Korean Gender Reader

My reading for next week, and good timing in light of this recent photoshoot of Yu-bin’s (유빈) from the Wondergirls (원더걸스). Not that there’s anything wrong per se with a 22 year-old dressing like someone much younger of course, but then the similarities with a photoshoot of then 15 year-old f(x) (에프엑스) member Choi Sul-li (최설리) from February are obvious:

See here for more details of the latter and the issues that it raised (note that Sul-li replicates Yu-bin’s stance in other photos), and #5 below for the news that a recent child rapist was previously arrested (but not convicted) for providing shelter to a homeless 16 year-old girl in exchange for sex. Meanwhile, after The Lolita Effect I’ll probably be ordering Guyland for some balance, although I don’t expect it to be as relevant in the Korean context. Has anybody already read either?

1. The pill turns 50

“The advent of the contraceptive pill is the most important public health intervention we have ever seen for women.”

So said Australian sexual health physician Christine Read while speaking at a press meeting in Seoul last week.

“It has allowed us to control our fertility and to be able to plan when we would have children. It has permitted women to have sex safely, without fear of becoming pregnant,” she said.

And it has over a 99% success rate too, which makes one wonder why less than 2% of Korean couples use it, one of the lowest rates in the developed world. No great surprise to long-term readers of course though, most likely it is due to a combination of:

( Source: Encyber )

Not that misinformation about the pill is the sole purvey of the Korean media however:

Once again, the Telegraph has managed to misinform the shit out of its readers. It’s almost like the Fox News of the UK.

We’ve seen plenty of pieces come out over the last month about The Pill’s 50th anniversary, but none of them were as quite as confused and baseless as this one. (But then again, the Telegraph has a history of publishing inaccurate bullshit regarding feminist issues.)

While the author throws some positive aspects of the form of contraception into the piece at an attempt to convey objectivity, the headline and criticisms are anything but, saying the Pill led to sexual coercion, according to one of their main interviewees, author Libby Purves…

Read the rest at Feministing here.

2. Last week’s LGBT festival

See Chris in South Korea’s write up here (with many pictures), and the Hankyoreh also has an article.

( Source )

3. Japanese women encouraged to marry Korean men in colonial era

I’ve already written a great deal about how exceptional Japanese colonialism was compared to its European and U.S. counterparts, particularly in the degrees to which its colonies were integrated with, developed by, and settled from the home country, but I had no idea that that logic extended this far however:

The lack of discussion on inter-racial marriage by contemporary experts is not the only interesting feature to note. “It is an open secret among Korean scholars,” one professor of modern Korean history said to me the other day, “that there were a significant number of married couples between Korean men and Japanese women but there is so little study on it.” This is another surprise to non-East Asian historians. In other places it is men from the colonizing countries and women from colonized societies that married, and this feminization of colonies is often regarded as an aspect of Orientalism. There were, of course, married couples between Korean women and Japanese men, but as Oguma Eiji has already pointed out, the Government-General in Korea encouraged Japanese women to marry Korean men because, they thought, Japanese mothers were supposed to build the foundations of Japanese culture in the home.

Read the rest at Frog In A Well. And in other Japan-related news, The Japan Times discusses “Vader Ladies”, or middle-aged Japanese women who – like their Korean counterparts – wear excessively-large sun-visors to maintain light complexions; and in the spirit of last week’s opening image, may I present this iconic one of Yukio Mishima on the right also, discussed at Critical Masculinities.

As for dating and/or marrying Koreans, the author of Doing it Korean Style has ironically decided to stop dating Korean men! While that is primarily because of language difficulties however, by coincidence the author of On Becoming a Good Korean (Feminist) Wife has started an enlightening series on why it is much more difficult for 20-something Western women to find compatible Korean men the same age than vice-versa, and hence the huge disparity in the numbers of couples (although this is changing).

4. North Korean women: misfits in the South

A note to Agence France-Presse (AFP): if you want to encourage people to actually watch your otherwise good 2-minute introduction to this subject, then don’t restrict viewing of it to only on the Youtube website itself.

