Korean Sociological Image #18: Sexualizing Caucasian Women

Sexist Korean advertisment caucasian women(Source: Busan Metro, 2 September 2009)

An image that simply begs commentary. But what is noteworthy about it exactly?

One thing is the tendency to use women’s bodies to showcase vehicles, well satirized here by replacing women with men in a similar photoshoot. But that is hardly unique to Korea, nor particularly strong here, whereas my general purpose with this series is to highlight interesting features of Korean society. So it’s the use of Caucasian women that I want to discuss here, as they’re so common in Korean advertising that sometimes there’s even more of them than Korean ones.

Before I began writing though, I had a thought: can’t Korean advertisers ever use non-Korean models without overanalysis, and — yes — perhaps implicit criticism from myself for doing so? No, of course they can. And, serendipitously, earlier this week Lisa at Sociological Images provided a fuller response to that charge, indeed an overall rationale that will inform this series in the future also. Here it is, but adapted to this blog:

korean-boy-looking-up-caucasian-womens-skirtI often present a single example of a cultural pattern. If you’re a member or observer of the relevant culture, that single example might ring true.  That is, you might recognize it as one manifestation of something you see “out there” all the time.

But it’s still just one example and it’s not very convincing to someone who is skeptical that the cultural pattern exists, especially if it’s subtle.

But one advantage of being a niche blogger is that posts on one’s subject(s) are cumulative.  I can even put up single manifestations of a cultural pattern and, even if it’s not very convincing at the time, the other evidence on the blog (and the evidence yet to come) may sway even some skeptics.

It is in that spirit that I offer the opening advertisement.

The choice of the models ethnicity may be random, but I am going to suggest that it is not…

And yet there are so many examples of Caucasians in Korean advertisements on this blog to provide, and so many factors involved in the choices of them, that to simply provide dozens of links at this point would be to confuse rather than enlighten readers. Therefore, my purpose with this post is to provide a single definitive guide to the subject that people can refer back to in future, not least myself!

To begin then, consider the empirical evidence for the disproportionate numbers of Caucasian women in Korean advertisements. Surprisingly given their seeming ubiquity though (something I’ll return to), there have actually been very few English-language studies of East Asian advertisements that have incorporated race as a main factor of their inquiries, and I am aware of only three that have done so of Korean ones. Here they are in chronological order of publication, with very brief summaries of their findings and links to the posts where I discuss them in more detail:

• Hovland, R. et.al. “Gender Role Portrayals in American and Korean Advertisements”, (Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, December 2005; open access copy no longer available).

Using various 2000 editions of selected Korean and American women’s magazines, Hovland  et. al. found that 30% of Korean advertisements in them featured Caucasian female models, whereas only 1.9% of US advertisements showed Asian female models. Of particular note here, both Korean and US magazines for middle-aged women showed more Korean and Caucasian models than their counterparts for younger women respectively; see here for the details.

• Kim, Minjeong & Lennon, Sharron “Content Analysis of Diet Advertisements: A Cross-National Comparison of Korean and U.S. Women’s Magazines” (Clothing and Textiles Research Journal, October 2006; open access copy no longer available).

As discussed in the second half of this post, the advertisements in the various 2001 editions of selected Korean women’s magazines examined actually had more Caucasian women than Koreans: 52.3% vs. 47.7% respectively, compared to 84.9% Caucasian women in advertisements in U.S. magazines.

• Nam Kyoungtae, Lee, Guiohk & Hwang, Jang-Sun “Gender Role Stereotypes Depicted by Western and Korean Advertising Models in Korean Adolescent Girls’ Magazines“, Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, TBA, San Francisco, CA, May 23, 2007; downloadable here.

whisen-air-conditioner-advertisement-han-ye-seul-song-seung-hun(Source: Korea Times)

Of the total of 644 female models found in selected advertisements (one page or bigger and showing full adults) from selected Korean women’s magazines from 2002 and 2003, 57% were Korean and 43% were Western. Of 299 male models counted, 59.2% were Korean and 40.8% Western. And of particular interest, as I wrote here:

