Korean Gender Reader

E.Via BananaYes, Korean “gender” reader from now on, as despite the name my “feminist reader” posts were really always more on gender and sexuality issues rather than on feminist ones per se, although of course they’re still intimately related and will still get mentioned. I’ve updated the names of all the old posts accordingly.

1) In an advertising tactic that looks set to become a new standard given how popular the recent banning of similar songs and videos made them afterward (see #1 here and #2 here, and apparently the same logic applies to “leftist” books), rookie rapper E.via (이비아) probably deliberately sought controversy with the opening of her song “Oppa, Can I do it?” (오빠! 나 해도 돼?), which – surprise, surprise – begins with heavy breathing and the lines “Oppa…you know…I really want to do it…Can’t I do it once? Oppa…Can I do it?” See allkpop here for more, and here for the song itself (photo source: Diet Life).

2) Abortions in South Korea: Legality, Morality and Public Opinion from Ask The Expat.

3) The ballad singer “U” created a stir with a lesbian kissing scene in an MV teaser for her new song, “Suddenly” (울컥).

4) School violence appears to be on the rise, although Korea Beat notes it may just be institutions are better at ferreting out cases that would previously have gone undiscovered. See Brian in Jeollanam-do also for a legal case where a student hitting a teacher in retaliation for corporeal punishment was ruled as not being legitimate self-defense.

5) Matt at Gusts of Popular Feeling discusses the a Korean groups’ attempts to link foreign teachers with AIDS, and despite all the evidence against this, their efforts are having impacts on Korean legislators.

In related news, an English guide (possibly satirical) on how to pick up Korean women is generating complaints in Korea, as is another website devoted to that purpose, but regular revealing and/or “upskirt” pictures of underage girls in the Korean media strangely get much less attention, as do naked news presenters (see here also).

6) A good look at the nightmare that is trying to find quality, affordable childcare in Tokyo, with obvious parallels to Korea. See here also for how Korean kindergarten teachers are underpaid and overworked. In fairness though, my own 3 year-old daughter goes to a very nice and affordable kindergarten (and our family makes much less money than your average Korean middle-class ones!), so they are out there.

Paju Movie Poster Seo Woo

7) Although the movie itself isn’t set to come out until Autumn, with its Lolita-themed storyline and especially the poster with actress Seo-woo (서우) above (source), then Paju (파주) is already getting a lot of attention: the orange text, for instance, says “If (you) say (I) can’t, then (I) want to do (it) all the more.” See DramaBeans here for a synopsis (actually, it sounds quite interesting).

Update: Come to think of it, Seo-woo’s passive look in the poster and the assertive, risqué text give completely opposite impressions of her character in the movie. I wonder why? From what I’ve read at DramaBeans though, the latter is the more accurate.

8) Chris in South Korea visited Haesindang Park (해신당 공원) in Gangwon-do, which is apparently full of penises.

9) An Acorn in the Dog’s Food provides a harrowing tale of a mother suffering from depression who killed her son and tried to make it look like suicide, and only by chance was unable to kill her daughter also.

10) Chinese Chic provides a good quick summary of queer cinema and the state of LGBT rights in various Northast-Asian countries.

Daniel Henney Abs11) PopSeoul! and allkpop discuss the case of newbie actor Lee Si-young, who was dropped from an upcoming drama for falling in love and making public her relationship with fellow actor Junjin. This will have a big negative impact on her fledgling career (she is already said to have lost some advertising deals as a result), but, lest this be taken as indicative of Korean management companies slave-like contracts with their stars  (see #6 here) and Korean companies’ strange stipulations about the reputations of stars modeling for them (ie, if you get beaten up by your husband then be sure to hide it from the public), the decision was made solely by screenwriter Im Sung-han (임성한), apparently notorious for that sort of thing.