5. Child rapist case demonstrates urgent need for revision of age of consent laws

Convicted last week, child rapist Kim Su-cheol (김수철) was originally unrepentant, but soon began to act differently during a live reenactment of his crime; after all, the Korean judiciary, reflecting social norms, attaches a great deal of weight to expressions of remorse rather than abstract notions like innocence or guilt. Doing some further investigating however, Brian in Jeollanam-do has discovered that Kim Su-cheol is none other than the same person who 2 years earlier paid a 16-year-old runaway:

…to have sex with him about 30 times. The girl, a middle-school dropout who lived with Kim for two months this year, was paid 20,000 won ($16) each time, but was not forced into intercourse, investigators said. Kim reportedly admitted to police that she is pregnant, but said she doesn’t know who the father is.

As Brian mentions, that last point is rather bizarre, and I would add that the JoongAng Daily quoted above is clearly mistaken in reporting that the age of consent in Korea is 19; in a lengthy investigation of my own earlier this year (it is rather harder to determine than it may sound), I demonstrated that in fact it is 13, which is why Kim Su-cheol wasn’t convicted for the above.

I don’t intend to criticize that relatively low age here: not only it is actually on a par with those of many European countries, but in practice any choice of age is somewhat arbitrary, and convictions and/or public sentiment heavily dependent on both the age gap between and sex of the participants. However, in light of that earlier case and 15 other convictions for physical violence and hit and runs since being released from a 15-year prison sentence for rape in 2002, then unfortunately this latest crime of his does seem almost waiting to happen. Short of convicting him in 2008 though, it is difficult to think of how it could have been prevented, although authorities are possibly remiss in allowing him to live within 500m of a school (is there any dwelling in a Korean city that wouldn’t be?).

Meanwhile, K-Bites and AllKpop report that the police have charged a composer with the attempted rape of a female singer, but without revealing the names of either. This may just be an isolated case of course, but bear in mind that in the most comprehensive investigation to date, 62% of current or aspiring actresses surveyed “reported being pressured to have sex with influential figures like producers, directors, businessmen, politicians and advertising executives,” and 6% reported being the victims of rape. See Extra! Korea for more details.

6. State Department’s trafficking in persons report cites “juicy girls” in Korea

See ROK Drop for more details, who:

continues to maintain that the best way to handle the issue of human trafficking is to put clubs that hire third country nationals off limits….If 3rd country nationals aren’t put off limits this issue will not go away because the bar owners will just keep finding different foreign women to traffic in.  By forcing the bars to employ Korean workers it would pretty much make the human trafficking issue go away because Korean nationals would be much harder to traffic in.

7. The Swedish model of childcare

With thanks to the several readers who sent the various links in, this has been receiving a lot of attention in the media recently, prompted by an excellent article in The New York Times that begins thus:

Mikael Karlsson owns a snowmobile, two hunting dogs and five guns. In his spare time, this soldier-turned-game warden shoots moose and trades potty-training tips with other fathers. Cradling 2-month-old Siri in his arms, he can’t imagine not taking baby leave. “Everyone does.”

( Source: Ryo. )

Sadly the polar opposite of Korea, where even maternity-leave laws are routinely broken, and only 1% of fathers take their generous 3 days of paternity leave (see #4 here).  See Gender Across Borders for more commentary, and in Korea’s defense, Femonomics demonstrates that for all its pro-family rhetoric, the U.S. is not much better:

Many Americans would describe Sweden as “Socialist!!” (a big, bad, scary word these days), and they’d be right. But Swedish policies are also much more pro-family than those of the more free-market Capitalist US. At least if we consider parents spending time with their children to be pro-family (I do!). For all of the political rhetoric around our “traditional family values,” US society does not really have a commitment to strengthening the family. Right-wing groups may stand strong against gay marriage and abortions, but where are the rallies for family leave, subsidized childcare, and living wages? The top three results in a Google Search of “Pro Family Advocacy” are homophobic organizations protesting gay marriage. Do Americans just not get it?

