Korean Gender Reader

Abracadabra Brown Eyed Girls(Source: Ningin)

1) If You’ve Got it, Flaunt it? The Potential Mainstreaming of Assertive Female Sexuality in Korea

As the live performance below demonstrates, even sans the sex scene of the music video, the dance routine for the Brown Eyed Girls’ (브라운아이드걸스) Abracadabra (아브라카다브라) remains compelling viewing. Spoken from the perspective of a heterosexual male of course, but also in the sense that it presents a rare, more assertive side of women’s sexuality to the faux coy, innocent, and inexperienced one that is the standard for the Korean media:

But given that, the original furor it generated, and the fact that many much tamer songs have been censored and/or banned from being broadcast on public television and radio recently, then last month I and VixenVarla at Seoulbeats and I naturally expected the same for what is easily the most sexually explicit Korean music video I’ve ever seen. Instead, and in some rare positive news, quite the opposite has occurred: the Brown Eyed Girls have become very much the darlings of the Korean media (see here, here, here, here, and here for just a handful of their recent television appearances), with their dance routine very much mainstreamed in the process. For which I present as Exhibit A the fact that it is starting to be parodied:

Do such parodies dilute the much-needed message that Korean entertainers – and, by extension, Korean women – can flaunt rather than hide their sexuality? To the extent that there was a deliberate “message” in the first place of course, as the music company involved has proved all too ready to make tamer versions of the video for the sake of quick sales. The question is pertinent in the context of Western dance moves and gestures frequently being parroted by Korean performers without being aware of their sexual connotations, of which Extra Korea! recently gave some examples, although the first he gives may be erroneous, as G-Dragon {G-드래곤} has quite a reputation for gender-bending. But the pelvic thrusts at 2:45 in the next one do indeed seem rather forced and awkward:

For more on the disassociation between sexuality and sexual iconography in Korea, see #7 here, to which I would add this observation by Misuda (미녀들의 수다 ) member Vera Hohleiter (more on her in a moment) on the irony of Korean women wearing mini-skirts, only to cover themselves up constantly while doing so, and also the fact that in Korea any blatantly sexual dance move, gesture and/or piece of clothing is instantly rendered cute and innocent in the public imagination merely by being on a teenage girl, as to view it otherwise would be to acknowledge the uncomfortable reality of their sexuality.

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I think the criticisms are a little harsh though: if you want to look for dancing that is genuinely “the vertical expression of a horizontal desire” in Korea, then you don’t have to look very hard. And context is very important, as even the most provocative of Western singers would be hard pressed to inject some sultriness into their performance under the harsh, almost antiseptic lights of a Korean talk-show studio, and moreover one in which the 3 year-old above may well have strutted her hips and thrust her non-existent breasts out at the audience 10 minutes earlier (not to condone that by any means, just to point out the myopic asexuality of such shows, which discourages questions of how problematic such performances really are). Finally, there’s the constant repetition and routine that would ultimately render ostensibly sexually provocative dance moves and so on somewhat artificial and forced for any performer. As such, it’s not like they can’t be learned: like I noted in an earlier post, there’s a good reason Singer Son Ga-in (손가인) of the Brown Eyed Girls spreads her legs and rides the stage floor like a porn star in the first video (at 2:06), despite claiming to be a virgin (update: apparently that was all only a rumor).

Son Ga-in2) Misuda: Half of it’s Fake

I haven’t actually seen the show myself, but I get the impression from those that have that the first season of Misuda did have its good points, and in particular sparked a lot of interest by Korean women in—and consequent dialogue with—foreign women living in Korea (easy to overlook if you’re a guy). Unfortunately Vera Hohleiterits more fluent, intelligent and interesting members were replaced in favor of mere photogenic ones and more tabloidish discussion topics in Season 2 though, and in was in this vein that was widely regarded as foreign male-bashing on the show occurred in Season 3 last month, which naturally provoked a vehement response in the Korean blogosphere: see #1 here for links, to which I’d add this commentary at Diffism that I overlooked, which makes the crucial point that much of the vitriol, albeit by no means undeserved, stemmed from from an intentionally skewed Korean newspaper report on the episode.