…Western women were more likely to be depicted in revealing clothes and or nude than Korean women, but at the same time they were also likely to be portrayed as independent, self-assured, and assertive than them too, and by no means just in a sexual sense. Again, this finding is true of Western and Korean men too…

To be fair, this at least in part echoes the the hypersexual state of Western advertising today. And rather than supporting the artificial dichotomy between chaste Koreans and oversexualized Caucasian (or Westerners) that at the heart of this post, the internal dynamics of the Korean magazine industry reveal that Korean women are active and willing consumers of the cultural and sexual norms that such advertisements literally embody, the incorporation of which into patriarchal Korea is not without friction. Not to imply that all positive changes in Korea are Western-derived of course, but regardless there are certainly a lot of advertisements with Caucasians out there.

lee min-ho cass jessica gomes( Source: Naver )

Or are there? I’d wager that many heads would have been nodding with that last statement, and, granted, some Korean clothing labels for instance – Beanpole and Hazzys come instantly to mind – do seem to use exclusively Caucasian models. But then appearances by Caucasians in Korean-made television commercials like the above, for instance, are actually the exception rather than the rule. And with the proviso that White privilege is very much alive in Korea (the existence of which I take for granted that readers agree on), and, without implying that Koreans want to look White,  that this still has a strong influence on both Koreans’ preferred cosmetic surgery operations and their huge numbers, in hindsight I’d be hard pressed to think of any segment of the Korean advertising industry that used Caucasian models to the extent researchers found in women’s magazines.

Unless of course, a great many of them were for lingerie that is.

As long-term readers will well know, it turns out that the reason for this is because before the restrictions against the use of foreign models in advertising was lifted in 1994, lingerie modeling in Korea was often done by pornographic actors (update: to be more precise, nude models) This gave it a negative image among Korean female models, the enduring strength of which was revealed recently by these ones who did model lingerie but nevertheless felt compelled to literally disguise themselves while doing so, and all quite ironic considering how willing many are willing to objectify their breasts otherwise (see here, the video here, and here for some notorious examples). Case closed then?

Yoon Eun-hye Vivien's Summer CollectionNot quite. Consider what I wrote a few months ago on the subject:

…lingerie advertisements are ubiquitous in Korea, and it’s a rare commute when I don’t have the slightly surreal experience of seeing ones featuring scantily clad Caucasians in one subway car, then seeing others with fully-clothed Koreans like [these] in another when I transfer (sometimes, you can even see both in the same car). Seriously, it’s no exaggeration to say that Koreans’ convoluted and often contradictory notions of sexuality and race literally stare me in the face everyday, and in a form that means that I’m particularly likely to sit up and take notice.

Yes, that is indeed a lingerie advertisement on the right (source). And regardless of the actual reasons for a phenomenon, once we think we’ve found the reasons for it, those shape the filter through which we take in new data. Personally then, I originally thought the use of Caucasian lingerie models demonstrated that Korean women had Caucasian body ideals, which prompted me to write this post on the subject last April. Once the stigma attached to lingerie modeling came to light that June though, then that link I had made was no longer sustainable…but not the Caucasian body ideals themselves, which there’s still a wealth of other evidence for (and see this post again). In that vein, while 4 years ago Michael Hurt was also mistaken in his proffered reasons for the numbers of Caucasian women in lingerie advertisements, writing in his blog Scribblings of the Metropolitician

One thing that I also notice is that in underwear and other commercials that require people to be scantily-clad, only white people seem to be plastered up on walls in the near-buff. Now, it may be the sense that Korean folks – especially women – would be considered too reserved and above that sort of thing (what I call the “cult of Confucian domesticity”). Maybe that’s linked to the stereotyped expectation that white people always be running around all nasty and hanging out already, as is their “way.” Another possibility has to do with the reaction I hear from Korean people when I mention this, which is that white people just “look better” with less clothes, since Koreans have “short leg” syndrome and gams that look like “radishes.” The men are more “manly” and just look more “natural” with their shirts off. Hmm. The thoughts of the culturally colonialized? Perhaps I’m being too harsh? My hunch is that it’s all of the above. Take a look.

