Korean Gender Reader

(“Alice {The Devil’s Bride}” by Stephen Fabian; source)

1) Rape and “Blood Money”

In essential reading for all expats, Ask a Korean! clears up misunderstandings about how and why victims of crimes are often offered the choice of quick financial compensation from perpetrators, rather than the latter automatically being prosecuted by the state. With a lot of pros in practice, unfortunately there are also some big cons in relation to sex crimes specifically:

Probably the biggest flaw is that often, a victim of a crime cannot properly assess the extent of her loss through the crime. If a person is beat up, the person might suffer a lingering damage that does not flare up until the settlement amount was computed. Also, sometimes it is not the victim herself who enters into the settlement. This used to lead to an incredibly outrageous situation in case of child molestation. As noted above, rape is a private crime. Since a child does not have the legal decision-making authority, the parents would handle the private crime process. And often, a molested child would come from a broken home, in which the parent would rather take a lump sum of cash right away rather than ensuring that the child rapist would go to jail. (Fortunately, this situation was redressed in 2008 by a new law that made child molestation a public crime.) Also, the inclusion of rape as a private crime is roundly criticized by many legal scholars, as it puts a burden on the victim to pursue what is a very serious crime that significantly threatens the social order. (To be sure, rape with battery, i.e. a violent case of rape, is a public crime. But, for example, a date rape involving drugs is a private crime.)

2) Non-Asians in Korean Music Videos: A Response

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3) A Place of Refuge: The Sae Gil Shelter

A very welcome follow up to its February article on the Busan performance of the Vagina Monologues (videos below), BusanHaps tells us more about the  Sae Gil Shelter for victims of domestic violence, which the show managed to raise 3.4 million won for.

While the funds are desperately needed of course, fortunately great strides have been made in combating domestic violence in recent years, primarily due to a 2007 law change that requires police to forward all cases of domestic violence to a prosecutor (the previous 1998 law just left it up to their own discretion). For more details, see here.

(Via: Koreabridge)

4) South Korea Keeps Its Military Ban On Gay Sex

In a 5-4 decision last month, the Constitutional Court ruled that a 39 year-old military law criminally punishing homosexual soldiers for performing sexual acts in military barracks is constitutional. As the AFP reports:

“The legal code cannot be seen as discrimination against gays because such behavior, if left unchecked, might result in subordinates being harassed by superiors in military barracks,” it said in a statement. The law’s purpose was to ensure discipline within the whole military organization, the court said. The ruling came after an army military court filed a petition with the Constitutional Court. It asked whether the military criminal code, written in 1962, was discriminatory against gay soldiers and thus unconstitutional. Homosexuality is not illegal under the civil legal code.”

A somewhat hollow-sounding defense considering overwhelming evidence of systematic and widespread sexual harassment and abuse already occurring, as outlined here and here. Also, OnTop Magazine adds that “The Military Penal Code further punishes gay troops by lumping together consensual and non-consensual gay sex as sexual harassment”, and the The Korea Times that ‘offenders’ are also given a dishonorable discharge after leaving jail. This effectively punishes them for life in a society where military service is widely regarded as a de facto requirement for “real” citizenship.

Meanwhile, in other LGBT-related news, gay filmmaker Kim Jho Kwang-soo – only the second man in the entertainment industry to come out of the closet – has announced his marriage (alas, not legally recognized). And I’m No Picasso discusses the unfortunate consequences for one her students of Korean society denying and/or marginalizing homosexuality.

(Source: Barry Deutsch)

5) International Comparison of Gender and Unpaid Labor

For a pleasant change, Korea is only slightly worse than the OECD average for the extra unpaid labor women do compared to men.

Also, for a very interesting new book on the subject that I look forward to buying when it’s available at WhatTheBook? (hint hint), see Shattered: Modern Motherhood and the Illusion of Equality by Rebecca Asher.

6) The Female Writer in Korea

Charles at Korean Modern Literature in Translation on the first two chapters of Ideology, Culture, and Han by Younghee Lee, which are “a brief but quite interesting analysis of women writers in the Joseon and early Modern periods”.

7) Banned Music Video of the Week: Mirror Mirror (거울거울) by 4Minute (포미닛)

Or at least, the consensus is that one particular dance move in it soon will be. If the song itself is not to your liking, then skip ahead to 2:16.