12) Korea Beat discusses discriminatory Korean textbooks. Meanwhile, Miss Korea feels the pain of interracial Korean families, and the government plans to tighten the rules on foreign spouses of Koreans getting citizenship (see here also).

13) As allkpop discusses here, recent advertisements featuring Lee Hyori are creating jams in Korean subway stations (apparently not here though!).

14) Good on actress Kim Bu-seon (김부선) for standing up for the legalization of marijuana in Korea and drawing attention to the Korean public’s often bizarre attitudes towards it (considering that 46% of Korean men and 9% of women are considered binge drinkers, then you may be surprised at Koreans’ rather dogmatic attitudes to other drugs). See Michael Hurt at Scribblings of the Metropolitician for a wider discussion of those.

15) Finally, as Omana They Didn’t! tests your knowledge of Korea’s best abs here (helpful example above), it behooves me to present my candidate for the best female version below. And in related news, some form of contest for former Men’s Health Korea magazine cover models will take place at the ‘4th Men’s Health Cool Guy Contest’ on July 2, 2009 at the Grand Hilton Convention Center. See here and here for the details.

lee-hyori-navel

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Korean Sociological Image #9: The Secret to Bigger Breasts?

Korean Breast Massager Advertisement Caucasian

( The title reads: “A message of hope to all women!” )

If someone had told me years ago that I’d be writing about a Korean infomercial at some point, then I would have wagered good money that it would have been about one for bidets actually, for nothing quite gives you that “We’re not in Kansas anymore” feeling as switching the television on and seeing attractive women holding perspex buttocks over jets of water, waxing lyrical about how well they cleared a strategically placed brown-yellow paste. I could mention the looks of ecstasy and relief on various actors’ faces as they supposedly use the bidets later too…but you get the idea.

Lest I give the wrong impression though, there are certainly many advantages to Koreans’ no-nonsense attitudes to bodily functions, and actually I much prefer them to many Americans’ delicate sensibilities. But what to make of these – for want of a better term – electric breast enlargers?

If you can forgive the pun, then two things really stick out about this infomercial and its accompanying website for me (beware a loud video if you click on the latter):

First, needless to say, since writing this post on the subject a year ago I’ve still seen absolutely no evidence to suggest that doing fuck all is an effective way to lose weight and gain muscle tone and so on, let alone enlarge any specific body part. But while Korea by no means has a monopoly on misleading advertising, it is also true that various loopholes in advertising legislation here mean that there is little to stop producers of “diet-related” products from, well, basically completely lying about the efficacy of their products. For more on this, see the second half of this post where I discuss Minjeong Kim’s and Sharron Lennon’s “Content Analysis of Diet Advertisements: A Cross-National Comparison of Korean and U.S. Women’s Magazines” (Clothing and Textiles Research Journal, October 2006)¹ from which I first learned of it, and if it sounds like I’m exaggerating, then consider the fact that despite supposedly far stricter standards for “normal” food that over 88% of food labeled as organic isn’t, for instance, or that the KFDA is not empowered to tell you, say, which Vitamin C drinks contain carcinogens, but only (and uselessly) how many (see #14 here).

And second, in the strange event that you didn’t look closely enough to notice, then let me point out that it is only the Caucasian model above that you can see in lingerie, whereas her Korean counterparts are all fully clothed. True, that may sound like a strange way to describe a woman in a crop-top, but the difference is more than mere semantics, as many Korean porn stars worked as lingerie models before bans on foreign models working in Korea were lifted in the mid-1990s. This means that even today lingerie modeling still has a certain stigma that even bikini-modeling lacks, and despite the bikinis themselves obviously being just as (if not more) revealing. For more information, see #1 here for the most recent of many posts on that.

Korean Breast Massager Advertisement Korean

Still, Koreans are notoriously savvy consumers, so while I confess that I haven’t bothered to look at this late hour, I imagine that there will be many scathing reviews of this product available online. And, with obvious parallels in many other (more important) aspects of life in a democracy as young as Korea’s, to a certain extent this vibrancy of online Korean life is the result of and compensates for deficient legislation, although on the other hand in this particular case it is also stymieing the development of a healthy Korean consumer culture.