…not only did I heartily agree with his thoughts when I first read them, but I still agree with them, because they are not just based on the numbers of Caucasians in lingerie advertisements. In particular, of the following 2003 advertisement with Ahn Jung-hwan (안정환) he wrote:

A recent favorite, reflecting the relative position of Korean masculinity vis a vis whiteness, specifically white women. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the relatively greater financial power that has made Korean men an attractive partner – or at least potential plaything – of Eastern European and Russian women, and that many of them now enter the country under the E-6 “entertainment visa.” In any case, this is a fascinating statement on the changing status of “the white” in relation to Korean masculinity. No longer the inaccessible Playboy fantasy held by many men in a developing Korea that had been culturally (and partially symbolically sexually) dominated by the United States – now the tables are turned. The product being sold here is a cream to make/keep one’s skin “white.” Don’t even get me started.

And lest long-time observers of Korea feel that this particular advertisement has become somewhat iconic and overanalyzed by the Korean blogosphere, it is but one of many examples.

essor-white-advertisement-ahn-jung-hwan( Source: Somang Cosmetics )

Before providing a context for those in the remainder of this post though, I should point out that I don’t think that lingerie advertisements by definition sexualize the models featured, and so I disagree with Michael Hurt’s seeing further evidence of the sexualization of Caucasian women in the ridiculous setting of this advertisement for instance, as regardless of the source of the advertisement and/or the ethnicity of the models, worldwide they can similarly have “folks sitting around in their skivvies [that] could just as well be on the veranda of a bistro in the south of France. Eating strawberries in a bathtub in lingerie, with a towel wrapped around one’s head.” Indeed, rare Korean lingerie advertisements with Korean models are no different, and when it comes to sexualizing lingerie – nay, almost any item of woman’s clothing – it often pays to be subtle. Consider this one with Shin Min-a (신민아) that came out this summer for instance: while it is significant because previously one never saw Korean celebrities wearing the lingerie at all when they endorsed it, and is probably a belated reaction to the fact that discreetly showing one’s lingerie off has actually been the fashion for years now, personally I see much more significance in the fact that it seems designed for a male gaze.

Shin Mina Vivian Bra Lingerie Advertisement( Source: Zziixx )

As you might vaguely recall, the advertisement that prompted this post wasn’t actually a lingerie advertisement. But having Caucasians in the vast majority of those – for whatever reasons – does at least feed into the false dichotomy of chaste Koreans and overly-sexualized Caucasians. And although it’s by no means the most blatant example of its kind, the choice of outfits in it still makes it very much Exhibit A in the argument for the existence of those stereotypes (as an aside, see this post for the issues raised when skimpy clothing is donned for a good cause, like women in bikinis washing only hybrid cars). Let’s now consider the other evidence.

First, there were the recent plans to set up a nudist beach on Jeju island specifically in order to attract foreign tourists, especially Caucasians/Westerners. Apparently, this was because many were already regularly stripping off on Jeju beaches despite local sensibilities, but in the absence of anything to support those claims, and considering that Korean reporters regularly simply make stuff up and/or impose their own opinions on a report while attributing them to others (see here and #1 here respectively for recent examples), then when I heard of the idea I was much more inclined to believe that Jeju government officials came up with it completely independently. And why? Probably based on the conflation of nudity at beaches with sex said Brian in Jeollanam-do, “implying that the point of the former is to stimulate one’s appetite for the latter,” and which in turn points to “a pretty base assessment of the tastes of foreigners and foreign tourists.”

To be fair, in many senses exaggerated notions of foreigners sexuality are merely a method by which particularly older Koreans deal with and account for the uncomfortable reality of Koreans’ own sexuality, and so as Michael Hurt points out here, public displays of affection by young Koreans are often rationalized by certain Koreans by claiming that the couples involved are Japanese. No, really. But for a more tangible “other,” you need the Occident of course, which is why Korean public opinion holds Western celebrities to such different standards to Korean ones.

