Korean Gender Reader: Abortion Republic No More?

Alice Park es Gogo by Tetsumo ; CC BY 2.0.

Yes, after a long hiatus, I’m starting up this series again, and this time hopefully for good!

For new readers unfamiliar with it, basically this means that for your convenience and interest, each Monday I’ll be providing summaries of the biggest Korean gender-related stories of the week before, with a few related and/or interesting ones from overseas also, especially Northeast Asia. But I may sometimes miss some though, so I’ll still always be grateful if you could pass any on that you come across, either just by writing a comment on any post, or via email, Twitter, or Facebook.

With dire long-term implications however, the first story required rather more than a simple summary:

1) Abortion Republic No More?

Starting late last year, but suddenly getting a lot of attention in the international media, the Lee Myung-bak administration has decided to start enforcing Korea’s abortion laws, basically for the first time since they were enacted in 1953. But while the news that the Korean government is actually enforcing its own laws might usually be cause for celebration, unfortunately its abortion laws are amongst the most restrictive in the world, only allowing it in the case of heredity diseases, incest, rape, and/or danger to the mother’s health.

( Source: Chicago Tribune )

For an excellent overview of the topic, with many links to various English-language stories, see Robert Neff’s post at The Marmot’s Hole; assuming that you’ve read that, here I’d like to highlight some of the few points not covered in it, starting with some statistics on whom exactly is getting abortions and why. From the Hankyoreh:

According to the data released by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Family Affairs (MHWFA) yesterday, the reasons why married women, who make up 58 percent of the women who have undergone abortion procedures, chose to have abortions are because they do not want children (70 percent) and financial difficulties (17.5 percent). In the case of unmarried women, 93.7 percent said they underwent an abortion procedure because they were not married. They are saying that having children is difficult because of child-rearing and economic burdens in the case of married women, and because of social prejudice and financial difficulties in the case of unmarried women.

A second point is while that data came from the MHWFA on March 3, it actually lost its jurisdiction over family affairs on the 19th, which have returned to the Ministry of Gender Equality (now Ministry of Gender Equality and Family Affairs, or MOGEF). Coming with a big increase in staff and 4 times larger budget (albeit from a base of 0.03%(!) of the government total), and partially dealing with problems of overlapping responsibilities with other ministries, again ostensibly this is good news. But also strange; after all, according to The Korea Times:

As a candidate, President Lee Myung-bak promised to expand the Ministry of Gender Equality, but his transition committee ― led by a woman ― first attempted to abolish the ministry and, faced with fierce opposition from feminists, backed down to sharply downsizing it. Equally problematic was Lee’s choice for its top post, a food and nutrition expert who had no experience at all in the female rights movement, under the excuse of “globalizing Korean food.”

See here and here for more details. Why this is important is because almost every report I’ve read on this subject has directly or implicitly linked the “abortion crackdown” to Lee Myung-bak’s special taskforce of November 2009, charged with finding a means to improve Korea’s birthrate, one of the lowest in the world. And given the above history, and how disastrous his administration has been for Korean women as a whole, then in my opinion quite correctly too, although to be fair, this link has been denied by the government. From The Chicago Tribune:

“Our plan against illegal abortions is entirely separate from our low birthrate countermeasures,” said Rhee Won-hee, chief of the health ministry’s Family Support Division. “The comprehensive plan is to fight rampant disrespect for the sanctity of life.”

Nevertheless, as it was the MHWFA that was responsible for implementing the crackdown, even setting up a hotline to report on law-breaking doctors or pregnant women, and – as far as I am aware – it is these responsibilities that MOGEF has just taken on, then it remains to be seen what genuinely useful initiatives MOGEF will be implementing to help raise the birthrate other than clamping down on abortions. After all, recall that this is the same ministry that paid men not to have sex with prostitutes, and that will be continuing the MHWFA policy of letting them go home early every third Wednesday so that they might, well, fuck their wives, neither of which, to identify a recurring theme, really deal with the fundamentals of why Korean women are having so few children.