Tempting as it is to continue this post in that vein, let me wisely close here by pointing out that in the product’s defense, it can simply be returned with your money back before 2 weeks. And I seem to recall from my 2 viewings of Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story that actor Jason Scott Lee playing Bruce Lee had two similar things strapped to his pecs in a scene where he was working on a script at home (i.e. not exercising, just like the women in this infomercial). Can anybody enlighten me? Am I dismissing…er…electric shock treatment(?) unfairly? As far as I know though, and to many teenage girls’ chagrin, the size of a woman’s pectoral muscles still has little effect on the ultimate size and look of her breasts, which are mostly connective tissue, “lobules,” and fat.

(For all posts in my “Korean Sociological Image” series, see here)

1. On a technical note, since I wrote that post the PDF of the article is no longer free to download I’m afraid, so I would be grateful if anyone that knows of a free link an/or a copy themselves could pass it on for me to provide to others here. Alternatively, serendipitously my printer broke last week and I’m buying a printer/scanner to replace it, so I’ll be able to scan the copy I printed if anybody asks!

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Korean Sociological Image #8: America…Fuck Yeah!

Korean Advertisement Sungshin Women's University Relative Size Racism Caucasian

An advertisement from today’s Korea Times, which immediately grabbed my attention for 3 reasons:

  • It’s for a women’s university, but not only does it feature men, it has more men than women.
  • It has a Caucasian man in it, whereas the target audience would overwhelmingly be Korean.
  • The Caucasian man is easily the most prominent feature in it, and is looking at the viewer rather than into the distance like the Korean students.

After just a few minutes thought though, obvious reasons emerge for all of those: men are and should be featured because the program is available to both men and women (well technically, the website doesn’t mention anything about the sex of applicants) for instance, and for all their ethnic diversity Caucasians are still an instant and logical signifier of Western countries. And dealing face to face with an American colleague at an American hospital – ie, having a job at one – is precisely the goal of students that will enter this program too, which in turn is well represented by the Koreans in the advertisement looking towards their futures as it were. As the male Korean is wearing a tie, then I’m a bit unsure as to whether the Koreans are supposed to be students in the program or graduates with jobs looking for better opportunities, but other than that slight confusion then the advertisement appears logical as a whole.

Still, despite myself it gives me misgivings.

One minor reason is because the doctor is male. Nothing wrong with that of course, but it seems strange to have a male role-model in an advertisement for a women’s university. Yes, I know I just said that the doctor is supposed to be a future colleague, yet in addition to representing both that and a life in America he does still have a job that students entering into the program would aspire to. If the primary target of the advertisement is women then, not choosing a female doctor seems like a wasted opportunity to kill three birds with one stone.

kim-tae-hee-kang-dong-won-cyon-phone-advertisement-relative-size-eab980ed839ced9dac-eab095eb8f99ec9b90( Source )

But dammit, why’d he have to be so big? As I discuss at great length here, relative size is one of the most powerful tools in advertising, not only making certain features more prominent than others but also – especially when it’s used to contrast two or more people of different sexes, ethnicities, jobs, ages, and so on – both determining and conforming to social norms of ranking, status, and appropriate social roles. For instance, if you take a random man and woman then in 1 in 6 cases the woman will be of equal height or taller, but in advertisements the figure is closer to 1 in 20 or even less. Not that that is evidence of sexism per se though, as women overwhelmingly prefer men that are taller than themselves, and it’s natural that many advertisements would reflect this. Moreover, if you’ve chosen specific celebrities with a significant height difference, say Kang Dong-won (강동원) and Kim Tae-hee (김태희) above, then it would be difficult to engineer a realistic-looking advertisement in which he somehow appears shorter than her.

kim-tae-hee-kang-dong-won-cyon-phone-advertisement-eab491eab3a0-relative-size-eab980ed839ced9dac-eab095eb8f99ec9b90But then consider this advertisement on the right with the exact same couple (source), in which the height difference has been significantly reduced. Sure, it’s not the only reason why the advertisement has a completely different, more egalitarian vibe than the first, but I’d argue that it’s the most important one. And to hammer that point home, consider how simply bizarre everyone would find the above, gangsterish one if Kim Tae-hee were just a little bigger, let alone if a woman taller than Kang Dong-won had been used.