Lady Gaga Seoul( Source: Naver )

So while it is okay for Korean women to dress up as Paris Hilton in order to promote the Korean airing of her reality show for instance, and she regularly appears on Korean television, endorses Korean products, and literally her every word about Korea is literally lapped up (no matter how inane), on the other hand Korean female’s celebrities careers have been ruined simply for having sex with their boyfriends, or even merely being accused of making a Hiltonesque sex tape. True, Korea’s well-known cultural cringe is very much involved when the attention of Western celebrities – any celebrity – is sought, but the same principles still apply for both less notorious Western stars and Korean celebrities’ less extreme deviations from sexual norms. Hence like Paris Hilton, Lady Gaga above was recently fawned over on her recent visit to Seoul, and yet seemingly every other week: Korean groups are banned from the airwaves for even the most innocuous of lyrics (see #2 here, and the more recent case here); female groups struggle to present female sexuality as something other than dressing and acting like schoolgirls; and international models are criticized for appearing nude in photoshoots (yes, I can admit my mistakes). And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

But you get the idea. Next then, there is confirmation from the grass roots: Brian provides ample evidence that foreign women in bikinis are heavily targeted by Korean newspaper photographers for instance, and I must also mention that a great many Caucasian female friends have mentioned being groped and otherwise sexually harassed by Korean men to me. Of course, that is merely anecdotal evidence, and not having my blogger’s hat on at the time (I do take it off occasionally), I didn’t think to ask how that compared to experiences in their home countries. Now that I am in that frame of mind though, I’d be grateful if readers could fill me in with their own experiences, and by all means if you haven’t ever faced either problem too, as responders can be somewhat self-selecting sometimes.

But of course Korean women are also frequently photographed at beaches and/or and sexually harassed, and indeed because of that there was a short-lived experiment with women-only subway cars in Seoul a few years ago (but groping is on the rise again). Despite that, there are still good reasons to suppose that Caucasians might be targeted more:  in addition to the stereotypes perpetuated by Western media itself of course, there is the ethnic make-up of prostitutes here.

Korean Prostitution StatisticsIn itself, the Korean prostitution industry is so big, so intimately tied to Korea’s economic development, and with such a pervasive impact on the current low position of women here, it really requires a separate blog devoted to it. Finding a short introduction to point readers towards was a bit of a challenge then, but surprisingly the Wikipedia article on the subject is a good start. Once you’ve read that, I recommend following it up with Matt’s plethora of articles on the subject at his blog Gusts of Popular Feeling by clicking here (if that doesn’t work, simply copy and paste “prostitution site:http://populargusts.blogspot.com/” into Google), and with apologies for not mentioning them myself, other bloggers by all means feel free to promote your own posts on the subject in the comments section. My concern here though, is specifically the fact that it is primarily Russian, presumably Caucasian, women that are trafficked to work in the industry, for which I offer the following links, in roughly chronological order (source right: Korea Discussion Forums):

Humantrafficking.org, which has a basic introduction to the subject and links to archived articles.

Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery, with a similar archive.

Michael Hurt’s October 2006 post on the subject, with many links itself.

• A May 2007 article from the JoongAng Daily.

• Robert Koehler’s January 2008 post at The Marmot’s Hole on the fact that a US Congressional Research Service report on human trafficking labeled Korea a major destination for sex tourism.

• GI Korea’s post at ROK Drop a week later on Korea being taken off that list.

• An editorial in The Hankyoreh in February of this year on the fact that it is the victims of human trafficking that are often persecuted for engaging in prostitution, despite being tricked and/or forced into it.

• Finally, a post by Robert Koehler in April on the busting of a brothel in Gangnam, which had several Russian prostitues.

Korean Charisma Man(Source: Gusts of Popular Feeling)

Last but not least, no post on the title topic would be complete without the related subject of the Korean media’s portrayal of Western, Caucasian male teachers as sexual predators, for which I recommend this post by Matt and the links I provide at #1 in this post for getting a grip on. Apologies in advance to Matt in case I’ve covered any of the same material that he does, who also looks at the portrayal of Caucasian women as sex objects in that post.

In closing, again please feel free to link to and/or discuss any related subjects and posts that you think should be included here (my aim is to make the post as inclusive as possible), and I’d be especially grateful for readers passing on any of their own practical experiences with the issues raised in it. And apologies to everyone for the delays to writing this post and responding to comments and emails, as on Wednesday the wifi on my laptop completely stopped working…only to miraculously turn back on the instant the repair guy walked through my front door on Friday!

