Korean Photoshop Disaster #4: NOBODY’S Perfect!

Probably both a driving force and reflection of the increasing amount of male objectification in the Korean media since last year, then you may have noticed that female authors and commenters on K-pop blogs have become increasingly vocal in their admiration of male celebrities’ bodies these days. And with the provisos that such objectification can be problematic, and more of one sex by no means nullifying the negative effects of that of another, then all power to them, but it does increasingly tempt me to indulge myself a little too!

Hence I was considering presenting some pictures for Lee Hyori’s (이효리) recent photoshoot for Elle Korea here earlier today, but paused when I thought about how to describe her in them: after all, heaven forbid that a male blogger shift from simply using banalities like “she is sexy” when expressing admiration for a woman’s body, to discussing her body parts in the same manner that female bloggers now can and do of a man’s. Or is that just me?

Either way, the sky didn’t fall in the last time I posted a picture of a woman simply because I liked it, and so ultimately I probably would have done so this time too. Well before getting to that stage however, I happened to quickly click between the picture from Elle Korea itself above and that from MSN Korea below, and something much more interesting literally jumped out at me:

In case you’ve missed it, this GIF I’ve created shows how that switch looked:

Yes, not only did MSN Korea feel the need to enlarge her breasts, apparently they also thought that she was too fat too. Anybody else find the change simply more patronizing than sexy however?

Either way, it certainly makes yesterday’s video on Korean women’s perceived need for cosmetic surgery and weight reduction all the more poignant!

(For all posts in the Korean Photoshop Disasters series, see here)


Korean Sociological Image #39: Why are Koreans so into their Looks?

Arirang TV (아리랑 TV) has a deserved reputation for presenting an overly positive image of Korea to the world, so I was pleasantly surprised by this segment from Monday’s Arirang Today that acknowledges the huge pressures Korean women face to have unnecessary cosmetic surgery for job interviews and marriage prospects, and without presenting them as mere mindless followers of fashions in the process. Only 7 minutes long, it’s a good short introduction to the topic (via: pompeiigranate).

(For all posts in the Korean Sociological Images series, see here)



Gender Advertisements: What, boys can drink girly drinks now?

Regularly criticizing food and drink companies for marketing their products so differently to either sex, or even exclusively just to one, then I’m surprised to find I have mixed feelings about the news that one company has actually chosen to stop doing so for a change: Hyundai Pharm (현대약픔), whose Miero Fiber (미에로화이바) “diet drink” for women was ironically the first of its kind in Korea, but for which a new campaign has been launched featuring Lee Joon (이준), a member of boy band MBLAQ (엠블랙), and Kwak Min-jung (곽민정), a figure skater:

제 2의 비라 불리며 초콜릿 복근으로 팬들의 마음을 사로잡고 있는 엠블랙 이준과 밴쿠버 동계올림픽에서 괄목할만한 성장으로 모두를 놀라게 한, 제2의 피겨여왕을 꿈꾸는 피겨스케이팅 선수 곽민정, 이 두 사람이 만난다면 어떤 모습일까?

엠블랙 이준과 곽민정 선수가 기능성 식이섬유 음료의 대표 주자인 현대약품 미에로화이바의 새모델로 발탁됐다.

Called the second Rain (비), and gaining a lot of fans through his chocolate abs, Lee Joon of MBLAQ is with Kwak Min-jung, a figure skater who startled everyone with her remarkable growth as a skater at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, and who dreams of becoming the second figure skating queen [after Kim Yuna (김연아)]. What are they doing meeting together?

Lee Joon of MBLAQ and Kwak Min-jung the skilled athlete have been chosen as the representatives of the diet fiber drink Miero Fiber by producers Hyundai Pharm.

미에로화이바는 1989년에 출시되어 20년 넘게 많은 사람들의 사랑을 받아온 국내 최초의 식이섬유 기능성 음료로, 그 동안 이소라, 김혜수, 박민영, 고아라, 신민아 등 미에로화이바를 거쳐 간 여자 연예인들은 최고의 인기를 구사한다는 소문을 낳을 만큼, S라인 여자 연예인들의 매력이 돋보이는 CF를 선보여왔다.

이에 이준과 곽민정 선수의 모델 발탁이 더욱 신선할 것이라는 것이 현대약품 측의 설명. 서로 다른 분야에서 떠오르는 신예로 맹활약 중인 이 두 사람은 이번 CF를 통해 2010년, 모두가 부러워하는 워너비 몸짱으로 등극할 예정이라고.

Miero Fiber has received a lot of love since being launched as the first diet drink in Korea in 1989, and indeed [previously unknown] female entertainers that have showed off their S-lines and attractiveness in commercials for it have included the likes of Lee So-ra, Kim Hye-su, Park Min-young, Go-ara, and Shin Min-a, to the extent that there is a rumor that appearing in one is very helpful for a female entertainer’s career!

