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:
- Woefully inadequate sex-education
- A sexual culture that elevates female virginity and chastity to the extent that many women either feign lack of knowledge of contraception, and/or rely on men to provide it
- And finally scare-mongering by the Korean medical industry as recently as last year (despite overwhelming evidence of the pill’s safety and effectiveness being readily available in Korean), which until recently had vested interests in maintaining one of the largest abortion industries in the world.
( 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
( 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!^^