(For all posts in the “Korean Sociological Images” series, see here)

37 thoughts on “Korean Sociological Image #18: Sexualizing Caucasian Women

  1. from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary:

    sexualize: to make sexual : endow with a sexual character or cast

    Sexuality is a part of human nature, especially for adolescent and adult human beings, so it seems redundant to sexualize a person who is already sexual. I can’t think of a ready one-word replacement, but what these ads do is highlight, exaggerate, or distort sexuality, not create it. It’s an important distinction because as you’ve noted often, sex in advertising isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Korean ads using tall, young, thin Caucasian models both highlight and distort Western female sexuality. They highlight the more overt expressions of sexuality through dress and behavior and they distort by showing only atypical, attractive models. My favorite ad (not shown here) is the one with the Korean man sitting in a hot tub surrounded by four sexy women. The heads of the back two women were lopped off, probably to hide their Korean identities and let the viewer infer them to be white like the front two models who were not beheaded.

    • Hmmm. Well, to be honest my first thought upon reading your comment late last night was that you were correct about the distinction, but nitpicking just a little, and that I really meant hypersexualization was clear to all. Wisely I decided to wait until the light of day before replying though, and now I think that your distinction is indeed very valid, and thanks for mentioning it. If it didn’t involve a great deal of editing unfortunately, then I’d go back and change my wording in light of it.

      In my defense(!), I did mention the image you describe, although it’s not actually an advertisement, and I see no reason to think that the anonymous, headless women at the back were Korean given that there were none in other photos from the photoshoot for GQ sorry.

      • Glad you reread the post because I wasn’t trying to nitpick but make an important point.

        I tried to locate a link to the photo but was unsuccessful. As I recall, the other photos in the shoot showed only the front two women, but I may be mistaken.

        • I did!^^ It’s one of the “many examples” above the Essor advertisement with Ahn Jung-hwan.

          It’s no big deal of course, and only one of the photos in the photoshoot showed the other two women, so it would have been easy to miss. It’s in the second link in my comment above.

  2. An excellent article as always :)

    You quoting yourself earlier in the article:

    Western women were more likely to be depicted in revealing clothes and or nude than Korean women, but at the same time they were also likely to be portrayed as independent, self-assured, and assertive than them too, and by no means just in a sexual sense.

    While I fully recognize the reality that a Korean women is not to appear sexualized as much as her Western counterpart, what IS she supposed to be, then? Quiet, coy, childish, shy, and introspective? Or (to take the opposite qualities from your quote) dependent, less-self-assured, or passive? It seems to be the case far too often, though I see enough exceptions when talking to my students.

    That’s actually another interesting thing – my students (adults anywhere from 22-62) often say they can talk to me (their foreign teacher) about things they couldn’t easily talk to their friends / parents / co-workers about. On one level I accept it as a compliment – perhaps I’m getting the inside scoop? – while on another level it reminds me how disjointed a relationship has to be when you can’t be open or honest with these people…

    • Sorry Chris, I’m not sure if you’re asking me or if that’s a rhetorical question. Could you please clarify? I mean no offense sorry…it’s just that I’m running on only 6 hours sleep (hey, I’m not in my 20s any more!).

      Regardless, you might find what came a little after that quote of mine in the post I link to (warning: probably the single most verbose, repetitive, meandering thorough look at advertising on my blog…all 5031 words of it!):

      ____

      Now, when I said above that men, too, “are increasingly portrayed in a sexist fashion in Korean advertisements”, I should stress what I’ve briefly alluded to in previous posts: that what academics in the field consider “sexism” in advertisements exactly is very much in flux, which recent papers on the topic, not least the one discussed here, demonstrate is actually very culture-specific. Not at all that the concept is culturally-relativist, something I’m completely against, but more…well, take the act of lying or sitting when others are standing for instance, part of Goffman’s “Ritualization of Subordination” criterion. According to an earlier paper of Nam Kyoung-tae’s referred to in the paper, Goffman:

      …read that lying or sitting conveys a sense of sexual availability and lowering oneself physically indicates deference or admittance of inferiority.