James – That is probably just the typical hyperbole of Korean news stories, but then I did personally first learn of Shin Min-a in 2000 and Go-ara in 2006 through their Meiro Fiber commercials:

Lee Joon and Kwak Min-jung were chosen by Hyundai Pharm because the company wanted a strong, fresh image, and because both are rising stars in their respective fields. It is hoped that through this commercial, in 2010 many people will become jealous of them and also try to get good bodies.

현대약품 관계자는 “이준과 곽민정 의 건강미와 무한한 가능성에 주목했다”며 “이준의 강하고 섹시한 이미지와 곽민정 선수의 건강하고 귀여운 매력을 통해 미에로화이바가 상징하는 건강한 아름다움의 컨셉이 효과적으로 전달될 것”이라며 새로운 모델에 대한 기대감을 선보였다.

한편, 지난 달 세계선수권대회를 마치고 귀국한 곽민정 은 국내에서 한 달간 머물며 휴식을 취한 뒤 다시 캐나다 토론토로 돌아가 오서코치와 함께 훈련에 전념할 계획이며, 이준은 최근 짧은 헤어스타일로 변신해 스승인 비와 붕어빵 외모로 화제를 일으키며 본격적인 컴백에 대한 팬들의 기대감이 한껏 고조되고 있다.

According to a Hyundai Pharm spokesperson, “It has often been remarked that Lee Joon and Kwak Min-jung both have a kind of healthy beauty and unlimited potential,” and that “with Lee Joon’s strong and sexy image and Kwak Min-jung’s healthy and cute one, they will be effective as symbols of Miero Fiber’s healthy and beautiful concept,” which is why they were chosen as new models and why Hyundai Pharm has high expectations of them.

In the meantime, after the 2010 World Figure Skating Championships concluded last month, Kwak Min-jung returned to Korea for a month of rest, but has since returned to Toronto in Canada to concentrate on training with coach Brian Orser, while Lee-Joon has recently changed his hairstyle to look almost like a twin of his mentor Rain, raising a lot of interest and expectations among fans as to what the theme of MBLAQ’s comeback will be. (source)

Granted, not an explicit admission that Hyundai Pharm now hopes to sell to men what it previously wanted consumers to believe was only for women. But that message is pretty clear in the commercial itself:

언니만큼 잘하고싶어요. 라인도 신경써야죠.

Like my older sister [Kim Yuna], I want to do well. I also have to pay attention to my S-line, yes?

마시는것도 관리해야죠. 형! 딱 기다려!

I too have to think about what I drink. Older brother [Rain]! Just you wait for me!

내일이 기다려집니다. 미에로 화이버.

We can’t wait for tomorrow. Miero Fiber.

And on that note, it’s a pity that, yet again, athletes that have gained great bodies through exercise are endorsing a product that encourages people to think that merely slugging a diet drink is all that is required. But I do think that selling it to both sexes is still a positive step: after all, as I discuss here, unfortunately it is by no means an exaggeration to say that there is a widespread belief among Korean women that “obtaining the perfect body is possible provided one merely buys and passively uses, applies or digests various products,” and one which strangely coexists alongside a belief by men that they must do active exercise instead. Introduce the notion that men and women can obtain their desired bodies through the same means however, and you begin to challenge that false dichotomy.

On the other hand, it is a diet drink being sold, and so there is also the possibility that ads like these will simply encourage men to forgo exercise in favor of dieting (and so on) also. Which do you think is the more likely scenario?

Either way, Korean energy drinks are off to a good start!


Open Thread #12 (Updated)

( Source: geishaboy500 )

Let’s try this again!

Always just an experiment really, after last week’s open thread received no comments whatsoever then I deleted it and thought I’d call it a day, but I’ve relented and decided to give the open threads one more shot: after all, all the others received many. So, if you’d like a forum to talk about virtually anything Korea-related each weekend (albeit with a preference for sociology and pop-culture), and perhaps most importantly one that is moderated also, then please do make sure to contribute this time!

But please don’t get the wrong impression: of course I’ll be a little disappointed if the open threads don’t take off, but I don’t mind really, as keeping you entertained and informed is my prime concern (call me selfish, but I would like to get paid to write eventually, and this is how I learn how!). And with that in mind, in lieu of an extra post this weekend I’m starting this open thread a little early to give me more time to work on several in-depth ones I’ve been promising for a while.

