Korean Gender Reader

(“Less Births, Better Births” by IISG; edited)

Body Image/Health:

On Korean ‘dieting’ and why I need to have a chat with my gym (I’m No Picasso)

Teacher Small Face: On Beauty in South Korea (The Culture Muncher)

Myths about corrective jaw surgery debunked (The Korea Times)

Opinion: On Photoshopping (Niche)

Fashion: A thin line between sexy and trashy (The Korea Times)

Asian beauty, redefined (Thick Dumpling Skin)

Colon cancer rates among Korean men highest in Asia (Arirang; see here for a cached version)

What happened to f(x) Luna’s muscular legs? (Korea.com)

Problems will arise at the conversion of oral contraceptives to prescription-only (Ilda)

Taking morning-after pills in time is the key (Ilda)

Even the peer-reviewed science of penis size is burdened by a lack of consistent data (i09)

Crime:

Police investigating foreign instructor for hidden camera sex videos (Gusts of Popular Feeling)

Sex, an English Teacher and (Secretly Recorded) Videotape (The Marmot’s Hole)

NoCut News celebrates another victory in battle against foreign instructor (Gusts of Popular Feeling)

Student Finds Secret Sex Tapes on Foreign Teacher’s Computer (Korea Bang)

Open World Entertainment CEO Jang Seok Woo threatens victims (Asian Junkie)

Open World Entertainment CEO threatens victims, is reprimanded by judge (K-Pop Express)

Six celebrities’ online malls fined for fake customer reviews (Korea Law Today)

Spy cameras help Peeping Toms go on the prowl (The Korea Herald)

South Korean violent crime rate “at least twice as high as US” (Asian Correspondent)

Korean Tourism Official Says American Men with Korean Women Are To Blame For Wild Nightlife In Shinchon & Itaewon (ROK Drop)

Dating/Relationships/Marriage:

How the Logic of “Friendzoning” Would Work If Applied in Other Instances (Kim Yuri)

[Korean App] TTTing – Fun with Social Dating (Hangukdrama and Korean)

My Korean Family (Asiapundits)

Avoiding Generalizations about Korean Men (I’m No Picasso II)

The English Spectrum Series at Gusts of Popular Feeling:

Part 37: Warrant for the arrest of a man in his 30s for breaking into home of foreign instructors

LGBT/Sexuality:

Smut and Fanservice in Anime (The Dragorol; NSFW)

Why You Can’t Bulletpoint Gay Travel (Waegook Tom)

Harisu, More Beautiful Than A Woman: LGBT In The Entertainment Industry (Seoulbeats)

Lesbians now allowed to donate blood; gay men still barred (Shanghaiist)

400 prostitutes working in a single brothel in Seoul? (Occidentalism)

Family in forced abortion case compensated RMB70,000 (Shanghaiist)

Misc:

‘K-Town’ Gets Its Own Reality Show With A Hard-Partying, Foul-Mouthed, Purse-Throwing Cast (LAist)

Gendercide and the Role of Media: Chinese Missing Girls (Democracy x Peace)

Korea and Vietnam: Learn from History (The Korea Times)

“You’re overthinking things”: A response (The F-Word)

Asian-American Exceptionalism: An Inconvenient Truth (Via Korea)

Still think Westerners are better critical thinkers than Asians?? (The Diplomat)

Culturalism in the context of the Fukushima Disaster the instinctive response to blame (Asian) culture to explain any and all behavior (Ask a Korean)

Stop blaming Fukushima on Japan’s culture (East Asia Forum)

Politics/Economics/Workplaces:

Asian Values and Women in the Boardroom (The Unlikely Expat)

“It remains realistically difficult to take maternity leave [in Korea]” (The Chosun Ilbo)

Most new workers are past retirement age while young people struggle to start careers (The Hankyoreh)

Stereotypes of women in the workplace (Korea Joongang Daily)

Pop Culture:

Obvious sexism and outdated gender roles on A Gentleman’s Dignity (Loverholic, Lobotronic)

The Dark Side: Skin Colour and K-pop (Seoulbeats)

Tired of all of the new groups appearing? So are the groups themselves! (Asian Junkie)

2NE1′s Minzy & CEO Yang Hyun Suk make a compromise regarding sexy dances (Allkpop)

T-ARA’s Eunjung Wasn’t Feeling Bo Peep Bo Peep (MTV-K)

Pregnancy/Abortion/Childbirth/Demographics/Parenting/Education/Multiculturalism:

Dressing the Part: Should Moms Dress More Conservatively? (Geek in Heels)

“Wild Goose Families” on NPR’s All Things Considered (The Unlikely Expat)

Adventures in Parenting Abroad Part 1: Knocked Up (The Three Wise Monkeys)

Multiculturalism: a choice, not an inevitability (The Marmot’s Hole)