Unfortunately, this also proves to be the case for its “purple-job system” of encouraging flexitime for women and men: again ostensibly commendable, and sorely needed with a workplace culture that uselessly confines people to the office until late in the evening, but all essentially useless when a record number of Korean women have lost their jobs in the last year (see below), and they’re still fired for getting pregnant. Perhaps the money might be better spent in conjunction with the Ministry of Labor in ensuring that companies are prosecuted for doing so?

( Source: I Believe in Advertising; adapted from Grazia advertisement )

Third, there are the motivations of the various interest groups themselves, in particular those of the Korean Gynecological Physicians’ Association (GYNOB; 진오비), a new group of 600-700 obstetricians that has sought forgiveness from the public for performing abortions in the past, probably not coincidentally receiving a great deal of media attention at about the same time that Lee Myung-bak’s taskforce was formed. While the New York Times at least emphasizes the religious affiliations of the group, and points out that it doesn’t have the support of the 4000 member Korean Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (대한산부인과학회), I suspect that simple corporatist interests will soon increase its support among them, as according to The Korea Herald:

Obstetrical and gynecological clinics in Korea have long struggled from old issues such as low medical fees, ceaseless legal conflicts and a shortage of specialists.

Under the system, most private clinics have given up risk-bearing delivery services. But practicing cheaper gynecological treatment does not make a profit. As a result, a growing number of specialists do abortions or turn to other more favorable departments such as dermatology and plastic surgery.

And indeed the report then makes an explicit, corporatist link:

Young doctors started sensing that they could be the nation’s last generation of gynecologists, resulting in the establishment of GYNOB…

Presumably the idea being that gynecologists and obstetricians did not enter the field simply to perform abortions. Lest the argument that they’re simply looking out for their jobs sound cynical on my part however, consider how last year the Korean Medical Association (대한의사협회) started blatantly scaremongering about the contraceptive pill, despite the fact that already surprisingly low numbers of Korean women use the pill (in no small part due to previous scaremongering), and that it is widely acknowledged (outside of Japan at least) that Japanese gynecologists and obstetricians, for instance, deliberately blocked the introduction of the pill there for over 30 years in order to maintain their own extensive abortion industry. Granted, the KMA is not GYNOB, but it would be interesting to see who exactly in the KMA was responsible for that (needless to say, perhaps some are members of GYNOB?), and to hear alternative explanations for the KMA’s sudden concern.

Meanwhile, the corporatist interests of the Korean state are clear. As Sara Mendkedick at Change.org puts it:

Abortion shouldn’t be the only, desperate choice of women whose voices are silenced by their society, and it shouldn’t be used as a form of population control by the government. It should be one option for women who have the power, education, and awareness to make informed decisions. Unfortunately, it seems South Korea still sees abortion as one more issue for men to deal with, one more choice they make when and how they feel like it.

And for the best source on the history of Korea’s population control policies, almost as draconian as China’s “One Child Policy”, see Militarized Modernity and Gendered Citizenship in South Korea (2005) by Seungsook Moon (see here for a review; source right: Japan Focus), a good illustration of the zealousness of which is the fact that the Marine Corps was mobilized to perform IUD insertions and vasectomies on isolated islanders in the late-1970s (p.84). Moreover:

In the second half of the 1970s, female sterilization was introduced and aggressively applied to fertile women in the form of free one-shot surgical sterilization. Necessary postsurgical care was often ignored. The practice of female sterilization reached its peak in 1979 and then decreased. Perceiving this decrease as a crisis, the state accelerated its sterilization campaign in the 1980s, into what can only be described as sterilization mania. Between 1982 and 1983, 2 million women were sterilized, making up 58% of the total cases of sterilization during the past 25 years. Statistics in 1988 indicated that 48% of all fertile married women were sterilized. Sterilized women also made up 63% of all female contraceptive users. In addition, 83% of these women had been sterilized for free by the state’s agencies, operating primarily in the form of mobile services. The semiforced mass sterilization led to abrupt reductions in the fertility rate and the rate of population growth in the 1980s. According to official statistics, the average number of children an adult woman would bear during her lifetime dropped from 6.3 in the early-1960s to 1.6 in 1988. (pp. 84-85)

Needless to say, I find it appalling that the government of a now supposedly developed, democratic society is applying the mindset of a military dictatorship to population control, and personally this is the straw that broke that broke the camel’s back as far my opinion of the Lee Myung-bak Administration, albeit something I should have expected from someone that saw fit to offer Seoul to God. Seriously, are poor Korean women going to be forced to go overseas or use backstreet abortionists from now on? In 2010?

