Question From a Reader: Contraceptive Pills

( Source )

Rather than have it hidden unanswered on an old post, and ironically one rather critical of the Yaz (야즈) contraceptive pill at that(!), let me post this question from a reader here:

This may seem strange after reading the comments but I am a Yaz user and I really like it and I am new to Korea and next month my last pack of Yaz will finish. Does anyone know where I can find Yaz in Korea? Is it even available in Korea or perhaps does it go by a different name. Any help would be much appreciated.

Hey, whatever works for her, and I’ll take a look at Korean websites for more information if necessary. But can any readers with more practical knowledge help?^^

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The Hips Don’t Lie…

( But is she smart too? Source )

As long-term readers will be well aware, I’m a big fan of evolutionary psychology. And why not? It usually provides both simple and extremely compelling explanations for many universal cultural features and human behaviors, such as that of the evil stepmother or the fact that 95% of killers are males respectively for instance. So when research in 2004 found that women with hourglass body shapes are 30% more likely to become pregnant than others, it was no great surprise that men worldwide have always tended to find this body type the most attractive.

But even congenitally blind men too?

Yes, it’s true, and while critics have frequently pointed out the sexist and/or (ironically) culturally-based assumptions to many of evolutionary psychologists’ conclusions, this latest news definitely buttresses the “nature” rather than the “nurture” side of the debate:

…Notwithstanding the significant scientific evidence in support for the ubiquitous male preference for the hourglass figure [a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.68 to 0.72], social constructivists doggedly hang on to the position that our preferences are due to arbitrary socialization (e.g., advertising teaches men to prefer a particular body type). Well, in today’s post, I discuss a new study that yet again kills the apparently immortal socialization dragon!

In a recent paper published in Evolution and Human Behavior, Johan C. Karremans, Willem, E. Frankenhuis, and Sander Arons explored men’s WHR preferences with one twist: the men in question were congenitally blind! Needless to say, this largely removes the possibility that these men were taught via media images to prefer a particular female body type. You might wonder how one would go about eliciting such preferences from blind men…via touch of course! The researchers had two mannequins dressed in exactly the same way but who varied in terms of their WHR (0.70 or 0.84)…

Read the details at Homo Consumericus, and the typically acerbic comments section there is also interesting. Meanwhile, on the same day I read that I happened to pick up the June 2010 edition (no.21) of cosmetic store Aritaum’s (아리따움; “Charm”) free advertorial magazine (as one does), and the contrast with the wholly photoshopped, physically impossible “X-line” body type being promoted in it couldn’t have been any greater:

( “Find your X-line”? Good luck! )

I’ve already discussed the X-line concept in an earlier post, almost literally tearing to shreds a Korea Times report – nay, also an advertorial – that uncritically reported on the “new body trend” in the process. But you may also be curious to read the advertising copy for the X-line slimming drink above however: what does persuade Korean women to buy such things?

아리따움 슬리머

울여름, 꿈에 그리는 비키니를 위한 당신의 다이어트 플랜은? 운동하기엔 많은 시간과 노력이 필요하고, 어디서 왔는지 모를 다이어트 방법은 믿을 수 가 없다. 그렇다면 올해도 무조건 굶는 것이 최고? 굶어서 빼는 다이어트는 단기간의 체중 감소는 느끼겠지만 얼굴 혈색을 나쁘게 하고 피부 탄력을 떨어뜨리며, 얼마 지나지 않아 요요 현상을 불러온다.

슬리머 DX는 간편하고 즐겹게 이용할 수 있는 슬리밍 제품으로 식약청으로부터 체지방 감소 기능을 인정 받아 믿고 섭취할 수 있다. 또한 휴대가 편한 앰플 형태라 언제, 어디서든 자신의 라이프스타일에 따라 쉽고 간편하게 다이어트가 가능하다. 아리따움 슬리머 DX라면 올 균형 있는 X라인으로 비키니를 입는 데 주저함은 없을 듯!

Edited slightly, to make it sound better in English:

Aritaum Slimmer

This summer, what is your diet plan for getting into your dream bikini? Exercising takes a lot of time and effort, and you can’t believe in diets if you don’t who came up with them. This year, is simply being hungry the best solution? If you diet this way, it is true that you will soon feel that you’ve lost some weight, but at the same time your complexion will become bad and your skin will lose its elasticity and bounce, almost inevitably resulting in a yo-yo effect as you crave foods again.