Diplomats discuss migrants’ welfare (The Korea Herald)

South Korea’s Shutdown Curfew For Minors Challenged In Court (Gaming Blend)

(Links are not necessarily endorsements)

13 thoughts on “Korean Gender Reader

  1. I left a response to the “My Korean Family” article in the Asiapundits article:

    “Forgive me for coming across as mean but I will be as blunt as possible: If the author has such a hard time getting used to his Korean family and cannot be (and state that will probably never be) comfortable with them, I question why he has even married his current wife at all. Did he expect to have his cake and eat it too? If his wife comes from a culture where family bonding and assimilation are the norm and an essential part, while the author is anti-familial and independent, did he not see any of this coming? Did he simply want to pluck his wife away and force her to live the way HE wants, not taking her culture and customs into consideration? I don’t know the author’s character in person, but as an outsider this seems very selfish, and also reeks of very unfortunate implications.

    There is so much to consider in cross-cultural marriages compared to same-culture marriages, and it cannot be ignored with thoughts such as “I don’t see color” or “love conquers everything”. I am going to assume the author and his wife genuinely love each other, but love alone cannot sustain a marriage. I believe a healthy cross-cultural marriage is two individuals embracing and integrating both cultures, not one where you ignore or avoid your spouse’s culture because it’s too “different” from you.

    People have different comfort zones and ways of life, I’m not saying the author is wrong for what he believes in. However, I question why he even got himself into a situation he does not feel comfortable with just because of “love”. He could have found love and married a woman, Korean or British or otherwise, whose outlook on life suits his better. Is this “love” worth the discomfort of both him (for having a family system he cannot deal with) and his wife (for having a husband so adamantly against her cultural conventions and is lazy with his efforts to communicate, no matter how ‘guilty’ he is)?”

    I admit I was a bit miffed when I first wrote the comment, but just wanted to repost it here because I am curious of your personal opinion, James. You also have a Korean wife and in-laws. Do you face similar situations, is this a “universal Caucasian culture thing”, or are there individual differences? To how much would you personally relate (or not relate) to the article?

    • Well, I could relate to a great deal of the article. But, sorry, I don’t know what to make of the rest of your comment (that you posted at AsiaPundits) – are you admitting/saying you were ranting a little?. I don’t mean to be impolite by asking that, it’s just that I, well, disagreed with just about all of it to be honest, so I originally decided I’d respond in a long post (and spent *ahem* 45 minutes on a plan!), but then I realized that I was probably overanalyzing it really. Also, these days I really try to avoid blog posts where I just put someone on the spot and lay in to them so to speak.

      Rather than do that then, let me just make some general observations about being married to a Korean. Only a little related to what your comment sorry (except the last couple), just things that came to mind as I reading it really (so apologies in advance for my incoherence!):

      – With more than half of Koreans living in villages until as recently as 1979, it’s important not to underestimate the importance of the generation gap here, which Laurel Kendell has said is just as important a source of identity for Koreans as race is in the US. So friction and difficulties because of different values and lifestyles etc. isn’t really a Western/Korean thing at all, but a generational thing experienced by families all over Korea, and which in many ways parallels similar conflicts in families in Western countries in the 1960s and 1970s.

      So, unlike my wife with my own father for instance, who gets on great with him because he’s basically just a shorter version of me, my parents-in-law are poor strawberry farmers, who washed their clothes in a stream until 2008. Needless to say, even with the best of intentions, the reality is that we have very very little to talk about with each other.

      – If there are difficulties and friction between a Korean family and a new foreign member, or even just language difficulties and cultural misunderstandings, both sides are responsible for making an effort to overcome those. Take my case: if my Korean relatives actually got over my foreignness and listened to me, then they’d realize that my Korean isn’t all that bad (albeit with an atrocious accent), and we could perhaps have some genuine conversations. But despite 8 years of marriage, they still ooh and aaah at everything I say (and eat) with them for instance, and constantly laugh and make jokes about seemingly everything I do. Because of those and many other things they do that make me feel like I’m not really part of the family, then frankly I’ve given up, and these days don’t say more than a few words whenever my wife drags me to the family farm.

      Hmmm…that all sounds much more one-sided than it really is. I guess I’m just saying, even with the best of intentions on both sides, forming and maintaining relationships with in-laws can be very difficult in Korea, much more than it may appear to outsiders.

      – I’m always very very wary of the being told how important etc. families are to Koreans etc., as it seems like 9 times out of 10 it is being done so to justify some deeply sexist and/or reverse-ageist custom that would be completely indefensible otherwise. So, rereading the post at Asiapundits, I wouldn’t at all that say the writer isn’t embracing his wife’s culture (although he is just focusing on the negatives in the article itself); rather, he’s just calling BS on some aspects of it that should be called out on (and which many, especially younger Koreans, also hate, but feel more constrained in doing anything about them).