Before I go though, an admin note for RSS feed subscribers: I recently bought the domain “http://thegrandnarrative.com”, which the old  “http://thegrandnarrative.com.wordpress.com” now automatically redirects to, but I’ve noticed that although the feed for the latter still works just fine in Google Reader, the feed for the former is completely haywire, throwing up any post I simply edit even if it is several years old. That wouldn’t normally be a problem, but then I’m doing some major spring cleaning as it were, editing a month’s worth of old posts at a time, and this has meant that sometimes 20 very old posts have been arriving in your feed each day, which must be a little annoying. Sorry about that, and unfortunately I don’t know what I can do about it until I finish in a couple of weeks, but if you’d like to receive notification only when new posts arrive in the meantime, then please consider changing the feed to the old wordpress one, or alternatively you can subscribe by email via the button on the right.

Have a nice weekend!

( Source: HikingArtist )

Update, Monday 26th – Apologies, but those posts will have to be postponed a little, and this week’s Korea Gender Reader to next week: our landlord has just informed my wife and I that she wants to raise the rent, and so much of today has been spent looking at apartments online. We might be moving in less than 2 weeks!


The Vagina Monologues in Busan: Sunday, April 25th

( Source )

Very surprised to hear that this will be not only be playing in Busan, but just 10 minutes away in my local drinking district of Kyungsung and Pukyong university, I’m glad to finally get a chance to see this. With all proceeds going to shelters that help victims of sex trafficking in Korea, check out the Facebook page for the details, including about the after party: am looking forward to meeting some readers there!

Update 1: Lest the poster above give you the wrong impression however, which is actually for a Korean performance in Bucheon, please note that the performance is in English, and you can hear an interview of the cast on Koreabridge here if you like.

Update 2: You need to be logged on to see the Facebook page, so alternatively you can see here for the details instead, and I’ve also added a map below.

Update 3: See here for an article in Busan Haps.


Korean Gender Reader

( Source )

1. “Why I want to be a whore”

Never being interested in gisaeng (기생) previously, I am now intrigued after reading this unorthodox perspective on them at Curiosity Killed the Eccentric Yoruba, with a special emphasis on the 2006 drama Hwang Jin-i (황진이) above. A quick excerpt:

While I do not believe that courtesans largely lived happy lives, I do believe that they were the freest and most independent women in those patriarchal societies. I remember my friend reading me an essay she had written which she called ‘Why I want to be a whore’. She had written that essay for a Latin class she took and the context was ancient Rome. According to my friend the only profession that ensured a woman’s freedom and independence was to be prostitution and I am pretty sure she meant the art of the courtesan.

Anybody know how I can watch Hwang Jin-i with English and/or Korean subtitles?

2. 60% of teens have unprotected sex

Naturally, that headline from The Korea Times actually only refers to sexually-active teens, and whom were only 5.1% of all the 75,238 teens surveyed (so in fact, only “3.06% of teens have unprotected sex”). But regardless, as always I would be very wary of drawing any conclusions from the data with no information provided about the methodology used, although I’d echo the report’s criticism of the woefully inadequate sex education provided at Korean schools.

If you’re interested in finding out more,  please consult the categories on the right for many more posts on Korean teenage sexuality and related issues, or see this one on the age of consent and this one on sex education if you’d rather just have quick introductions.

3. Why is celebrity endorsement so important in Korean commercials?

When even the head of Korea’s largest advertising agency says that much of Korean advertising can be reduced to simply “beautiful people holding a bottle,” then it’s not just your imagination when you see so many idols doing so many commercials these days; now, see Omona! They Didn’t for why.

4. Chick lit in Korea

More from Charles Montgomery at Korean Modern Literature in Translation (see #7 here also), who is currently reading Sung Eun-cho’s journal article The Translation and Appropriation of Chick Lit in Korea:

An interesting read that alternates between literary theory and social history, it details how, in the late 90s and early 2000’s, Chick Lit came from overseas, took Korea by something resembling force, and was then recreated as a domestic product, but one that had internalized many of the messages of the original imports.

5. Cheerleaders helping to reinvigorate pro-baseball

So claims this Chosun Ilbo article, which also says that baseball stadiums are no longer the sole domain of middle-aged men but are now full of both men and women in their 20s.

Not a baseball fan myself, does anyone know if this is just wishful thinking or not?

( Source )

6. Raining on Rain

Kyu, the Korean American, explains why he no longer respects the singer Rain (비).

7. Girls’ Generation members ordered to always wear make-up

Lest the sky fall in if even more pictures of them without it appear on the internet. But on a more serious note, I do have a Korean friend who works in a bank who has told me that she’d be fired if she repeatedly came to work with her face au naturel, although I don’t know how typical that is of Korean companies in general?