Ergo, size matters, and so while my concern with Sunghin Women’s University’s advertisement may well only stem from the inherent angst of being a socially-aware Caucasian male, guilty at living in a country where being such undeniably confers certain advantages, it still leaves me feeling a little uncomfortable. I would have much preferred one that focused more on the Korean students themselves, and how the program empowered them, but while retaining the signifiers of America, the job, and so on. Not something that basically says:

Oooh, do this course, and you can talk to and work with White people! In America!!! What more could you ever want?

Okay, that specific vocalization may just be me. Or is it? That’s a rather indelicate way to put it above, but it is certainly true that living and working (and being educated) in America conveys a lot of status in Korean society, so far from me implying that any Korean is a passive dupe for responding positively to advertisements like this it is logical and intelligent for them to do so. Moreover, my wife, who is Korean, pointed out that most Koreans wouldn’t think twice about the Caucasian in this ad. Perhaps my concerns are misplaced then.

What do you think? Mere overanalysis and liberal-arts major angst on my part? Or a legitimate concern? Regardless, admit that the doctor is the first person you noticed too though!

(For all posts in the “Korean Sociological Image” series, see here)

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Korean Sociological Image #7: The Best Gillette Could Get?

Park Ji-sung Gillette Advertisement Photoshop( Source )

On the face of it, Park Ji-sung (박지성) is a very logical choice to endorse any given Korean company’s products or services. After all, he is easily Korea’s most popular male sports star at the moment, he (naturally) has a good body, and he is so successful that he has even published an autobiography already. Accordingly he has dozens of advertising deals to his name, and – to place his popularity into context – via his numerous Korean fans’ choices of credit cards he has more than financially compensated Manchester United for the loss of David Beckham for instance. Presumably then, Gillette Korea thought it was on to a good thing when it belatedly decided to join his bandwagon.

Nevertheless, while it’s not like I can claim to being all that photogenic myself, Park Ji-sung is actually a *cough* less than inspired choice, and at the very least advertisements like the above probably stretch consumers’ senses of disbelief just a little too far, if they don’t put off Korean men from using Gillette products altogether! If you haven’t already figured out why, then photos like this, this, this and this may help, and as Roboseyo points out, it’s not just because of her own sudden popularity that Korean companies started signing deals en masse with ice-skater Kim Yu-na (김연아) last year.

Update: Which brings up the side issue that Korean celebrities are notorious for being unconcerned about diluting their own personal brands, but so far this doesn’t appear to have been the case with either Park Ji-sung or Kim Yu-na.

Korean Zespri Kiwifruit AdvertisementOf course, photoshopping is by no means a recent phenomenon or unique to Korean advertisers, although it’s also true that extreme examples like Amore Pacific’s recent attempt to get women to aspire to a – by definition impossible – photoshopped “X-line” body ideal may well be very hard to find in other countries. With that in mind, I’m always interested in the extent to which Koreans are aware* of the level of photoshopping that occurs in advertisements and their opinions of it, but as I and many commenters have already talked about photoshopping on numerous occasions on the blog already (here’s a very small sample!), then rather than merely rehashing old points here, instead let me ask you how well you think Gillette’s ads will do, what your Korean friends, lovers and/or colleagues think of it, and what they think of photoshopping in general? Commenter Seamus Walsh’s female friends for instance, told him a little while ago that:

…they all were aware of the altering of photos that goes on…but that it is generally ignored because they know the models are attractive anyway, and that they look good after photoshopping, so that’s all that matters. Basically, despite knowing an image isn’t a true representation, they would rather have the altered image. I just wonder if this means that their ideals of beauty are based on the reality or the unnatural and unattainable?

