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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An update:

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

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

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

Quick Hit: “Don’t Leave the Responsibility for Contraception to Men”

Korean Contraception Poster Not Men's Sole Responsibility(Source: Wikitree)

Let’s be clear: Korean women do, on the whole, leave contraception up to the men. So the Ministry of Health and Welfare, which issued this advertisement on Friday, does seem to have the best of intentions.

But, “Although you leave everything (to men), don’t leave the responsibility for contraception (to men)”? For something encouraging women to empower themselves in one aspect of their lives, it’s a bizarre assertion of traditional gender roles in others.

Frankly then, while I was happy to see the ad at first (what’s not to like about women being more assertive in the bedroom?) I came to understand the opposition to it. Especially Korean Womenlink’s criticism that “It is regrettable that the Ministry described contraception as a conflict between men and women while the poster was designed to promote contraception.”

Fortunately, it’s since since been withdrawn. But I do hope there’ll be another, more thoughtful attempt to get the message across soon. If so, I recommend the text focuses on shared responsibility, and replacing the image with something like this one. What do you think?

Update: See the Korea Herald for more information and context. It says new posters will be coming as soon as next week!

Planned Parenthood Birth Control(Source: Planned Parenthood)

Korean Women’s Sexual Histories: Still a slippery subject

Durex Korea Condom Ad December 2013(Source)

Remember last summer, when Korea’s first condom commercials came out?

Showing a woman bringing condoms to a date, I hailed Durex Korea for challenging popular, slut-shaming attitudes that women must feign sexual inexperience and naivety with new partners, with contraception widely considered only men’s responsibility.

But those would be the last condoms to grace Korean TV screens, by any company. Add Durex Korea’s recent, asinine marketing attempts, and that its Facebook page looks like it belongs to a lads’ mag, then the cynic in me lamented that last year’s efforts weren’t so much the start of a progressive, feminist campaign as simple, one-off copies of the original.

Then I discovered that there had been a similar, OMG-girls-like-sex-too commercial back in December, which played on various cable channels after 10pm:

Durex Korea Condom Ad December 2013 screenshotSounds awesome, right? Even if it was just a copy again.

My hopes raised, I began looking for more information, but was soon frustrated by the lack of mention on Durex Korea’s website, Facebook page, Twitter feed, and blog. What’s more, there proved to be only one low-res, IE-only version of it that is publicly available. (Another requires a paid subscription to this site.)

I began to suspect that some unspecified controversy spilling over from last year’s June commercials may have been responsible, as those videos are also no longer available on its FB page (although the posts are). But probably that’s just simple neglect; with a Facebook page, Twitter, and blog myself, I can confirm that it’s difficult finding the time or inclination to fix broken links in old, rarely-read posts. Better to create new content, and accordingly Korean companies rarely keep old ads on their websites, preferring that consumers focus on their recent most ones instead. Sure enough, Durex Korea’s reply to my tweet made me realize that it was actually private Youtube users that were originally responsible for (re)uploading and sharing their June commercials, without whom they too wouldn’t be publicly available today.

I guess the December commercial just wasn’t all that popular really—there was never any great patriarchal conspiracy to have it removed. But, popular or not, it shouldn’t have been such a struggle to find more information—any information—about a (relatively) groundbreaking campaign, let alone from the company responsible. So, again, I have to conclude that Durex Korea was never making any real effort to engage with female consumers and challenge double-standards. Sigh.

This summer then, it’s probably T-ara member Eun-jung’s recentconfession” to—shock! horror!—past sexual relationships that is most likely to have an impact on how the public views or discusses theirs. Or, alternatively, the news that matchmaking companies no longer assume that their female clients will pretend to be virgins before marriage…

Korean Couple Under the Co vers(Source)

That’s the takeaway message from this survey by two matchmaking companies, currently making the rounds of the Korean portals. Ostensibly, its message is actually that Korean women let men take the initiative when it comes to sexual relationships, and that previous experience with one partner makes a significant number of women—not men—much “more cautious” with their subsequent ones. Which does appear to confirm previous, more rigorous surveys, and hence the context about double-standards provided in the first half of this post.