I’d welcome suggestions as to what us, presumably mostly non-Koreans, can do about this. At the very least, I’ll be following developments closely here, and it’s not all doom and gloom: women’s groups are protesting, albeit at the moment in surprisingly low numbers. Meanwhile, for those of you further interested in the pervasive militarization of daily life in Korea that this policy is a manifestation of, then please consider my Gender and Militarization series, and I also recommend this post by Korea Beat on avoiding compulsory military service, which he and I both think is an anachronism.

( Source: ROK SPOONFUL )

And now, in no particular order, the remainder of last week’s stories…but starting with some good news for a change:

2) Pregnant teenager allowed to graduate from high school

As the Joongang Ilbo reported:

The National Human Rights Commission said yesterday that any school that forces a student to drop out because she is pregnant is being discriminatory and infringing on her right to an education.

The announcement follows the case of Kim Su-hyeon, 19, a teenager who was forced to drop out during her senior year of high school last year because of a pregnancy.

Though many Western countries allow pregnant high school students to complete their educations, Kim’s case is the first of its kind in Korea to be decided by the commission.

Kim agreed to reveal her real name to the JoongAng Ilbo, commenting that she hoped her case would help other teenage mothers who have been forced to end their studies.

See Gusts of Popular Feeling for an overview and the wider context, and ROK Drop also has a brief comments thread in which comparisons to the US are made.

3) Korea to abolish adultery law

Self-explanatory (but good!), much more interesting is some additional information on the abortion issue that I’ve just noticed in the report from The Chosun Ilbo:

The committee is also reportedly discussing permitting abortions, which remain illegal in Korea. “We have not reached any conclusions since it is a very controversial issue,” a committee member said. “But discussions are under way allowing abortions if they are conducted before a certain period of pregnancy and clamping down on those that take place after that phase as seen in advanced countries.”

Hear hear!

4) New shows bring gay love to prime time

Long taboo on Korean television, this month not one but two dramas deal with homosexual relationships: Personal Taste (개인의 취향; also known as Personal Preference) and Life is Beautiful (인생은아름다워). See the JoongAng Daily for an overview, and Dramabeans at the above links for the details.

(Yes, I realize that that’s actually a man and woman on the right: as it turns out, Lee Min-ho (이민호) just pretends to be gay in order to room with Son Ye-jin (손예진) in Personal Preference)

5) G-Dragon Not Guilty

See SeoulBeats for the details, and here for the background.

6) Cambodian Government Temporarily Bans Marriage Between Cambodians and Koreans

Big news of course, but somewhat inevitable considering the treatment many Cambodian women receive in Korea, and hopefully this will prompt both countries to take a closer look at their mutual international marriage industry.

For an overview see The Marmot’s Hole and The Hub of Sparkle, and between them they link to an article at the Deutsche Press-Agentur and another at The Korea Herald that appears to have been written (but not published) just before the ban, which ironically claimed that most migrant women were happy with their marriages! To those I can now add this report from the JoongAng Daily, and an editorial from the (rather embarrassed?) Korea Herald.

7) Plastic surgery clinic accused of violating patients’ privacy

A woman in her 20s who lives in Gwangju has asked police to prosecute a plastic surgery clinic and its owner for placing on the Internet, without her consent, before-and-after photographs of her plastic surgery.

Read the rest at Korea Beat.

8) Sex offenders banned from entering country

And those already in the country will be immediately deported. Not that I’m necessarily against the ends, although using retroactive legislation as the means does seem problematic, as in the case of MOGEF working to make sex-offenders’ details available on the internet also.

Update: Robert Koehler and Brian in Jeollanam-do have more information on the former case here and here.