8) Booking Clubs

Perspectives on Korean and Los Angeles Booking Clubs from Blog in a Tea Cup and Hyphen Magazine respectively.

9) The Jang Ja-yeon Tragedy: Making it all go away

Committing suicide 2 years ago because of forced prostitution by her managers, alleged letters by Jang Ja-yeon (장자연) detailing the string of VIPs, including directors, media executives and CEOs she was forced to have sex with have (naturally) been getting a lot of attention recently. See The Three Wise Monkeys for the definitive guide to all the latest developments in that case.

10) Cosmetic Surgery on the cheap

GeekinHeels discusses some sort of tape used for creating “V-lines” she was given as a gift, while Martina and Simon of EatYourKimchi are a little braver and try the ones for double-eyelids for themselves:

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1) Reebok capitalizes on and perpetuates cute-sexy-I’m-so-innocent-make-me-squeal stereotype of Asian women

Well, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t always enjoy seeing attractive women in their underwear. But I can still certainly understand objections to the way in which Reebok appropriated The No Pants Subway Ride in Taiwan last month. Like  commenter Riff complained:

Oh, lovely, thanks, my fellow Asian women, for perpetuating our cute-sexy-I’m-so-innocent-make-me-squeal stereotype, which somehow just gets worse when a whole crowd of you clones take off your pants for an advertisement to capitalize on the sexualization of women in Asia. Great job, girls. Continue being cute.

And Doug:

As usual for East Asia, they’ve taken the wacky and fun American version, and made it aggressively sexual and really creepy.

And Jedd Oliver noted that the original Chinese-language marketing indicated that Reebok was very much taking advantage of the “liberating the lower body” slogan of the unisex, New York-based Improv Everywhere original. Which strongly reminded me of the following point about the way the advertising industry sometimes deals with feminist criticism:

…some advertisers, aware of the objections of the feminist movement to traditional images of women in ads, have incorporated the criticism into their ads, many of which now present an alternative stereotype of the cool, professional, liberated women…Some agencies trying to accommodate new attitudes in their campaigns, often miss the point and equate ‘liberation’ with a type of aggressive sexuality and very unliberated coy sexiness (G. Dyer, Advertising as Communication, 1982, pp. 185-186)

(Sources: left, right)

But to play devil’s advocate, Reebok has already been using such “assvertising” for its EasyTones for a long time, as have other companies with similar products (which as you can see above, includes the obligatory reference to one’s “S-line” in Korean versions). So, while I remain dismayed that, yet again, something that uses false advertising to encourage women not to exercise has become so popular, arguably this campaign is just a flesh and blood version of what people have already been seeing on subway trains for years.

What do you think? (via SeoulPodcast)

2) Newest phenomenon in South Korean prostitution: hug rooms

Ho-bba, jeong-bba, d-bba (all forms of host bars) yesterday, and now this. Frankly, it’s becoming difficult to keep track of all the ways brothel-owners easily circumvent Korea’s asinine prostitution laws.

3) KoreAm interviews Lisa Lee, founder of Thick Dumpling Skin, “the new community website focused on Asian Americans, eating disorders and body image”

4) “Not all population trends are bad in Korea”

Or are they? While I’d like to report on good news if and whenever possible, I’m not sure that the recent revelation that the Korean “sandwich generation” – those financially responsible for both children and parents – isn’t as big as expected is quite enough to compensate for Korea’s coming demographic crunch. As, indeed, the World Street Journal tacitly admits in its conclusion to its own report:

After 2016, though, things start to get really, really rough for South Korea. That’s when the working-age population starts to fall. Then, the number of people saving and paying taxes and contributing to the asset base will start to decline while the number of people drawing from the asset base will start to rise.

5) Former president Kim Young-sam invited to kophino center in Philippines

Hopefully he will actually go, thereby drawing some much needed attention to the plight of fatherless Korean-Filipino children there.

As Robert Neff mentions, as of last year Koreans have replaced Americans as the biggest group of foreigners to visit the Philippines. And a 2009 Korea Times article also explains that the rise in numbers of Kophinos is:

…a product of the mindset of Koreans who were visiting the Philippines to enjoy life but not to get married to Filipino women. Enjoying life, of course, means hitting strip bars, paying for sex and getting temporary Filipina girlfriends.

