Open Thread #1

Source: Gratisography @Pexels.

Why didn’t I think of this months ago?^^

With the proviso that most visitors to a blog about gender and sexuality are usually rather disappointed with what they find(!), the good news is that the popularity of my blog has grown dramatically in recent months, and I really enjoy and appreciate all the additional comments and emails I’ve been getting as a result.

Unfortunately though, all that’s coincided with a much heavier workload at my job. And with a non-working spouse and two young daughters on top of that, then I literally have only about an hour each night to devote to the blog these days.

You’ve probably already noticed the reduction in the number of posts. While I think I’m still pretty good at responding to comments though, that’s definitely at the expense of emails from readers, and I constantly have a backlog of about 20 or so in my in-box. Usually relatively long, intelligently written, and interesting, I consider it a real achievement if I manage to reply to about 3 or 4 in a week.

And as new ones come in, then older ones tend to get further and further down the screen. Some people must surely have given up on me by now, for which I apologize.

But I don’t want to give the impression that I don’t want to be emailed: quite the opposite. And the delay with some isn’t entirely due to my lack of time. More, it’s because I’m not actually the most appropriate person to answer their questions, either because I simply don’t know, and/or I can’t help, however much I’d like to.

In nine-tenths of those cases though, I’d be surprised if readers couldn’t.

I realize what that may sound like: getting my readers to do my work for me. And sure, maybe I am.^^ But by no means is anybody obliged to(!), and regardless it’s surely better to have questions and requests for help getting to the right people rather than have them languishing in my in-box.

Those are just one purpose of having a weekly open thread though, and not necessarily the primary one. The other is to give me a place where I can mention things that are still interesting but which I don’t have time to further develop into a blog post, or – more importantly – for you to bring up and discuss things yourself. Naturally I’d prefer things related to gender, sexuality, advertising and pop-culture, and preferably Korean too, but I’m extremely flexible. And by all means please feel free to link and discuss your own blog posts and so on: with my schedule, that’s probably the only way I’d ever find out about them!

With that in mind, let me provide a few things to get the ball rolling. First, a problem someone emailed me about. I’ve removed the author’s details because – surprise, surprise – I haven’t had time to ask permission to reproduce it publicly sorry, but I’ll make sure to let them know as soon as I can!

…Adoptees, such as myself, who have visited Korea often tend to come back either angry or induced with yellow-fever.  It has often left me wary of my own trip, pending next year and I have been trying to acclimate myself about Korea & culture before visiting.  Korean immigrants often wax poetic about their home country and refuse to discuss anything negative about it.

The reason I’m contacting you, besides to thank you for the well-written pieces, is because I wondered if you have any insight into the adoption attitude in Korea.  So much of what I have read in articles about Korea and how they are addressing adoption is very optimistic and pro-active – they have stated they intend to phase out all international adoptions by 2012.  Yet, from what I understand from other adoptees and social workers, the reason why Korea has such a history of adoption-“exportation” is partly due to the attitudes of single mothers, contraception, and blood-only attitudes.  Most Korean immigrants or visitors immediately apologize when the issue of adoption comes up but then refuse to discuss the topic.  I still don’t have a clear picture of the Korean attitude and was wondering if you have any insight to share.

Source: Center for Korean Studies

And now an interesting point from another email to get some discussion going:

…I enjoy reading your blog tremendously, it is exactly the sort of things I like to think about. I’ve obviously noted that women here in Korea act more “childish” and traditionally feminine than in Europe. In [the European country I’m from] there isn’t really a strong focus on gender or gender roles that much, but women act much more masculine, engaging in sports frequently and heavy drinking. The behavioral difference between genders there is not so great. Still, men occasionally make their silent effort to “out-man” women, by not allowing their girl to become stronger than them, or by trying to unnerve them or trying to have the upper hand. This is all very subtle, and they won’t admit to it usually. In Korea, where the threshold for being more masculine than your girl is so low, it isn’t strange that men allow themselves to adopt relatively feminine characteristics. At the same time they maintain a very macho attitude, to contrast the very femi attitude adopted by women. This is confusing, but interesting all the same.

I’d never considered that, and it puts a interesting spin on all the posts about the development of Korean heterosexuality I’ve written (see “My Constantly Evolving Thesis Topic” on my sidebar). If that’s not up your alley though, then consider Brian in Jeollanam-do’s comment to this post of mine instead, in which he suggests that bottoms are generally viewed asexually in Korea. After reading it, I decided to test his hypothesis by taking a poll of my students’ opinions of the advertisement I wrote about there:

And I’d be interested in hearing what your own (adult) students and Korean friends and partners think too. Personally, while my two classes of 20 and 30-somethings are hardly representative of Koreans as a whole, I see no reason to think that they’re particularly unrepresentative either. And guess what? Only about a fifth of them saw the dancing in that as at all sexual, which simply astounded me…

Finally though, this is the weekend, so the person who writes the best caption to this next wins a free beer when they’re next in my part of Busan!