Me too. But how representative are those opinions of average Koreans’ in turn? Please let me know!

* Not to imply that your average Korean consumer is any less intelligent than your average Western one with that statement, but having said that, on the other hand I’m not going to lie and pretend that somehow the Korean education system encourages the same level of critical thinking either.

(For all posts in the “Korean Sociological Image” series, see here)

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Bandhobi: The Most Interesting Korean Movie You’ll See This Year

Bandhobi

Well, it certainly sounds like it will be, although I admit I have some reservations about Bandhobi‘s (반두비) “crude political satire,” and especially of its portrayal of an American English teacher as an “occasional rotten apple.” Given that it otherwise aims to transcend and/or educate viewers about such issues as racism, illegal immigration, and possibly even teenage sexuality, then it would be both ironic and quite a pity if it resorted to gross stereotypes of foreign male English teachers in the process.

(In passing, as I probably won’t get to mention them otherwise then reviews of the book “The East, The West, and Sex” by Richard Bernstein here, here, here, and here may help to put those stereotypes in comparative perspective, and are interesting in their own rights)

Still, Korea Times’s movie critic Lee Hyo-won, whose excellent movie reviews I’ve sung the praises of before, has easily persuaded me to go and watch it this weekend. Here is her(?) full review below:

In “Bandhobi,” director Shin Dong-il translates to screen “uncomfortable” issues of illegal immigration, racism and social toadyism through the universal languages of ticklish humor, teenage angst and priceless friendship.

It’s a story about growing pains and the meeting point of different cultures _ the title “Bandohbi” roughly means “female friend” in Bengali. It’s an indie flick that, while comfortably feigning mainstream superficiality, is inlaid with some gem-like scenes that show why Shim was dubbed “the Korean Woody Allen” (Berlin International Film Festival, “Host & Guest,” 2005).

Teenage actress Bae Jin-hui portrays the cheeky 17-year-old Min-seo with sure-fire articulation. One of the thousands of girls who took part in political candlelit vigils, Min-seo relentlessly speaks her mind at home – “you’re just my mom’s sex partner,” she shouts at her single mother’s incompetent boyfriend (Here, the film could have made the man despicable and turned it into something more noir, but he truly wants to get a job and become part of the family).

But she isn’t entirely the hardball rebel she pretends be. Not wanting to be a burden, she even takes up an illicit part-time job to raise money for English lessons.

Bandhobi First Meeting( Source )

One day, she decides to treat herself to the spoils of a misplaced wallet, but is caught by the owner, a migrant worker from Bangladesh. Mahbub Alam, a migrant worker-turned-documentary filmmaker who played a minor part in Shin’s “My Friend & His Wife,” shows off his fluent Korean to play the 29-year-old intellectual struggling to support his family back home.

Update: It turns out that Matt at Gusts of Popular Feeling actually knows Mahbub Alam. See here for a little more on his work with the Migrant Workers’ Union and with Migrant Workers’ Television.

Min-seo tries to dissuade Karim from reporting her to the police by offering to grant him a favor, and reluctantly agrees to help track down his former boss that owes one year’s pay. As the unlikely pair pose as loan sharks, they find themselves transforming each other’s worlds in unexpected ways but Karim’s visa will not last forever.

American English Teacher in Bandhobi( Source )

The sometimes-shaky handheld camera keeps a rather ironic distance from the characters; for Min-seo, the world is a piece of cake while for Karim it is a cruel battlefield. They slowly form a mutual understanding, with the girl asking indiscreet questions and the gentleman preaching about problems in Korean society. Yet the most affecting scenes do not involve words, but rather the simple act of crying, listening and eating.