8. Korean student commits suicide after being raped during MT

Moreover, if not rape per se, then sexual harassment at least may well be endemic to MT culture:

Not too long ago, Brian (formerly) in Jeollanam-do reported on the university student who committed suicide after being raped on an MT. MT is short for “membership training” and they have nothing to do with any sort of training. Groups of students who are associated in some way (e.g. are members of the same club or have the same major) go somewhere, stay the night, and then return the next day. Participation is supposedly optional, but declining could get you ostracized, which is a big deal in Korea, particularly among university students. What do they do there? Drinking alcohol. Lots of it. Again, you’re pressured to conform and participate. If you don’t drink, or only a little, you will be angrily accused of “spoiling the mood” by your superiors (“seon-bae”). In Korea, subordinates (“hoo-bae”) basically have to do everything that their seonbaes demand, or risk the aforementioned excommunication. It’s common for male seon-baes to try to get female hoo-baes drunk so as to make sexually harassing them easier.

Read the rest at Extra! Korea.

9. Two reactions to recent child sex crimes

First, the good news: child rape victims are no longer required to testify in court when their alleged rapists are tried, although in light of the continuing confusion surrounding the age of consent in Korea I would have preferred it if the Yonhap News report had specified until what age victims are considered children (not academic if 13 year-olds are considered consenting adults).

More ominously however, the government has now decided to release the names and faces of alleged sex-offenders when there is “strong evidence of guilt and a public demand to know,” and one immediate problem that comes to mind is how open that is to interpretation. But as Seamus at Asadal Thought puts however, more crucial is the fact that it is just:

another case of the government trying to just keep the people happy while completely missing the point.

The point is not that people want to see the faces of these people – they’re not a threat once they’re caught. What the people of Korea really want is, one, for better regulations to be put in place to stop these crimes being committed in the first place, and two, for the offenders to be given sufficiently harsh sentences when they’re charged.

Also in crime-related news, Korea Beat reports that an investigation has been opened into a Gwangyang high school teacher who allegedly slapped and beat students.

10. Korea’s gender wage gap in comparative perspective

Mentioning the fact that Korea has the largest gender wage gap in the OECD so many times, I have been remiss in not providing a graph like this earlier (via: Sociological Images):

11. Music videos banned for depicting…jaywalking

About to start writing an MA thesis in which I place:

…the censorship of recent years – invariably quite arbitrary, hypocritical, and inconsistent – into some sort of context, most likely that of the corporate interests of the various ministries and companies involved themselves.

Then I feel quite vindicated in light of hearing the supposed reasons both a recent Rain and Lee Hyori (이효리) music video have been banned from public television for.

( Source )

Meanwhile, despite earlier reports (see #5 here) that singer G-dragon would not be prosecuted for the following sexually-charged performance at a concert attended by minors, this no longer appears to be the case:

With thanks for passing all the links on, see Tenshii’s comment for more information on those and many similar cases.

12. Avoiding Stalkers

I’m no Picasso and Jasmine Taiwo recently had problems with stalkers, and have a lot of good advice for other women in case the same happens to them.  Also, see Roboseyo’s post for links to earlier incidents.

13. Overcoming South Korea’s gay love taboo

( Source: CNNGo)

Best of luck to this couple in Seoul, although unfortunately they’re going to need it considering a Korean newspaper recently placed gay personals on a par with advertising prostitution. Also, see Doing It Korean Style for the recent storm in a teacup over a recent public kiss between 2 male singers.

14. “New university department modeled on the MIT Media Lab to nurture a pool of creative individuals to lead the country’s technology sector”…women need not apply?

Via fellow Twitterer José María Areta, how else is one to interpret the news that male students in master’s and Ph.D. programs there will be exempted from military service?

On the plus side however, one also wonders at its legality: just last month, affirmative action for men who had completed their military service was (again) ruled unconstitutional (see #13 here), and unless female graduates are offered similar benefits for receiving degrees then I’d be surprised if it wasn’t challenged as discriminatory.

15. Dating in Korea

Unable to write last week’s Korea Gender Reader because of computer problems, unfortunately there’s necessarily been a great many stories I’ve not covered this time for the sake of keeping this post to a readable length.

But of course I still have to mention all the recent excellent posts on this topic however, starting with this and then this by I’m no Picasso (a follow-up on those I mentioned at #3 here), the latter of which a Korean reader also weighs in on; next, there is Gord Sellar’s excellent series on “Expat Social Fallacies,” from which I’ve learned a great deal (and, indeed, been a little humbled by realizing how many apply to myself), of which Part 2 is primarily about dating; and finally, for those of you that missed it the first time, I recommend reading the post entitled “Western men in Korea who hate on K-guys: get some new material” at Doing It Korean Style first, in which a lot of regular commenters on this blog contributed to the long comments thread. Enjoy!