It’s official: from now on, I’ll be using Korean-language sources on gender and sexuality here just as much as English ones.
Partially, this is simply to maintain and improve my Korean ability, which I’ve sorely neglected since starting a new job back in July. But the main reason is that not only can foreign-language commentary on any subject quickly become out of date, it also makes one reliant on the views of those Koreans fluent in English, which are not necessarily reflective of Koreans as a whole.
Consider the following by sociologist Yoshio Sugimoto for instance. He is talking about Japan, but his points are equally relevant to Korea:
Dominating in the upper echelons of society, core subcultural groups are able to control the educational curriculum, influence the mass media, and prevail in the areas of publishing and publicity. They outshine their peripheral counterparts in establishing their modes of life and expectations in the national domain and presenting their subcultures as the national culture. The samurai spirit, the kamikaze vigor, and the soul of the Yamato race, which some male groups may have as part of the dominant subculture of men, are promoted as presenting Japan’s national culture….
More generally, the slanted views of Japan’s totality tend to reproduce because writers, readers, and editors of publications on the general characteristics of Japanese society belong to the core subcultural sphere. Sharing their subcultural base, they conceptualize and hypothesize in a similar way, confirm their portrayal of Japan between themselves, and rarely seek outside confirmation….(An Introduction to Japanese Society, pp. 12-13).
And in particular:
Core subcultural groups overshadow those on the periphery in inter-cultural transactions too. Foreign visitors to Japan, who shape the images of Japan in their own countries, interact more intensely with core subcultural groups than with peripheral ones. In cultural exchange programs, Japanese who have houses, good salaries, and university educations predominate among the host families, language trainers, and introducers of Japanese culture…(p. 13)
After two years of immersing myself in (limited) English-language sources on gender and sexuality then, it’s high time to make Korean language-ones my starting point instead.
To that end, let me begin by recommending the blog PlayHolic (플레이홀릭) written by a Korean woman from Jeju called Im-ji (임지; probably not her full name). I’ve been following her on Twitter for several months now, but I confess it was only a few days ago that I first really read her tweets, my curiosity picqued by one that mentioned Talk on Sex (토크온섹스), which turned out to be a weekly podcast that she is the co-host of. At over an hour long and (not unreasonably) with no transcripts though, then those are well beyond my ability to keep up, but fortunately her blog entries aren’t. I’ve translated this recent one on Korean attitudes to contraception below.
Coming in addition to this recent post of mine on the subject, admittedly it probably provides no new information for readers of this blog, but it does at least demonstrate that reliable information about the contraceptive pill is available in Korea. Unfortunately Korean women are generally disinclined to seek that information out though, as like I explain here (and Im-ji briefly alludes to), many fear that being proactive and insistent on using contraception will make them appear sluttish to their partners, and in turn possibly their peer group.
For those reasons, I’ll be focusing in the next few weeks on finding any attempts that have been made to counter these stereotypes, and particularly by Korean celebrities and/or institutions. For the former, a good person for me to start might be former S.E.S. member Eugene (김유진), who advertised the contraceptive pill in 2006 (two examples are included below).
(I apologize in advance for any mistakes in the translation, and welcome any corrections if any readers feel it needs them)
피임에 대한 여성들의 고민 / Women’s Troubles With Contraception (20/10/2009)
피임은 인류에게 떼려야 뗄 수 없는 영원한 숙제나 마찬가지이다. 미혼은 미혼이기에, 기혼자들은 미리 세운 가족 계획에 따라 피임을 할 수밖에 없다.
Contraception is inseparable from being human: it is a perpetual problem. But while married women have to make plans about having children, unmarried women shouldn’t have children and so have no choice but to use it.
그 피임 방법이 누구나를 만족시키고, 쉽다면 행복하겠지만 안타깝게도 실제 피임은 그리 간단한 문제만은 아니다.
Everybody should use a contraceptive method that is satisfactory for them, and if it is easy to use then they will be happy. But unfortunately the reality is that choosing contraception is not a simple issue.
남녀 모두 각자가 선호하는 피임법이 있기 마련이고, 제대로 피임을 하지 않으면 불안감과 초조감에 섹스를 즐길 수 없다.
Of course, all men and women should use the contraceptive method(s) they prefer, but if they are not used properly then this can make one feel ill at ease and nervous and unable to properly enjoy sex.