If you reside in South Korea, you can donate via wire transfer: Turnbull James Edward (Kookmin Bank/국민은행, 563401-01-214324)

34 thoughts on “Open Thread #1

  1. Thanks for your writting. i like them a lot ,because of much depth to them !!!!!!

    appreciarte the effort you put into . Are you planning to stay in Korea ?


  2. One last question .What do you think of people who say that White man who date Asian women are nerdy or effimate .? I visited few racist pro White forums out of curiosity ,and they condemn interracial dating /marriage .So is there truth to the nerdy stereotype though ? I am Russian by the way , and in Russia White Nationalism is growing by large margin . Actually i am half Russian ,as my father is from central Asian region Uzbekistan from city Tashkent . my mom is Russian though ..So i am confused about my identity ..if i am really White or mixed . Even Hitler didn’t consider Russians white .Swedes thought that Russians were Asiatic ,which to some degree it is true .So i am just confused to about who i am really is .
    You probably remember me as Mike before .I live in NY city as you know . So what is your opinion on interacial dating and Russians being Asiatic .? I also noticed from other blogs that a lot of Koreans consider Russian women a whores because of prostitutes who are Russian ethnicity . is it true ?
    Have a nice day Sir …


    1. Naturally I don’t think very highly of people who think that White men who date Asian women are nerdy or effeminate, nor do I think there’s any truth to the stereotype. First I’ve heard of it actually.

      “Whiteness” is a indeed a very malleable, loose concept. If you want to study that more, I highly recommend looking at Australia’s “White Australia” immigration policy from WW2 to the late 1970s, as whom Australians considered White and therefore acceptable immigrants would rapidly change as people from traditional sources stopped coming (Northern Europeans) and so people from formerly-considered non-White countries like Italy, Greece and the former Yugoslavia were sought after instead.

      Yes, as far as I know there is a stereotype among Koreans that most Russian women here are prostitutes. I can’t give you figures, but regardless a lot of Caucasian women here do get mistaken for Russian prostitutes here.


      1. I have an unusual new theory about the “Russian” thing here . . . of course, it can be and often is a veiled way of asking if a woman is a prostitute, and there is an established stereotype that Russian women are prostitutes. But after getting asked a few times in non-entertainment districts and by women, I think it’s sometimes a response to Korean language use: A fair number of the Russians and Eastern Europeans living and working here know Korean, while a great many westerners don’t speak it as well, so people who use more Korean in public may seem more “Russian” to some Koreans. Whaddya think?


        1. Don’t agree based on my own and the experiences of Western female friends. I was mistaken for Russian twice while shopping silently in the open-air markets. I was never mistaken as Russian when speaking Korean. The number of Western speakers of Korean is increasing as people stay longer, and a fair number of Australians and New Zealanders in Korea are Asian studies majors proficient in Korean and one other Asian language.


          1. I think it’s a fairly recent association, Sonagi. I’ve noticed that people ask me if I’m Russian far more when I’m speaking Korean, and in contexts that set it aside from the prostitution association. I’m not saying that other, including Western speakers can’t and don’t speak Korean, and our numbers are increasing – but I still think that there may be a connection in some Koreans’ minds. Whether or not many of us are speaking/learning Korean, the assumption is that generally, we don’t.


  3. Good work as always.

    My opinion on white guys dating asian girls and if they are nerdy…no. I don’t consider myself a nerd after all. So people might get that in the U.S. but I’d say a more popular stereotype here is that it’s considered a fetish and depending on what the couple look like (being attractive changes ones perception…instead of “oh she’s asian” it’s more “oh she’s pretty hot!”) may play more into that. Overall though in this day in age it isn’t considered off in many parts of the U.S. at least. I live in Kentucky, which is conservative, but the city I live in is moderate. Sometime we may get a glance but we aren’t so out of order in bigger cities.

    Also on the being white or not, the U.S. has evolved in this idea as well. In the 1900’s maybe the English were the only “real” whites in America…hence “Irish need not apply”, then Ellis Island happened…then WWII and after that many light skinned people were all lumped into the groups of being white. Ethnically I’d lump Russians with all white people but I do think (and I have VERY little exposure to actual Russians) most look at them differently, at least where I am from. Don’t worry about how people judge you as long as you live up to your own standards, eff ’em.

    I know those questions were for James but I figured I’d share my two cents.

    Now as for the advertisement, my girlfriend (26, Korean from Seoul) thinks it is too sexual. She says it uses a woman’s body to sell the product too much. She also thinks it isn’t so much of a big deal because it has become so common. I didn’t think she would consider it too sexual but as we watched it and she watched me, watching Ms. Oh, I could feel her opinion bearing down on me, lol. What does your wife think about it James?


    1. No worries about the questions being directed at me Joey. After all, getting as much discussion going as possible is the whole point!

      Interesting point about how being attractive changes one’s perception, as I’ve heard that those delightful Korean men (and it’s almost always men) that oppose Korean women having relationships with non-Koreans usually don’t mind so much if the women involved aren’t attractive. And seeing as how the Korean ideal for women seems to be stick-insect thin, unfit, and with excessively white skin and extensive cosmetic-surgery, then indeed many Western men’s partners aren’t “attractive.”