The blatant mockery of traditionally right-wing institutions including the President Lee Myung-bak administration and the daily Chosun Ilbo are actually funny, but at times are not limited to character portrayal as they ought to, and are rather vulgarly laid into the mise en scene. Another questionable aspect of the film, which aims to highlight the foreign community in Korea, is that the American teacher was not convincing as the occasional rotten apple he was supposed to represent, let alone his “atypical” American English accent.

The crude political satire will throw some into fits of laughter while offending others, and contrived narrative elements are bound to irritate picky viewers. But just as the film’s hero Karim says, “open your mind,” and discover the film’s redeeming – and inspiring – qualities.

Bandhobi Hmmm....( Source )

It is unfortunate that the film, which could nevertheless reach out to teenagers, was rated 19 and over for some candid depictions of a girl’s sexual awakening. In theaters June 25. Distributed by Indiestory.

Moviegoers can also look forward to the Migrant Worker Film Festival, of which Allum is festival director. It will be held in July in Seoul and through September in other parts of the country. Visit www.mwff.or.kr.

I’m assuming that that “sexual awakening” involves Min-seo becoming attracted to Karim, and if so it would be quite radical for a Korean movie, as I’m at a loss to think of any portrayals of romantic relationships between Korean women and Western men in Korean cinema, let alone with men from an ‘undesirable’ country like Bangladesh (can anyone fill me in please?). Given everything that I’ve written about teenage sexuality in Korea though – in short, that Korean teenagers are having sex, but the Korean public’s unwillingness to acknowledge this is severely restricting teenagers’ access to contraception and reliable information – then that rating is indeed a pity. But on the plus side, presumably Korean teenagers will be able to find a way to watch it nevertheless, and the restrictions will make them even more inclined to do so!

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Korean Gender Reader

3xFTM PosterWe’re Here, We’re Queer…And We’re In Korea

Sorry, but once I remembered the catchphrase of the gay groups at my university in the mid-1990s, then I couldn’t resist that particular addition to it!

In my defense though, there’s been a relative flood of LGBT-related news in the Korean blogosphere since the 10th Korea Queer Culture Festival finished two weeks ago. To wit:

1) Expect an outing of a Korean celebrity by an angry ex-girlfriend sometime soon.

2) 3xFTM, Korea’s first ever movie about a female to male transgender experience, is currently playing in cinemas. See here for a review.

3) Ask the Expat wrote an informative post about gay culture in Korea.

4) The Wonder Girls are so popular in Thailand that a “Wonder Gays” group has been created.

5) Don’t miss Chris in South Korea’s photos of the parade and festival themselves.

6) And finally, Dramabeans reports that “Director Kim Jo Gwang-soo added an entry to the small-but-growing category of Korean queer cinema with his short film Boy Meets Boy, starring rising pretty-boy actor Kim Hye-sung. He is following that with his second film, Friends? [친구사이?], which isn’t quite feature-length but clocks in as a mid-length film at 50 minutes.”

Friends is currently in post-production, and with teenage boys kissing in it and reportedly a bed-scene too, it’ll be very interesting to see how widely it is screened and if any objections to it are raised. Unfortunately, I missed any news of Boy Meets Boy when it was released last year, so if anyone has any information about its reception then please let me know.

Update: “fuchsiathegreat” has just written a list that he(?) claims covers most if not all queer films that have ever been produced in Korea. I think that that’s an exaggeration(!), but it’s certainly a good guide to what has been produced in the last decade. Check it out at Omana They Didn’t! here.

Update 2: Although most of the films themselves are difficult to find unfortunately, check out the links provided by Pierre here for a history of queer cinema in Korea up until the late-1990s.