      – I really disagree with your comment “He could have found love and married a woman, Korean or British or otherwise, whose outlook on life suits his better”. Because a) even though it’s a cliché, it’s completely true that you can’t choose who you fall in love with, and b) because people change, then marriages evolve with them. Although my wife and I are still fundamentally the same as we were 8 years ago when we got married for instance (or 12 years ago when we first met), because of having kids and because of our jobs and careers (or lack of them!) then we’ve also changed a great deal too, and in ways – both good and bad – that we could not have anticipated.

      I suspect I’m overanalyzing that one line with that last(!). I’m guess I’m saying that sure, if being in frequent contact with one’s relatives is important to someone, then of course their spouse should accommodate that, even if he/she wishes it were otherwise. But, seriously, I strongly think that these things are much resolvable with couples that married out of love, rather than the very pragmatic ones which you see very often in this part of the world!

      • I’m still young and I unmarried, but I am in a Korean-foreigner relationship myself. Perhaps this is out of feeling exhausted and afraid of the judgments that I hear and see all the time. Hypocritical, yes, but a defense mechanism of sorts. My partner and I feel that we are rather familiar and mostly comfortable with both of each other’s cultures and meet halfway. Even if there are things we don’t agree with, we at least know there is a socio/policial/cutural context behind the reasonsing and we discuss it, instead of dismissing the other as unreasonable. I believe the relationship would not have lasted as long if either of us were inconsiderate of each other’s cultural conventions. But then again, we are younger, and both from middle/upper-middle class urban families. The conventions are not going to be the same as yours or anyone else’s. I know that I am in a very comfortable position to be picky about what I want in my own relationship. And my wants are that I simply do not care for an unequal relationship in any way, that is all.

        The reason I tend to get sensitive about intercultural marriages are, perhaps, because I have (personally) seen cases where the child of an Asian/White marriage would usually conform to the Western culture and ways of thinking, but would dismiss their mother and her culture (and even food or language) as something alien and antiquated, as if they were not directly related to it. Perhaps I felt upset that they have such a disconnect with the other half of their cultures, and their implicit attitude that somehow, the Western way of life was the normal and better one. I have no right to judge one’s family life if they are happy with themselves, but it still seemed rather sad that despite living in a multicultural family, any and all opinion clashes were condensed into “My mom and her Asian ways are suffocating me”, instead of considering generational gaps or other factors. I have also seen cases where this was not the case, but unfortunately, such cases were not as prevalent around me. I am aware I was overanalyzing the writer’s words in Asiapundits, but I was concerned about the tone of the article and hoped that he knew there were more factors to consider than simply “my in-laws are wacky and incomprehensible in their Koreanness” (which I am not accusing the writer of, I must add).

        When I mentioned “was the love worth it”, I was not criticizing love marriages or advocating loveless ones. I was merely expressing my opinion that in order for a marriage to work, it does not only take mutual affection (which I defined as love), but also communication, cooperation, respect, consideration, and the ability to create a stable home life. Which does not always exist in love marriages, despite everyone’s best intentions. Marriage in general is already a difficult creature to deal with (or so I am told), and cultural differences must surely add an additional hurdle. It is my opinion that if there are more things to deal with in a relationship (marriage or otherwise) than usual, one must be more aware and considerate of the other party to ensure a mutually respected and satisfactory relationship.

  2. I’d like to comment on a couple of the articles.

    Article the first: The Joongang Daily article you’ve called “Stereotypes of women in the workplace.” It’s hilariously bad. Not only is it badly written, but what point is it trying to make. At first it seems to be just a well-meaning but badly written piece. It describes certain negative stereotypes of women that exist in Korea and how the author doesn’t think they’re often very true. It contains classics like, “There has been no data showing that women in the workplace are more flawed in character than men. Maybe women are more noticeable because of their high-pitched voices.” Brilliant.

    I did like that it mentioned when the two labels its describing first emerged – around 2002 for being derogatory towards younger women (I’m sure you’d make something of that, James, what with the World Cup and all ;) ) and 2006 for deriding older women. Another gem: “The essence of masculinity may be chivalry and energy, but machos today are cowardly and worthless.”

    So now we’re wondering; where’s he going with this? He’s talked about negative stereotypes of women, why he thinks they’re probably wrong (he’s seen “more rude men on the subway than women” don’t you know?) and when they emerged. He even has a bit of a go at men: “The essence of masculinity may be chivalry and energy, but machos today are cowardly and worthless. When a female coworker is loading a new bottle of water for the dispenser, men avoid her.” Stupid, selfish men, not helping the poor, weak women.

    So what’s the grand conclusion he draws from all this? 놀래지 마세요 “Stop acting pitiful and have your own dreams. “Boys, be ambitious” is the mantra to survive in an age of gender equality.” And that’s the end of that chapter.

