Contested Medical Practices and Women's Body : Situating Precocious Puberty in South Korea

Monday, 16 July 2018
Distributed Paper
HeeYoung LEE, Sociology. Chung-Ang Univ., Republic of Korea
Na-Young LEE, Sociology. Chung-Ang Univ., Republic of Korea
This paper aims to analyze the processes and conditions of medicalization of precocious puberty, one of the so called 'Western disease' from the perspective of transnational feminists. At this time, transnational feminist perspective is a criticism of the process of re-colonization of the women’s body as sexualized, racialized, and classified in the process of the (neo)imperialist globalization. (Mohanty,2003). Medical knowledge requires stricter reliability and validity than other knowledge. Yet, medical practices as a process are performed differently according to the social arrangements such as race, culture, institutions, etc. based on the border. That is, the localized medicalization occurs. The precocious puberty became a public health issue when the Korean government implemented intensive birth control policies between 1960s and 1980s. Since then, woman’s precociousness has become a subject that the state should manage to control the fertility rate in the context of economization of woman’s life. However, since 2000, precociousness has been laid into a new paradigm of (over)medicalization. Precociousness, which had previously been the subject of education and discipline for a population agenda of a certain age, has now become a personal disease that must be prevented from discovering. Furthermore, the fear of precocious puberty has increased dramatically. From 2006 to 2015, the number of consultation personnel increased by 11.8 times, 75,945. Unlike the Western, yet, South Korea has distinguished conditions such as ➀the coexistence of oriental medicine and western medicine ➁single race ➂the absence of independent studies or standards for Korean. Therefore, the medicalization in Korea is a contradictory mechanism of ‘the fear of westernization of the body’ and ‘embodying the Western child’s body in the Korean child’s body.’ We will especially focus on the process within distinct conditions, which leads to parent's self-diagnosis, hospital selection, diagnosis, treatments and the underlying logic to make a reproductive body.