      My wife too thought the ad was sexual…well, originally she laughed out loud at it to be precise, but then being married to me and reading the blog sometimes then she’s very au fait with the issues it raises. She’s napping with our younger daughter at the moment I’m afraid, but personally I’d have to agree and disagree with your girlfriend about that sort of thing being so common. Sure, it’s difficult to avoid skin being used to sell things on mainstream Korean TV these days (of guys’ abs too), but many displays are essentially passive. Here though, the women are rubbing their hands over their bottoms and virtually sticking them in the viewers’ faces. Not that *cough* I’m against that of course, but it’s a whole new level, and really makes one wonder why on Earth anyone would deny the sexual elements to it.


    1. Seriously been thinking of showing my students that – after all, I showed them the video above and those Reebok ads – but mercifully sanity has prevailed so far.

      Still, I confess that that and Lady Gaga’s music videos warm my heart whenever I see them, as I can’t imagine something like them ever being made in Korea, and I’m so glad that there are countries where they can be.

      Yes, after 10 years here nearly, I guess I’m getting a little nostalgic for places with less bullshit about expressing sexuality…!


  4. As to the “sexiness” of the ass and Koreans seeing it or not? … I think Koreans are far less likely than Westerners to admit the sexiness of things like ass dances.

    My students are college-aged and over 50% have been to English speaking countries for more than a month, many of that number for multiple years. I do an auditory class and twice a semester give them a break by showing a Farrelly Brothers movie. One of these is Kingpin another is Something About Mary. In each of these movies there are pretty hysterical and gross sex sight-gags.

    My students laugh their asses off when they watch these scenes, but when the lights go back on, they pretend not to understand the sexual connotations. This is good, because at first I was afraid they would be squeamish – instead they seem to compartmentalize. Makes those two days, two days of simple teaching. ;-)

    About the “don’t admit” the sexiness thing? I am sure that some don’t get it; but others do and are simply unwilling to:

    a) admit that to other Koreans, or
    b) not gonna confess it to a waeguk…


    My other guess is that.. and how to put this politely… they haven’t had as much sex as some westerners, and so that “back that ass up” thing may not immediately suggest to them what an ass might be backing up towards or writhing around.

    LOL – now I feel dirty


    1. Always the voice of wisdom here Charles.

      I downplayed them – or rather, didn’t mention them – because of the special circumstances of my own students: spending 4 hours a day, 5 days a week with most of them since the beginning of July (at their incessant request, “lessons” these days at least often consist of playing Risk or watching How I Met Your Mother) then we know each other really well, and they’re less inhibited than most.

      Still, the contortions some “sexuality-deniers” amongst them got into were nothing short of surreal. One in particular vehemently argued that if the woman is wearing clothes than said backing up or writhing couldn’t be at all sexual, so in response I asking him to elaborate where the division is exactly – jeans, tight jeans, tight shorts, bikini bottoms, panties, nakedness – before quickly deciding to (very gratefully) let him off the hook.

      And yet outside of the classroom, he’s an indie rock musician, always coming to class in the morning asking me to translate the lyrics to Sex Pistols songs…

      But he’s just one guy of course. Curiously though, while I completely agree about the relative lack of sexual experience playing a role here, in my own experience – and not just with my most recent students – it tends to be the women who acknowledge the sexual tropes in advertisements like this one, and the guys who are deniers of it. Not hugely, it’s perhaps 6:4 or 7:3 at the very most, and of course my impressions are hardly objective, but I wonder if you’ve noticed the same gender difference yourself? If so, then probably some other factor is more responsible.


      1. James, I don’t know much about how people dance in clubs outside of the U.S. and Korea but I know there is a huge difference between those two. Does an ass dance become sexual if another partner is involved? How does all that change when dancing with others….if they even do that. When I was blottoed at a club in Daejeon, making a fool of my self (the awkward white guy who thinks he can dance), I saw girls mostly dancing with girls, and if there was a guy, they were facing each other. You should spend a day with youtube searching booty dance until they crack and admit they are wrong!!! j/k

        Also, what kind of teaching position do you have? Sounds different than the ones I have been looking at. I am very much considering going to Korea for either grad school or teaching in the future. I actually have a few questions about teaching…you don’t recommend Dave’s anymore right? Another place I could visit to learn more?


  5. James,

    I don’t know how much there is to comment on this Korean TV commercial, but as for me, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I see it:


    1. Ahem…my wife and I were given a second-hand version of that from a friend whose children had outgrown it (albeit yellow rather than pink), and both my 16 month and 3.5 year-old daughters love it. And of course there’s nothing wrong with it per se. Hell, not even the “Wash dishes like Mom!” in the song too: it does no-one any good to pretend that my wife isn’t a full time housewive for instance, or that my girls love imitating her cooking and my eldest one will always drag a chair to the sink to help her when she’s doing the dishes…followed shortly by her younger sister who screams to be able to stand on the chair with her.

      But itis problematic if there is no countering images of boys doing the same thing or “Wash dishes like Dad!” advertisements, which naturally there aren’t (sigh) And in general there seems to be very little awareness and/or concern about this sort of thing in Korean advertisements. I used to have minor arguments about toys my wife bought for the girls before she saw my point of view, fortunately before we reached the stage of returning things to shops. They have a good mix of gender-neutral toys now then, and both especially love building things with their Lego and Duplo rip-offs!


