Where Can You Find Spermicide and The Sponge in Korea??

Thought I’d liven up one of the rooms at the OBGYN(“Thought I’d liven up one of the rooms at the OBGYN.” Source: Reddit)

A request for help from a reader, edited for anonymity. Thanks in advance to anyone that can give her any assistance:

******…I don’t want to ask my Korean co-worker for help and all my Korean friends are very religious—so it’s awkward.

Anyways, I don’t take birth control for a multitude of reasons including blood clots with the last time I tried. I also haven’t been sexually active for awhile so birth control hasn’t been a priority to me until now.

I’ve dug into pages on the Internet, but all birth control in Korea searches are about the pill or condom. I went to Dr. Sung’s clinic [in Itaewon], but they were only helpful in regarding IUDs and the pill. I wanted some information about spermicide or the sponge, which I’ve used successfully in the past.

Anyways, I’ve met an awesome guy. He’s great and understands my choice about birth control. He’s willing to try condoms and spermicide combination, which I’ve used in the past with a long term relationship.

He was able to find his western brand of condoms, but I’m at a lost as to how to obtain spermicide or the sponge. Can you get either in Korea…?

An update:

******…I live in the Gangnam area and went to all 4 pharmacies on my way to school and asked for spermicide using Google translate. [Saljeongje/살정제] is the word for it, but at each pharmacy it took about a minute to figure out what I was asking for and locate it.

The first pharmacy was only men and they looked it up on the computer and told me they didn’t have any. The second pharmacy (the one I usually go to) was a young female pharmacist who speaks English but she had to look it up on the computer and then asked me if it was for not getting pregnant and I said yes. All she had were depositories (which are not as good as gel or foam) and they were hidden behind the vitamins. She said she didn’t know if there was a gel or foam spermicide available. The third pharmacy (a large hospital one) all female pharmacists of different ages didn’t have any. The younger pharmacists didn’t know what I was talking about and asked the older one who was a bit confused so she asked an old lady customer who explained what it was. The fourth pharmacy was two older female pharmacists who had to discuss it and then asked why not go to the doctor for “not pregnant medicine” I said “make very sick”. She then digs around in a drawer pulls out a box looks at the ingredients and says “Yes. For no baby.” But this was also a depository.

All in all the pharmacists were very helpful and kind, but slightly confused as to what spermicide is. I am going to start walking into every pharmacy I see ~ maybe only depositories exist and only a limited supply. It’s strange. Back home I can get a huge box at CVS or Walmart!

If You’re in Seoul, You Should Totally Go to This Presentation on Thursday

Aljosa Puzar Coming of Age in South Korea Don’t just take my word for it though: Aljosa is not just a cool guy (we’ve met a few times), but he’s also the author of “Asian Dolls and the Westernized Gaze: Notes on the Female Dollification in South Korea”, in Asian Women Vol.27 No.2, which should ring bells among many of you. If not, it can still be read online here (or email me if you’d like your own copy), and I highly recommend Melissa Johnson’s posts on dollification in K-pop to accompany it.

What are you waiting for? ;)

On Grandly Narrating…Korean Dramas?

Misaeng(Source: The Huffington Post Korea)

Sorry for the slow blogging everyone. Not just for the last few weeks, but for the last few months. Many of you have noticed and have been wondering, so I thought I should offer a quick explanation.

Long story short, I’ve got much less time than I had in 2014.

I’m doing a Master’s again. I’m teaching more classes this semester. I’m working on my first academic journal article. My daughters have started a (lovely) alternative school for multiracial children, which is a long commute away; it’s nice spending the extra time with them, but that’s another 10 hours a week that I used to spend on other things. And so on.

Still, I could and did work on the blog a little. But then I caught an on-off, debilitating flu for over a month. As you can imagine, now I’m behind on just about everything.

All that said, after 8 years of blogging, I am in a bit of a rut with regards to topics and style, and am looking for new ideas to motivate myself—and hopefully to interest and entertain you too. One possibility might be an episode by episode discussion of the recent(ish) drama Misaeng, which I’ve heard was a very realistic portrayal of Korean corporate life, and especially of the position of women therein. I’ve already watched the first episode, and, although it wasn’t earth-shattering, it was refreshingly free of K-Drama cliches, especially the childish female roles. If, like me, you’ve been disappointed with “progressive” Korean dramas before, this might finally be one worth getting stuck into.

If you’re interested in following along with me, at the pace of one episode per week say, please let me know in the comments. And/or, about anything else you’d like to see more of on the blog. Thanks!