Among the hundreds of comments on those sites, I’d imagine that some would have argued to the effect that much of what is said on the show was scripted and for the sake of playing to its vacuous audience, and it turns out that that is indeed the case, as revealed in a book by German panelist Vera Hohleiter on the right. Unfortunately though, Korean netizens, albeit hardly representative of Koreans’ opinions as a whole, are concentrating on the few negative comments about Korea in it. Even though, as commenter Martin at Brian in Jeollanam-do’s post on the subject puts it:

….I am German and have read Vera’s book a few weeks back. When I bought it, I thought it would be the usual crap that we normally get from books about Korea but it was a decent read and the picture she draws of Korea is VERY positive. The few negative aspects she points out do not stand out at all, though I’m not surprised that some random Korean netizen picks up on them and the Korea Time publishes a story based on that person’s opinion/interpretation. Unreal….

….Anyway, the whole story is unsubstantiated as the book really doesn’t say much negative about Korea or Koreans.

On a positive note though, for its flaws Misuda is belatedly producing a male version. And Javabeans notes that foreign men are already becoming more prominent in the Korean media in recent months, increasingly portrayed positively and in romantic relationships with Korean women (see this movie also).

Update: And even the negative comments about Korea in Vera’s book may have been deliberately mistranslated and/or taken out of context. For more information, see doggyji and orosee’s comments on this forum thread.

3) Does Korea Need Cheaper Childcare?

Very much so, according to the The Chosun Ilbo (hat tip to WangKon936):

Last year 465,892 babies were born in Korea, 27,297 less than in 2007. As a result, the national fertility rate, which is the average number of babies that a woman gives birth to during her reproductive years between age 15 and 49, has declined from 1.25 children per woman to 1.19. Kim Hee-sun Marie ClaireAfter shooting up in 2006 and 2007 because of the belief that those were auspicious birth years, the rate has fallen again. Moreover, 10,000 fewer babies were born during the first five months of this year compared to the same period a year ago. This has prompted dire projections that Korea’s birth rate could fall to 1.12 this year….

….In order to boost the birth rate we need to create a social environment favorable to child birth and raising. Child-rearing costs must be lowered, while women should not be the only ones responsible for raising children. Corporate practices must also change so that women with babies are not discriminated against. But it will take quite some time and effort as well as a change in public thinking to create such an environment. The most practical measure at present is to provide reliable low-cost, high-quality childcare facilities for parents. In a 2005 report on Korea’s low birth rate, the OECD said that increasing childcare facilities alone could boost the rate by 0.4….(Source above: Naver).

And as someone who’s written about Korea’s exceptionally low birth rate and childcare issues for quite some time (see here, here, and here for some lengthy posts), then my instinctive reaction was to agree, but I have to admit that this response to it had some merit:

That’s a load of crap.

If child care was any cheaper in Korea, it would be free. Most daycare centres and kindergartens receive government subsidies, and for that reason, fees normally hover at around 200 000 won per month. Moreover, the government offers additional subsidies to families whose total income is less than about 3.6 million won per month, granting up to a 50% reduction in fees (so, about 100 000 won per month) and even offers additional subsidies to families that have more than one preschooler enrolled.

Sure, there are many daycare centers and kindergartens that charge more (one of the most popular gimmicks used to double and even triple fees being lessons in English), but they are not the norm.

Let’s be more specific. At the moment my wife and I send our 3 year-old daughter to a kindergarten (유치원) from 9:20 am to 4:40 pm Monday to Friday, and that costs us 420,000 won a month (340,000 if we only sent her until 2), which we consider a small price to pay for the sake of our sanity! Her kindergarten is unusual in that it accepts 3 year-olds instead of the standard 4 years, and also as a kindergarten it provides more of a structured educational program than a daycare center (어린이집), but unfortunately that means that we receive no subsidies from the government. If we sent her to the latter though, on my single income of, well…embarrassingly not much more than a 21 year-old new English teacher would make, then we’d only have to pay something like 50-60% of that. As far as my wife knows, there is actually no threshold on the percentage of subsidies that can be received on even lower incomes.