Slimmer DX is a simple, convenient, and enjoyable to use slimming product that you can take with the confidence that the Korean FDA has recognized and approved it as a slimming product. Also, it is portable and in a bottle that has more than enough for any occasion, ensuring you can easily use it to diet whenever and wherever you choose according to your lifestyle. This summer, you shouldn’t have any hesitation to use Aritaum Slimmer DX to wear a bikini that shows off your balanced X-line!

Sound familiar?

Diet advertisements in Korean magazinesappear to promote more passive dieting methods (e.g., diet pills,aroma therapy, diet crème, or diet drinks) than activedieting methods (e.g., exercise). Results further indicatedthat women may be misled to believe that dieting is simple,easy, quick, and effective without pain, if they consume theadvertised product. This study suggests that there is an urgentneed to establish government regulations or policies about dietproducts and their claims in Korea. Magazine publishers alsoneed to recognize their role in societal well-being and acceptsome responsibility for advertisements in their magazines.

Finally, a question for readers: I picked up the Aritaum magazine partially because I couldn’t tell if Lee Na-young’s (이나영) neck above in a bus-shelter advertisement near my apartment had been lengthened or not? She’s a tall woman; I honestly can’t tell. Meanwhile, the woman in the first picture is Shin Se-kyeong (신세경) for those that you that are curious (whom I’m well aware will also have been extensively photoshopped; in the original image, her legs appear to have been lengthened), but, alas, the identity of the ant-like figure with the X-line escapes me I’m afraid!^^

Korean Sociological Image #41: Mothers of Warriors

(Source)

A quick question: who would you choose to sell hormone-treatment and anti-depression medication to middle-aged women?

Barring Bae Young-joon (배용준) above, notoriously popular among them, then I’d wager that middle-aged women themselves were your most likely answer. And your least likely? Probably men in their early-20s, which begs the question of why they’re the only ones actually speaking in the following commercial from Dongkook Pharmaceutical (see below for a translation):

Of course, the reason the young men are featured at all is because Korea has universal male conscription, which makes parting scenes like those featured above a normal part of the Korean life-cycle. So while the leaving ceremony itself may be unfamiliar to most Western observers, a company encouraging consumers to associate its product with it is really no different from a bank using imagery of, say, children’s university graduation ceremonies to sell retirement savings plans.

Still, that’s not to say that it’s just any old commercial. For in relying on an emotional event for Korean mothers and sons to sell its products, but quite literally denying only the mothers a voice in that, Dongkook Pharmaceutical has ironically provided an apt illustration of Korean women’s expected role in any public debates about military conscription. Which is in short, to be seen and not heard, their opinions taken for granted by others.

For instance, in 1997 the Korean media revealed that the sons of Lee Hoi-chang (이회창), the then presidential candidate of the then ruling Shinhangukdang (New Korean Party; 신한국당), had been exempted from their military service due to medical grounds; popularly believed to have used his wealth and influence to secure this, the backlash against Lee for failing to fulfill his paternal and nationalist responsibilities was so intense that his political career was soon over. And yet according to Insook Kown in A Feminist Exploration of Military Conscription: The Gendering of the Connections Between Nationalism, Militarism and Citizenship in South Korea (2001), even in the midst of all that:

…women were voiceless. Those who accused Lee, answered the accusations, reported the matter, and contributed articles were all men. In public, the conscription scandal seemed a matter for men only. Sometimes, mothers were used by men as a reference symbolizing a certain group of women only concerned about the welfare of their sons. Many male editorial writers represented the angry emotions of mothers to show South Korean popular opinion. One editorial writer in the JoongAng Daily (22/08/97) described the anger of many mothers of sons. According to him, these mothers wrote a slogan on the calender for Election Day: “Let’s never forget the exemptions of Lee’s sons”.  (p. 43)

(Source: anja_johnson)

And later another editorial writer in the same paper (27/08/97) illustrated the emotional background of the issue by using a motherly perspective:

People did not deal with the exemption by making accusations of immorality or illegal intervention in the exemption, but with emotional anger like, why did your sons not have to go into the army, while my son is suffering in a life-or-death crisis. What made women angrier than anyone else, was caused by this kind emotion. (p. 43)