But with no mention of the methodology, what exactly “more cautious” (etc.) means, and likely a self-selecting sample population? Then really, it confirms nothing at all. Please make of it what you will:

미혼女 34%, 애인과의 첫 성관계는 ‘술김에…’ 34% of unmarried woman need alcohol for their first time with a lover

이낙규 기자 (nak17@ajunews.com) 26.06.14

성(性)에 대한 의식이 개방적으로 바뀌고 있지만 미혼여성들은 아직도 10명 중 6명 이상이 애인과 첫 관계를 가질 때 술의 힘을 빌린다던가 억지로 끌려가는 듯한 수동적 자세인 반면, 남성은 10명 중 7명 정도가 성관계를 주도하거나 적극적인 자세로 임하는 것으로 나타났다.

Awareness of and attitudes towards sex are changing these days, [but still traditional gender roles remain]. With a new lover, six out of ten women admit that they take advantage of alcohol to overcome their shyness or reluctance when having sex for the first time, and/or passively accept it when their partner is insistent, whereas seven out of ten men believe they have to take the initiative and assume an active role.

결혼정보회사 비에나래가 결혼정보업체 온리-유와 공동으로 미혼남녀 544명을 대상으로 ‘애인과 첫 성관계를 가질 때 본인의 자세’에 대한 설문조사를 실시했다.

Marriage matchmaking companies Bien Aller and Only You surveyed 544 male and female customers, asking them about their thoughts and feelings the first time they had sex with previous partners.

그결과 남성과 여성의 반응이 판이하게 달랐는데, 남성은 37.1%가 ‘주도적’, 33.5%는 ‘적극적’으로 답해 나란히 1, 2위를 차지했다. 즉 70.6%가 능동적이라는 것을 알 수 있다.

Men and women differed quite widely in their replies. Out of the men, 37.1% said they took the lead, and 33.5% that they were active in initiating sex, the top two replies. Altogether, 70.6% said they took an active role.

Wait, I'm beginning to feel something(Source)

반면 여성은 34.2%가 ‘술의 힘을 빌린다’, 28.3%는 ‘억지로 끌려가듯 (응한다)’이라고 답해 상위 1, 2위에 올랐다. 성관계를 거부하지는 않지만 수동적인 자세가 62.5%이다.

In contrast, 34.2% of women said they need alcohol [to get over their shyness or reluctance], and 28.3% that their partner insisted, the top two replies. Altogether, 62.5% said they weren’t against a sexual relationship, but they assumed a passive role.

그 다음 세 번째로는 남녀 공히 4명 중 한 명꼴이 ‘자연스럽게 임한다'(남 26.1%, 여 24.6%)고 답했다.

With both men (26.1%) and women (24.6%), the third most common reply was that they “just behaved naturally.”

‘성 경험이 있는 상황에서 다른 애인과 성관계를 가질 때의 마음 상태’에 대해서도 남녀 간에 시각차를 보였다.

With the question of how previous their sexual experience impacted their feelings about sex with a new boyfriend or girlfriend, a big difference was visible in the replies from men and women.

남성은 ‘(마음이) 더 편해진다’가 54.7%로서 과반수를 차지했고, ‘변함없다'(33.5%)에 이어 ‘더 신중해 진다'(12.8%)가 뒤따랐으나, 여성은 ‘마음이 더 편해진다'(42.7%)는 대답이 가장 많기는 하나, 그 다음의 ‘더 신중해진다'(39.7%)와 큰 차이가 없었고(3.0%포인트), ‘변함없다’는 대답은 17.6%였다.

With men, more than half (54.7%) replied it would make them feel more comfortable; 33.5%, no change; and 12.6% that it would make them more cautious. While “more comfortable” was also 고준희 정진운the most popular reply with women (42.7%), 39.7% replied that it would make them more cautious, a gap of only 3%; 17.6% replied that it wouldn’t make any difference.

자세한 응답분포를 보면 남성은 ‘다소 편해진다'(37.5%) – ‘변함없다'(33.5%) – ‘훨씬 더 편해진다'(16.2%) – ‘다소 신중해진다'(12.8%) 등의 순이고, 여성은 ‘다소 편해진다'(31.3%) – ‘다소 신중해진다'(29.4%) – ‘변함없다'(17.6%) – ‘(훨씬 더 편해진다'(11.4%) – ‘훨씬 더 신중해 진다'(10.3%)의 순서이다 (source, right).

In detail, 37.5% of men replied that it would make them a little more comfortable; 33.5% no change; 16.2% a lot more comfortable; and 12.8% that it would make them a little more cautious. With women, 31.3% replied that it would make them a little more comfortable; 29.4% a little more cautious; 17.6%, no change; 11.4% a lot more comfortable; and 10.3% a lot more cautious. (END)

Thoughts?