Which reminds me of this from a 1995 Time magazine article on evolutionary psychology:

One reason the sinews of community are so hard to restore is that they are at odds with free markets. Capitalism not only spews out cars, TVs and other antisocial technologies; it also sorts people into little vocational boxes and scatters the boxes far and wide. Economic opportunity is what drew farm boys into cities, and it has been fragmenting families ever since. There is thus a tension within conservative ideology between laissez-faire economics and family values, as various people have noted. (The Unabomber complains that conservatives “whine about the decay of traditional values,” yet “enthusiastically support technological progress and economic growth.”)

But I digress. Finally…

8. Of politicking and prostitution

Curiosity Killed the Eccentric Yoruba describes the commotion caused by her being mistaken for a prostitute in a Tokyo an Abuja hotel!^^


36 thoughts on “Korean Gender Reader

  1. Thanks for the link.

    The part I found puzzling was this in the JoongAng Daily:
    “The legal age of consent in Korea is 19, and the law provides harsher punishment for those who have sex with children under 13.”

    Followed immediately in the next paragraph by this:
    “Police said Kim paid an 18-year-old runaway to have sex with him about 30 times.”

    Which points to a Korea TImes article last year:
    ““They had sex, but she did not demand money and he did not give her money. He provided her with shelter, food and about 20,000 won pocket money, but there is no evidence that the offering was in exchange for sex.’”

    I ddn’t get how the age of consent could be 19, but sex with an 18 year old could be legal since it was determined she wasn’t coerced into it and there was no money or other gifts exchanged.


    1. Oh you’re welcome, and I’m glad you looked at it in more detail than my normal impulse would have been. But yeah, I understand your confusion, although in hindsight it may just be sloppy editing, as the article simply makes no sense otherwise. It also makes a mistake in saying that the teenage runaway was 18 too, as she would have been 16 when he had sex with her.

      p.s. I’ve edited the post a lot BTW (I was quite sloppy myself), but hopefully not in a way that affects your comment!


  2. Thought-provoking stuff as always, though having had an extremely unpleasant encounter with BCP myself, I think it’s important for women to remember that it’s not risk-free, even though most young women in North America tend to think it is (of course, pregnancy can kill you, too). Scaremongering is not good, but not mentioning the risks or how to watch out for the signs of life-threatening complications (none of my doctors bothered to) isn’t good either. More information and choices for women is good. (Of course, more responsibility-sharing by MEN is good too!)

    Minor nitpick: “Curiosity Killed the Eccentric Yoruba” was randomly mistaken for a prostitute while she was in Abuja (which is the capital of Nigeria), while booking her travel to Japan.


  3. Happy birthday to the pill! The sexual and economic liberation of women is one of humanity’s most dramatic changes wrought by an invention. It is sad and infuriating to think that hundreds of millions of women are denied control over their reproduction. The pill is highly effective and safe for most women, certainly safer than abortion or childbirth. However, it does have signficant blood clotting risks for smokers and has been linked to estrogen-dependent cancers. There are so many more choices now. The IUD has overcome its bad history and is now as safe and effective as the Pill. Women seeking permanent sterlization no longer need to have invasive surgery. There is a new procedure that uses a catheter to insert a little rotorooter-type tool into the fallopian tubes. The tiny screw-like piece is rotated and then removed. The resultant scarring seals the tubes. Sounds umpleasant, but it’s reported to be safe and effective with almost no risk of complications.


      1. I’m curious — and would love if you would research and post, ha! — about the question of types of birth control available in Korea.

        The reason I ask is that I know a British woman who, not long ago, maybe a year ago now, ranted at great length about the types of birth control pills available here and, basically, how they were all the worst kids.

        “Worst kinds” is, of course, subjective, but she said that because of a physical condition she had, she was unable to use one or more popular kinds, that another sort was linked to a lot of complications, and that the remaining option was of the sort that she said tended to not only diminish the risk of pregnancy, but also diminished one’s sex drive.

        I don’t know how much of this was her personal experience, how much of it was scaremongering she’d fallen for, and how much of it was her particular condition. I do know, though, that she was contemplating having a friend back in the UK get the pills and send them to her — or stocking up on visits home — because she found the options in Korea to be so narrow and also so unappealing — and had been advised by a doctor in the UK to avoid them all, IIRC.