Kwon argues that the Korean state has always very much had a stake in accepting feminized forms of self-sacrifice in its name, whether as factory workers, prostitutes to the US military or Japanese tourists (a crucial source of foreign exchange in the 1960s and 1970s), or mothers of conscripts. Focusing on the latter here, consequently they have so far lacked:

…room to represent their own sacrifices in public. Mother’s concern and pain over their son’s conscription has remained hidden under the taken-for-granted necessity of military conscription for national security. Their voices have been deprived of a space for expression; and because their emotional attachment to their sons has been translated into a private matter, they have not mobilized as a group. (p. 37; tenses have been changed)

Not that this lack of representation means that mothers are necessarily opposed to conscription. For example, Cynthia Enloe, who has written extensively on the subject of “patriotic motherhood” narratives constructed by militarized states, argues that in fact they can have attractions for women whose mothering role has been evaluated as personal and private. Indeed, it can be a chance for them to completely revalue their maternal duty:

Some women feel deeply validated when some politician goes on the call for mothering to be defined as a vital contribution to the nation’s war effort, because warfare has been imagined by many to be the quintessentially public and national activity. (Maneuvers: The International Politics of Militarizing Women’s Lives, 2000, p. 11, quoted in Kwon p. 46)

Moreover, what are these “sacrifices” referred to exactly? Kwon’s analysis is a little weak on this point, as although she provides a comprehensive and convincing demonstration of how in fact all women suffer from the conscription system (a subject taken up in this series), there is little evidence that mothers specifically suffer beyond that aforementioned “concern and pain over their son’s conscription”. As the commercial demonstrates however, that may be rather more than a Western observer might expect.

At which point it is prudent to provide the translation of it(!). Below, the text featured on the screen is written as normal text below, while everything spoken by the conscripts or in the voiceover I’ve put in quotation marks. I’ve also provided the commercial again to make it easier to follow along:

엄마…..그동안 받기만 해왔습니다

Mother…..(I’ve) only ever received things (from you)

엄마…이제 처음으로 엄마품을 떠나네요

Mother….this is the first time I’ve left my mother’s (your?) bosom”

엄마…고맙습니다

Mother…thank you

듬직한 대한민국 군인이 돼서 엄마가 믿고 의지할 수 있는 아들이 되겠습니다

I will become a reliable, trustworthy Korean soldier whom you can trust and depend on

이제는 우리가 엄마를 도와드릴 차례입니다

Now it’s our (my?) turn to help our mothers

어머니 잘 다녀오겠습니다. 사랑합니다. 사랑해

Mother, I will do well before I return. I love you (formal). I love you (informal)

엄마, 사랑합니다. 충성!

Mother, I love you (formal). Loyalty! (Fealty?) (Devotion?) [James: whatever the exact meaning, it is said when saluting]

대한민국 갱년기 어머니들의 10명 중 8명은 다양한 갱년기 증상으로 힘들어하고 있습니다

Out of every 10 mothers of the Korean public who experience menopause, 8 suffer from various symptoms

(Above, left and right): 여성 갱년기 극복 갬폐인 & 동국제약

Female Menopause Conquest Campaign & Dongkook Pharmaceutical

엄마에게, 사랑의 마음을 전하세요. 훼라민큐가 함께 합니다

Tell your mother the love you feel in your heart. With HeraminQ.

이제, 엄마의 갱년기를 도와주세요. 훼라민Q.

Now, please help with mothers’ menopause. HeraminQ.

(In very fine print): 의사, 약사와 상의하십시오. 부작용이 있을 수 있습니다

Please consult with a doctor or pharmacist. Side effects are possible.

Update: Seamus Walsh has provided a slightly more accurate translation (with explanations) in the comments.

(For another post: the impact on sisters and girlfriends of conscription? Movie poster for The Longest 24 Hours, (기다리다미쳐, 2007), a lighthearted look at military service from the perspective of conscripts’ girlfriends; also known as Crazy4wait. Source)

While this may sound a little hypocritical at first, let me begin my discussion on the subject of the mothers’ feelings by highlighting those of the men; actually, that is the original reason I wanted to write this post, for let me stress that you were seeing men in their early-20s crying at the thought of leaving their mothers. What did that make you think of them?