      1. I am heartened to hear that your girls have Legos. I think more girls would grow up to become engineers if they were given toys that teach physics through hands-on play. Growing up with 5 brothers and no sisters, I learned to love matchbox cars, climbing trees, and catching garter snakes. Only one would ever play Barbies with me, the same brother who sang in the choir in high school, never played sports, and came out at the age of 30.


  6. this is great! come to think if it, some sort of english language korean social issues online discussion forum would be awesome! i wonder if any exist…

    i’m western ethnic korean in my early twenties, and this is how i am able to understand my position in the condition of modernity in the vestiges of globalization, imperialism, colonization. “my grandma and probably everyone that she knew did not use a laundry machine or vacuum until they were very old”


    info source- korean relatives in mid 50’s who are sitting right behind me…

    korea has a large number of orphaned unwanted babies. why? “내자식” (MY precious baby) syndrome. rationale: why should you take care of someone else’s baby when you’re having trouble eking out a decent standard of living for yourself? decent living standard means: exceeding your parents’, and one that saves face. more often than not, this means reaching a position of dictatorial authority so high that your peons (this ranges from your workers to your wife to your own children) will absorb the responsibility (and consequences) for all the little mistakes that you make because you are human. (the last portion was solely my contribution, btw). So yeah, it’s exactly as you say. there was a stigma on the birth of unwanted babies, and thus there was a stigma on adoption, especially when people did not have the resources to care for or prevent the babies that were born

    after the recent rise of standard of living and liberal democratization in the late 90’s, many people began to protest this stigma on adopting. celebrities adopted local children and paraded their babies around just like their western counterparts. still, the truth is that koreans still aren’t adopting. why?

    childcare is very very expensive in korea. raising a kid “well” means that you will give your child the social lubrication and tools (ahem, money) necessary for the child to get past the scrapes and bruises life can present. james writes about the low birthrate in korea. he explains how the low birthrate is also because of the cost and expectations that come with raising a child in korea, but also the changing consciousness and desires of women. Kids lately are really raised like princes and princesses. I think people think that if you can’t raise your kid like one, or if you are a kid and you are not a prince/ss, then you are lacking something in life. my relatives are also saying that both wife and husband have to work now to maintain that income for care of the child, so having less children is, well, easier given the lack of affordable childcare in current south korea.

    but.. let’s break it down into a more practical understanding that i think most modern people understand: the accumulation and transferal of WEALTH. so before, people didn’t consider themselves to have the resources to adequately take of other people’s children let alone their own. And they are sorry, too, bc they had to abandon the kid because it threatened their ultimate accumulation of wealth and stability. Most importantly though, regardless of what is the actual situation, they STILL don’t consider themselves to have resources enough to take care of what they consider “other people’s children”. i think it is most important to consider the fact that most koreans still do not give legitimacy to codified culture, that is, LAW. To me, this is normal, considering that the country was pretty much authoritarian until about a decade ago. adopting a child is probably a highly legal process. it substitutes the word (law) for blood. Excluding the most privileged in this world, passing down property by blood is still THE guideline for passing down cultural knowledge wealth and physical property wealth. I don’t think Korean treatment of orphans and adoptees will change until those ideas of wealth, survival, and wealth accumulation change.

    sometimes i think it’s really despicable how koreans treat adoptees. sometimes i have observed this “we still don’t want you”, and this “i’m so sorry, but we still would rather you were a problem that just went away” attitude, which i think just causes more problems for everybody… including those who think they will benefit from this type of thinking, like sexist men and battered woman who have given up their dignity.. but here’s the great thing I’ve found about the old style Korean family. They’re big and they’re beautiful, and a cultural artifact worthy of preservation. Living becomes a group effort, and when everyone is on the same page, the result is utterly enjoyable and precious.

    Sometimes, too, think korean society is still in clan warfare mode, and while i think this type of mindset contributes to the stellar infrastructure growth and wealth accumulation, it also requires a blind eye towards the wake of destruction such hasty nation building can leave.,,

    to adoptee: If you are confused or bitter when you encounter Korean culture, i think you have every right to be confused and feel some sense of bitterness, and i’m sorry for the sense of dislocation you feel from all the great things of Korean society. some koreans are still living out old scripts that their parents worked and died to free their children from… like I said, I’m not sure who benefits in the end… and for what end it is done…


    i find it strange, too. and, strangely repulsive. i personally find that the girly boy act is one of 1.) rebellion towards the stoic hyper masculine stereotype often popularized for korean males, and i think it is so popular and appealing is because it 2.) signifies wealth, which in turn, is the ultimate marker of masculinity. poor boys are subject to too much responsibility and also expected to conform to a standard of hyper-masculinity in order to climb the social ladder of success. Rich boys are pampered and have enough social lubrication to attract mates without working so hard, even when they seem helpless and self serving. i parallel it with the mary Kate ashley olsen “boho chic” look. It’s confusing. Ultimately, to me, it means somebody wants to rebel without losing desirability, and they have the money to do it.


