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FOCUS March 1999 Volume 15


Kwangju Diary: Beyond Death, Beyond the Darkness of the Age
Lee Jae-Ui
UCLA Asian Pacific Monograph Series

This is a first-hand account of the 1980 civilian uprising in South Korea against the military government of Chun Doo Hwan. The book was first published in 1985 under the name of the well-known author Hwang Suk-Yong, in hopes of providing some protection from the military authorities. Later it was revealed to be the work of student journalist Lee Jae-Ui. In this first English edition, revised in consultation with the author and translated by Kap Su Seol and Nick Mamatas, this dramatic work provides the first extensive account from the perspective of the participants of this important event in recent Korean history.

Law for Pacific Women: Legal Rights Handbook
Imrana Jalal, Fiji Women's Rights Movement
Suva, Fiji

Reviewed by Caren Wickliffe, CFTC Fellow in Human Rights Education, Institute for Justice and Applied Legal Studies, University of South Pacific (Suva, Fiji)

Ms. Imrana Jalal is to be congratulated for producing this extremely important Pacific law text. It is an easy to read introduction to the laws affecting women in Fiji, Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and (Western) Samoa.

The book was written chiefly for human and legal rights teachers, students and paralegals, but it will also be useful for activists and community workers, who assist women understand the law. Additionally, no judge in the region, practitioner of law, court clerk, advocate or law student should be without a copy to direct them to the primary law relevant to their jurisdiction.

The hope expressed by the author that it will be useful for all women who wish to look critically at the law, to understand how it can be an instrument in women's oppression, and to take informed action, will be realized if women take the time to read through this impressive work. In fact all women should read this book simply for the information it shares on what rights women do or do not have in each of the nine countries analyzed by the author. It is a large book, but it can be read in three days at a reasonably slow pace by any one with senior secondary-tertiary education.

The legal content of the book is logically and coherently explained in a way that illustrates convincingly the main proposition of the author - that law (both custom and western) is rooted in patriarchal and patrilineal system that reinforce men's control over women, children and property. This proposition is emphasized by reference to constitutional analysis, a consideration of women's land rights in the Pacific and a review of the way the legal systems of the nine different countries deal with sexual offences against women; criminal assault against women in the home; women as criminal defendants; marriage and separation; divorce, custody, access and guardianship; maintenance for married women and legitimate children; patrimonial property; de facto relationships, affiliation and natural children; women and work; and women lawyers and legal aid for women.

Ms. Jalal argues that almost all legal systems are inappropriate to deal with the complexity of social relationships, particularly when problems are encountered. Examples include the divorce, maintenance and matrimonial laws, which set people one against another and, when applied to broken families, worsen the conflict and the problems experienced by all parties. Far from promoting reconciliation through mediation and counselling, the laws of the legal systems under consideration promote the sexist views of predominantly male judges, lawyers and lawmakers who focus too much on the sexual conduct and behavior of parties in order to attach blame as they pursue victory for their respective constituencies.

What is admirable about this book is the attempt to provide some direction for those who wish to seek changes, rather than having people with a sense of hopelessness. In the last chapter of the book, entitled ÔStrategies for Change,' the author analyses the different options including international law options, available to women in pursuing law and policy reform.

The book is an invaluable contribution to the debate on the interface between women's rights, custom and law.