Korean Sociological Image #83: Vintage Contraceptive Pill Commercials

Spending the weekend looking for 8 year-old contraceptive pill commercials, as one does, I ended up finding some adorable 38 year-old ones instead:

Take the title dates with a grain of salt: this brief post says that they actually come from 1982, 1976, and 1976 respectively, and the second at least is corroborated by very similar print advertisements appearing in 1976 newspapers. The writer gains further credibility by noting the names of the actors in the first (An So-yeong/안소영) and third ones (Yeon Gyu-jin/연규진 and Yeom Bok-soon/염복순), and by pointing out that the 1970s ones would have appeared in cinemas rather than on television—although as TV bans on contraceptive commercials weren’t actually lifted until 2006, then presumably the same goes for the 1982 one too.

Here’s what Yeon Gyu-jin (love his expression!) and Yeom Bok-soon ‘say’ in the last one, although I confess I’m a little confused by the end caption that says it’s a “contraceptive pill that you don’t take” (먹지않는 피임야):

M: 이봐, 이봐, 첫 아기는 아들이야. / The first one has to be a son.

W: 어휴, 어휴 아들 좋아하네. 누구맘대로. 딸이 좋단 말이예요. / Tsk. You like boys, but it won’t happen. I like girls.

M: 글쎄 아들이라니까. / Well, I said I like boys.

W: 어휴, 어휴 딸이란 말이예요. / Well, I said I like girls.

M: 당신같은 딸 낳아 누굴 또 속 썩일려구. 어휴…. / If we get a girl like you, she’ll be a handful…

W: 그럼 자기 나 닮은 아들, 딸 어때요? Then, how about a boy and a girl that look like me?

M: 에이,,에이.. 그게 당신맘대로 할 수 있어? Is that something you can happen just because you want it to?

W: 그건 저한테 맡겨 주세요. 제가 자신있으니까요.  You leave that up to me. I’m confident!

Korea Contraceptive PillCelebrating 50 years of the pill in — where else? — a nightclub :) Source.

However charming the commercials may appear now though, any nostalgia for simpler times would be misplaced, as in reality Korea’s population polices were every bit as systematic and draconian as China’s back then. What’s more, the state tended to view the pill as a temporary or supplemental contraceptive at best, much preferring one-shot and permanent methods. In the 1960s, that would be the “patriotic” and “ideal” IUD; by the 1980s, sterilization.

In light of that, these pill commercials become all the more exceptional(?) and intriguing. I’d appreciate any additional information readers can provide about them.

Likewise, it’ll be interesting to see what contraceptive commercials appear — or rather don’t appear — on Korean screens in the future as the Park Geun-hye administration grapples with Korea’s ironic world-low birthrate. Because on the one hand, it is regrettable that the former Lee Myung-bak administration saw no need to defend women’s access to the pill, and it is preposterous that his (re)criminalization of abortion — which simply puts women’s lives at risk — is likewise viewed by his successor as a viable method of baby-making. But on the other, because of course Korea is now a democracy, and finally aired its first condom commercials on television in July last year, and with a firm sex-is-fun message at that (in contrast to the PSAs that were briefly allowed in October 2004). Here’s hoping there’ll be a lot more coming this year too! ;D

(For more posts in the Korean Sociological Image series, see here)

Single Korean Female? Love Sex?

Krystal Etude Wanna Be Sweet(Source)

If so, do you carry a condom in your handbag these days?

Because not so long ago, academic research on the subject said you probably didn’t — Korean women were just too scared of being slut-shamed for it, leading to popular attitudes that contraception was overwhelmingly — or even exclusively — men’s responsibility. Further contributing to that stigma, bans on contraceptive commercials weren’t  lifted until as recently as 2006, although (bland) public campaigns promoting condom use had been made two years earlier for the sake of HIV/AIDS prevention.

Since then though, surveys show that attitudes among young Koreans are changing, and there’s been some alarmist articles about how much casual sex they’re having these days. Also, I often see commercials for the pill on television (especially MNet, a music channel) and in women’s magazines. But for condoms? I haven’t seen any personally, beyond minimalist ones in newspapers and magazines.

So, I was very happy to learn from a reader that he just saw two Durex ones on television, both of which encourage women to be very prepared:

And the men too:

What’s more, they’re both based on Sticky Tape below, Iggy Cerda-Salas’s winning entry for Durex at the MOFILM London 2012 Awards, which only had a male version. Add that these are the only videos on Durex Korea’s Youtube account, and that its Facebook pages were also only set up recently, then it appears that they were specifically created for the Korean and/or Northeast Asian market.