    1. It’s time for my annual “Korea has alternative constructions of masculinity” post! Actually, I really like the idea that the flower boy ideal is tied very much to class and station, and exists as a sign of wealth. After all, people without a lot of disposable income can’t waste their money on expensive face creams, cravats, designer bags, etc. When will we have the bean paste boys, who exist on cheap food to buy themselves the latest LV man purse? ^^

      But I also think that many of the things westerners characterize as “feminine” such as wearing pastels, etc. don’t have the same connotations or historical meanings that we attach to them and exist as gender neutral or masculine here. I would also note again that Korea has long held the scholar-official status as a superior kind of manhood, rather than a militarized ideal (even in the west, for example, nobility and titles came from a militarized set of overlapping social obligations organized for defense purposes.)


  7. A caption — can’t believe nobody else has submitted one:

    “Soft and Tender Mushroom Phone Systeming Will Imagine Vision Love Maker to You!”

    As for the femacho thing, it’s interesting.

    My girlfriend and I were talking and she said that often, Korean guys often talk about preserving “traditional masculinity” but that this was always constructed in such a way as to mean the worst parts of traditional culture as popularly imagined. She said she always wondered how it had survived into the present until I noted to her the change in students before and after military service, and she realized it was the vector for memetic infection. (My words, not hers.)

    This, she pointed out, is how a sense of Korean masculinity being so “macho” could continue despite such feminization — because “macho” here is essentially constructed not as we Westerners construct it, but more in terms of misogyny, militaristic mindset, and social conservativism, neither of which is incompatible with a man embracing pink dress shirts, a girly laugh, or eye makeup. (For the record, she said she can’t stand Korean TV because of all the flowerboys.)

    What disturbs me about that ad that Andrew posted is that the little girl has ajumma hair. That hair is one of the most desexualizing things that can be done to a woman, but having a little kid done up like a desexualized middle-aged woman somehow just makes me sad. It’s like a forecast that the world will be the same in 50 years. Sad because, you know, it really won’t, and lots of people are not gonna be equipped for the road we’re on.

    As for bullshit about expressing sexuality, I don’t know. It seems to me a lot of Western pop culture uses a different kind of stylization — one rife with cynicism, with a denial of vulnerability and of emotional components in sex, and so forth. Greater frankness is a good thing, but I don’t think the West is such a good model for that. Sexuality is one of those things every society has a hangup about, in some way or another, because human beings are wired to be very sensitive on the issue. (For very, very good evolutionary reasons.)

    As for white men with Asian women being nerdy or effeminate, well, I don’t know about femmy but nerdy I’ve heard before. Part of that notion has to do with the fact that a guy who’s a dweeb back home is seen as more attractive here because he’s exotic. Then there’s the fact that mainstream culture here somewhat approximates nerd culture in the West — studying hard as a good thing, respect for/fear of one’s parents, a tendency toward stunted social skills and social awkwardness being more commonplace, and so on. And that was the crack I heard more often from Canadian friends: that Korea was a nerd’s heaven because nerds could feel more at home there, in the place where people still play Starcraft seriously.

    (But as with all cultural translations, there are problems. Would that Korea were nerdier in the way the West constructs nerdiness: if it were, there might be a bigger SF scene here, which Id like…)

    It’s a simplification, of course, but this sort of comparison doesn’t strike me as completely wrong. It does, however, put me in mind of the days when people like Kerouac and Ginsberg would have been seen as wild and crazy, as opposed to odd and quaintly rebellious.


    1. i used to wonder about that… why this type of social combination is so prevalent. sometimes it’s a harrowing experience to date non-korean. it’s this weird, narrow-eye glance you get from koreans who have a better consciousness about global history and race relations, but they still say “as long as you’re happy”. from my experience (i suppose i can be categorized as nerdy effeminate), i think nerdy effeminate white men (like Michael Cera, Rivers Cuomo from Weezer or maybe even John Lennon), and conversely people on the other end of that particular spectrum, macho macho insecure white men, are very compatible. like james says, korean women are raised to serve, give, and take what we need without being obtrusive. proper execution of this requires a certain set of skills (i.e. aegyo, noonchi, etc.). from my observations, this produces women who are especially sensitive and adept in dealing with men and their insecurities.

      it’s at that point that i think that nerdy effeminate white men and korean (and maybe extend that to other asian women as well) are just… compatible. they have something to give one another that each party needs. for instance, there is a white man so categorized as nerdy and effeminate. likely this man would want to date someone who views them as a “man”, or valuable and desirable, despite this. i think korean women often have the contextual experience to provide this sort of understanding. white men, too, offer appreciation for the particular social survival skill that korean women must cultivate (i’ll give TGN’s particular appreciation for Lee Hyori’s as an example) , as opposed to korean men who might simply expect it. furthermore, these men tend to treat their sig others in a slightly more socially progressive way. for instance, they don’t think it is normal that they get away with abusing their wives physically or emotionally. and yes, domestic violence is considered to be a normal part of life in korea. i sincerely don’t know any, still married, korean woman over the age of 40 who has not been abused in some way by or have forced dependency on their korean husband. if the couple can work out the cultural baggage that comes from interracial dating and marriage, i think that sort of nerdy+nerdy is a just… great combo. the production of two people who are willing to understand each other’s needs of fulfillment.

      unfortunately, i wouldn’t say that women often extend their skills learned to each other… does anyone else notice this?