아무래도 임신은 여성의 몸을 빌어 나타나기 때문에 피임에 대한 부담감은 여성이 더 크기 마련이다.
However, as it is women’s bodies that are affected by pregnancy then of course women feel more of the burden for contraception.
피임이 제대로 되지 않을 경우, 여성들은 임신에 대한 불안감 때문에 섹스에 집중하지 못한다. 또섹스가 끝나고 나서도 임신 가능성에 대한 공포감에 시달린다. 인터넷 게시판에는 임신진단시약과 사후피임약에 대한 물음이 끊이질 않는다.
If contraception is not used correctly, then women become nervous about becoming pregnant and are unable to concentrate on enjoying having sex. They are very uneasy about this possibility after having sex also. Questions about pregnancy tests and morning-after pills never cease on internet cafes and message boards.
그렇다면 여성들은 과연 피임을 제대로 하고 있을까?
How can women use contraception properly then?
산부인과 전문의들로 구성된 피임연구회가 세계피임의 날을 맞아 19~34세 여성 1,000명을 대상으로 실시한 ‘한국 여성의 피임에 대한 인식과 행태 조사’에 따르면, 2,30대 여성의 44.5%가 ‘피임은 남성이 해야 옳다’고 답했다. 오직 4.8%만이 ‘피임은 여성이 해야 한다’고 대답했다. 이는 여성들이 남성들에게 피임을 의존하고 있다는 것으로 해석해도 무방할 듯 싶다.
Gynecologists and contraception-research centers recently welcomed World Contraception Day, and according to a survey of knowledge and attitudes to contraception of 1000 Korean women aged between 19 and 34, 44.5% replied that “contraception is men’s responsibility,” but only 4.8% replied that it is women’s responsibility. In short, Korean women rely on men to provide and use contraception.
피임을 하지 않은 상태에서 성관계 후의 대처 방법도 ‘임신진단시약으로 임신 여부를 확인’하는 비율이 62.4%, ‘응급피임약(사후피임약)을 복용하겠다’고 답한 비율이 30.7%로 나타났다.
When those women that don’t use contraception were asked how they dealt with the possibility of becoming pregnant, 62.4% replied that they used a pregnancy test, and 30.7% replied that they used emergency contraception.
피임을 남성의 몫으로 떠넘기는 경우, 콘돔을 사용한다면 그나마 다행이다. 문제는 질외사정법 등으로 피임을 떠넘기는 경우이다. 질외사정법은 엄밀히 이야기하면 올바른 피임 방법이라 할 수 없다. 질외사정은 질 내 사정에 비해 임신 가능성이 줄어들 순 있지만 사정 이전에 이미 정자가 일부 정액에 섞여 분비되므로 엄밀한 의미에서는 피임법이라 부를 수 없다.
In the case of men fulfilling their portion of a couple’s responsibility to use contraception, it is lucky [for women] if they use condoms. Those that use the withdrawal method will have problems though, as it is not a precise method. Of course, if the man does not ejaculate into the woman’s vagina then the possibility of becoming pregnant is lowered, but sperm and semen can still mix and be secreted before a man ejaculates.
가장 많은 연인들이 이용하는 피임법이 콘돔이다. 간편하고, 몸에 무리가 가지 않는 방법이기 때문이다. 그러나 그 이질감 때문에 남성들은 물론 여성들 중 일부도 콘돔 사용을 꺼려하기도 한다.
By far, Korean lovers’ preferred choice of contraception is the condom. It is convenient and does not place a burden on the body. However, because of the reduced feeling many men and also some women don’t like to use it.
그럴 때 선택할 수 있는 피임법이 먹는 피임약이다.
In that case, one alternative is the contraceptive pill.
그러나 우리나라에서 먹는 피임약은 유달리 그 편견의 정도가 심하다. 체중을 증가시키거나 불임에 이를 수 있다는 오해가 팽배하기 때문이다.
However, in Korea the contraceptive pill has an exceptionally bad reputation. Rumors and misunderstandings about it have spread easily, such as it increasing your weight and causing sterility.