Update: Thanks for the comments everyone. I’ll start the series on Monday, June 1.

“We Are Korean Women” Workshop, This Thursday Morning in Seoul

We are Korean Women WomenlabkoreaI’ve been asked to pass on the following:

*******WOMENLABKOREA is a creative space to test ideas, initiatives, and projects, a space to co-create, to co-design and prototype with other women, a supportive space where risks can be taken.

WOMENLABKOREA is about social innovation, empowerment and entrepreneurship!

The purpose is to help women step out of their comfort zones to improve their lives and the lives of women around them.

Next Thursday, May 7th we are hosting another #WMLABTALK called “We are Korean Women.”

We have conceived of these #WMLABTALKS as events where we can share and understand more about our lives; events to discover more about our wishes and hopes.

We wanted to create a space where women can speak freely and be ready to challenge stereotypes.

Furthermore, we wanted to dedicate a time to celebrate us, to celebrate women’s rhythms and women’s vision of the world´s cultures. To celebrate how far we have come and all that we have conquered.

Swedish Women. FIKA. #WMLABTALKLast time we focused on Swedish women (“The battle of female numbers: Swedish women beyond myths, stereotypes and preposterous clichés”), this will be the time for Korean women.

We are Korean Women” will be a female-focused collective dialogue to challenge stereotypes and clichés about being a woman in South Korea.

We will practice yogafit with Uliana Golovko and taste the traditional Spanish tapa pantumaca, a Catalonian breakfast or snack.

Following the breakfast, we will begin our presentation and open dialogue (the World Café process created by Juanita Brown and David Isaacs).

Korea has come so far in fifty years, how have women driven that growth? What are the challenges that women face in Korean society? We seek to break down stereotypes and go beyond clichés. Varying cultural opinions will deepen the discussion and hopefully widen our viewpoints.

Finally, we will taste and learn about Sogokju, the 1500 year old beverage, and be captured by Simcheongjeon, a story of Korean Pansori storytelling tradition.

More than a workshop, “We are Korean Women” will be a celebration.

Prepare to interact and discuss!

For further details and RSVPs, please contact Ana Dols at 010-4119-7790 or womenlabkorea@gmail.com. Also, make sure to check out their blog, their Facebook page, and pinterest board.

Listen to This Korean Girl’s Perspective on Korean Men’s Absurd Body-Image Standards

왕쥬 가슴 비법 ABCDE(Source: YouTube. See there for her secret method!)

Remember my last post on assessing celebrities’ impact on Korean body-image standards? Where I stressed that it was crucial to listen to what ordinary Koreans thought of them?

I’m going to start with 여신왕쥬 (Goddess Wang-ju), who doesn’t mince words about what impact they’ve had on her. Or, more precisely, about what impact they’ve had on Korean men, who constantly compare her to slim, big-busted K-pop stars.

That’s a sweeping generalization about the men of course (my apologies), but you’ll soon understand her need to rant once you listen. NSFW warning for the Korean swearing:

Wang-ju is a little difficult to pin down: she’s made hundreds of videos, on a wide variety of subjects. Generally though, she seems refreshingly outspoken, and funny, a combination which has won her hundreds of thousands of subscribers on YouTube, Facebook, and Afreeca TV.

Unfortunately, this video seems to be the only one a fan has added English subtitles to, so I’ll have to let readers know if I find any more (or please let me know!). In the meantime, for Korean speakers, here’s her most recent one on body-image, from two days ago:

Update: Some great news!

The Skinny on the Thigh Gap

Mannequins with jeans(Source: Lion Hirth @Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 3.0)

My latest article for Busan Haps, on (mostly) US teenage girls’ latest body image obsession, and why, to my great dismay, they themselves prove to be largely responsible for its success. Researching it taught me a lot about how people negotiate the messages about body image perpetuated by the media — read: never assume any groups are simply passive consumers — and how crucial it is to examine the role of social media to understand body image in 2015.

Also, I mention that, in December, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority forced Urban Outfitters to remove a photo of a model with a thigh gap; since writing, France’s Parliament has also moved to make it a crime to use models below a certain BMI. I’m still not convinced that demonizing one body type (or part) is necessarily the answer though.

What do you think? Please let me know in the comments, either here or in the article.

Sex, Self-Confidence, and Social Activism: When Women Made Soju Ads

Korea’s first ‘femveritising’ campaign was a fun take on sexual double standards, and popular among women too.
uee heart(Source: Celebrity Republic)

A request from a reader:

      Hello Grand Narrative readers! I’m reaching out for some help for a research project I’m working on about female empowerment trends in Korea and opportunities for brands to play in that space.