They never think of marrying Filipino women and just enjoy their lives here, she said.

But, for some Filipino women, they consider relationships with foreigners as their ticket out of poverty. Unfortunately, this often turns out to be wishful thinking as Korean men quickly abandon the women after a night of sex or when they learn they are pregnant.

Son explained that the Korean cultural history of disapproving of mixed marriages has been a factor in the abandoning of Filipino children.

6) Japanese trains equipped with anti-groping cameras

7) Sex eduction in the spotlight

While it’s slightly old, this December 2009 JoongAng Daily article provides an excellent summary of the dismal state of sex education in Korea, and which unfortunately is probably little different today. The caption to the picture on the right, for instance, mentions that “most of the nation’s practical sex education programs are only available outside the classroom”, and later the article discusses how progressive teachers’ efforts are frequently thwarted by parents’ complaints that showing students how to use the pill or put on condoms correctly, say, simply encourages them to be promiscuous.

Sigh.

8) Life at a Korean University

Strictly speaking, not a gender issue, but of course a knowledge of Korean university life is essential for understanding Korean 20-somethings. See here for a handy quick guide by The Three Wise Monkeys then, with 1 bad – but many good – anecdotes from the related “MT” (membership training) mentioned by Joe Seoulman here.

Meanwhile, the Hankyoreh reports that, unfortunately, living costs for university students are skyrocketing these days. And, to make things worse, they’re being excessively targeted by Christian evangelicals while on campus!

9) Seoul government extends location-tracing service for elementary school children

Although it’s a little difficult to keep track of all the pilot schemes that preceded this, Hanpolis provides a good summary of them in a September article here. And like that says, already the plan then was to have 75% of the city under the “U-Seoul Children Safety Zone” by 2014.

With one daughter of mine just 2 years from starting school, I’m beginning to take a great interest in this, and am wondering if other cities are going to follow suit. And especially because of the rape of a middle school girl by 4 of her classmates in Busan last month, which occurred just a couple of subway stops from my apartment.

(Sources: left, right)

10) The Jang Ja-yeon Letters

Two years after actress Jang Ja-yeon (장자연) committed suicide over being forced by her management companies to have sex with various entertainment, media, and business executives, the revelation that 50 handwritten letters have emerged in which she names them – 31 in all – has rocked the Korean public. Like the Wall Street Journal explains:

Reaction on Internet forums and micro-blogging site Twitter show that people are seething. An unverified list of the men purportedly identified in the letters has been widely circulated via Twitter, causing concerns that some can be falsely accused.

And the police who originally investigated are under fire for glossing over the case. South Korea’s media, who dropped the story shortly after rumors spread that some of the industry’s leading executives had liaisons with Ms. Jang, is also under scrutiny.

See there and Global Voices for excellent summaries, the latter of which discusses some of those reactions on Twitter in more detail. Also, Omona! They Didn’t has a quick list of some of those names, as well as the International Forensic Science Laboratory’s refutation of claims that the letters were fabricated.

Meanwhile, actress Yoo In-na (유인나), who rose to prominence after her supporting role in the popular drama High Kick Through The Roof (지붕뚫고 하이킥), has alleged that she was sexually harassed by her former entertainment agency CEO. And Asian Correspondent has translated an article that says that according to the National Human Rights Commission (국가인권위원회), “cases of sex discrimination and sexual harassment have increased 25-fold in the past eight years, from 13 cases in 2002 to 336 cases in 2010″.

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1) 1 in 10 elderly have unsafe sex.

And for more on many elderly men’s reliance on prostitution, the Korean public’s attitudes to elderly sexuality, and depictions of that in popular culture, see here.

2) Gender inversion in K-pop.

Why do you find so many male groups imitating female ones, but never the other way round?

3) 50-year-old member of Japanese parliament and prominent reproduction-rights advocate gives birth.

As explained at The Wall Street Journal, that has prompted a lively debate on maternity issues there, as:

Despite Japan’s embrace of innovative medical technologies, egg donation is virtually banned, and the practice of using a surrogate mother is forbidden by the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology, an official doctors organization. However, artificial reproduction using sperm donation is allowed.

In comparison, laws in Korea are probably much more liberal, as the notorious case of Hwang Woo-suk’s (황우석) faked stem-cell research illustrates.