The Cultural Desert of Childcare(Source: Unknown)

I grant then, that costs are not the issue per se, at least to those on a double income and/or with much higher ones than mine. Recall that Korea has the lowest rate of working women in the OECD though, and that Korea has among the longest hours in the world spent at the workplace (note: not working, which is why Korea’s productivity per hour is only average), and I’d be surprised if there is childcare of any sort available at the late hours required. Or indeed if there ever will be, regardless of how many new facilities are created (albeit still urgently required), and so it behooves me to yet again point out that this aspect of Korea’s workplace culture, presenting a stark choice between motherhood and a career, arguably remains Korean society’s biggest stumbling block to raising its birth rate. In the meantime though, as the 2004 Social Policy and Administration article “A Confucian War over Childcare? Practice and Policy in Childcare and Their Implications for Understanding the Korean Gender Regime” makes clear, just actually enforcing the childcare and maternity legislation already in place would be an important first step:

We ask about the development of childcare policies in Korea and what these mean for our understanding of the gender assumptions of Korean governments. Women’s labour market participation has been increasing rapidly, with married women now much more likely to be in the labour market. The provision and regulation around support for women’s employment, and especially for mothers’ employment, is a key issue and problem for Korean women and for governments. A number of policies give the impression that the Korean government is moving rapidly towards a policy for reconciling work and family based on a dual-earner model of the family. But we argue that a close inspection of these policies suggests that the state is still playing a residual role, legislation is not effectively implemented, and government is giving way to the private sector and to the family in responsibility for childcare. Mothers’ accounts of their lives centre on a childcare war played out beneath the apparently harmonious Confucian surface, with resisting husbands supported by powerful mothers-in-law, and daily struggles over the management of services. The Korean government and its policy-makers, far from moving rapidly towards a dual-earner model of the family, are still rooted in Confucian ideals.

Unfortunately that is just the freely available abstract, as I’ve long since lost my electronic copy of the article (update: thanks to reader John Bush for passing this copy on). But I discuss it in detail here, and provide examples of the regular scandals of poor or even rotten food being provided to school students, and the fact that at the time of publication at least civil servants only had the resources to inspect facilities once a year, if at all, with the net result that finding a reliable facility among the insufficient number available plays no small part to play in Koreans’ decision to (not) have children. Things may well have changed in the 5 years since that article was written of course, but given that the Lee Myung-bak administration originally planned to abolish the then Ministry of Gender, Equality and Family (see here and here), only to retain it as the Ministry of Gender Equality (여성부) at the last moment, handing its family-related responsibilities to what became the Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs (보건복지가족부), then I highly doubt that there has been the political will to make the necessary changes.

Update: See this Korea Times article on for more recent information on Korea’s declining number of newborns.

Heroine(Source: Unknown)

On that note, apologies for the relative lack of subjects this week, less than I intended, but it’s been extremely difficult to write with both the heat and the 2 Energizer Bunnies masquerading as my daughters. And to be frank, the data-collecting for the Korean Gender Reader posts meant that writing them was becoming more of a tedious chore than something to look forward to – never good for the longevity of a blog and/or readers’ enjoyment of it – so from now on I’ll be sticking to the original format, which lets me both look at things in depth and have my own voice. I hope you enjoy the change!

Korean Gender Reader

Wedding Campaign 2005

( Poster for Wedding Campaign [나의 결혼 원정기 ], a 2005 movie about finding brides in Uzbekistan; Source )

Back to normalcy after the conference.

Demographics

1) “Seoul Increases Support for Muliticultural Families”

Or to be more precise, the Seoul Metropolitan Government is paying Korean men marrying foreigners 1 million won to attend a 20 hour course on multicultural marriages. But it is not available to Korean women.