      That may sound bizarre in itself, but take my word for it, it makes sense when you see Goffman’s full arguments and examples. Continuing:

      This may not be an accurate interpretation of Korean advertising. In a Korean culture which is accustomed to sitting on the floor, a seated person might have a higher status than people who are standing nearby because he takes a more relaxed and comfortable position.

      This comes to mind whenever I must walk over and talk to my department head, who is Korean, and invariably remains seated during our conversations. Coming from a culture where it is considered rude to tower over someone when talking to them, regardless of the difference in status, then I find myself squatting down to his level to make myself feel at ease. Then I’ll remember that I’ve yet to see a Korean person do something similar in the entire eight years I’ve been here (except to children), and I’ll quickly correct myself…but which leaves me feeling uncomfortable again, and so the cycle continues. It must be very amusing to watch, which is possibly why my colleagues always seem to treat me like an idiot.

      _____

      Regardless, I hear you about Korean adults opening up to me because of being foreign, and have had that experience many times. And on one, superficial, level it’s tempting to also see in it a reminder of your foreignness and the fact that if you were to reveal the person’s deepest darkest secrets it wouldn’t be as consequential as if a Korean did so. But in reality, the vast majority of the people that have opened up to me personally were all very warm and genuine in doing so, and clearly thankful to have someone they could really speak honestly to, and so that never occurred to me really. And I became good friends with many later…indeed, in a sense them doing so was an initiation rite in becoming so really, for I shudder at the thought of having, say, single friends who couldn’t even tell me if they were a virgin or not. No, despite what my friends think I don’t about sex all the time, but what kind of friendship do you have with someone if so many personal subjects are effectively off limits?

      • It’s funny when you say “for I shudder at the thought of having, say, single friends who couldn’t even tell me if they were a virgin or not”…I’m Indonesian, in which “some” cultural sense is similar to that of Koreans, though I’m grateful many are not (such as: I’d like to think that domestic violence is not as prevalent). Because being virgin or not is certainly a taboo topic, especially in a country where majority are muslims. I appreciate your pieces, though some “hurt” me somewhere in my heart (and teary-eyed). Not your fault, certainly. It just made me wonder aloud, so after all these years…women, for the most part, we haven’t been valued as more than a piece of flesh, then?

  3. Is it just or me or does anyone find it funny that the poster about solving the prostitution problem, the one with the girls as U.S. and Korean flags, managed to outline their nipples? Doesn’t that seem like a bad idea?

  4. Pingback: Guest post: Some thoughts on gender in South Korea « Equal Writes

  5. As a Korean-American woman living in America, here are my perspectives. I am very humiliated at how Koreans (Koreans living in Korea) are gaga over whites. Don’t they realize how Asians are looked down on by whites, yet Koreans look up to whites?? Look at other races and see how they don’t idolize whites since they’re looked down on also. Why is it that Japanese and Koreans idolize over whites when they get treated like dirt by whites? It is both humiliating and pathetic. Maybe Koreans wish they will get the respect they desperately seek by idolizing whites? I’m trying to understand Koreans mindset on this. Here is what I tell to Koreans every chance I get. Go get some backbone and some pride. Why worship a race that looks down on you? Whites are laughing at you Koreans all the way to the bank. I have nothing against whites. But I hate to see my own race making fools of themselves thinking whites respect Koreans or something by idolizing them. LOL. Get a reality check, Koreans!!

    • Hey, I certainly agree with your sentiments that Koreans should stop idolizing Whites, and I’m all for Koreans being prouder of their culture and how they look too. But that doesn’t have to mean hating and making racist generalizations about White people in the process.

      • So I guess White people are innocent of making general racist generalizations about koreans or asians in general?

        If you are white male, what is your purpose being on a blog thats about race you have no relations with?

        • Racist generalizations are always unacceptable Eric, regardless of which race is the victim or the perpetrator.

          As for “No relations with”, I’ve lived in Korea 10 years, am married to a Korean woman, now have 2 half-Korean children. Not quite sure how many more relations with and of this “race” I can get.

          Goodbye.