        Anyway, as I say, I have only one anecdotal data point, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some truth to a narrower selection being available here, but it would be interesting to know more about the range of kinds of birth control pills available in Korea compared other developed countries.


        1. Actually, the more I think about, the more interesting that sounds. It would be very useful and helpful to know what exactly is available and – very important – how accessible it is before passing any judgments on Koreans’ attitudes towards and usage of contraception. It would also hopefully prove to be a good resource for people coming to Korea too.

          I have the next 6 weeks off: I’ll see what I can do. I’ll start with seeing if any of the Korean Talk on Sex (토크온섹스) podcasts has focused on it, which I found back in October but didn’t get around to regularly listening them because of their difficultly and length. I’ve started listening to them again on the urging of James Devereux though, who mentioned them recently on his learning Korean blog.

          One note on your British friend’s experience: like you say it’s just one anecdotal data point, and libido in particular so heavily dependent on so many different factors, that I’d be surprised if there was one particular brand of pill that was known to diminish it. Moreover, if you haven’t heard of it already, then here is a brief summary of a study (see here for the full journal article) which showed that lap-dancers that used the pill made much less money than those that used condoms. Of course, that technically demonstrated more that the former were less attractive to male customers rather than that they had lower libidos also, but I’d wager that that was the case, and indeed I think we’d all agree that men tend to find women who are already horny more attractive than those that are not!


          1. I can only speak to the foreigner experience here and only on accessibility, but my wife picks up BCP here wilh about 10% of the hassle she had in the US. They are available without prescrption in every pharmacy we have ever tried.

            I can’t imagine (other than issues of shame) that this would be different for citizens?


          2. My (Korean) wife also had no problems with getting it, although she only started using it when she was about 24. But the younger and more unmarried a Korean woman looks, the more likely she is to be refused to be sold it by pharmacists here.

            Not saying that that reaction is at all that common, and indeed somewhere Gomushin Girl wrote that there’s been a sea change in pharmacists’ attitudes in Seoul at least over the last decade or so. But it does happen.

            Come to think of it, originally my wife was only prepared to use it if we were engaged too, although I soon persuaded her otherwise!

            Update: thinking about it over lunch, actually I do clearly recall now that just after we moved to Busan in late 2003 ,my wife did get a disapproving look from one pharmacist as he sold it to her (I was waiting for her outside). And I’m pretty sure that about a year later she ended up changing the local pharmacy she got hers from because of the vibe she was getting from the proprietor, although she doesn’t remember herself.

            Anyway, anyone further interested see the “Contraception” category.


        2. There *are* a few differences in availability of certain kinds of pills here. Monophasic pills are significantly more common, and I don’t think I’ve seen bi- or tri-phasic pills, but minipills are also available. I find that almost all pharmacies carry at least four or five different brands, most of which have slightly different hormone combinations and amounts. They are available relatively hassle-free without prescription from any pharmacy in the land. If you’re really worried about being refused a perscription (which I haven’t heard of happening to anybody in years), just tell the person at the counter that you’re married. It’ll cost between 6-9,000 won, depending on the particular pill and pharmacy. I suspect you can get ortho-tricyclin and other mutli-phasic pills with a perscription. I also know that the patch is available, along with depo-provera and some similar forms of birth control, but these require going to the gynecologist. I’m relatively certain I’ve read that both hormonal and non-hormonal IUD’s are also available, and that you can be fitted with a diaphram at the gynecologist as well.

          With any hormonal treatment, it can take time for your body to adjust. Many women have trouble with their perscriptions for the first 1-6 months. Other formulations just aren’t right for individual women, and you may need to try a few different pills over the course of a few months (always relying on a second, barrier method!) to find the one that works. Many women try one method, have an unpleasant month or two, and give up, and I imagine this is even more true for Korean women, who generally won’t have a large cohort of friends with experience of the pill. Certain people, because of pre-existing medical conditions CAN have a harder time with the pill, or be advised to avoid it. On the other hand, the pill can have a positive effect on women’s health – it’s associated with lower instances of some cancers, clearing up skin problems, alleviating depression, etc. I initially started using the pill because it helped reduce the number of migraines I got.