4) Bus driver sentenced to jail for injuring a male student who molested a female passenger and then attacked a female escort on a school bus.

Like Brian in Jeollanamdo says, examples like this show why “don’t interfere” is an unfortunate necessity of living in Korea, and which is ultimately self-destructive for Korean society.

Fortunately though, the 2 year sentence was suspended, so the bus driver will not actually go to jail.

(Source)

5) American film critic Roger Ebert thinks Korean groups don’t really understand all the Playboy references they’re using

To put it mildly, and it doesn’t help that the same-sounding Korean word (플레이보이) literally only means a guy who has many girlfriends.

In fairness though, I’ve heard that the Playbody bunny logo is popular across much of the rest of Asia, so this isn’t just a Korean thing. But still, I’ve been amazed at the numbers of women sporting the bunny ears on Korean TV recently, and was about to write a post about it myself before this came up.

6) Sex and Chinese Men

The latest in the “Ask the Yangxifu” series from Speaking of China, a blog by a Western woman with a Chinese husband.

7) The science of getting men to take off their shirts in Korean dramas

(Source)

8) What is Confucianism?

Essential reading from Ask a Korean! for anyone wanting to understand Korean gender issues.

9) Casting couch still has huge role in Korean entertainment industry

As explained by John Glionna at The Los Angeles Times, nearly 2 years since the suicdie of Jang Ja-yeon (장자연) for being forced to prostitute herself by her managers, unfortunately:

…little has changed in the cutthroat “Korean Wave” of TV, film and music that each year draws thousands of young hopefuls ready to endure whatever it takes — including sexual abuse and exploitation — to make it big.

And in particular:

An April 2010 survey conducted by a human rights group here found that 60% of South Korean actresses polled said they had been pressured to have sex to further their careers. In interviews with 111 actresses and 240 aspiring actresses, one in five said they were “forced or requested” by their agents to provide sexual favors, nearly half said they were forced to drink with influential figures, and a third said they experienced unwanted physical contact or sexual harassment.

10) New girl-group “Piggy Dolls”  (피기돌스) debuts with Trend (트렌드)

And so unusual is it for members of girl groups to be anything but skinny, there has already been a lot written about his group. But for the basic details, then I’d recommend allkpop or Popseoul!, and then I’d suggest Seoulbeats for more commentary and analysis (and extra clips). Last but not least, I’d share Mellowyel’s critique of their marketing at Mixtapes and Liner Notes, and am happy to report that, as she hoped, the news report in it is indeed (sort of) about young girls feeling alienated because of their weight, and that the song as a whole is about them breaking stereotypes. See for yourself by clicking on the video above and accessing the subtitles over at Youtube.

Meanwhile, thanks to reader @izzysangtae for first passing the news of them on!

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Not strictly gender-related sorry, but while Vogue Korea’s recent photoshoot of Lee Hyori (이효리) is not without a touch of class, that particular image above is probably the strangest of her’s I’ve ever seen!

1. “What is Aegyo and How Can We Kill It?”

Regularly expressing a disdain for displays of aegyo (애교) by Korean women, or “affected sweetness”, strangely it has never occurred to me to scratch below the surface of the phenomenon, let alone see how it could actually be an empowering tool to navigate a patriarchal society. I highly recommend reading The Joshing Gnome’s short, very readable, 5-part series then, which is rooted in Thorstein Veblen’s The Theory of the Leisure Class:  see here for Part 1, and don’t miss Kelly in Korea’s insights also.

2. “60% of Actresses Accosted for Sex by Bigwigs”

A rather confusing headline, as although the Chosun Ilbo article begins:

Six out of 10 actresses in Korea have been propositioned for sex by influential figures, according to a poll of 111 actresses by the Korean Women’s Development Institute commissioned by the National Human Rights Commission.

In the survey published Tuesday, 60.2 percent of respondents said they had been accosted for sex by senior figures in the broadcast industry or other prominent people. The poll was conducted between September and December last year and involved detailed interviews. Top actresses accounted for around 10 percent of respondents.

…It actually later says that only 21.5% received direct requests, but of course that figure is also unacceptable.