9) Korean 28 year-old jockey commits suicide

But perhaps a silver lining is provided by the light her death has shone on the harsh practices of the Korean racing industry, the second by a (rare) female jockey at Busan racecourse? See The Korea Times for details, and some additional analysis is provided by Roboseyo and Aaron Bruckhart (source right: Korea Times).

10) Crime

MOGEF’s plans in #8 are undoubtedly in response to the case of alleged rapist and murderer Kim Gil-tae (김길태), over whom there is a great deal of public anger directed towards the government because he was a convicted sex-offender but whose privacy is protected by current legislation. Further details that have emerged in that case since my last post on it are that he claims to have been too drunk to remember his crimes, and that some netizens opened a “cafe” in support of  him before that confession, albeit more in a “groupie” sense than in a genuine belief that he was innocent.

Meanwhile, singer and radio host Kim Beum-soo (김범수) is under fire for shock-jock comments about his stalking of women while he was a student, rather tasteless and alarming even without the above case, and the Hankyoreh accuses the ruling Grand National Party of exploiting the Kim Gil-tae to create a  “climate of fear” to “enact hardline measures”.

And in other crime news:

…two soccer players of Kyunggi University in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, were arrested for rape, police said. The school is seriously considering disbanding its soccer team to take responsibility for the crime, a school spokesman said.

11) Economy

Not only has youth unemployment reached a 10-year high of 10% and is still rising, but the number of jobless female graduates has hit a record high, and the JoongAng Ilbo has a report on the structural and discriminatory practices responsible. Not that it gladdens me to be proved right, but this was somewhat predictable considering the fact that women were overwhelmingly targeted for recession in the financial crisis, as I reported in my very first Korean Gender Reader post in January 2009 (source right: Korea Times).

12) Breaking the myth of Korean homogeneity

While not a gender issue at first glace, actually it’s difficult to think of a gender issue, or rather sexuality issue, in which Korea’s “bloodlines”-based nationalism and its preservation doesn’t play a role, and for more on which I highly recommend Ethnic Nationalism in Korea: Genealogy, Politics, And Legacy (2006) by Gi-Wook Shin. Here, Halfie Trots the Globe translates and discusses the article Indian Ayodhia’s twin-fish motif as evidence of its marriage-based relationship with Gaya by Kim Byeongmo, a professor of Anthropology and Archaeology at Hanyang University, and which demonstrates India and Korea’s historical relationship and evidence of some intermarriage 2000 years ago.

13) Northeast Asia

– Taiwan launches million dollar baby-making slogan search

Alas, while Taiwan has much the same problems as Korea with its low birthrate, it isn’t that desperate, and the prize is for 1 million Taiwanese dollars, or US$30,000. My apologies, but I don’t know if English slogans are acceptable…

– Domestic violence cases souring in Japan

But this may actually be positive, reflecting greater awareness and reporting:

The number of domestic violence cases police recognized in 2009 soared 11.7% from the previous year to 28,158, the highest since an annual survey began in 2002, the National Police Agency said Thursday. An NPA official ascribed the rise to increased reports to police and consultations with them by citizens amid growing awareness of domestic violence in Japan.

See here for links a brief video offering some background, from April 2009. And actually, despite appearances, much the same revolution is occurring in Korea, primarily because of women’s greater willingness to report and prosecute abusers and a sea-change in the police’s attitudes towards it (see here for a long post providing some background also).

– Ex-Prada employee sues Japanese division for discrimination

To be precise, she was fired for refusing to fire staff because they were “ugly”. From New York Magazine:

An ex-retail manager for Prada’s Japanese division, Rina Bovrisse, has followed through on her pledge to file a discrimination lawsuit against the company. Bovrisse claims she was asked to fire store managers and retail staff members whom Prada Japan’s CEO found visually unappealing. After filing a complaint about this with the Tokyo District Court in December, she was fired from the company

– Tokyo municipal government plans to outlaw child-porn manga

According to The Economist:

The Tokyo municipal government plans to vote on March 30th to amend an ordinance against child pornography to include “non-existent minors”. Much Japanese porn comes in forms that escape rules covering photos and videos: manga; anime (cartoons); and video-games. Existing bans are meant to protect the child victims. “Virtual” porn—where there is no harm to a real person—is illegal in some countries to protect public morals and ensure a safe environment for children. Last month an American court sentenced a man to six months in prison for possession of Japanese manga child pornography.