          In short, I find that standard birth control pills are widely available and actually easier to come by than in places like the US, where a perscription is required. Some forms still require perscriptions, and people like your friend who have medical issues should still only be on the pill with the support and supervision of their doctors, but all in all, if you need it you can get it. Non-hormonal forms are also relatively easy to get, but anything beyond standard single phase pills will probably require a doctor’s visit.

          All this tells me that there are very few actual barriers to women in Korea aquiring a form of birth control, hormonal or otherwise, that is right for them except for a) truly, shockinly bad sex education and b) social mores that make women uncomfortable seeking out any sort of non-passive birth control.


  4. The delicious irony of the US rightwing hijacking family values is that a number of its politicians have been caught using prositutes and/or drugs, having affairs, or soliciting sex from men in public places.


  5. Actually, Sweden is ruled by a right-wing-conservative-party right now. The Social democrats lost power back in 2006, although they just might regain it in the upcoming election this year. -Might-.


    1. Thanks for the clarification, and now that you mention it I even vaguely recall reading about that election back when I used to subscribe to The Economist magazine! But regardless, even though I’m rather left-wing myself I think it’s a bit misguided to describe Sweden or the Swedish Democratic Party as socialist, and by the same historical logic you could just as readily describe the British Labour Party as socialist too for instance. Mention of the word also just means that many Americans in particular will not read any further too, so ultimately it just detracts from the arguments that Femonomics is making.


      1. well, back in the years of Olof Palme and earlier, the social democratic party reigned for many, many years, and they had a much more traditional socialist angle back then. I think the american notion of Sweden as “socialist” hails from that era, and it’s not entirely wrong, but it gets a bit strange in a contemporary context, as the social democrats has since then moved towards the middle of the political spectrum, just like their main opponents, the conservative-liberal “Moderaterna” has. There are a more radical socialist party, “The Left party” in the swedish parliament, but they don’t get more votes, unfortunately ^_^, than socialist parties in other european countries – generally about 5%.

        With all that said, the famous swedish social security and the high taxes used to pay for it of course has its roots in socialistic policies back in the early- and mid-20th century, but even the more radical right-wing parties in Sweden would defend that social security, at least in part, with their bare teeth. Few people here would vote to privatize -all- healthcare, for example; political debate in Sweden is instead very heated about to what extent private healthcare should be allowed and/or supported.


  6. Not that there’s anything wrong per se with a 22 year-old [the Wonder Girls’ Yu-bin] dressing like someone much younger of course, …

    I don’t see how she’s “dressing like someone much younger.” She’s not wearing a school uniform or anything like that. People of all ages wear tee-shirts and socks.


    1. Are you serious?

      Dude, if Yu-bin’s particular long t-shirt and (strongly implied) lack of shorts and/or panties underneath doesn’t simply scream “teenage sleeping attire” or “teen movie slumber party” to you, then I’m not going to bother trying to persuade you otherwise.

      Granted, she isn’t dressing like someone younger in the other pictures, but that one? Hell, I’m surprised the producer didn’t through some teddies in for good measure…


      1. Yes, I am serious … dude.

        :Xtreme emoticon:

        Dude, if Yu-bin’s particular long t-shirt and (strongly implied) lack of shorts and/or panties underneath doesn’t simply scream “teenage sleeping attire” or “teen movie slumber party” to you, then I’m not going to bother trying to persuade you otherwise.

        What do Korean teenage girls wear to bed? I think it’s either pyjamas or a kind of white, one-piece-dress-like garment with shoulder straps. People who’ve seen them know what I’m trying to describe.

        “Slumber party”? Again, you’re referring to something that, while common in North America, is probably very rare in South Korea. Since they’re only getting five hours of sleep a night, thanks to hogwons and extra studies, when would they find the time?