Probably commissioned in the wake of huge public reaction to the suicide of actress Jang Ja-yeon (장자연) in March last year, unfortunately they probably come as no great surprise, but at least attention is being drawn to the scale of the problem. See The Guardian, The Hankyoreh, SeoulBeats, and myself at #13 here for more if that is in the first you’ve heard of that, and which provide some context to the recent news from Korea Beat that a short-track skating coach has been accused of molesting a student, a university professor has been found guilty of sexually harassing one of his students, and a police officer was fired for placing a digital camera under the desk of his female co-worker.

( Source )

3. Gays in current Korean dramas

An excellent summary by Yuna at The Marmot’s Hole. Also, see Ask a Korean! for an interview with Kim Su-hyeon (김수현), writer of the drama Life is Beautiful (인생은 아름다워), actually the first in Korea to depict a gay relationship.

Not to imply that Daniel Henney (다니엘헤니) above is gay of course, but I do have a penchant for close-ups of attractive faces, and I also I just thought that my gay readers and heterosexual women might like it! Does anyone else think he looks a little like Roger Moore did in his James Bond days here? (via: PopSeoul)

4. “If you think that Korean women are fragile eastern flowers, you might want to think again”

Streetwise in Seoul writes brief biographies of Lim Su-jeong (임수정) and Choi Hyun-mi (최현미), a Muay Thai fighter and boxer respectively. See here for a video of the latter in action and for some more information on other Korean female boxers also, and you may also like Living on the Flipside, a blog by an expat boxer (with a Korean husband who is also a boxer!).

5. Go So-young knocked-up

A reminder that Koreans’ public attitudes to sexuality are much more subtle than they may at first appear (let alone considering the wide gap with their private ones), the news that Go So-young (고소영) was already 3 months pregnant upon her recent marriage to Jang Dong-gun (장동건) raised nary an eyebrow in Korea, despite strong taboos against premarital sex and cohabitation (albeit only that against the latter strong enough to dissuade it!). As commenter Oranckay explained, and well worth repeating, the reason is because:

…one needs to take into account that not all pre-marital sex is the same. There is a difference between just having sex and having sex with someone you are going to, or intend to, marry, and traditional/Joseon and even 20th Korea saw this as a big difference. Having sex on the premise of, and as consummation of, commitment, was the normal, socially acceptable way to have pre-marital sex. So valued was a woman’s virginity that a decent man could only sleep with her if he was ready to “take responsibility for her,” as the saying would go, and so on, because that’s what sleeping with her was supposed to imply. Fiction and non-fiction narratives (many known to me personally) are full of this kind of thinking. I know couples that decided not to have sex because they weren’t sure they were getting married, that didn’t have sex because he was going to the military and he wanted to be sure he’d come back alive before permanently “making her his,” as that would be too traumatic for her, and of couples that lived together (and obviously were having sex) before being married and it was acceptable because they were going to marry, had family approval, but couldn’t marry because maybe the girl’s elder sister wasn’t married off yet or they were both still in college but both sets of parents wanted to get them married after graduation, or one of those odd reasons. Maybe no money; whatever…

Read the rest here.

6. Korean Censorship: More Than Meets the Eye?

As watchers of Korean dramas may recall, back in January KBS decided to censor the scene below from the popular drama Chuno (추노), despite the fact that Lee Da-hae (이다해) was clearly fully-clothed. I didn’t comment it on at the time, but had I done so then I too would likely have joined the bandwagon of criticism and described it as absurd, completely unnecessary, and downright bizarre in light of the amount of skin that is displayed 24/7 on KBS, let alone on any city street.

And don’t get me wrong: I still consider it absurd. But via a comment on the French-language Korean cinema blog Dooliblog, I have since learned that it was in fact done to placate disgruntled fans of the show, critical of Lee Da-hae’s flawless skin as being too unrealistic for her role. Granted, how blurring her breasts specifically was supposed to overcome that remains a bit of a mystery, but the new information does at least provide a healthy reminder not to take instances of censorship in Korea at face value, and certainly not to automatically assume that the Korean media’s “default” option is for greater conservatism.

