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Arab Scholar Compares Traditional Culture of UAE and S. Korea
UAE Embassy in Seoul Marks "Emirati Women's Day"
Dr. Aisha Bilkhair in Seoul
"Emirati women are required by law to occupy 50 percent of the Federal National Council (FNC), the parliament of UAE," Dr. Aisha Bilkhair said. "Women should be paid equal wages and salaries as men"

She said that women are enjoying pretty advanced rights in UAE in a lecture held in downtown Seoul on August 28 (Monday), 2023 on the occasion of Emirati Women's Day.

In actuality, the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report 2023 reveals that the UAE is ranked 35th globally for advancing women's political empowerment.

As of 2021 South Korea is placed at 121st in the world in the number of women in parliament. Dr. Bilkhair delivered the lecture entitled "Emirati Women: the Expansion of Human Heritage and Sustainable Identity."

The event, held in the evening at Sapphire Ballroom on the third floor of Lotte Hotel, was hosted by UAE Ambassador to Seoul Abdulla Saif Al Nuaimi. The UAE envoy gave a welcoming speech.

She made an interesting comparison of traditional cultures between UAE and South Korea, pointing out similarities in an hour-long lecture.

First she mentioned mothers of two nations taking care of their children. "Korean mothers are like swans (caring for chicks)," she said. Mothers in UAE are very important in upbringing children like Korea.

Mothers in both nations are educating their kids strictly not to fold legs but position legs straight in front of others. She pinpointed that mothers eat fish and seaweed as post-partum care. Emirati mothers eat fish called "sand flat head" while Korean mothers enjoy a seaweed soup locally called "miyeokguk." Boys and girls get separated in both nations.

Like the traditional Korean expression
"Namnyochilsebudongseok (ҳ), which means "Boys and girls sit separately at age seven," UAE has also a very stern tradition of boys getting separated from girls at the age of seven.

"Our tradition of separation of boys and girls is exactly like Korean culture," she stressed. In particular she compared the veil covering their women from head to toe to the overcoat that covered the whole body of Korean women in an era of Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).

Dubbed hijab or burka are used particularly for women reaching child bearing age. Primary goals are to conceal identity and to keep their decency. "But these days they wear them for fashion as well," she said.

She made mention of the traditional long hair of Korea and UAE cultures as the similarity of both regions. Influenced by Confucian culture Koreans traditionally grew their hair long.

Married men had topknot on top of their heads. Respect for the elderly is also strong cultural traits and aspects of the two nations. Just like "feed the elderly first" in UAE, Koreans wait until the older people starting eating at the meal table.

She said that the public manners and etiquettes for the elderly are very important in both nations. Young folks are greeting the elderly with respect in UAE.

She also mentioned that social gatherings and congregations are very important in Emirati society. Tribal gatherings were life's schools for the young. They learn such manners as not to cross legs.

Divers of the two nations were also introduced. Mermaids or female divers of Jeju Island were mentioned as the long tradition of Korea.

According to her Arabian Gulf divers, particularly UAE divers, have tradition of thousands of years or older. Men at sea in front of Dubai used to dive for oysters and pearls, which was once the mainstay of its local economy.

She explained that pearl catching in Jomon-period Japan was 5,000 years old. "In 2016 a 7,500-year-old pearl, the oldest thus far, was found in Umn Al Quwain" she said. "But in 2019 an 8,000-year-old pearl was found at sea in front of Abu Dhabi"

Dr. Bilkhair touched upon the indigenous Bedouins' hunting with falcons as the way of living and surviving in the harsh deserts. "They still teach their kids this skill as a survival mechanism," she said.

She added that Bedouin women in the area are tough many of them are healers of ailments. They are born herbalists, giving natural materials like herbs even to animals as medicine.

Last certainly not the least, she emphasized their culture of sharing and caring. "In eastern coast of UAE lots of fish, sardines and enchovies, are caught," she said. "They share the fish with neighbors, everybody, for free"

"And this is how we live and survive," she added.

A noted scholar on gender equality and women's empowerment, she gets invited frequently to many countries for her lectures.

Dr. Bilkhair currently serves as a research advisor of the National Library and Archives of UAE and as its head of the Oral History Team.

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