Korean Gender Reader: Redux

( Source: Panablu )

A quick admin note first: following the advice of a friend, I’ve decided to change the format of the Korean Gender Reader posts, as the previous commentary and information-dense one was often a little overwhelming for many readers (3000 words is not a “summary” of the week’s events!). Instead, this lighter version means more frequent and timely links for you, still leaves me the possibility of expanding upon the more interesting stories in later posts, and, probably most importantly, an extra 8+ hours a week to write!

I hope you like the change, and, following the lead of commenter Tbonetylr who let me know about the above advertisement, this post’s 10 stories (my new maximum) will all be loosely related to the media and pop-culture. Another post later in the week will focus more on sexuality, although of course many stories could easily be in either.

1) First up, Dramabeans discusses the recent trend of absurd age gaps in casting choices in dramas, with one drama having a “mother” only 3 years older than her “daughter” in real life! As described there:

This growing trend has some audiences doubting the believability of such casting choices, and wondering if there’s such a dearth of actresses out there. Personally, I don’t think the general trend is that crazy, given that the 30-something single girl is only lately becoming a viable option, in the last few years. Before, actresses had to go straight from twenty-something maiden to 30-something ajumma. Now there’s more of a range, and it isn’t a new thing for actors to be cast off-age.

2) At an average age of just 15 years old, GP Basic is set to debut as Korea’s youngest girlgroup. As Extra! Korea aptly puts it, “Stop the Madness“, and notes that he is not the only one concerned about their welfare.

3) Just out of curiosity, as anybody seen this new contraceptive pill commercial on TV?

Vodpod videos no longer available.

4) Shin Min-ah (신민아) happily acknowledges that her jean advertisements are heavily photoshopped. Meanwhile, in both a bizarre case and ultimate judgment, 92 netizens sued by SM Entertainment for posting up photos of Girls’ Generation (소녀시대) members’ faces superimposed onto photos of naked women will not be prosecuted, primarily because of a petition by the members themselves.

For anyone further interested, note that SM Entertainment has quite a history of suing people for any negative imagery of Girls’ Generation, even for simple cartoons.

5) Committing the grave faux pas of winning on a dating show in China, expat Benjamin Haas gets censored out of it “because foreign guys aren’t supposed to get the girl“.

6) After School’s (애프터스쿨) UEE gets criticized by netizens for her “bellyfat” again, to which unfortunately she responds with “slim” photos rather than defiance at the absurd weight standards (and required dress) for female idols.

7) In a story that sounds all too familiar, 2PM attracted a lot of criticism for the overly sexual content of their first solo concert last week. But as VixenVarla of SeoulBeats notes however, far from this being a case of Koreans being prudes and/or subject to excessive censorship, it would probably have been fine with a age rating higher than, well, 8 plus. Moreover, would anyone expect anything less from management company owner JYP anyway?

Meanwhile, see KBites for details of the latest batch of K-pop songs to indeed get banned by MBC, this time for mentioning brand names and/or websites (and see here for more on Korea’s draconian indirect advertising laws).

8) After a proposal made in the story last month, there is now the strong possibility of the first gay wedding ceremony to be depicted in a drama soon, and accordingly anti-homosexuality groups have already put out newspaper advertisements in opposition (see #12 here for more on those).

Unfortunately the cast and crew themselves are also a little divided about the possibility, but regardless the drama itself – the first to feature gay characters – remains very popular, and has just been confirmed for a 13-episode extension.

9) Christian Dior gets criticized at Jezebel for the heavily orientalist imagery of its latest advertising campaign, Shanghai Dreamers. See Ampontan also for more on its historical context.

( Source )

10) Finally, in a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black, Korean netizens have criticized a Japanese talk show for excessively focusing on the bodies of members of Korean girl group KARA (카라), currently on a big promotion drive there. Fortunately however, not everyone has joined the hypocritical, nationalist fray, some noting that “When this is done in Korea it’s ok, but when it’s done in Japan it’s wrong?” for instance.


19 thoughts on “Korean Gender Reader: Redux

  1. Had to chuckle at the protests against the Japanese broadcast.. like they haven’t been asked to do the butt dance on every single korean show.

    Let’s hope the gay tv marriage goes through… but how would that be legally possible (in the fictional universe)? Gay people can’t marry in Korea, right?