Well, at risk of sounding insensitive, personally I found them to be pathetic. Not that I was all that mature at the same age of course, and in many senses my reaction may simply be because of cultural differences. Like Brian in Jeollanam-do once put it:

…everything in Korea tries to be cute, in the same way everything in the States is “Xtreme” and too cool for school. Korea uses a cartoon to advertise where the US would have a gravelly stoner voiceover, and Korean videos often feature cuteness exaggerated to a sickening degree where American videos would lots of brooding and feigned indifference.

And not unrelated is how different average Koreans’ and average Westerners’ life-cycles are at that age, although 30-somethings like myself should be wary of projecting their own experiences onto today’s 20-somethings. Nor do I want to make light of the hardships conscripts have to endure either.

(Source: anja_johnson)

But then I’m not:  in that commercial at least, thinking about those hardships is not why they’re crying. Moreover, to describe the crying as a simple cultural difference underplays the extent to which this practice is unique even within Korean culture itself, as beyond obvious cases such as funerals, my (Korean) wife for one could think of no other situations in which it is so socially acceptable for a man of that age to cry publicly. That they can and do then, is partially because a) the vast majority of Koreans don’t actually think of any male as a “man” until he has fulfilled his military service, and b) this uniquely strong bond between mothers and conscript-sons. Indeed, there is:

…a widely held popular belief that a father should encourage his son to go into the army, and to fulfill his national defense duty to achieve real citizenship. In this gendered construction, mothers represent emotional attachment such as compassion and pity toward their conscripted sons. In other words…the emotional part of the work of conscription….

…At the most emotional step of the conscription process, the father disappears. For instance, in two recent guidebooks published for pre-conscripts, the authors, both male, make almost no mention of fathers. The only ‘object’ for whom male soldiers are expected to feel concern about in the family is the mother. (p. 44)

And as you might expect, this is well-represented in popular culture, and in addition to commercials like the above I have frequently seen conscripts brought on to the stage after a girl-group has performed on an army base to wax lyrical about their performance and their attractiveness…only then to break down in tears and leave a very emotional message to their mothers watching back home (indeed, often they’re literally choking on their words so much that Om-ma “mother” is the only word you’re able to discern).

Unfortunately for readers however, this is yet another case of something interesting to outside observers that is unremarkable to Koreans themselves, and so I’ve spent over an hour unsuccessfully looking for examples to post here (videos of girl-group performances typically finish just before the soldiers are brought on stage). If any readers find any I would appreciate it if you could pass them on, but in the meantime let me finish by passing on what Kwon says about the program Ujeongdui Mudae (우정의 무대), or Stage for Friendship, the only program about conscripted soldiers in the 1990s, and which had:

…one famous section, ‘Yearning for Mother’. An unidentified  mother talked about her son from back stage. Following her talk, a lot of soldiers ran on the stage shouting “Mother” and insisted she was their mother. Finally, the mother appeared on stage and hugged her son. Finally, the mother appeared on stage and hugged her son. Accompanied with deeply moving music, both mother and son cried, as did other soldiers and everybody watching the TV show. (p. 44).

For your interest though, I did find this 2008 commercial with Moon Geun-young (문근영) for GS Caltex (칼텍스), which features a mother visiting her son during his military service (and impressed with how much of a man he has become):

And for the record, Dongkook Pharmaceutical did produce more “normal” commercials for HeraminQ with middle-age women, here, here, and here, as well as another one in the “life-cycle” series featuring mothers’ high-school children taking their life-determining university-entrance exams:

Thoughts?

(For all posts in the Korean Sociological Images series, see here; for more on the effect of conscription on Korean society, see here and here)

Ah! (아!) by After School (애프터스쿨): Lyrics & Translation

After School’s (애프터스쿨) debut track from last year, of which I again include both DJ Areia’s remix above and the original below for you to enjoy while I explain the lyrics. But note that the remix is not actually trance this time, but rather the disco-like “vibrating analog synthesizer sounds and the helicopter-like basslines” of the late-1980s and early-1990s, so please do give it a try if you’re normally put off by dance music.