        Hell, I’m surprised the producer didn’t through some teddies in for good measure…

        Actually, young Korean women have teddy bears and the like long after they’ve left their teenage years behind. As Brian once put it:

        I can’t find the exact wording now, but I remember somebody commented in our Orientation handbook a couple years ago that everything in Korea tries to be cute, in the same way everything in the States is “Xtreme” and too cool for school. Korea uses a cartoon to advertise where the US would have a gravelly stoner voiceover, and Korean videos often feature cuteness exaggerated to a sickening degree where American videos would lots of brooding and feigned indifference.

        I’ve heard it said that even Korean prostitutes have cutesy-whootsy things (like pink, Minnie Mouse pillows) in their private rooms.

        What Yu-bin is wearing might have implications in North America, but in Korea, I think it’s just another photoshoot “concept.”


        1. Oh, the possibility remains open that some Korean teenage girls wear that to bed (although what would you or I know?), although note I never actually said that, and for the sake of argument will concede the point that Korean teenage girls probably generally don’t (and certainly don’t have slumber parties).

          But that’s beside the point: I’d wager that most Koreans are more than familiar enough with popular tropes of Western and particularly American media culture to be fully aware of what such clothes usually represent, even if Korean culture lacks them itself. Moreover, even if again for the sake of argument we say that they’re actually unaware of those, what Koreans still certainly wouldn’t do would be to say that they are simply a t-shirt and socks like “people of all ages wear”. Or that – and I’m frankly amazed that you fail to see this – that the particular long t-shirt that Yu-bin is wearing is something you would ever see a Korean or Western female of any age wear in public. And if not, then what would the logic of that particular choice of clothing be?

          Against that, with your above phrase you seem to imply instead that somehow the clothes are value-neutral, or as you specifically put it “just another photoshoot concept”…as if that vacuous phrase explains anything. Might I suggest you look at the entire shoot however? Almost all of the photos either have her on the floor in a sexually submissive pose, and/or have her wearing extremely little, of which the one of her under discussion here has her in clothes that – like you say – are only to be found in Western teen movies (let alone porn), and what’s more also have her posed so that she appears to be hiding her crotch, which is clearly very much in that same vein. On top of that, her manager happens to be JYP, whom as you’ve repeatedly blogged about yourself, is one of the most sexually-objectifying people in the Korean music-industry, has been milking Wondergirls’ appeal as Lolitas since the group was formed, and whom I would also add has fluent English, is presumably very familiar with Western culture, and even recently named one of the Wondergirls’ new perfume lines “Lolita Sexy”.

          Seriously, what more evidence do you need that the photo deliberately invokes that Western trope? That it’s simply a t-shirt and socks like any Korean women would wear my ass…or rather her ass, which that picture above deliberately encourages us to think is barely covered by her t-shirt.

          Like I said, I don’t actually care that that makes her look younger than she is…hell, for what it’s worth, I certainly wouldn’t kick her out of bed. But that Korean teenagers don’t wear such clothes to bed themselves doesn’t mean that appealing to that Western cultural trope, associated with much younger women than Yu-bin, isn’t the most plausible logic behind that photo. If you can come up with another explanation of it though, then by all means be my guest.


          1. Actually, I found that (during MTs of course, I didn’t have any slumber parties since I came back to Korea) people actually do wear shorts and a T-shirt to bed. Mind you, this was during an MT, so I wouldn’t be too certain. But if you look at stores that sell pajamas and stuff nowadays, most of the pajamas actually look like a T-shirt and shorts.


          2. Yeah, actually they did, although since it was winter, they had these long pants that were made of this…uh…I dunno what its name is…uhm… furry cloth? Yeah.


          3. Terry cloth, or fleece.

            But I have to chime in here and say I don’t think the clothes themselves particularly provocative or particularly adolescent in any way. Oversized t-shirts, with or without loose shorts or pants, make a pretty standard sleep outfit for many adolescent and young women. It’s certainly common among my peers in their 20’s and 30’s – a long t-shirt is essentially a modern nightgown. It’s really not that dissimilar to what I wear to bed most nights, and pretty much in line with what all the Korean girls I’ve known as an undergrad student in a Korean university dorm, teaching at Korean summer camp for middle schoolers, and living with Korean roomates. I would have found her outfit much more provacative and younger-seeming if she’d worn some kind of matching outfit or pj’s.