          • As a white woman living in Korea, I don’t feel particularly idolized. I can’t remember the last time a man, Korean or white, spoke to me with any actual interest. And I’m not even ugly, I’m actually pretty hot. It’s probably one of the biggest pushes for me to leave Korea, even after 5 years and a great job. More than anything, I just miss some of the attention I used to get in the US. It feels more like ultra-marginalization.

  6. Pingback: On Obstacles to White Western Female-Korean Male Relationships Part 3 « On Becoming a Good Korean (Feminist) Wife

  7. Hello,
    I would like to ask if you can do a post on Korean Sociological Image and the women of colour residing within the country.
    I am very interested in both your personal take and whatever research you can collate.
    PS: love this blog

    Thanks

    • Thanks for loving my blog, and I’d certainly like to write a post on that: despite my disagreements with one of the above commenters (update: comments since deleted), I did indeed buy Imperial Citizens: Koreans and Race from Seoul to LA and have almost finished it. But to be frank, I’m very very busy with other things in the first half of this year, and I’ve still got a lot of research to do before I’m confident about writing on this topic. So if and when that post comes, it won’t be for probably at least 6 months sorry.

  8. I think the problem is that a lot of the guys in Korea are military guys. I understand they tend to be younger, less educated and more likely to visit prostitutes and leave behind children out of wedlock.

    No offense, but US military guys seem to do that all over the world. Yes the native guys are just as bad, but it’s like an insult if a foreigner does that to the local women… Not sure how to explain that to an American.

    But I thought it was funny that in lingerie ads in magazines, no Korean women were used. LOL Only white women…but I have an analogy. Korea is kind of a small country, right. So women are a little more conscious of their reputations. In the caribbean, for instance places like strip clubs etc are used by local men, but they bring in foreign women. Why? They pretty much look like the local women, but no local woman will risk her reputation working in a place like that.

    I think it’s a shame issue. In Korea and a lot of other countries if a women looks or acts like a tramp, men will treat her like one. Even other women may treat her like that…so the only women who really don’t care are women from overseas.

    Even if a Korean girl works as a model or whatever to make money, I suspect she plans to get married and have a stable life one day. Why risk that by posing draped over a car in a “cheap” way?

  9. Rarely am I able to go into a topic in any forum or blog about a white Western man’s trip to Asia without some comment about how easy the girls are and how they absolutely looove the foreign guys. About half the time there will be a comment thrown in about how they prefer the foreign guys because the local guys are too effeminate or are too small down under. The comments are full or their weeaboo pals slobbering and declaring how they need to get themselves over to Asia, and usually there will be a discussion on how they are always welcoming English teachers and the only requirement to be one is the ability to speak English. Are you really surprised that people might be unhappy about this? Especially when it feels like all pervasive Western media and propaganda influences people in certain ways.

    I don’t mean to be rude or short with you, I don’t know you I just kind of stumbled onto this post. That said, the attitude espoused in the leave with me an impression of the inherent moral superiority and colonialist arrogance existant in many white males. It’s bred by a media in the West which caters to their largest audience; white males. It’s well documented in non-mainstream sources how marginalized and emasculated East-Asian men are and how hyper-sexualized East-Asian women are in Western media. It feels disingenuous to write a post on how flawed Korean media (which dramas aside, rarely makes it out of Korea) is without an acknowledgment of the imbalances found in Western media.

    As referring to the sexualization of Caucasian women, the values dissonance in Korea is the least of their troubles. I was reading the following article you may find interesting: http://www.globalpolitician.com/25869-sweden-immigration-islam The key quote being: “The Swedish girl gets a lot of help afterwards, and she had probably f**ked before, anyway. But the Arab girl will get problems with her family. For her, being raped is a source of shame. It is important that she retains her virginity” Again, it feels unfair to single out Korea when this kind of belief is so widespread. You may gripe about how your focus is on Korea or maybe you covered it in another post, but the fact is you are a white man of foreign birth criticizing a country in a region that is often singled out for abuse by foreign media sources. Particularly now that America is intent on blaming all of its economic troubles on China.

    • I don’t mean to be rude or short with you, I don’t know you I just kind of stumbled onto this post. That said, the attitude espoused in the leave with me an impression of the inherent moral superiority and colonialist arrogance existant in many white males.

