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The Digital Wash Place: Mobile Messaging Apps as New Communal Spaces for Korean ‘Smart Ajummas

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Mobile Media and Social Intimacies in Asia

Abstract

This chapter seeks to uncover some of the complex ways in which we might reconsider prevalent conceptions about one of the most misunderstood and most stigmatized demographic group in contemporary Korea: the ajumma (아줌마), which roughly translates to a middle-aged, married woman. It seeks to debunk problematic stereotypes about such women particularly by recasting them as new media users and paying attention to their redefined role in Korean culture. It examines how ajummas in Seoul have become ‘smart ajummas’, embracing smartphones in their daily lives to communicate with each other in today’s so-called ‘smart world’. This chapter particularly sheds light on how these women share mobile intimacies in KakaoTalk group chat rooms similar to the relationships built in the wash place (ppal-let-ter, 빨래터) in the 1960s. By going beyond the usual focus on Korean youth as new media ‘digital natives’, it seeks to contribute to a more nuanced understanding of gendered new media practices in what is often described as a media innovative country.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    According to Kim (1994), ‘Jeong is more than kindness or liking another. Jeong brings about the “special” feelings in relationships: togetherness, sharing, bonding. Jeong is what makes us say “we’“rather than “I”, “ours” rather than “mine”’ (cited in Kim et al. 2006, p.152).

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Acknowledgements

I would like to thank the ajummas who participated in my study. I would also like to thank Dr. Victoria Duckett for early feedback for my work. The editors of the book, Dr. Jason Vincent A. Cabañes and Dr. Cecilia S. Uy-Tioco, were extremely helpful and generous with advice and direction.

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Moon, J.Y. (2020). The Digital Wash Place: Mobile Messaging Apps as New Communal Spaces for Korean ‘Smart Ajummas’. In: Cabañes, J.V.A., Uy-Tioco, C.S. (eds) Mobile Media and Social Intimacies in Asia. Mobile Communication in Asia: Local Insights, Global Implications. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-024-1790-6_5

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