As for the music video itself, its theme is a little strange: schoolgirls in skimpy clothing coming on to their increasingly flustered young teacher, whom they are very happy to have ‘accidentally’ burst into their locker room later? It sounds…nay, looks like Japanese manga, and reminds me that student-teacher relationships (including dating and marriage) are a common trope of mainstream Korean popular culture (see here, here, and here for example), which only serves to both glamorize and normalize them.

Still, overly hormonal school students do sometimes have crushes on their teachers, and there’s nothing wrong in itself with portraying those in a music video. But while this one does obviously cater more to men’s sexual fantasies than to women’s (would having the group members vying for the affections of a handsome male student instead appeal more to women?), the lyrics demonstrate that there is much more to the song than meets the eye…

Again, for reasons outlined last time, I’ll provide very literal translations:

이렇게 둘이, 너와 단 둘이
언제나 둘이, 달콤한 이야길 하고파 둘이
둘이, 오늘밤 둘이, 사랑해 우리 둘이 둘이 baby

This way the two of us, with you only the two of us

All the time the two of us, I want us to tell a sweet story

The two of us, tonight the two of us, I love you we the two of us the two of us baby

“단” in the first line confused me for a while: it has a dozen meanings, including “bunch” or “bundle” which would (sort of) go with “the two of us”, but ultimately the meaning “only” is the most appropriate here. After that, the “~ㄹ 고파 하다” verb ending in the second line was the first time I’ve ever come across it personally, nor is it in any of my grammar books, but my wife says it simply means “~하고 싶다”, or “want to”.

잘빠진 다리와 외모 너는 내게 반하지
그대를 향한 윙크 한번 내게 빠지지
니 높은 콧대, 내 몸맨 어때
내 앞에선 니 모든게 무너지고 말껄

You have fallen in love with my slender legs and outward appearance

If I wink towards you one time you will fall (further)

The bridge of your nose is high (you have high standards)

How is my body?

Everything about you is going to crumble in front of me anyway

It feels a little hypocritical of me to critique other translations of songs here, as I very much rely on them to try and understand anything I might be having difficulty with myself, and especially because the translators may lack my increasingly annoyed Korean wife to constantly ask questions of in the next room. Nevertheless, those of whomever DJ Areia uses in his remixes (Yeeun2Grace perhaps?) really do seem a little sloppy sometimes (recall the big mistake in the 5th line of Bang!), and certainly disguise the subtlety of the original.

Take the first line for instance: “빠지다” has 13 meanings according to my dictionary, but “sexy” isn’t one of them; rather “잘빠진 다리” are “legs that have lost a lot of weight”, or “slender”. Sure, you could argue that this is just being picky, but it’s just as plausible to think that there is something culturally significant in the fact that “legs that have lost a lot of weight” was said rather than “섹시한다리” for instance, or more literally “sexy legs”. Also, “외모” is not “face”, but is actually the “outward appearance” of your entire body.

Next, putting line 4 as “I know you’ll crumble in my presence” completely ignores the “모든게” (or “모든것” + “이”) in it, or “everything”, and although “I know you’ll fall for me” is fine I guess, the verb ending “~고 말껄” (annoyingly not in any of my grammar books) means more “[the verb] is going to happen anyway”. Hence “everything about you is revealed in front of me” seems much better, as per the translation available on the AfterSchoolPlay fansite (registration required)

Finally, not a translation mistake, but in line 2 annoyingly the meaning of “빠지다” is different to that in line 1; and learners of English complain about the multiple meanings of words!

사랑한다 말만 말고 보여 주겠니
나도 니가 맘에 들어 춤을 추겠니
너와 난 왠지, 자꾸만 왠지
통할 것만 같아, 너를 사랑 할것 같아

Don’t just say you love me, aren’t you going to show me?

I like you too, aren’t you going to dance for me?

You and me for some reason, only again and again for some reason

I think we will only be connected, I think I will love you

My wife tells me that the verb ending “~겠니” in line 1 and 2, again not in any of my grammar books(!), means “aren’t you going to [verb] for me?”, So where on Earth “If I didn’t like you would I dance up on you like this?” below comes from I have no idea, no matter how appealing the thought!