      1. This is such an interesting topic because there’s such overlap between how we view relationships between group x and y (in this case white men and Korean women) structurally and how we view them as individual couples. There’s been a LOT of time spent on analyzing this particular set of relationships, but it exists mostly as pondering on the structural level (“white men like Asian women because they’re slim and pretty and not as feminist as western women” “Asian women like western men because they’re more romantic and kinder”) but I can think of very few individual relationships where these perceived overarching social reasons played any real role in the development of the relationship. Most of the couples I know are based on legitimate attractions that would exist even stripped of ethnicity.

        People haven’t talked about this as much, but I think a lot of the conversation revolves around these western male/Korean female couples has a lot to do with the fact that men have historically had more ability to travel here, and more opportunities to interact and form attachments with local women. Women have historically been much more restricted in travel and in mate selection. Thus, we perceive these couples as having some kind of special attraction between them as groups. If we look at the question historically, missionaries were the first group of westerners to come to Korea, but did not end up forming marital ties here – the men who weren’t celibate or already married seemed to find western wives back home or within the small community already here. The first major influx was with the Korean War, which brought thousands of young, single men here, who later had at least moderate interactions with the local population. Does anyone have the number of English teachers here with a breakdown by gender? I’ve been told that men still outnumber women, which wouldn’t surprise me too much.

        I’ve also heard a great deal about structural reasons why western women supposedly don’t find Korean men attractive (the media feminizes them, they’re not “masculine” enough, etc.) but the K blogs and personal experience are overflowing with examples of western women here either in established relationships or more casually dating Korean men (and full disclosure, I’m also dating a Korean guy) – and pretty much for the same reasons western men date Korean women. C’mon, can’t we get our own stereotype (beyond, “they don’t exist”?)

        I would have to say, I don’t agree with the assertion that ALL Korean men are abusive to their wives, nor that dating western men represents some kind of attempt to escape this “destiny.” I’ve lived as part of a Korean family for an extensive period of time, and *nothing* I saw there would come close to qualifying as abuse, physical or otherwise. Certainly Korea is not perfect, and domestic violence is high, but I would not agree that abuse is typical of all families. You may not know any, but I know plenty.


        1. 2 gomushin girl-
          form my understanding, your basic statement is that you fail to see social structures play out in your life relationships. i suggest that it is possible that you are in an extraordinary circumstance, are only looking at extraordinary circumstances, or that you are specifically looking for exceptions.

          this is my thought on social structures: social structures exist because similar actions are mindlessly repeated by many people. i don’t think the aforementioned social structures ever really play a recognizable role in how people make decisions, and they shouldn’t because if they did, deviation would occur until the social structure adjusts. social structures exist because we live, without much critical thought, through them. there’s nothing wrong with social systems themselves, but sometimes they can cause pain, suffering, exploitation, and an unstable redistribution of resources. social systems are not meant to cause pain and suffering or etc. when people realize this on time, they act accordingly. if they don’t, there is a collapse of the social structure, which also causes much pain, suffering, exploitation, and an unstable redistribution of resources until the social structure readjusts.

          that said, i think it’s going a little to far to use legitimate attractions as some sort of evidence to debunk any sort of existing thoughts about white male/asian female. what is a legitimate attraction? how is one type of attraction be any more legitimate than the other? furthermore, how can any one of us be “stripped of ethnicity”? it exists because someone realized that exists, and then people consequently said it was an idea or social structure that they also saw in the world. if we just say we are stripped of it or that it does not exist, or do not acknowledge the idea, doesn’t that mean we basically have to ignore it? when we ignore it, doesn’t that give more of a chance that we enact its exploits mindlessly? i think the priority for that is “how can we take ethnicity (which is an intersection of culture, race, geography, and identity), understand it, and use that understand and address real world issues?”

          in terms of my expressed views, i would like to clarify that it was a discussion of the compatibility between so called nerdy effeminate white males and so called nerdy effeminate korean females. i certainly did not mean to say that there is some kind of special kind of attraction between white males and asian females in general. i apologize if that’s how i came off, that is certainly not what i meant and definitely not what i believe. i don’t know who says that, but i’m sure most people know that that is a bunch of poppycock. furthermore, not all white men are effeminate or nerdy. not all korean females are effeminate or nerdy either. while i would say that nerdy flower white men and nerdy flower korean women are compatible, this does not mean that if any other race or ethnicity exhibiting the aforementioned compatible traits, male or female, are any less compatible. it seems that by virtue of our social structures, the nerdy flower white man and nerdy flower asian/korean woman would be compatible because of these traits.