I’m looking for recent examples of brands, organizations and entertainment personalities empowering girls and females through products, campaigns, messages or services in Korea, similar to Nike’s Seoul Women’s Race, Whisper’s #likeagirl campaign or femvertising campaigns abroad.

Unfortunately, these are hard to find as Korea hasn’t quite embraced the trend like other nations. As such, I’m also looking for the opposite — recent examples of who is doing it completely wrong and sending messages of conforming to male-informed and limiting traditional stereotypes?

Any help, examples, or opinions are greatly appreciated! Please email me at amynwilliams@gmail.com.

James: Alas, all the examples I can think of are quite old. Still, to get the ball rolling, and because I think its empowering aspects deserve to be much better known, let me take this opportunity to quickly mention the best, and possibly first and only well-executed one: Lotte Liquor’s ‘Think Casual’ campaign for Cheoum Cheoreom (“Like the First Time”) Cool soju, from back in Autumn 2009:

I admit, that hardly looked like a bra-burning moment. Nor even all that different to any other soju commercials before or since, for which a young woman dancing in revealing clothes is de rigueur. And Uee, then 21, was no fledgling feminist icon either, reveling in the increasing attention she gained through her objectification. (Albeit likely having little choice in the matter.)

Frankly, I completely dismissed it at the time.

But it was different. That “Am I really your first?” question, and the men’s reactions? Those may seem pretty innocuous from a Western perspective, but they still got netizens riled-up. As did messages in posters like the one below, easy to reject as just another soju pin-up if you—ahem—didn’t take the time to read the text. Because ultimately, not only was the campaign breaking strong taboos on openly acknowledging this thing called sex, but it was directly challenging the double standards for women too.

UEE Soju Cool Honest(The text reads: “Q: When you travel with your boyfriend, which is cooler: admitting it to your parents, or lying and saying you’re going on a trip with your university friends? A: Think Casual”. Source: Naver blog, untitled.)

Rather than backtracking in the face of the ensuing negative publicity however, the advertisers were justifiably proud of what they were doing, as explained by Olga Fedorenko in her chapter “South Korean Advertising as Popular Culture” in The Korean Popular Culture Reader (2014, p. 356):

…[Uee’s] ‘cool shot dance’ achieved a viral popularity, young women recording their own versions and posting them online. Many other [netizens], however, were offended by what they saw as encouragement of promiscuity, noting that Uee looked “too easy,” that her coolness about sexual matters was inappropriate for her young age and “innocent face.” As I investigated the campaign, I was surprised to learn that the advertising team behind it included a few young and well-educated women who saw the ad as empowering and were hoping that young people, whom the ad targeted to broaden the traditional demographics of soju consumption, would perceive it the same way. In other words…they pushed for individual sexual freedom against oppressive norms, and the ‘Think Casual’ campaign became a site for negotiating parameters of female sexuality. The advertising agency took a leading a role in challenging patriarchal mores — reflecting the worldview of advertising workers, who saw themselves as representing the worldviews of the target consumers.

To put those patriarchal mores in some perspective, ironically just this February Uee would again be chastised for admitting to sexual experience and desires, this time in real life. (Note: she was just about to turn 27.) Also, it’s female celebrities that have received the brunt of fans’ anger for all the dating ‘scandals’ of the past year.

That said, things may have reached a tipping point. Because, given their overexposure in popular culture, Korean celebrities are very much considered role models, who are expected to follow high moral standards accordingly. With so many revealed to be in relationships now though, and getting caught spending their limited time together in hotels, it’s just getting too difficult to defend the notion that us mere mortals can’t or shouldn’t be able to do the same, or pretend that we haven’t always been doing so anyway.

But that’s a subject for another post. In the meantime, good or bad, please pass on more examples of femvertising to amynwilliams@gmail.com, and/or mention them here, even if you can’t remember all the details. (I’ll follow them up.) Also, if it emerges that there haven’t really been any femvertising campaigns in the last six years, or at least none as provocative as this one, then I’d be very interested in hearing your thoughts on why. Thanks!

Update: One more recent example of positive femvertising could be Zigbang’s campaign aimed at 20 and 30-somethings stuck living with their parents — something which again points to the need for evaluating empowerment in terms of its cultural context, and for preparing campaigns accordingly. But I still draw the line at anything that includes aegyo!