Obviously this is discriminatory, but as some commenters at The Marmot’s Hole pointed out, not only are (2) Nine in Ten foreign spouses women, mostly Southeast Asian (see Korea Beat also), but it is even at the behest of the Women and Family Affairs department, and is based on preexisting programs run in other parts of Korea by the Ministry of Gender Equality (여성부) in cooperation with local governments. In addition, a crucial difference with this program is that it is targeted at husbands-to-be, with the aim of preventing problems before they occur.

3) Probably not by coincidence, last week all foreign spouses in Korea would have been visited by an official from the Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs (보건복지가족부), with an individual survey in their own native languages to be completed, although clearly orientated towards Southeast-Asian wives judging by the questions. Here are scans of the covers of information sheet, a Korean sample version, and my own English survey I made while waiting for them to be collected:

A National Survey on Multicultural Families 2009 Korea

Meanwhile, see here for German blogger Madang’s take on his own survey.

4) Divorcees Face Asset Seizure for Neglect of Rearing Children

According to the Korea Times:

A new civil law went into effect Sunday, empowering a court to seize the assets or salary of a spouse failing to share expenses for the raising of their children after divorce.

Under the law, it will be legally binding for divorcees to shoulder the expenses of bringing up children. In the past, there were no legal grounds to enforce payments if a spouse did not keep his or her promise to help pay for the costs.

Good news of course, but on the other hand it’s telling that I’m no longer shocked that no law existed previously.

Sexy Korean Dance5) Seoul is Aging Fast

6) Young Women Suicides Double in Four Years

Mostly attributed to recent economic difficulties.

Sexuality

7) The image on the right is from a popular recent advertisement for a promotion for Nate.com, a Korean portal site, showing how one can learn how to dance seductively (유혹댄스) simply by searching on the internet. I think that that’s debatable myself,  and it begs a lot of commentary on Korean attitudes to sexuality and dance, but Brian in Jeollanam-do has largely already provided that for us. But it’s still amusing, and you may recognize it as part of the series that prompted this post (source).

Update: Perhaps it does work. Singer Son Ga-in (손가인) of the Brown Eyed Girls (브라운아이드걸스), the main character in the music video for Abracadabra (아브라카다브라; see #9 below), claims to be a virgin and to have learned her provocative dance moves simply from watching adult films!

I think it might have been more effective if it had finished with the women in the pink dress successfully seducing the object of her affections (at some point in the future) though, not him grinding with the better dancer that she resorted to desperate measures to distract him from in the first place!

8) After reading yet another excellent meta-post at Ampontan, this time about why Japan is consistently misrepresented in the foreign media, then I’m inclined to take this article at abc News on “the new trend of Konkatsu, or Marriage Hunting” with a grain of salt, especially over whether it is quite as big a “departure” for Japanese singles as claimed. Is it really only in 2009 that Japanese singles actively sought marriage partners?

9) Yet Another Band Uses Faux-Lesbian Pictures to Market Itself

Like PopSeoul!, I think that this means of getting attention is now probably counter-productive to the groups involved, and has finally run its course. But new readers, please note that I definitely don’t include the Brown Eyed Girls (브라운아이드걸스) in that category for their recent song Abracadabra (아브라카다브라): while it was easily the most erotic Korean music video I’ve ever seen, it was also very creative and refreshing, and more importantly provided a much needed kick against the limits on how women’s sexuality could be presented in the Korean media (see #2 here for a fuller discussion of that).

Ivy 아이비

10) Singer Ivy Finally Ready for her Comeback

I’ve mentioned the false sex-tape scandal that derailed Ivy’s (아이비) career on numerous occasions, so rather then link to all of those here see Dramabeans for a succinct summary of both that and how she’s managed to overcome it recently (source).

11) Students in Conflict Over Stolen Underwear

A slow news day at the Korea Times?

Seriously though, if there has indeed been a spate of thefts as reported, it’s good that a female student finally complained about it publicly, and which got results.