Or in other words, Durex Korea at least now feels that there’s a definite market for their product among Korean women, and that they’ll no longer be so embarrassed if they’re caught with them.

Here’s hoping sales go well!

But have any readers seen any previous Korean commercials or ads by other condom manufacturers? Did women feature in those too?

(Related: See Korean Sexuality: Still Awaiting a Revolution? for more on the curious parallels between Korean women’s *previous* attitudes to contraception and those of their UK counterparts in the 1950s.)

(Update: Durex Korea has just confirmed that these are Korea’s first condom commercials)

(Update, June 2014: Unfortunately, these commercials proved to be just a one-off, with no real attempt to engage with female consumers and challenge double-standards. Sigh.)

Korean Gender Reader

(Source)

Some good news and bad news: after announcing earlier this year that monthly birth-control and morning-after pills were to be reclassified as prescription-only and over-the-counter respectively (i.e., the opposite of the current situation), the KDFA has just postponed its decision for 3 years.

Officially, the reason is because “there has to be careful consideration when overturning a classification system that has been retained for decades,” and because the extra time will allow the KDFA to “carefully monitor” the (supposed) side effects of the morning-after pills and also (unnecessarily) better educate the public on the side-effects and correct usage of monthly birth-control ones. But the more likely explanation is that the government was unnerved by the opposition to the reclassification of the month birth-control pill in particular, especially just before the election. In contrast, the opposition to the morning-after pill is mainly by religious conservatives, who would be very unlikely to vote for a different party.

One interpretation of such a long postponement is, of course, that the proposal will be quietly shelved in 3 years, although a negative of that would be a continued lack of access to the morning-after pill. But the realist in me thinks otherwise: as I explain in this Busan Haps article, the curious proposed simultaneous restriction and liberation of access to contraception has nothing to do with any dangers or women’s own needs or concerns, and everything to do with financial pressures within and between the Korean medical and pharmaceutical industries as Korea’s demographic crunch begins to bite. Those are not going to go away any time soon, particularly if the present conservative administration is reelected under Park Geun-hye — recall that her predecessor’s biggest solution to the declining birth rate and women’s inability to combine careers and children was simply to (re)criminalize abortion.

The conservative media’s framing of the contraception debate supports this pessimistic view: this article in the Korean Joongang Daily, for instance, explains that if reelected the government will continue to stress the opposition of “government officials, doctors, experts, women’s rights activists, religious groups and other civic organizations” to making the morning-after pill OTC, while simultaneously downplaying the far greater support for the status quo with the monthly birth-control pill. (And, possibly, support for making the morning-after pill over-the-counter too; I am unsure how much that has sorry.)

In sum, the combination of the (re)criminalization of abortion and now the proposed restriction of the monthly contraceptive-pill points to a “War on Women” every bit as real as the GOP’s one in the US, and which deserves to be far more widely known outside of Korea. Although, admittedly, I don’t know Park Geun-hye’s own personal beliefs on women’s reproductive rights, I do have genuine concerns that the Korean election of 2012 will be a eerie parallel of that of my native UK in 1979, when, to paraphrase my mother, “Millions of women voted for her simply because she was a woman, who then proceeded to crap all over them.” Certainly, her mere nomination as presidential candidate is already being widely described in feminist, empowering, and riding the crest of a wave of “women rising to the top” type terms, whereas I say that remains to be seen.

(Source)

Meanwhile apologies for the lack of posts, but my first week of the new semester proved to be much busier than expected. Usually, I try to have at least 2 posts in between each Korean Gender Reader, but I decided I’d rather post (hopefully) much better quality ones next week than rush them this time!

Update: By coincidence, the birth control pill ad I used to open this post with is for the Mercilon brand, which is several readers’ favorite, and which they were stocking up on because it is unavailable in the US. But of course every woman is different, so if Mercilon is not for you then please see The Wanderlust Diary and/or Kimchiowner’s Blog for a list of available brands, and the process of buying them.