(By the way, if you were under the {perfectly understandable} impression that Koreans thought that there were no homosexuals in Korea, then you might find this post interesting)

Fledgling Queer Cinema in Korea

Other news, in no particular order:

7) Actress Moon Geun-young participated at the 2009 Pink Ribbon Love Marathon fan meeting, with the aim of raising the awareness and need for prevention of breast cancer.

8) The Chosun Ilbo reported that Swedish husbands do 6 time more housework than their Korean counterparts.

9) The original is a little difficult to read, but Watashi to Tokyo discusses an article about why highly-educated Japanese women aspire to be housewives.

10) The Dong-a Ilbo reported on the recent launching of government task force for making a “better place for procreation” to promote childbirth. Forgive my arrogance, but I suspect that I could have translated that better.

11) Netizens voted on the best kissing scene in a Korean drama.

12) The Hub of Sparkle! provides valuable information on women’s safety in Korea and on what support is available for rape victims.

Girls' Generation ironically encourages me to not worry about getting someone pregnant13) Allkpop reports that teenage girl group Girls’ Generation is involved in a new show where they learn look after a baby for a day (see here and here). I’m sure that it’s entirely with ratings in mind, but on the plus side they are also getting involved in a campaign to help adopted children. Cue highly relevant pictures accompanying the Korean news reports.

14) Brand Confucian reports that “according to Yonhap news, Consumers Korea, a consumer advocacy group, released a report showing that several international and local Korean baby skin care product manufacturers are marketing products containing potentially harmful chemical preservatives and fragrances as ‘natural’ or even ‘organic’.”

To place that into context, 88% of products marketed as organic food in Korea are anything but, and even though 27 out of 30 Vitamin C drinks in Korea contain dangerously high levels of carcinogenic benzene, not only are the KFDA’s powers so limited that none of the companies producing them can face penalties, but it’s not allowed to publicly reveal their names. So, when I wrote about this topic in passing a year ago, guess what country’s websites I had to visit in order to learn which 3 drinks are safe?  It certainly put Korean democracy into a new perspective…

In related news, I’ve just read that the government said that “7 out of 79 brands of bottled water were found to contain bromate, a suspected carcinogen, exceeding international guidelines for drinking water quality.” See here for the details, and again, which 7 are not named. And in another ominous sign, last year the KFDA’s lack of legal authority and resources inspired it to get the public to do its own job of checking health and safety standards at Korean restaurants.

15) The Korea Times reports that a professor was given a jail term for sexually harassing female students, and Korea Beat reports that: the acquittal of a professor accused of sexually assaulting a female student was affirmed; the Dong-a Ilbo was accused of sexism by portraying women memorial services for the late ex-president Roh Muh-hyun as acting only out of emotion; and, as a follow-up to the Seoul City government’s plans to increase the number of public toilets for women (see #9 here), provides some more details of what exactly will be provided and how they will be funded (and parks are to become more “women-friendly” also).

16) PopSeoul! reports that the two rumor-spreaders that contributed to Choi Jin-sil’s suicide last year are to receive…suspended sentences of 2 years and 120 hours community service. But while that may sound lenient, particularly in light of her tragic life and the ignominy of being sued after death for not hiding her husband’s beatings  from the media, there are still rights to free speech involved.

17) The Wild Women’s Performing Arts Festival is set to be held in Hongdae in Seoul on June 27, and will raise funds for the Korean Women’s Association United, which tackles such issues as gender equality. See here and here for the details.

Lady Gaga Seoul

18) Despite thousands of articles about and even more photos of Lady Gaga’s recent visit to Seoul (source), only Sarah Kim at Ningin made the obvious points that “…Asian sensibilities seem to have a double standard. It’s not ok for Asian artist to dress risqué or to come off as sexy, but when Westerners do it, it’s completely ok. And why is it when Westerns idols go to Asia it’s a big deal but not the other way around.”