With qualifications for the age of viewers and the context in which it is received, then personally I’m completely against the banning of simple drawings, no matter how morally objectionable the content. But regardless, see here for more on a (belated) crackdown on the photos and DVDs in 2008, and which of course I was completely in support of.

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

17 thoughts on “Korean Gender Reader: Abortion Republic No More?

    1. Undoubtedly some doctors are price-gouging. But OB-GYN is one of the less well-paying medical specialities in Korea (or anywhere IIRC) and I don’t think most of those who major it in are in it purely for the cash. The stories I heard from my ex who interned in OBGYN for a while, and a nurse I knew who worked in a clinic for years here, pointed towards doctors counseling young repeat visitors to stop using abortion as a form of birth control, for example. (“If you come here pregnant again, I’m calling your parents.” / “But my boyfriend hates condoms!” / “I don’t care, you’re barely in high school and this is your fifth time!”)

      The doctors I know of who drool with delight over general misery are… you got it. Plastic surgeons. That was, consistently, the specialization favored by total jackass bastards, according to a few med students I’ve known here.

      (Which is not to say all OB-GYNs are saints, but… that’s not the specialty that attracts the biggest, greediest, rottenest bastards.)


      1. Yeah, I was a bit confused by that comment of yours too Mark to be honest, as it’s primarily the fact that there’s fewer doctors performing abortions that is pushing up the price.

        Gord, thanks for adding that; I’d completely forgotten about your ex working in OB-GYN. And I’d echo the stories about entirely too many Korean women using abortion as a form of birth control, one story sticking in my mind being a female long-term expat’s friend, then married for a year, who asked her if the fact that she’d had 9 abortions in the past maybe had something to do with the difficulties she was having getting pregnant?

        But “I don’t care, you’re barely in high school and this is your fifth time!”? Really? I shouldn’t be surprised, given everything I’ve read about teenage sexuality, sex education, and teenagers’ access to contraception here, but still…


  1. On the whole abortion question, I’d have to say that it seems like the kind of typical things that a conservative, male dominated administration/culture might do. The government clearly thinks that it should be interfering with women’s bodies, and is happy to bury its head in the sand about the real problems – too hard to fix them obviously. And surely the government shouldn’t listed to the women who have abortions as to why they were doing so? After all, what do they know? We know better, us old guys, cuz we just do. Oh dear, gazing into my crystal ball I see…. the 18th century! Wow, now that’s what I call real progress.

    As for trying to increase the birth rate by any means possible, the kids of unmarried women (and the women themselves, and their entire families probably) who were denied abortions would likely, thanks to societal norms, suffer serious discrimination and I wonder what the kids would grow up to be like. I’d guess that they may not end up well adjusted member of society. Though the powers that be don’t care, as long as the TFR goes up. After all, it’s not the daughters of the powerful who will be poor and shafted.

    And about Korean genetic homogeinity, the whole obsession is just stupid and nonsensical. After all, going back all the way, humans didn’t evolve there and had to come from somewhere else. Who knows what other shifty people they mated with along the way? And there have been a number of foreign invasions (Chinese multiple times, Mongols, Manchu, Japanese, etc) and mass migrations which must surely have left their genetic mark (social, cultural etc too). But it does give the rabid unthinking horde something to fixate upon, however strange and illogical it may be.


    1. Don’t have too much to add to the abortion issue sorry, as I already said rather a lot in the post! But all quite agreed, and one thing that I considered mentioning in the post (but rejected for being too tangential; in hindsight I shouldn’t have) is that such conceptions of women’s bodies are very much buttressed by Neo-Confucianism, which considers them as little more than vessels for a male’s “ki”, a sort of life force which women by definition can not posses. Not to pretend that I know much about Neo-Confucianism as a whole by any means, but that I do know, and go into great detail on in this series.