Announcements

Care to visit some of Korea’s grandest museums? Help me to get there, get it written, then get it to you! (Kickstarter Project)

The Meet Market: White Party, Saturday September 1 (The Kimchi Queen)

Gay Friends in Seoul Meetup, Sunday September 2: Movie Night & Potluck (The Kimchi Queen)

Body Image/Health:

“Fat for an Asian:” The Pressure to be Naturally Perfect (XoJane)

Fukuoka Girls: Don’t You Wish You Were Cute Like Me? (Japan Realtime)

Doojoon’s Reaction to an Overweight Fan and the Blame Game (Seoulbeats)

Doojoon’s Faux Pas: The result of trainees’ social isolation? (Seoulbeats)

The politics of veils, ‘polleras’ and mini-skirts (Aljazeera)

Female Boxers: From disgust to admiration (The F-word)

Is Korea’s drug policy working? (The Korea Herald)

Censorship:

Production Firm Charged Over R-Rated Eminem Gig (The Chosunilbo)

Ratings board says it was lied to about Eminem show (The Korea Herald)

The Constitutional Court rules on the “real name” law and a controversial abortion law (Korea Law Today)

Crime:

More sex offenders could be castrated; Critics say castration doesn’t address psychological origins of sexual violence (The Hankyoreh)

Push for chemical castration in wake of sexual offenses (Korea Joongang Daily)

Chemical castration to see wider use (The Korea Times)

Is chemical castration effective in preventing sex offenses? (The Korea Times)

Picture of the Day: Korean Self Defense Gadgets (ROK Drop)

Gov’t to toughen measures against potential sex criminals (The Korea Times)

Anklet-wearing murderer of housewife lived alone, having no friend (The Korea Times)

Stupid talk about rape: Not just an American thing (The Marmot’s Hole)

Breaking News: A second ‘Na-young Case’ in the making? (The Marmot’s Hole)

Dating/Relationships/Marriage:

A North Korean love story: Defectors to marry in group ceremony (The Star; Isn’t Moonies style!)

Stressed men drawn to heavy women (BBC)

Shall We Dance? Yes…But Not in Public (Speaking of China)

New Zealand experience suggests “marriage equality” will win where “gay marriage” or “same-sex marriage” will not (Kiwipolitico)

LGBT/Sexuality:

An Expat`s Guide to Going to the Gyno in Korea (Busan Haps)

The Flip-flop over Foreskin (Nursing Clio)

Gayspeak: 끼탑 and 땍마 (The Kimchi Queen)

Campaign aims to kick Korean prostitutes out of Australia (The Korea Times)

China AIDS patients topple gate of gov’t office (The Huffington Post)

Eight things you didn’t know you could do with human sperm (io9)

Film Review: Stateless Things/줄탁동시 (The Kimchi Queen)

Reply 1997 Shin Wonho PD: “The real reason for putting in homosexuality…” (Omona They Didn’t)

Read: Behind the Red Door — Sex in China, by Richard Burger (Shanghaiist)

Miscellaneous:

Can men be feminists? (New Statesmen)

Men Explain Things to Me: The origins of the term “mansplaining” (Guernica)

Politics/Economics/Workplaces:

Young South Koreans face jobless woes with ‘graduate glut’ (My Sinchew)

Joblessness ruining young people’s health (The Hankyoreh)

Japan’s Graduates Face Tough Job Market (Japan Realtime)

Japanese Police Women To Go Up To 10% Of Force….by 2023 (Japanesesubculture)

Pop Culture:

GD’s “One of A Kind”: Musings on Looking For Meaning Kpop (Idle Revelry)

Korean Culture Through K-pop 102: Pass the Soju (Seoulbeats)

Pronunciation Tips: Practicing the aegyo intonation (Hangukdrama and Korean)

Idols Striving for Perfection: It’s a Hard-Knock Life (Seoulbeats)

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

Girl Commits Suicide After Being Bullied in KakaoTalk Chatroom (Korea Bang)

One Chinese child too many – 27-year old woman forced to abort 7-month fetus (The East Asia Gazette)

Constitutional Court deems abortion a criminal offense (The Hankyoreh)

Deaths of only children present social challenge in China (Want China Times)

Out-of-wedlock babies on the rise (The Korea Herald)

Breastfeeding flash mob in the heart of Singapore (Channel News Asia)

Chinese Government defends college policy favoring boys (Global Times)

South Koreans Balk at Saturdays Without School (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Teachers’ rights to be better protected (The Korea Times)

(Links are not necessarily endorsements)

Quick Hit: “The Empowerment of the Pill in Korea”

Thanks very much for the comments on my earlier post on Korean OBGYN clinics, which I incorporated into a brief edit of my latest BusanHaps article. Just click on the picture to read.

Here’s hoping the KDFA makes the correct decision at the end of August!