      I’m afraid I can’t tell if you’re referring to me and this post, or all the other White men and their writings about Korea you mention in the first paragraph.

      If the former, then it behooves me to point out that, despite the relatively long length of your comment, notably you fail to provide a single reason or actual piece of evidence for the attitude you see espoused in it.

      If the latter, then, well, the gist of your comment is still: a) You don’t like what many White males write about Korea; b) Your post may not be like theirs James, but regardless you don’t have the same right to criticize Korea as a native; and c) not unrelated to that, every single time you do criticize Korea you have to mention that the same or similar problems exist in your home country.

      Your points are so inane that they don’t deserve a reply. And, by virtue of making them, clearly there’s no use in continuing this conversation with you any further.

      Banned.

      (Sorry. Was that rude or short of me?)

      • its a little like how you cant say the N word unless your black. If your not korean, you shouldnt say certain things about Korea. Coming into Korea,marrying a Korean and posting a blog talking about Korean sexuality in modernity, its all a bit unsavory IMO. I smell colonialism. You can’t escape it, luckily your British so youre a bit more polite when you come into a country unlike the Spaniards and their history. Although, in your case you did take a Korean bride. You might find Hong Kong more to your liking. Its more ‘international’ there. Sorry for the rudeness but white people coming into Korea criticizing it just gets really annoying. Especially when theyre directly involved with the continued partition of the peninsula. White as in NATO non-asian forces. Considering the political climate, perhaps you shouldnt be so vocal while youre on foreign territory. A little respect please.

  10. Pingback: The Sexualization of Caucasian Women in K-pop | seoulbeats

  11. I know this comment is well after the post, but I just recently found this website.

    I am a white Canadian, living in Canada. I have a lot (most of my friends come from non-European backgrounds) of friends from many countries. I find that Asian men (not just Korean) will treat me different than they would women from their original country, I have even asked them directly if they would treat a ___ woman the same way and they said “no,” as if it was absurd to think otherwise. Being treated like I am not human, like a toy that is just to be used. That white women will have sex with any guy (some guys have gotten mad at me for not sleeping with them). Guys using aggression and trying to force it. Saying they have never “tried” a white girl before (sadly it wasn’t just one or two guys who said this). One guy tried to get me to sleep with him because he was going back to Korea (after many years in Canada) and had never slept with a white girl. <—Another Japanese guy did the same thing.

    Compared to Canadian (mostly white) men who do not make me feel like I am only valued depending on my skin or appearance, I really feel bad about myself after dating Asian guys. Being called ugly and fat, being compared to people from their background, being ignored for people of the same background. Just constantly cut down and treated as inferior. But these guys are completely different to the girls they date from the same country, where they even become "amazing" boyfriends.

    I know the same thing happens towards Asian women in Canada as well. There are a lot of men who want an Asian girlfriend and don't even care who she is, they just treat all Asian women as if they are the same person. At parties with only white people (I live in a really white city) I hear something racist every single time, even with different people. I just wish people would show more respect towards everyone, regardless of background. Of course I am also guilty of judging people by their backgrounds.

    • Thanks for your comment, and sorry to hear about your negative experiences of dating Asian guys. Fortunately though, mostly through the blog, frankly I know of too many happy Western-female/Korean-male relationships to count, so I guess you were just very unlucky sorry.

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  13. Pingback: [The Grand narrative] Esiste ancora uno stigma contro le modelle in lingerie, in Corea? | Moshi Moshi Netizen!

  14. Chill bro. It’s not like the west NEVER hypersexualized asian women (except for a good portion of the history of Hollywood)
    Exoticising is nothing new, carry on

  15. Interesting reading – Just stumbled onto your blog post now whilst trying to research the exotification of caucasian women in Korea. I’m a half Caucasian, half SE Asian woman – and was recently dropped by a Korean guy for a white woman. Even though I’m mostly over it, it still hurts because I know I can’t change the colour of my skin (which is tan). I’m hoping to move to Korea next year to work, and I’m afraid that I’ll be treated not so well by the locals… especially the guys :(

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