(chorus)

짧은 시간 가까워진 우리 둘 사이
그대와 난 이제 하늘이 맺어준 사이
두말 할 필요 없어, 다가와 내게 어서
조명이 나를 번쩍 비추면
그댈 유혹하는 내 눈빛이 뜨거워지지
다른 남자들은 니가 너무 부러워지지
말은 안해도 난 알잖아 표현 안해도 다 알아
빨개진 니 얼굴이 다 말을 해주잖아

In just a short time we have become close

We are a match made in heaven

We don’t need to say it twice, come to me

If a light suddenly shines on me

It heats up the light of my eyes that is seductive to you

And other men become very jealous of you

You don’t have to say it or show it in your expression, I know everything

You red face shows it all

Not much to say here actually, other than both the translators at Yeeun2Grace and AfterSchoolPlay separated the above into two verses between lines 4 and 5. But I think that was mistaken, as line 4 ends in “비추면” or “if the light shines (on me)”, which is why the singer’s seductive eyes light up in the line 5. Lacking that connector, then I think that their own versions of line 4 and line 5 – “I’ve been illuminated by the light… You see my burning seductive eyes” and “When the lightning strikes me…My eyes which are putting him into temptation are becoming hotter”  respectively – don’t really make any sense.

(chorus)

나나나~

After school in the house, 모두 같이 make it bounce
들어봐 지금 내 말, 오늘밤 tonight
다가와 말못했던 얘기, 우리 둘만의 작고 작은 속삭임
그래 넌 지금 날 너무 원하지, 가벼운건 싫어 내 모습이
다른 장소 after party, 걱정마 이런 내 스타일에
오늘밤은 후회안해, 내 맘을 뺏어봐 baby boy

(chorus)

Na na na~

After School in the house, everybody together make it bounce

Hear my words now, this night tonight

Come to me, and all the things you (we?) couldn’t say, all the little whispers we said only to each other

Yes, you really want me now, I (you?) don’t want just light stuff

Different place after party, don’t worry this is my style

Don’t regret tonight, try to take my heart baby boy

Again, the Korean seems pretty straightforward here. On a final note then, given how targeted it is towards male audiences I was very surprised not to find any screenshots of the music video either via Korean or English search engines, leaving me with the onerous task of producing my own. Despite the visuals however, the lyrics in this debut song are clearly just as much about girl-power and being confident and assertive as they were in Bang! a year later, so the possibility remains open that After School may actually have a sizable female fan base (and I rather hope that they do).

In light of that then, you imagine what I thought of three members’ most recent song in which they pour on the aegyo (애교), basically looking and behaving like 12 year-old girls. Like I said in the comments to a post about it at SeoulBeats:

I’d have to give it a thumbs down. Not so much for the music in itself, but because I’ve always liked After School for the assertive, confident, girl-power theme of their songs, and so this “candy coated aegyo overload” as you well put it really seems to dilute their brand.

And most other commenters there agreed with me. But what do you think of it? Feel free to disagree with me of course, and diversity is the spice of life and all, even for music groups. But still…

(Source)

As always, thanks in advance for pointing out any mistakes I may have made or providing alternative translations!

Korean Photoshop Disaster #5: Girls’ Generation’s legs too fat for China?

( Source )

Given the clear artistic license applied to the other main image in this series, would you say that here too, the graphic designer deliberately intended for members of Girls’ Generation (소녀시대) to look like virtual caricatures of themselves?

Update: See Korean Lovers Photoblog for the full series.

(For more posts in the Korean Photoshop Disasters series, see here)

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Korean Gender Reader

My reading for next week, and good timing in light of this recent photoshoot of Yu-bin’s (유빈) from the Wondergirls (원더걸스). Not that there’s anything wrong per se with a 22 year-old dressing like someone much younger of course, but then the similarities with a photoshoot of then 15 year-old f(x) (에프엑스) member Choi Sul-li (최설리) from February are obvious:

See here for more details of the latter and the issues that it raised (note that Sul-li replicates Yu-bin’s stance in other photos), and #5 below for the news that a recent child rapist was previously arrested (but not convicted) for providing shelter to a homeless 16 year-old girl in exchange for sex. Meanwhile, after The Lolita Effect I’ll probably be ordering Guyland for some balance, although I don’t expect it to be as relevant in the Korean context. Has anybody already read either?

1. The pill turns 50

“The advent of the contraceptive pill is the most important public health intervention we have ever seen for women.”