          In regards to your comment about the historical factors of white men dating asian women because of travel and missionary work, I definitely agree, and would like to add that sources of violence -war, colonization, and imperialism are the foremost contributing factors to white men being paired with many “ethnic” women all over the world. This dynamic still exists, and is a social structure, still being enacted by the likes of, well, western English teachers and the like. (that said, not all male English teachers are white men although I’m sure the Korean hakwon owners would be happy if it were that way.)

          Furthermore, I think it is important to consider another variable in the geographical white-asian mixing group. what about the number of korean women who traveled overseas? are they no longer korean? there is a large number of korean nurses and workers all over the globe since the 70’s. some of these have married within their host country to white men. are these women not korean? I would like to invite you to redefine your perception of “Korean”. Our nationality is not just confined to the peninsula, especially in this internet age. I think your speculations about geography would still hold, but the real world implications of that assertion could reveal more about the actor White

          from what i understand, it is almost impossible to study violence upon women in korea. i myself have been quietly observing domestic violence in korean communities for about eight years, and i still consider myself to know little. i will assure you that if you are someone who would be considered a foreigner, unless something extraordinary happens, koreans will not try to show anything but their best faces to you. What I’ve learned is that for many koreans, domestic violence is something that happens when the female is hurt enough to either be rendered unconscious or have some sort of professional medical procedure done. For many older and working class women, DV is considered that hush hush stressful thing that just happens after you marry. Most women just call it “stress” and “hardships”. I would not say that it occurs often in the upper middle, chaebol classes. These people are in the Korean minority.

          geez louise. i am bored and trapped in my house, but that was pretty intense… thx for that reply if you get to read this.


          1. I’m not saying that social structures don’t influence our lives – of course they do. However, I don’t believe that the commonly attributed reasons for the white man/Asian woman pair (and I think I’m with James here in that I’m not sure of the nerdy stereotype – the closest I’ve heard is that Korean women are dating white guys “who couldn’t get a date back home” and its corollary that the Korean women they’re dating aren’t attractive – to Korean men, at least – which other posters have already talked about a bit) are applicable in most of the actual couples that I know – and believe me, I know a lot of couples, both here in Korea and at “home” in America. In pretty much all cases, the reasons they were attracted to other were no different than that of couple’s who share ethnicities . . . things like a shared sense of humor, mutual interests, etc. This is what I meant by “legitimate attraction” and you’re right, I should have been more clear about that. I suppose I actually should have argued that the only real “structural” element I see is greater historical exposure and chances for outmarriage accorded to western men/asian (and other non-western) women. In other words, it’s not so much the famed fetishes that get bandied about (not that I don’t know *any* couples where this plays a role – just far fewer than you would expect, the way the idea gets talked about) but people who would like each other and probably get together even if they were both white/Korean/whatever.

            I didn’t talk about Korean women overseas simply because I though we were mostly confining the question to couples forming here in Korea. Of course Korean women who travel abroad, along with Korean men, can and do form romantic attachments to locals (and other, non Korean, non locals) in the countries to which they travel. I wouldn’t ever say that this negates their “Korean-ness”, just as it doesn’t here. Of course we can and should bring such couples into the equation – but it was beyond the scope of my comment, as were homosexual relationships, etc., all of which deserve consideration in another set of comments.

            Of course colonialism, imperialism, and all this play in shaping contemporary life . . . but on the other hand, are you that ready to attribute James’ marriage to all that? It seems like an unfair and misplaced burden in the context of individual relationships, which is part of my point.

            I actually expect that as more and more women from the west become engaged in Korea, we’ll see more couples, marriages, romances between Korean men and western women. Some of the historical reasons behind the western male/Korean female pairing as predominant are dissipating, and I suspect we’ll see more equality on that front as time passes.

            Regarding domestic violence – I lived with a lower-middle class family for a year. We’re still extremely close, and talk often. My bedroom was directly next to my host parents, in a place with paper thin walls. I spent inordinate amounts of time sitting around naked with my host mother in bath houses and saunas, and spoke decent, if not fabulous Korean at the time. Let’s make it clear – in the conditions I was living, there would have been absolutely no way for them to hide any abuse, and I lived with them for more than a year, which would be a hell of a long time to hide it. Furthermore, they had similar educational backgrounds and jobs. These were not people “putting on a good face” to hide nasty stuff from me. They’re exactly one of those older, working class couples you talk about.

            Yes, domestic abuse is a problem. Yes, it’s more common than it appears. But that does not make it part of the dominant family structure – particularly the extremely violent form you just described.


          2. I think it’s a little more simple than that guys.

            People like things that are different. Especially if they are tired of what they see everyday. Some western guys get bitter and disenfranchised with the girls over here. Having plenty of American girls screw me over has done so for me. Maybe Korean girls are the same way. Well, that and that fact that I don’t have black hair. Seriously. It’s ok to like something for being exotic. Once people meet and the initial attractions wear off it’s all about who the person is. So I guess I agree with Gomushin Girl on this topic. My long term girlfriends have had similar traits, regardless of ethnicity.