( Source. Note: don’t confuse the proclivity for blurring with that done to avoid indirect advertising )

When it does occur however, it can also easily be circumvented or even exploited, as skillfully done by rapper E.via (이비아), who (in my personal opinion) seems to compensate for a lack of musical talent by seeking controversy with everything she produces (see #1 here, #11 here, and #20 here). I may simply be biased because I’ve never liked rap however(!), and against that interpretation Twitterer David Frazer points out (update: actually regular commenter Gag Halfrunt) she has a penchant for “juxtaposing [an] innocent idol look with explicit lyrics”, and may in fact be “deliberately attacking the pretense that ‘it’s not sexy, it’s cute’ when under-18s do suggestive dance moves”. Can anyone more familiar with her enlighten us?

Regardless, it is curious why her latest music video Shake! (쉐이크!) is likely to be banned from public television…

…while advertisements like this remain completely acceptable:

Meanwhile, the Korea Times reports that Twitter is providing a means for pornography websites to avoid restrictions placed on them by the Korea Communications Standards Commission, the country’s censorship authority for broadcasting and Internet content.

7. Body Image

I confess, sometimes keeping up with Korean gender issues almost feels like being simply scouring the internet looking for more things to criticize, but then there is so rarely any positive news when it comes to Koreans’ attitudes to women’s body images especially. Accordingly, I’ll simply pass on these links below rather than providing (admittedly increasingly repetitive) commentary also, although do check out this video on cosmetic surgery in Korea posted last week if you missed it:

Shift the focus of attention slightly however, and there have been positive recent developments. In an article in the Los Angeles Times entitled “South Korea’s homemakers don’t want to be pegged” for example, John Glionna explains how “some stay-at-home mothers, known as ajumma, are fed up with being stereotyped as deadbeats who just love to gossip and shop. Kim Yong-sook is helping them forge a new identity”:

( Source: unknown )

Kim Yong-sook is fed up and she’s not going to take it anymore.

She’s weary of women between the ages of 30 and 60 being ridiculed as selfish and unstylish — bossy, gossiping magpies with bad perms who pinch pennies and hog seats on the subway.

They’re known as ajumma, a word long applied to married women with children but which in recent years has taken on a pejorative connotation that irks Kim.

Among many South Koreans, it’s now often used to conjure an image of homemakers who disdain full-time jobs to while away afternoons on park benches, in coffee shops and at social clubs, bragging about their children and, if they’ve got the money, go on shopping sprees.

At 58, Kim has empathy for her fellow ajumma, who she insists have too long been misunderstood and ridiculed. Ajumma are not deadbeats, cracks in Korea’s economic engine.

“Actually, we’re running the nation,” says the mother of one, a son. “We’ve got one foot in the house and one foot in society.”

A decade ago, Kim formed a support group called “Ajumma are the Pillars of the Nation.” Since then, she has attracted thousands to her declaration of independence. She’s written a book and consults with business and government.

Her message: Ajumma unite! Don’t take the snickers, behind-the-back finger-pointing and jibes lying down!

Read the rest here, and you may also be interested in ajummas’ very under-appreciated role in the creation of the kkotminam (꽃미남) phenomenon in the 1990s, and their increasing domination of young male idols’ fan-clubs a decade later.

Update - At risk of contradicting myself and trivializing what Kim Yong-sook is doing, these ajumma cartoons are classic nevertheless: after all, the stereotypes aren’t entirely baseless…

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8. Despite her protestations to the contrary, I’m no Picasso continues to provide sage advice about dating and sexuality in Korea, here demolishing another expat’s seriously flawed logic and stereotypes about both. Jumping ahead to next week’s Gender Reader, many of these are likely to re-emerge in the news that Single Korean Females Eye Foreign Husbands, so be sure to read her posts first!

9. “Writers and Women Writers”

Over at Korean Modern Literature in Translation, Charles Montgomery passes on an article by literary critic Bruce Fulton, who begins with “an amusing tendency in Korean Literature that all readers eventually catch”:

Readers of an earlier generation who happened upon the anthology Modern Short Stories From Korea, translated into English by In-Sob Zong (Chong In-sop),1 might be forgiven if they gained the impression that two varieties of human beings write fiction in modern Korea: writers and women writers.

10. Less than 1 in 10 executives is female

In a poll conducted by major recruiting service Incruit, it was found that “the larger the company, the less likely it was to employ women as leaders”: of the companies surveyed, those with fewer than 300 employees had 36,666 executives, of whom 3,279, or 8.9 percent, were female, while in bigger companies only 126 out of 2,474 execs, or 5.1 percent, were female.