So said Australian sexual health physician Christine Read while speaking at a press meeting in Seoul last week.

“It has allowed us to control our fertility and to be able to plan when we would have children. It has permitted women to have sex safely, without fear of becoming pregnant,” she said.

And it has over a 99% success rate too, which makes one wonder why less than 2% of Korean couples use it, one of the lowest rates in the developed world. No great surprise to long-term readers of course though, most likely it is due to a combination of:

( Source: Encyber )

Not that misinformation about the pill is the sole purvey of the Korean media however:

Once again, the Telegraph has managed to misinform the shit out of its readers. It’s almost like the Fox News of the UK.

We’ve seen plenty of pieces come out over the last month about The Pill’s 50th anniversary, but none of them were as quite as confused and baseless as this one. (But then again, the Telegraph has a history of publishing inaccurate bullshit regarding feminist issues.)

While the author throws some positive aspects of the form of contraception into the piece at an attempt to convey objectivity, the headline and criticisms are anything but, saying the Pill led to sexual coercion, according to one of their main interviewees, author Libby Purves…

Read the rest at Feministing here.

2. Last week’s LGBT festival

See Chris in South Korea’s write up here (with many pictures), and the Hankyoreh also has an article.

( Source )

3. Japanese women encouraged to marry Korean men in colonial era

I’ve already written a great deal about how exceptional Japanese colonialism was compared to its European and U.S. counterparts, particularly in the degrees to which its colonies were integrated with, developed by, and settled from the home country, but I had no idea that that logic extended this far however:

The lack of discussion on inter-racial marriage by contemporary experts is not the only interesting feature to note. “It is an open secret among Korean scholars,” one professor of modern Korean history said to me the other day, “that there were a significant number of married couples between Korean men and Japanese women but there is so little study on it.” This is another surprise to non-East Asian historians. In other places it is men from the colonizing countries and women from colonized societies that married, and this feminization of colonies is often regarded as an aspect of Orientalism. There were, of course, married couples between Korean women and Japanese men, but as Oguma Eiji has already pointed out, the Government-General in Korea encouraged Japanese women to marry Korean men because, they thought, Japanese mothers were supposed to build the foundations of Japanese culture in the home.

Read the rest at Frog In A Well. And in other Japan-related news, The Japan Times discusses “Vader Ladies”, or middle-aged Japanese women who – like their Korean counterparts – wear excessively-large sun-visors to maintain light complexions; and in the spirit of last week’s opening image, may I present this iconic one of Yukio Mishima on the right also, discussed at Critical Masculinities.

As for dating and/or marrying Koreans, the author of Doing it Korean Style has ironically decided to stop dating Korean men! While that is primarily because of language difficulties however, by coincidence the author of On Becoming a Good Korean (Feminist) Wife has started an enlightening series on why it is much more difficult for 20-something Western women to find compatible Korean men the same age than vice-versa, and hence the huge disparity in the numbers of couples (although this is changing).

4. North Korean women: misfits in the South

A note to Agence France-Presse (AFP): if you want to encourage people to actually watch your otherwise good 2-minute introduction to this subject, then don’t restrict viewing of it to only on the Youtube website itself.

5. Child rapist case demonstrates urgent need for revision of age of consent laws

Convicted last week, child rapist Kim Su-cheol (김수철) was originally unrepentant, but soon began to act differently during a live reenactment of his crime; after all, the Korean judiciary, reflecting social norms, attaches a great deal of weight to expressions of remorse rather than abstract notions like innocence or guilt. Doing some further investigating however, Brian in Jeollanam-do has discovered that Kim Su-cheol is none other than the same person who 2 years earlier paid a 16-year-old runaway:

…to have sex with him about 30 times. The girl, a middle-school dropout who lived with Kim for two months this year, was paid 20,000 won ($16) each time, but was not forced into intercourse, investigators said. Kim reportedly admitted to police that she is pregnant, but said she doesn’t know who the father is.

As Brian mentions, that last point is rather bizarre, and I would add that the JoongAng Daily quoted above is clearly mistaken in reporting that the age of consent in Korea is 19; in a lengthy investigation of my own earlier this year (it is rather harder to determine than it may sound), I demonstrated that in fact it is 13, which is why Kim Su-cheol wasn’t convicted for the above.