      Two things to add about the homogeneity thing: first, in Koreans’ defense, I’d probably think much the same way if all my school textbooks extolled the virtues of homogeneity and the necessity of maintaining it until…2006!; and how I’ll always remember a middle-aged student of mine, upon hearing of my (Korean) wife’s pregnancy, calmly maintaining that my child would be disabled, as if this was a matter of fact and not at all rude in pointing out. After protestations from a young woman that had spent some time in the U.K., and entirely too polite ones from me, he relented, instead saying that while my children might be okay, my grandchildren definitely wouldn’t be.

      Not at all to say that he was representative of all Koreans, but I’ll always be struck by his complete insouciance as he told me that my children would be genetic scum.


      1. Yeah, I remember reading about neo confucianism and its idea that women are basically there to have kids for men. Nice and medieval!

        True, nothing like a good dose of brainwashing, but people should think for themselves once they are adults, especially. I know that many people are either unwilling or unable to, but that shouldn’t be an excuse. Err, so the “logic”, such that it was, was that a half Korean baby would have bad genes? But then he decided that the half Korean kid would be ok, but their kids would be in trouble? Oh dear, I reiterate that many people are unwilling or unable to think for themselves. The powers that be may have no problem with that kind of ‘thinking’ (national solidarity and all that), but in the long run it is a real problem for a country which has many international links. I have heard a number of Koreans out here who are very concerned about “maintaining the Korean blood line” and are not impressed with those Koreans who want to “marry outside their race”. We know where those type of strange ideas come from. Most out here however don’t have such strange ideas – thankfully.

        Seriously, if I was you I would have already carted the kids out of the country. There are too many bizarre ideas there, the whole bloodline issue especially, and especially since they’re girls.


        1. In fairness to Neo-Confucianism, I’d say that the notion that women are basically there to have the men’s children is hardly unique to it, although it is probably true that other religions/ethical codes probably don’t have it codified to the same extent.

          Yes, there was absolutely no logic to what my middle-aged student came up with: he may as well have been mentally handicapped himself. Agreed that adults should have critical thinking skills, but the Korean education system not exactly encouraging that is almost the corollary of such theories still being in existence, yes? But like you say, most don’t have such strange ideas these days, and things are slowly but surely improving.

          We will definitely cart the kids out of the country eventually, but they have my wife and I to keep an eye on any crap that they learn at school, and actually I think the Korean education system is fine until middle-school. But then they literally stop learning what they need for life, and start prepping for the big university entrance exam 6 years later instead. So, needless to say, that’s the latest we’ll go!


          1. HAHA. I had a “LOL” moment with your middle-aged student.
            In defense of him, yes, he’s probably retarded, but yes, as you mentioned, with an education like that (and if he’s middle aged, it pains me to think of the kind of education he must have receieved) I think it’s a lot harder for individuals to break out of the shell and start questionting and thinking about things for themselves.

            Oh yeah. And the part about Koreans being homogeneus is utter bs. Complete fabrication and myth, but so insanely pervasive and taken so matter of factly. The “maintaining bloodline” idea has me thinking sometimes – what are you, hitler? dog breeder? where does this morbid obsession with “blood” come from??? Chosun and SNU are doing an “Asian genome road” project to analyze the genetic makeup/origins of Koreans. Hopefully this ridiculous myth will become debunked in time.


      2. I wonder how many people really believe that racial homogeneity thing, now, under the age of 30, though. Certainly when I mentioned it, saying, “This is, of course, a fantasy” in the context of constructions of identity and race and so on, my students were nodding in agreement.

        Some of course do believe it. I don’t know how many, though. And we never will know, since the people who disagree are usually “politely quiet” when the biggest asshead starts spouting this crap.

        I hardly think textbooks are a defense. My high school history textbooks suggested that the treaties between the British and the Canadian First Nations peoples were all gentle and fine and hunky-dory… look ma, no Indian war! That was as recently as 1998, or more likely 2002. Yet I’d say it’s probably difficult to find a high school graduate from the last decade who believes uncritically that the British and the Cree got along just fine, no problems.