            I will say that in the *second* picture, where she’s facing away and clearly in socks, the tone is quite different and I can see what you’re picking up on, James. The first pic has her in a very assertive stance, and really doesn’t look at all girlish. The second, however, makes her look much more passive, younger, and doll-like. But I think it’s the pose and way it was shot, rather than the clothes themselves. In the first picture she’s certainly giving off a much more adult vibe, despite having the same clothes on.


          4. Actually, I meant to reply earlier to Azri that I do take the point now that using a long t-shirt as sleepwear isn’t confined to teenage girls, but thanks for adding that. I do still maintain that the photographer was very much playing to the cultural trope of sleepovers etc. as I described though, as evidenced by the rather submissive and passive stances of Yu-bin in all but one of the other pictures in the series, and which by coincidence in Chapter 3 of The Lolita Effect I just read on the subway this morning Durham points out is clearly more associated with youth.

            Thanks for noticing what I was picking up on too, but actually you’ve made a mistake sorry: 22 year-old Yu-bin is on the left, sure, but it’s 15 year-old Sul-li on the right, in a different photoshoot. Sorry for not making that clearer in the text.


          5. Hmmm, simply mentioning that that was in Chapter 3 of The Lolita Effect isn’t all enlightening or helpful to anyone, is it?^^ Let me add this from pages 118-119 from it that my bookmark was in from said commute this morning then, which was quite a cool coincidence if I do say so myself!

            …The Klein ads showed the models being coerced by adults to remove their clothing in situations (inevitably, it seems) suggested sex work. There’s a real problem here” children cannot and should not be seen as willing participants in sex work.

            But the clothing trends and media portrayals of sexy children are, in fact, promoting that very idea, and young girls in particular are increasingly posed in commercial photography and oher media as sexual objects of the adult gaze. A series of Louis Vuitton print ads featuring seductive topless photographs of preteen girls appeared in major mainstream magazines a couple of years ago: they went wholly unremarked. A recent Newsweek article described Halloween costumes in little girls’ sizes that included fishnet stockings, corsets and “Chamber Maid” outfits marketed as “sexy” and “hot”. And an Australian billboard for Lee Jeans featured a teenage model wearing hotpants, exposing a breast, and sucking on a lollipop.

            And it’s this paragraph that is what I was thinking of when I wrote my last comment (my emphasis):

            Actually, in this last example, the model was eighteen, but posed and made to look at least five years younger. This is a different twist on the same idea: that ideal female sexuality is youthful, or even childlike. A notorious ad for Akademiks clothing featured a woman in panties and pigtails (it was withdrawn from New York public transit for its implications of oral sex). Numerous clothing ads feature grown woman dressed as little girls, sucking on lollipops, with tiny barrettes or bows in their hair, kneeling, crouching, or lying flat in positions of utter helplessness and subordination. The model Kat Fonesca in Katlick School was eighteen when the photographs were shot, but styled to look younger, posed in Snoopy underwear and sucking her thumb. Childishness is sexy, these message imply. Ergo, children – especially little girls – are sexy.



          6. What I find more disturbing, to be honest, is the dead-eyed, vacant stare visible throughout the former girl’s photo shoot. Every picture has that, “I just went through exam week and my last three exams were today” look. Or, more likely, “I’m a Stepford GirlTM! Please teach me what you want me to say to you.” It reminds me of the mannequinization of the SNSD girls in the video for Gee, which I think is (unintentionally, I’m guessing) a commentary on women in Korea media generally — and probably on a lot of men’s conception of women in general.


  7. A sexual culture that elevates female virginity and chastity …

    I don’t know how true that is. In any case, it’s not as true as it used to be. When I first arrived in Korea (many moons ago), the women had many tricks to hide the fact that they weren’t virgins from their new husbands on their wedding nights. One was to get hymen reconstruction surgery. Another was for the woman to book the honeymoon for around the time when she was menstruating. Their new husband would mistake her menstrual blood for virginal blood. I don’t think these kinds of practices are common anymore.