Won-binBody Image

12) Who is the Sexiest Korean Man Over 30?

Voting still open at AllKpop, with extensive galleries and bios available (source).

13) More Taipei Youth Undergoing Cosmetic Surgery This Summer

From the Taipei Times. While I’d be wary of the accuracy of the figures in either report, see #7 here for a July poll of Korean university students, with comparable percentages in both countries.

14) Living with Curly Hair

A Korean woman with naturally curly hair, who spent her childhood in the US, discusses how she was forced to get her hair straightened because of peer pressure when her family came to Korea, and more generally about pressures to conform. To place these into perspective, see here for some historical and religious factors specific to Korea that exacerbate those, especially for women.

15) Young Generation Confused Over What an “Average” Spouse is?

According to a Korea Times poll of 20 and 30-something that is, but I seriously doubt that “91.7 percent of males and 83.7 percent of females want Mr. or Miss Average as their spouse” as the article claims. Is it really much of a surprise then, that both sexes’ ideal partners are much taller and richer than average brides and grooms in reality?

Media

16) Roboseyo rarely writes long posts, but when he does they are invariably worth the wait. See here and here for a much needed sense of perspective on recent racist depictions of foreign males in the Korean media.

17) Saharial at London Korean Links provides a great how-to guide to choosing which Korean drama to watch. And after reading that, make sure to check out the comments to this post for some recommendations made by my readers.

18 Also well worth the wait, Korea Pop Wars has an in-depth post on the slave-like contracts of most Korean stars.

Han Ji-Hye Nude Naked19) Not that she’s the only Korean female celebrity doing so by any means, but literally every time I have seen Han Ji-Hye (한지혜) on television, she has been wearing fewer and fewer clothes (see here and here), and I wouldn’t be surprised if this wasn’t the deliberate policy of her management company.

See Paranzui for her latest commercial.

20) As expected (see #1 here), having made her mark by getting banned from TV because of the sexual innuendo and heavy breathing in the first version of her her song “Oppa, Can I do it?” (오빠! 나 해도 돼?), rookie rapper E.via (이비아) is to release an edited, tamer version of her entire album.

나의 결혼 원정기

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Korean Gender Reader

Photoshop Shoo

One of these pictures from Shoo’s (슈) recent photoshoot is not quite like the others: take a closer look, and if nothing sticks out then see these classics of the genre for hints, or #6 for the solution.

1) In that vein, for me last week really stood out for the number of excellent points raised about the subjects of women’s body images, censorship, and Korean sexuality by Korean bloggers. But first, I should of course mention that a South-African woman was raped in her home in Ulsan by a neighbor earlier in the month, and early indications were that the police were at best lukewarm in handling her case, which naturally provoked lively discussions in the Korean blogosphere about rape in Korea, women’s and foreigner’s safety, and the Korean police ‘s attitudes to both. Lest I appear indifferent by not discussing those subjects in more detail myself though, lengthy but often informative comments threads on these already exist at Korea Beat and The Marmot’s Hole if you’re interested. Moreover, it appears from this Facebook thread devoted to the issue that claims of police indifference were complete fabrications by The Chosun Ilbo, as were quotes from the victim, who hadn’t actually spoken to any news outlets.

2) First up then, in a post I’m embarrassed not to have written myself, VixenVarla of Seoulbeats asks if Korean society is really ready for “women” idols, and thinks not: noting the netizen furor over the above Abracadabra (아브라카다브라) music video by the Brown Eyed Girls (브라운아이드걸스), which features a sex scene (and rather more than the mere lesbian kissing scene I reported last week sorry), she argues that while provocative, both that and Chae-yeon’s (채연) new music video Shake (흔들려) were at least alternative representations of Korean women to the coy, innocent, and sexually inexperienced ones normally presented. But while teenage groups’ blatantly sexual dance moves are usually instantly praised as being “hip”, “sexy”, and “cool,” Abracadabra will probably have to be heavily edited for television (despite protestations that it won’t be), as indeed much tamer Shake was recently (see #1 here).  She concludes:

….when Korean “women” choose to project a more sexualized side of themselves they are looked down upon by censors and neitizens. Is Korea so afraid to show adult women in control of their own sexuality that they would prefer to cast scantily clad little girls in heavy makeup, to play “grown up” in their place?