        High school textbooks are *always* at least part crap, usually more than just part crap. The question is why students don’t get their eyes opened up by university, or media. And that, well, that points at the bigger problem.


        1. Sorry that all of your comments went to moderation for some reason Gord, and agreed about under 30-somethings. I’m in 2 minds about the textbooks though: on the one hand you’re quite right that they’re hardly a defense, the fact emerging today that over half of young Korean people are completely ignorant about even the most basic details of the Korean war, for instance, demonstrating that the actual contents of them aren’t all that important. But on the other (albeit with apologies for sounding like a stuck record on this), when the education system as a whole doesn’t encourage critical thinking, then it’s not like most young people are going to go out of their way to challenge what’s in the books or in the media and so on either, although of course we’re both aware of many individual Koreans that do.


  2. Just a correction:
    “Alas, while Korea has much the same problems as Korea with its low birthrate”

    should likely read “Alas, while Taiwan has much the same problems as Korea with its low birthrate”


  3. There’s been more than a few times I’ve heard this ‘genetic superiority’ crap – most of which could have rivaled the Nazi’s. If only more of the locals claiming their genes are better knew their history, they’d know what happened to those who wanted an overly white face and a ‘pure’ bloodline.

    Regarding the abortions – Looking forward to seeing some exporter get caught will 50,000 ‘plan B’ pills or other forms of birth control – God only knows the mayhem those would cause. When did women lose control over their bodies again?


    1. Not the Nazis, Chris, the Japanese. All this race-ideology trash is a remix of memes first spread here during the Japanese colonial era. It’s unfortunate that they were resurrected after independence, as THE way to create a national identity, and I don’t blame Japan so much for that. It was familiar, a shortcut, and easy. They recycled the same propaganda that had been pumped out a few decades before as pro-Japanese literature — naisen ittai, I think is the name of the propaganda campaign: two bodies, one spirit. A lot of “Fight with the discipline of Japan, and a true Korean spirit!” sort of co-opting stuff. (It’s discussed in B.R. Myers’ The Cleanest Race which I just reviewed.)

      By the way, I am surprised that homosexuality hadn’t gotten onto TV yet until now. It’s slowly becoming a kind of fetish in films. There’s something odd about a shift in cinematic historiography where the focus shifts to kings who were gay, who slept with their subordinates or lessers, and who are, incidentally, not very nice people. (A Frozen Flower goes way further with this than The King and the Clown. I’m wondering what else has come out in this area, too.)

      Haven’t decided whether to think it’s a very weird symptom of the relatively weird cultural reassessment of the concept of masculinity (which unarguably is going on), or a Korean translation of the yaoi genre for adults (since online yaoi fanfic seemed to boom in Korea when the net first hit, about 10 years ago, and the middle- and high-school girls who were writing and consuming it then are now grown up and going to cinemas to see it), or just a trend in cinema or something.

      And now it strikes me some of the middle schoolers I taught when I first got here in 2002 are probably starting University now… and some of the high school kids I taught should be finished uni now. Weird.


  4. In response to the post, I can only say that the govt really needs to get to the underlying issue. You need to fix the real problem. The enviorment is simply not F’ing conducive to a woman maintaining a career and a child too. (It makes me sick when I hear men complain that women are not as responsible in the workplace as they are – well, if women had wives too, oh…err…assistants, shall we call them, I think the story would play out differently)
    Social convention/norms aren’t something the govt can change suddenly, but the govt can surely alter working environment to become a more accommodating.


  5. The manga bit is really interesting. While depicting youth in porn may be morally wrong it shouldn’t be any government’s place to tell what an adult can look at and certainly not what one can draw.

    It’s an attempt at thought control. Banning any animation to be viewed by adults should be considered violation of free speech.


    1. Agreed, with the exception of – assuming you mean manga – depicting youth in porn being morally wrong. Not that I don’t have a low opinion of consumers and producers of it or course, nor that I don’t think it should be regulated like other forms of porn, but otherwise my point was that personally I think that the acts of producing or viewing mere drawings is intrinsically amoral, regardless of the contents.


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