See The JoonAng Daily for more.

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anorexic-jeong-ryeo-won-정려원-giordano-advertisement-지오다노-광고

Old news in the K-pop blogosphere admittedly, but then I was recently minded of concerns about actress and model Jeong Ryeo-won’s (정려원) health by seeing these latest advertisements of hers for Giordano, although it has to be said that in those her appearance has actually improved a little since last July when the above advertisement was produced (source).  Regardless of the bias in my choice though, surely back then at least she looked too gaunt and anorexic to model? I do accept that Jeong Ryeo-won has always been rather thin (naturally or otherwise), and normally she wouldn’t be at all out of place in the usually perky, up-beat style of Giordano advertisements that I’ve always been fond of either (and not just because of the ones that were banned in 2004 for being too raunchy: see here and here), but still, I can’t help but find this one more than a little off-putting.

Is that just me, or is it my wife that is strange for thinking that she actually looks fine? Regardless, I’m also curious as to what would be the ethics of canceling a modeling contract because of a model’s anorexia, and if that would actually help or hinder acknowledging a suffer acknowledging that she has a problem, and hence hopefully making the first step to recovery? Strangely I’ve never actually looked rates of anorexia in Korea, but given the huge (over)emphasis on women’s appearance and thinness here, and that despite the fact that Korean women are actually the least obese in the world (see here and here), then I image there’d be a great deal of material to work with.

(Update: As this post at Allkpop makes clear, actually she lost the weight for a movie role, but not only did she lose far more than was required but she continued to lose weight even after filming finished in December too)

Something for a future post then. Meanwhile, as a quick blogging aside, I’ve decided to forgo including days and dates in these feminist readers in the future for the sake of easier formatting and formatting, so while all the news but for the first entry below is from last week it isn’t in strict chronological order I’m afraid. Sorry.

1. The Politicization of Skin-Whitening Products

the-politicization-of-skin-whiteningWith thanks to Anne for passing it on, I’d agree that this is “an insightful recent look at beauty standards in N. America and Korea from the perspective of a Korean American woman,” and for anyone interested in my own take on the subjects raised there by Min Jin Lee, author of “Free Food for Millionaires”, please see here, here and here also.

(Image Source: yangkuo)

2. How to Read Your Date’s Personality in 10 Minutes

A Korean blogger’s humorous guide for women here.

3. Couple Steal to Pay for Abortion

Do they cost that much money? Still, one can sympathize with the impoverished couple to a certain extent, and I wonder what punishment they’ll receive? Not that I’m advocating at all that they should get a mere slap on the wrist for holding four bar-owners up at knife point, but they do still present a bit of a dilemma, as obviously they can’t pay a fine, and jail time would mean that their five year-old daughter is sent into (woefully inadequate and under-resourced) state care.

By coincidence though, Wednesday’s English Chosun had a report saying that from September, destitute offenders would be allowed to do community service in lieu of paying fines. Currently, 32,000 people are in jail because they can’t afford to, although 94% of all fines are for less than 3 million won.

4. Government Buildings to Have ‘Refresh Zones’

Fiddling while Rome burns. As Brian rightly points out, a far more effective way to look after employees’ health would be to get rid of the mindset that hard workers don’t go home before the boss does, which means that while Koreans technically have among the longest working hours in the world, much of them are already spent napping and/or playing Minesweeper on their computers.

See here for my own take on the natural effects that has on Korean family life and the low birthrate.

5. Uzbekistani Woman Forced into Sex Slavery in Seoul

uzbekistani-women-forced-into-prostitutionI already mentioned some articles on this in story #22 last week, but if you’re further interested then here’s a translation of another Korean article on the same subject by Korea Beat, and it is always good to get as many different perspectives as possible.

6. ‘Upskirting’ Gains Attention

Not that one article marks a trend, but this translation of this article from the Guardian on upskirting worldwide did briefly feature prominently on Yahoo Korea’s “front page” this week. And as this and this report make clear, it’s actually still quite a legal grey area in Korea.

7. Vice-Principal Who Ignored Sex Scandal Gets Chance at Promotion

As reported by Korea Beat, “controversy is brewing as a vice-principal in Yeosu, who may or may not have looked the other way as his principal was molesting little kids, is getting one final chance for a promotion.”