          3. Actually, people generally pair bond with others who come from similar backgrounds socioeconomically, educationally, ethnically, religiously, etc. We usually like people with the same attitudes and values as ours, and generally get along best with people who have similar personalites. However, we can find people in other countries who do in fact match well ~ culture and personality/attitude are not the same thing. It may be harder in a foreign country, with language and cultural barriers, but I think we can all agree that people will expend a LOT of energy seeking partners^^
            Joey, sweetie, you might agree with me but your comment isn’t exactly helping *my* argument ^^;;;;
            I worry that you characterize things as “American girls” screwing you over. By saying it that way, you’re indicating that American women as a group share some particular unsavory characteristic (i.e. “screw me over”) that has led you to be “bitter and disenfranchised” but that perhaps Korean women, as a group, will not do so. American women as a group didn’t do anything to you, nor will Korean or Asian women be a blanket answer. Some *particular* American women may not have gotten on with you romantically or whatever, and some Korean women certainly won’t as well.
            Culture, again, isn’t a guarantee that any particular individual from within that culture will behave in a particular way. Even if we argue, for example, that “Korean women wear more makeup than American women” which may statistically be true (dreams of survey to estimate financial expenditures, individual items of makeup owned, time required for application, number of days applied, time and occassion of application . . . man! This sounds like fun!) but there will still be Korean women who don’t wear any, others who wear less than the average for different sets, and subcultures who are using makeup in different ways. There will be Americans who wear makeup much heavier than the Korean average, every single day. And I wouldn’t be at all surprised if these deviations from the “norm” established by whatever statistical method used didn’t match or outnumber the women who adhere to the “cultural average.”


          4. The average American girl holds herself differently than the average Korean girl. We will just have to disagree a little bit but I think we both are on the same page. Take a survey of American guys that date American girls and they, on the whole, would perceive it the same as I do I believe. Maybe that is in our heads but I don’t believe it to be so. I think culture does have quite an influence though on their actions and how they perceive things. You may agree with aspects of the house hold you were raised in, but like it or not they are a part of you. Sean Connery said his marriage was successful because he didn’t speak french, which his wife is from France…so if you want to disagree with James Bond be my guest, but I sure as hell won’t. ;-) I’m sure my jaded attitude has a bit to do with it, but 80% of the girls I know don’t paint a pretty picture for American girls…or attractive American girls anyway. That is just how I feel to be honest.


          5. What exactly is it that you percieve? The only thing you mentioned was that you thought that American girls had “screwed you over” and left you “bitter and disenfranchised.” What do you mean by “hold themselves differently”? Are we talking about posture here? Attitudes? If so, towards what?


          6. American girls tend to want things both ways. They want chivalry and equality. American girls are definitely more sexual. I mean you can say “some” and say I’m wrong but I can have my opinion. Some is a good word to throw out an obvious majority. I went to a University with 25,000 people, had a lot of different friends and on average that is how I viewed women. Some were not like that but some relationships aren’t dependent on similar backgrounds either. I live in a world saturated with Cosmo, New Moon and the OC. It’s a fantasy land for a lot of people. I sense you are taking this personal and I hope I am wrong.

            “Are we talking about posture here?” Nice.


          7. And I made a mistake in the post you responded to, I meant to say “Take a survey of American guys that date KOREAN (not American as I accidentally typed) girls and they, on the whole, would perceive it the same as I do I believe. Maybe that is in our heads but I don’t believe it to be so. Sorry if that was confusing.


          8. I think it’s funny hearing guys tell me what American girls like myself want.

            I’m not taking it personal, so much as I want some evidence for what you say. I went to a school with more than 36,000 people, and had lots of different friends and that’s just not how I view women. But that doesn’t give us much of a basis for anything, does it?

            I’m not saying that people don’t find some differences attractive, or that people of different backgrounds *can’t* get along – just that on average, most people have been show by research to prefer partners who are similar in many key ways, some of which I listed. I would imagine that even multi-cultural couples freely formed (and here I am excluding multicultural couples who met through a broker, be they Russian mail order brides or marriage immigrant Philipinas) have many points of similarity in values and attitudes. Heck, people who use professional matchmaking services and even online services are using systems designed to highlight compatibility, which is often *explicitly* defined as similar family, educational, and religious backgrounds.

            No matter what starts a relationship, a successful, continuing one is going to need key points of agreement. My own relationship with my boyfriend, who comes from a very different culture and background than my own, is however balanced out by very similar values, attitudes, and personalities. I would guess that its the same for most people out there, but let’s ask – there’s plenty of people who read this blog who are involved in relationships with Koreans who can give their imput into a) what helps form these relationships initially and b) what helps keep them together or ultimately splits them up.


    1. Well in my defense, much of that was explaining why I’d like you guys to answer all my emails from now on, and then a couple of “suggestions” to get you started…

      Seriously though, even without your comment to remind me (albeit much deserved!), I did already plan thread #2 and onwards to be be much shorter.

      Meanwhile, I was planning to contribute more to the comments here today (Sunday) sorry, but I’ve just gotten back from a wedding in Sacheon (next to Jinju), and the normally 1.5 hour trip took 4.5 instead, so it’s bed for me soon unfortunately.

      Did I mention I was with 2 hungry, bored kids too? Don’t tell anyone, but I was very grateful for my friend’s TV in his car!^^


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