    The second article I’d like to comment on briefly is the one from Via Korea about Asian-American Exceptionalism.

    Specifically, I’d like to discuss this: ” Japanese and Filipino Americans are the most accepting of interracial and intergroup marriage; Koreans, Vietnamese and Indians are less comfortable. Koreans are the most likely to say discrimination against their group is a major problem, and they are the least likely to say that their group gets along very well with other racial and ethnic groups in the U.S.”

    Firstly, it doesn’t surprise me. I encountered similar attitudes from Koreans in the UK as well, although perhaps not quite as strong or widespread. Perhaps more interestingly, however, I think this attitude is prevalent in Korea itself. I’ve encountered so many Koreans who are convinced that the western world (plus Australia) is deeply racist towards East Asians, and that its very common for Koreans to be ostracised and discriminated against there.

    During the short time I spent teaching in a Korean elementary school there was one occasion where a boy used the word 깜둥이 to refer to a character in a video. I reprimanded him, tried to explain why he shouldn’t say that and was swiftly interrupted by my Korean co-teacher. She also told him that he shouldn’t say words like that. Her reason? “If you say things like that in America you’ll get shot. Our country people need to be careful.” This is not the first time I’ve heard the “don’t be racist in America, you’ll get shot” trope in Korea.

    Another example. I have a friend who is ethnic Korean but born elsewhere. She hadn’t ever lived in Korea until last year. In fact, I’ve lived in Korea for longer than she has. She did her BA and masters in two European countries, one being the UK. When she came to Korea and was interviewing for jobs, without fail she would be asked about all the racism the interviewer assumed she must have faced. When she realised that the interviewers would be shocked and disbelieving and also get defensive when she said that it seemed much worse here in Korea she stopped telling them how she really felt from her experiences.

    One of the higher up people at my company who I get on quite well with asked me over lunch one day about the racism in the UK, because he’d heard it was quite bad, but he didn’t know what it would be like as there’s not much racism in Korea. Someone coming out with something like that makes it very hard to continue the conversation. I don’t even know where this idea comes from, but it’s clearly widespread.

    Aside from these examples I’ve heard various times about how Koreans are racially discriminated overseas.

    It seems to me that Koreans from Korea are, for some reason, predisposed to believing they are/will be victims of racism in other countries. I would guess that these attitudes carry over when they move abroad, which amplifies the perceived racism. I’m not saying that Koreans don’t get discriminated against or suffer racism in other countries, but I find it hard to believe that it’s worse for them than for some other nationalities. In fact I’d say they probably have it better than most (although I have heard a lot of negative things about racism against different Asian groups in Australia from Australians themselves as often as anyone else).

    • In response to Seamus Walsh, I mostly agree with that sentiment… I would like to add that perhaps Koreans as a whole are really hypersensitive to being discriminated. I know this is a very simplistic explanation, but the Korean historical memory of the twentieth century is rather rife with being discriminated against; the Japanese colonial rule, the American occupation after the Korean War, mass exodus and immigration, and the various Korean migrant workers who were sent abroad (usually Middle East, Europe and US) to work and bring in the money in the seventies (when their GDP were still growing and many were still experiencing a transition from a mostly agricultural to a more urban nation).

      Stories of discrimination that Koreans have faced, especially from other Western countries, were brought back and circulated, and continues to be circulated within the Korean cultural memory. The fact that SOME Western people are still discriminating of Koreans or Asians even to this day does not help matters. It seems unkind to say massive inferiority complex on a cultural level, but it is essentially that. They have been too used to being discriminiated by various people for a good chunk of a century that the feeling that things are not as bad now is very difficult to shake off. This is part of why I feel some Korean people may not be aware of racial discrimination going on in Korea – the thought that “We are the oppressed and discriminated minority on a global scale! If we’re the underdog, we cannot possibly be oppressing others!”.

      Of course, I wish they are more aware of their (ignorant but still insensitive) discriminatory attitudes. But as long as the idea that Koreans are persecuted as a whole remains (which I hope will erode in time with their current economical standing and prevalence of Kpop and Kdramas), it is going to be a long, difficult road.

      • @Seamus – Sorry I’ve taken so long to reply. I agree on how badly – and aimlessly – the first one was written, and I’d like to check out the original advertisement series to assess it for myself sometime. Also, I have my doubts about those terms he describes – I’m about 90% sure that the “Mrs. Kim” one (at least in the “a middle-aged woman who is not good at driving and causes absurd traffic accidents” sense) comes from sometime closer to 1996 rather than early-2006, and I’ve never heard of the “Miss XX” one, even though I’ve done a lot of research into media discourse of women and feminism etc. etc. in the early-2000s period that he says it first appeared.

        As for the second article, I can’t really add anything to Seiya’s excellent response, other than pass on the related Korea’s Convenient Invasion Myths.

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