with men. The Catholic feminist women in my study tried to develop their ability to change the Church through their education, alliances, and their effort to participate in the decision-making roles, and by harmonious collaboration with men as equal partners. Were I to think of an alternative title for my thesis, it might well be: Against the Odds—The Persistence of Korean Catholic Feminism.

Subject Area

Sociology|Religion|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Park, Jung Woo, "The Korean Catholic Church and feminism: A study of four Korean Catholic feminist groups and their members" (2004). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3125023.