See here for the full post. But please note that by reiterating it’s main points I (and I’m sure VixenVarla would concur) am not attacking expressions of teenage sexuality per se: rather, I’m just saying that they don’t deserve the kid gloves with which they are treated with by the Korean media (see here for my most recent post on this issue). Possibly Abracadabra was a bad choice with which to make that particular point though, as it’s easily the most sexually-explicit mainstream Korean music video I’ve seen in the whole 9 years I’ve lived here:

Abracadabra Brown Eyed Girls( Source )

Of course, 9 times out of 10 such a video would be used to disguise the poor quality of the music itself, but this song is actually good, and – I confess – I heard it on the radio and thought it was (forgive the temporary lapse in sophistication) cool well before I saw the video above. Meanwhile, here is a live performance if you’re curious as to how all that translates to the stage (see PopSeoul! for the details):

3) In case you’re confused by the Korean media praising moves by, say, The Wondergirls (원더걸스) or Girls’ Generation (소녀시대) as “sexy” while criticizing, say, Chae-yeon’s dancing as too sexual though, Brian in Jeollanam-do has an excellent post on how Korean uses of the word have become almost entirely divorced from its English meaning.

4) In related news, while discussing a promotion in Seoul involving women dressed as Paris Hilton to celebrate the Korean airing of MTV reality show “Paris Hilton’s My New Best Friends Forever,” Brian also makes the point that:

…while Korean celebrities are held to pretty high moral standards, you have a woman like Paris Hilton regularly on TV and endorsing Fila Korea.

Like he thought, he’s not the first or the last person to mention that (see #18 here), and after reading this post on her by Michael Hurt at Scribblings of the Metropolitician I would also no longer, well, slag off Paris Hilton as readily as most people are inclined to either.  But still, the point stands regardless of the celebrity involved, and is worth remembering.

5) Also making big news were some Southeast-Asian men being arrested for taking pictures of women at Haeundae Beach in Busan, whereas – as numerous bloggers have pointed out, Korean newspaper photographers regularly (and excessively) do so, and particularly of Caucasian women also. See Brian’s post (yes, again – a productive week for him it seems!) and Korean Media Watch for more.

Choi Ji-woo Vidi Vici6) No, that’s not an alien on the right, but Choi Ji-woo (최지우) promoting cosmetics brand Vidi Vici. Speaking of which, if you haven’t figured out what was wrong with the opening image of Shoo, see AllKpop here for the solution.

7) Also on the photography front, many Korean newspapers (and particularly the ones that denounce Western men as sexual predators and deviants: see #1 here) are increasingly posting “upskirt” pictures of celebrities and members of the public on their websites. Apologies for not providing links (even I have my limits), but I mention this because PopSeoul! has raised the point of PR managers and so on increasingly providing only high stools for stars to sit on at press conferences, which there can only be one reason for given that it is now de rigueur for female stars to wear something short and skimpy to them.

8) Spare a thought for North Korean women: among numerous other frustrations of daily life there, they also have to contend with being forced by government to wear skirts at some times of the year, and traditional clothing at others.

9) A while ago I mentioned a post at Sociological Images about the Tokyo City Government’s appointment of three young women as “cute ambassadors” for the city, the better to promote Japanese kawaii (cute) culture and project Japan’s “soft power” abroad. Now Ampontan – my personal choice for the best blog on Japanese society, politics, and culture – has a great meta post on what issues the policy raises, noting, for example:

I’d rather the Japanese had chosen other parts of their culture to present to the rest of the world—festivals, for example—but might there be a bigger picture that we’re missing?