There are exceptions to the first point of course (Kim So-yeon’s revealing dress at the Pusan International Film Festival in 2007 instantly springs to mind), but Sarah is quite right, and I’ve made the same point frequently myself (see #1 here). Recall that Chae-yeon’s far less revealing music video was banned from Korean television recently for instance (see #1 here), which she discusses briefly in an interview here.

Whispering Corridors 519) Not strictly Korean, but considering that Korea has the lowest number of working women (read: mothers) in the OECD then this post at Contexts “about the ‘motherhood penalty’:  the pattern demonstrating that working mothers make less than women without children.” should be interesting. The study examined, authored by Shelley J. Correll of Stanford University, Stephen J. Benard, and In Paik also suggests that, “the mommy gap is actually bigger than the gender gap for women under 35.”

20) Korea Beat asks why Korean ghosts always appear to be female.

21) Mr World 2009 is to be held in Seoul this September.

22) In the Korea Times, Choi Yearn-hong writes about the bizarre mentality of the Korean Constitutional Court, which seems stuck in the 19th Century when it rules women’s rights. Among other things, in some cases it has adjudged that women’s inheritance rights are only half those of men.

23) Apparently, hairy legs for men are no longer in fashion in Korea, although despite living here 9 years I’ll be damned it I can recall when they ever were? Despite Korean men not exactly being well-known for their body hair though, the Korea Times reports that sales of body-hair removal products and devices to them are increasing every summer. They are also putting on cosmetics for the sake of getting an edge in the job market too.

24) And to make sure to end on a fun note, the Korea Herald reports that Korean actor Lee Byung-hun below (source) is the most desired boyfriend by Japanese women, and finally Allkpop gives a list of the hottest Korean male stars under 25 and also informs us that apparently Kim Hyun-joong is the most kissable Korean male celebrity.

lee-byung-heon-elle

Yes, that was the minimalist version. Why do you ask?

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Creative Korean Advertising #16: The Male Gaze

Diamond Ogilvy Korea Olympus E3 Autofocus( Source: Add Shots )

Given my Feminist pretensions, then usually I’d instinctively feel defensive about my decision to post an ad like this, and in the past this has often prompted me to write lengthy arguments about how, say, exposure of breasts per se shouldn’t be regarded as sexist. But with some notable exceptions (and from which I’ve learned a great deal from), whether through preaching to the converted, most of my readers being men(?), or some other reason, judging by the lack of detracting comments on those occasions then such justifications have probably proved unnecessary.

So, I’ll let it go: readers certainly don’t need me to spell out that on the one hand this ad is definitely objectifying, but on the other that men would behave exactly the same way even if women had achieved complete equality, and can decide for themselves if it’s sexist or not (I’m still happy to discuss that in the comments section though). In the meantime, I’m learning to feel less ashamed about the unabashed grins ads like this put on my face, especially the first ad in this post.

Actually, a much more interesting issue it raises is its directness. Of course objectifying women is hardly new or unique to Korean ads, but I can’t think of any other example that so blatantly incorporates the corresponding (sexual) male gaze into its message, and this makes it more sexual than, say, the sudden spate of couples kissing in Korean advertisements that is making news recently (see here, here, and here). On top of that, it actually went up way back in November 2007 too (see the details here), which raises some interesting questions:

  • How common was it?
  • Where was it posted?
  • Were there any complaints?
  • If so, was it removed from circulation?
  • If not, why have there been no similar ads since?
  • Or perhaps there have been, it’s just that I didn’t notice them?

If any readers can help me with any of those, I’d appreciate it. In the morning, and with apologies for not doing this first, I’ll scour Naver and so on and see if there’s anything in Korean on it.

Update: Unfortunately I couldn’t find anything at all about this ad in Korea, either at Naver or Yahoo! Korea, and which makes me wonder if it was actually released or not? But as for ads featuring the male gaze, I forgot about this one with Han Ye-seul (한예슬) for lingerie company Venus (비너스). From February 2008:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

(For all posts in my “Creative Korean Advertising” series, see here)

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