    1. Yes, I’m sure it’s not as true as it used to be. But given that the most recent research on Korean sexuality (see the links in the post) still finds that Korean women are reluctant to demonstrate knowledge of and/or insist on contraception, and – not unrelated – a majority of Koreans view providing contraception as men’s sole responsibility also, then attitudes clearly still have a long way to go.

      And heck, it’s not like Western societies have entirely ditched those attitudes either!


      1. The attitude among Amercan men tends to the opposite – that birth control is the womann’s responsibility. Back in the AIDS-fearing 80s, men expected to cover up, mostly to protect against STDs. Now going bareback is seen as macho and facilitating a full experience. Among Americans of my generation and younger, there is no perceptive stigma against women knowledgeable about sex, with the exception of the strictly religious, of course. To the contrary, young women in particular are proud of being sexually experienced. It is less experienced women who play down or hide their short sexual histories. I suspect that the rising popularity of publicly performed oral sex among the young owes in part to the desire of young women and girls to display sexual prowess. Men and boys performing on women and girls seems to be less common although it does happen.


        1. And actually extrakorea, those “practices” you described still exists. The fact that the “reconstruction” hospitals are still going strong proves this. And, there’s this forum in my university’s homepage (strictly for students only) that allows the users to be completely anonymous and…lots of people seem to be recommending those techniques. I think that the public just acts as if it’s “okay” not to be a virgin, but wtill, when people get married and stuff, they still tries to act virginal.


  8. Kim Su-cheol is none other than the same person who 2 years earlier paid a 16-year-old runaway….

    Are you suggesting that the ‘Kim’ in KT article Brian linked to from last year was Kim Su-cheol? That’s certainly not the case.

    I’d agree with you that the age of consent seems to be 13, but I do wonder why 19 keeps getting bandied around the way it does, as in the Joongang article. It may be because paying for sex with people under 19 is considered a crime (or, er, a greater crime than adult prostitution, seeing as those convicted of it have been having their personal information put on the internet since 2000). At any rate, Kim has been charged for paying the 18 year old runaway for sex, but I found this interesting in the Joongang article you linked to above:

    Investigators said Kim also kept a notebook with a list of teenagers’ names and phone numbers, but said they have confirmed that none of them were sexually assaulted.

    The question is, did he have sex with any of them? One would imagine (especially since he had their bank accounts written down) that he did, but perhaps authorities were more concerned with the rape charges (called in this article “미성년자 강간”) and thought one wonjo gyoje charge was enough.


    1. Well, credit should first go to Brian for linking Kim Su-cheol to that earlier teenage-sex case, who noticed how curiously similar the details of that (by a “Mr. Kim”) were to the one Kim Su-cheol was described as having done at about the same time. I’m prepared to accept that they may in fact be two separate cases (I admit to being a bit confused by the locations), but Brian was quite convincing.

      Regardless, thanks for the clarifications cum interesting further questions you raise about the age of consent, but the ultimate reason “19 keeps getting bandied about the way it does” may be more banal: people simply assume it’s 19. Personally, I’ve yet to meet a Korean aware of the concept without my explaining it (not that I discuss it with everyone I meet of course!), but once they’ve understood what I’ve been talking about then invariably tell me (and not unreasonably) that it’s probably 19. Add the generally poor journalistic standard of Korean reporters too, then I’m not surprised to see that assumed age of consent so often repeated in the media.


    2. When I put up that reenactment post I went to my Google Reader to search for some of the posts you, matt, had written about runaways and prostitution, because I vaguely recall you doing stuff on the intersection. That’s how I found the post from last year out of Busan, a story I had completely forgotten about. The details are quite similar, though I never looked through Korean-language articles to see if they’re talking about the same people.


  9. I’m positive they’re different. The Kim in the case last year was a year older (2 years older now), it was in Busan, the 18 year old girl in the Kim Su-cheol case lived with him in January and February of this year, plus no article has mentioned him as having previous wonjo gyoje charges against him. On the other hand, they do have the same last names… :) Still, it might be worthwhile to sort out that case from last year by looking at the Korean language articles (as the girl on the Busan case was found by the guy wandering around Seoul Station, if I remember correctly).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s