Long living in a country deeply rooted in Confucianism, Korean women became dependent to men in the past, unwilling to assert their opinions or political rights in society. During the tight rul of the military governmnets in the 1970s, Korean women were more excluded, while placed in labor to fill in the work force for the sake of economical growth. However, efforts made by many scholars laid the ground work for the growth of women's rights as Korea liberalized. Many of these efforts can be traced to Ewha.
Ewha has been the mecca for women's studies. The first women's course in the nation was initiated at Ewha in 1975. Two years later in 1977, the first women's studies textbook was published Women's Studies.
Ewha also worked on the establishment of the Korean Women’s Institute (KWI), whose purposes was to launch research projects and education programs related to women’s issues and stabilize gender equality in With the cooperation of the KWI, the Ewha Woman’s University provided the first master’s degree program for women's studies in 1982.
"Women's studies gave women confidence to step out into the political and cultural arena as leaders and provided them with a space for personal liberation," said Chang Pil-hwa, the dean of the Department of Women's Studies at the 2005 World-Women's Congress held at Ewha.
In an effort to redress western-centered perspective of the field, Ewha launched the Asian Center for Women's Studies (ACWS) in May 1995. The center's Asian Journal of Women's Studies is included in the Social Sciences Citation index, an interdisciplinary citation index which covers more than 1,700 of the world's leading journals of social sciences is listed by the Korea Research Foundation.
As a lasting fruit of Ewha’s Woman’s Studies, Ewha has raised many scholars and notable political leaders that fought against the existing political and legal system to assert the right of women and to raise their status in Korean families. Yoon Hu-jung, the former president and current chairman of board at Ewha Woman’s University was one such figure. Yoon was the first female scholar for constitutional law, and is especially known for abolishing the patriarchal policy called "Ho-Ju-Jae," which only recognizes male members of a family as the heads of the family, in 2005.
Yoon Hu-jung graduated Ewha and became the Minister of the Presidential Commission on Women’s Affairs in 1988. She also fought to pass an amendment to the family law in 1975, which included punishments for sexual abuse and violence against women.
Chang Pil-hwa, who graduated English Literature department at Ewha was the first president of the Korean Women’s Institute, and of the ACWS. As an ongoing commission of Ewha to enhance women’s status and rights in , Ewha also has produced many alumnae who are currently working at the Ministry of Gender Equality in Korea.
While much has been achieved over the past 30 years, Ewha is still the only university in Korea which holds women's studies in its courses. “It is a tall order, but if we do not take this challenge, we must ask ourselves-who will?” said Chang in her speech at the 2005 World Women’s Congress.