I don’t intend to criticize that relatively low age here: not only it is actually on a par with those of many European countries, but in practice any choice of age is somewhat arbitrary, and convictions and/or public sentiment heavily dependent on both the age gap between and sex of the participants. However, in light of that earlier case and 15 other convictions for physical violence and hit and runs since being released from a 15-year prison sentence for rape in 2002, then unfortunately this latest crime of his does seem almost waiting to happen. Short of convicting him in 2008 though, it is difficult to think of how it could have been prevented, although authorities are possibly remiss in allowing him to live within 500m of a school (is there any dwelling in a Korean city that wouldn’t be?).

Meanwhile, K-Bites and AllKpop report that the police have charged a composer with the attempted rape of a female singer, but without revealing the names of either. This may just be an isolated case of course, but bear in mind that in the most comprehensive investigation to date, 62% of current or aspiring actresses surveyed “reported being pressured to have sex with influential figures like producers, directors, businessmen, politicians and advertising executives,” and 6% reported being the victims of rape. See Extra! Korea for more details.

6. State Department’s trafficking in persons report cites “juicy girls” in Korea

See ROK Drop for more details, who:

continues to maintain that the best way to handle the issue of human trafficking is to put clubs that hire third country nationals off limits….If 3rd country nationals aren’t put off limits this issue will not go away because the bar owners will just keep finding different foreign women to traffic in.  By forcing the bars to employ Korean workers it would pretty much make the human trafficking issue go away because Korean nationals would be much harder to traffic in.

7. The Swedish model of childcare

With thanks to the several readers who sent the various links in, this has been receiving a lot of attention in the media recently, prompted by an excellent article in The New York Times that begins thus:

Mikael Karlsson owns a snowmobile, two hunting dogs and five guns. In his spare time, this soldier-turned-game warden shoots moose and trades potty-training tips with other fathers. Cradling 2-month-old Siri in his arms, he can’t imagine not taking baby leave. “Everyone does.”

( Source: Ryo. )

Sadly the polar opposite of Korea, where even maternity-leave laws are routinely broken, and only 1% of fathers take their generous 3 days of paternity leave (see #4 here).  See Gender Across Borders for more commentary, and in Korea’s defense, Femonomics demonstrates that for all its pro-family rhetoric, the U.S. is not much better:

Many Americans would describe Sweden as “Socialist!!” (a big, bad, scary word these days), and they’d be right. But Swedish policies are also much more pro-family than those of the more free-market Capitalist US. At least if we consider parents spending time with their children to be pro-family (I do!). For all of the political rhetoric around our “traditional family values,” US society does not really have a commitment to strengthening the family. Right-wing groups may stand strong against gay marriage and abortions, but where are the rallies for family leave, subsidized childcare, and living wages? The top three results in a Google Search of “Pro Family Advocacy” are homophobic organizations protesting gay marriage. Do Americans just not get it?

Which reminds me of this from a 1995 Time magazine article on evolutionary psychology:

One reason the sinews of community are so hard to restore is that they are at odds with free markets. Capitalism not only spews out cars, TVs and other antisocial technologies; it also sorts people into little vocational boxes and scatters the boxes far and wide. Economic opportunity is what drew farm boys into cities, and it has been fragmenting families ever since. There is thus a tension within conservative ideology between laissez-faire economics and family values, as various people have noted. (The Unabomber complains that conservatives “whine about the decay of traditional values,” yet “enthusiastically support technological progress and economic growth.”)

But I digress. Finally…

8. Of politicking and prostitution

Curiosity Killed the Eccentric Yoruba describes the commotion caused by her being mistaken for a prostitute in a Tokyo an Abuja hotel!^^

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“Blogging ’bout Love in the ROK”

With apologies for not being able to mention more of you in the 800 word limit, here is my article in Busan Haps magazine based on your thoughts on the sudden increase in the number of bloggers discussing dating and marrying Korean men. Thanks again for your help!

Update: Ironically, just 2 days after that went up, Hot Yellow Fellows reports a lull in the number of new blogs on the subject, and most of the rest going “into dating hibernation, either due to leaving Korea (what’s up.), having gotten into relationships, or running into bad luck/apathy”!

(If you’d like to leave any comments, please do so on the Busan Haps website)

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