Plug the word kawaii in English into Google and you’ll get 7,590,000 hits. Do the same with cosplay and you’ll get 24,200,000. Yes, I was astonished too. When the words kawaii and cosplay are so commonly known and accepted around the world, I think it’s safe to say we’re dealing with a phenomenon that transcends Japan.

Read the rest here, and you may also be interested in the Korean government’s recent efforts to promote itself overseas, albeit sans Hello Kitty and Gothic Lolita costumes.

10) I’m still generally against cosmetic surgery, but largely through reader’s comments I’m much more sympathetic of it and understanding of people’s reasons for having operations (especially in an appearance-obsessed society as Korea) than I was before I started the blog. In that vein, see AllKpop here for winner of the title of “prettiest celebrity after female surgery,” with the important point that contestants were only those that openly admitted their surgery.

Meanwhile, the Korea Times reports that young Korean men are apparently becoming keener on having cosmetic surgery (see #7 here also).

11) Given the amount of photoshopping that was necessary for him to do so, I possibly was a little harsh in my opinion on Park Ji-sung’s (박지성) appearance in this post on his modelling for Gillette Korea. But I have to say, he looks quite dapper in his latest photoshoot for Gentlemen’s Quarterly (via KP Culture):

Park Ji-sung Gentlemen's Quarterly( Source )

12) While apparently sexual relations with 13 year-olds are okay (see #3 here), Extra Korea! notes that from next year, solitciting teenagers for sex will be punishable, even if no sexual act takes place. Hey, at least it’s consistent with laws for adults…

13) Widely reported in the Korean media, Koreans as a whole are becoming more overweight. Considering that Korean women were among the lest obese women in the OECD (let alone the world) as recently as 2005 though, then the new data needs to be taken with a grain of salt (no pun intended).

Update: Extra Korea has some additional links on the latter.

Ironically, this news comes as North Korea opens its first fast-food restaurant.

Asian Man Redefined 2010 Calander14) With apologies for this being the largest picture I could find, Andrew Lim recommends you buy the (self-explanatory) “Asian Men Redefined 2010 Calendar,” the proceeds of which will go to charity. For the details, see Ningin here.

15) Singer Ivy (아이비) is trying to make a comeback after being forced to put her career on her hold by a sex-tape scandal…which didn’t actually exist. If the latter is news to you, then see DramaBeans for the background.

16) Somewhat predictable, but still sad, the economic recession is resulting in many fathers running away from their families in shame at not being able to get a job and/or support them, and also the number of 2-child families is decreasing as women’s wages decline. Hat tip to Alex for the latter, who makes the following perceptive points about the article:

I’m wondering if they’re insinuating the wage of female workers should decrease to save the national birthrate…

“Working mothers who prefer to offer quality education or living environment rather than having more children has also contributed to the declining number of second children.

The report said the increase in the women’s wages has negative impact the births of a second child but the increase in paychecks from husbands increases the chances of having more than one child. “

That’s quite the justification for the disparity in salaries.

Meanwhile, see here for Tom Coyner’s article on the effects of the recession on young people, to which he adds in his email on it in his “Korean Economic Reader” mailing list that:

To be candid, one of the ulterior motives to write this column was to plug my firm’s “Rising Star Coaching” program that helps organizations lacking the budgets to go out and hire specialists while needing to recycle bright, younger employees to assume new roles as their employers adjust to new challenges.

Should the reader know of anyone who lacks internal mentors for developing a specific skill set in a younger manager or employee, please let me know.  We can provide senior Korean executives who have been trained in coaching skills to mentor junior employees on a short-term contractual basis.

And in some rare positive news, Korea Beat reports that women are advancing in the government and legal professions.

17) Finally, in news that I should have placed much earlier in the post sorry, Brian notes that a pregnant 18-year old Cambodian woman was given a 4-year sentence for killing her abusive husband, and also that 2 sisters-in-law and a stepdaughter of a Vietnamese immigrant wife were fined for beating her after she allegedly failed to tend to her mother-in-law’s needs. That second link is just factual really, but in the first has many interesting points about Southeast immigration to Korean and the international marriage trade.

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