먹는 피임약은 임신을 가능하게 하는 호르몬인 에스트로겐과 프로게스테론을 통해 여성의 배란 및 생리를 조절하는 약이다. 피임 실패율이 낮고 콘돔처럼 성감을 떨어뜨리지 않기 때문에 잦은 성관계를 갖는 연인이나 부부에게 적합한 피임법이다.
[But] through the hormones estrogen and progesterone, the contraceptive pill is a medicine that can control when you ovulate and have your period. It also has a lower failure rate than the condom, and doesn’t reduce sexual feeling. For these reasons, it is particularly appropriate for lovers who often have sex and for married couples.
살이 찌거나 여드름이 나는 등의 부작용 등은 초창기 피임약에서 나타났던 증상이나 최근 저용량 피임약들이 도입되면서 이런 부작용들을 해결하고 있다.
It is true that first generation contraceptive pills did have the side effects of causing women to gain weight and cause acne, but those have been resolved in more recent versions by lowering the dosages.
먹는 피임약은 다른 피임법과 마찬가지로 사용을 중단하면 바로 임신 능력이 회복된다. 장기 여행 등으로 피임약을 복용해 본 여성이라면 약을 먹지 않을 경우, 바로 생리가 찾아오는 것을 경험해봤을 것이다.
Like other contraceptive methods, as soon as you stop using the contraceptive pill your fertility recovers. Women who have gone on extended trips and stop taking the pill have reported that their period returned quickly.
또 먹는 피임약이 호르몬을 조절하기 때문에 막연하게 나쁘다는 이미지가 있는데, 먹는 피임약은 전부 용해되며, 복용하지 않을 땐 체내에 그 성분이 남아 있지 않기 때문에 영향을 미치지 않는 걸로 알려져 있다.
Because the contraceptive pill works by controlling one’s hormones, then it has a vague, bad image in Korea. But as the contents of the pill are completely absorbed into the body when you take it, then there are no lingering effects if you decide to stop using it.
특히 국내에 최근 출시된 야즈는 기존 먹는 피임약이 21일간 복용하면, 7일간 쉬었던 데 비해 24일간 복용하고 4일은 위약을 복용하는 세계최초의 24/4 용법 방식으로 체내 호르몬 변화의 폭을 감소시켜 전체 생리주기 동안 더 안정된 호르몬 수준을 유지하는 것으로 나타났다.
In particular, a new contraceptive pill called Yaz has been released, and this is the first in the world which you can take for 24 days and have a 4 day break, unlike the standard 21 days and 7 days respectively. This change means that your hormone levels don’t fluctuate so much when you have your period.
임신은 비록 여자가 하는 것이지만 그 과정에 이르기까지에는 남녀 모두가 공동의 역할과 책임이 있다. 그렇기 때문에 피임은 남자의 몫이 아닌 여성과 남성이 함께 챙겨야 하는 당연한 책임이다. 여자가 적극적으로 피임을 하는 것에 대해 주변의 시선을 신경 쓸 필요가 없다는 이야기이다. 자기 몸의 주체는 자신이 되어야 하고, 여성이 먼저 나서서 자신의 몸에 맞는 피임법을 찾는 것이 그 주체가 되는 첫걸음이다.
Even if getting pregnant is only the lot of women, as that process involves both men and women then both have a responsibility to use contraception: not just men. And you should not care about what other people think of you for being proactive and responsible about it: your body is your own, and so the first step is to find the right birth control method for you.
피임을 상대 남성에게만 맡겨두는 것이 아니라 스스로 자신의 몸에 맞는 피임법을 찾고, 성생활 역시 불안감 없이 즐기는 것이 자기 몸을 사랑하는 방법이 될 것이다.
Contraception is not the sole responsibility of men, and finding what method is most appropriate for your bodies and best able to allow you to enjoy your sex life comfortably and safely is something both partners have to do for each other (End).
One very mild criticism I have of the above is that, like the Korean author of the last translation I provided, Im-ji is quite positive about a new form of contraceptive pill called Yaz (야즈), but which as a commenter here has pointed out, is increasingly viewed as too dangerous by Western consumers, and is the subject of numerous lawsuits. Perhaps this information is simply not available in Korean yet?
In line with my new modus operandi, I’ll try to find that out myself this weekend…starting by asking Im-ji directly!
(For all posts in the Korean Sources on Sexuality and Gender series, see here)