8. Resource on Sexual and/or Physical Abuse of Korean Children

Found via his recent post on The Hub of Sparkle here, blogger Roboseyo has been gathering links at news reports on these subjects since November last year, and I dare say I’ll be referring to it a lot from now on!

9. International Marriage in Korea Doubled in Last Six Years

That’s according to a broad statistical report just released by the Korean government, the outline of which are translated by Korea Beat here. Personally though, I find the myriad of other statistics more interesting, such as the fact that traffic fatalities have halved since 1990 for instance, and the ratio of boys to girls among newborns is well within natural ranges, although Korean’s supposed preference for sons is still invariably what tends to be reported by the foreign media.

Meanwhile, the English Chosun at least is convinced that Korea must embrace immigration and ethnic diversity simply for the sake of its long-term economic survival. Definitely laudable thoughts, but while progress is definitely slow, one suspects that most Koreans will find (albeit very very belatedly) that making it easier for Korean mothers to work will be a far more palatable option for them.

10. Gay Politics in Taiwan and Japan

taiwan-is-more-accepting-of-homosexuality-than-japan

( Source: feetmanseoul )

An interesting comparison here, and given Japanese people’s reputation for their….well, let’s say “rather liberal” notions of sexuality, then I was quite surprised to learn that the Taiwanese are actually much more open and progressive when it comes to homosexuality (found via Global Voices).

11. Happy Ending to Adoption Story

While fellow blogger Javabeans is rightfully skeptical of the real benefits celebrity involvement provides to charity promotion and public campaigns of any stripe, she(?) was happy to report that it did have a big impact on this child’s life.

12. Controversy Over Design of New 50,000 won Bill Settled

Details here. For a much more interesting and in-depth look at the issues raised by that controversy though, see the discussion between Gomushin Girl and Bebel in the comments section to last week’s post, starting here.

13. “Boys Over Flowers” Actor Jang Ja-yeon Commits Suicide

jang-ja-yeon-commits-suicideFor the original Korea Times report see here, and the instant I heard of her death I thought of this excellent post by Micheal Hurt on suicide in Korea to place her death into some context, a sentiment echoed by Matt at The Hub of Sparkle here, and who also provides a list of the large number of Korean celebrities to have killed themselves in recent years.

For K-pop blogs’ takes on events and more information about her all-too-brief career also, see here, here and here.

14. Brothel Owners Pay Average of Nearly 3 Million won a Year in Bribes to Police

And naturally enough, to specifically those police officers in charge of cracking down on them too (prostitution is illegal in Korea, but widespread: for a primer and many links, see #3 here). See here for details of those and for the average sums of bribes paid to the police to overlook other crimes too, and while we’re on the subject of prostitution here is a report of a Korean man pimping foreign prostitutes from the fifth floor of a tourist hotel in Seoul too. Unfortunately though the report is unclear on whether the prostitutes, who are about to be deported, came to Korea with the intention of working in the sex industry or whether they were tricked and/or forced into it upon arrival (like #5 above).

15. Lawmakers Want Tougher Laws on Child Sex Crime

While little good if a lack of state care means that abusers are often the only ones able to provide for their victims, and which in practice means that often they’re not even prosecuted at all (see #3 above), at least these measures are a step in right direction.

16. Women First to be Laid-Off During Recession

Sigh. Again, it doesn’t exactly give me a warm and fuzzy feeling inside to be proved right (see #1 here, and #2 here), but the most recent statistics on phenomenon can be read at the English Chousn here.

Meanwhile, amongst Korean men that are laid-off, as many as 20 percent are opting not to tell their families. One suspects though, that surely they’ll still find out eventually?

17. Unmarried Women Refused Smear Test

Yes, really, and despite the fact that it is all sexually-active women that are most at risk and hence most in need of a regular test. For the lively discussion on that, see the thread at Dave’s ESL Cafe here, and personally I see this as further vindication of my view that the contraceptive pill should remain an over-the-counter option in Korea, rather than requiring a prescription from an almost invariably patronizing and moralistic Korean medical establishment, almost Victorian in its inability to acknowledge that Korean women are having sex before marriage.

18. Women’s Rights in Taiwan

On International Women’s Day, Letters from Taiwan notes the gap between government rhetoric and actual practice on women’s rights (found via Global Voices)

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