    1. It’s my understanding that the drama is considering showing a ‘gay wedding’ – like, the ceremony of it. Joining of two families, public acknowledgment of a committed relationship, that sort of thing. Same as gay weddings/commitment ceremonies in other countries in which gay marriage is illegal.

      I’ve wanted to watch this drama for ages, but haven’t gotten around to it yet (not the biggest fan of dramas in general), so hopefully someone will correct me if I’m wrong.


      1. My mistake sorry Zellie: I’ve changed the wording in the post.

        Yeah abcfsk, naturally I downloaded watched the video of KARA, and didn’t see anything that would be out of place on a Korean talk show.


        1. Also, I”ve been surprised about that drama since I first heard news of it. Reading some blogs and opinions on Korea here and there I was almost under the impression that homosexuality was a non-issue for most koreans because the topic had no presence in day-to-day life, but this, even though predictably there are protests, suggest that it has to be ‘there’, at least. Or is this just a case of pop culture being very liberal? Is this, a family pondering accepting a sort-of gay marriage, ‘common’ to the extent that it’s heard of?


  2. James,

    About #6. I think I’d criticize that look on anyone. It’s one of those cases of someone not being aware of what actually fits their body. You can see this on the beach at Haeundae all the time and it looks just as ridiculous on Jimmy or Jane Waeguk as it does on UEE.

    As a fatso myself, I have to wonder if these folks have mirrors? You’d think a “star” would at least have a manager or herder saying, “hey, let’s move it to the next size.”

    To me the problem is that she responded with “slim” photos. And this is only a problem if they are photoshopped. Sure, Korea (and most countries) has bizarre expectations of their stars, but this was a fashion faux-pax for anyone..

    Now I’m off to try to shoehorn myself into a speedo and tank-top!


    1. Actually almost all agreed: the point I was trying to make was that UEE is not fat, but then she isn’t exactly on a virtual starvation diet like many other 20-something female singers either, and it’s kind of ridiculous that she has to be squeezed into the same sorts of costumes nevertheless. And PVC generally looks ridiculous on anyone outside of music videos anyway.

      I’d still have a problem with the response photoshopped or otherwise though, as I’d prefer both some acknowledgment of the above and then costumes produced that more flattering and appropriate for her curves. Naturally, in that case you’d have to have to introduce some variety into the other 8 member’s costumes too, but it would be easy enough to do that without losing the overall drummer theme.


  3. Hi! this is my first time commenting on your blog and i just wanted to say I really appreciate all the articles full of great content you post! As usual I enjoyed your latest post [don’t shorten them!] however I would just like to point out that the drama “Life is Beautiful” is the first korean drama to depict a same sex marraige but not the first to feature gay characters; in fact a drama called Personal Preference recently aired from March – May this year. Three of the main characters were “gay” however two were only carrying on the pretense of being in a relationship with each other due to certain circumstances. The drama was chock-full of stereotypes about homosexuals and in my opinion, while in general imparted a feeling of open-mindedness, probably did more harm than good. the real gay character turned into a scapegoat for someone’s idea; his love life sucks, and he’s old and lonely ….. so this a tangent but i just thought some might find this interesting; i recently tried watching a korean kids show called 뽀로로 in attempt to improve my korean… i stopped once i realized that the two main female characters are named “Petty” and “Loopy” . i couldn’t stand listening to the guys call them their “names” … especially as the other characters with english names were called “Harry” and “Eddy”


    1. Actually I did mention that back in March in #4 here, but seeing as that took me 10 minutes to find then I can hardly blame you overlooking it, and it’s still good to be reminded thanks!

      I know Pororo well also as my eldest daughter used to watch it, and so I had concerns about the gender stereotyping in it, which I mention here. Like I explain there, fortunately the stupid English names the 2 girls have are almost certainly accidental, but active, sports-mad Petty who arrived in the second season does compensate a little for Loopy, whom I describedas “the only female character in the first series, ‘likes cooking and the arts’ at her home and always seems to be making gifts of food for the boys and/or watching them on the sidelines while they invent stuff and go on adventures”.


      1. …..it seems pretty unbelievable though that the girls were derogatorily named on accident [why would a show feature characters named Loopy or Petty…. unless all the characters named after specific “characteristics” or “virtues”] ohhh and yeah i def got the gender stereotypes vibe too lol ~ thanks for the links! i am going to go check out the articles now!


        1. If Loopy or Petty described their personalities then you’d have a point, but I can assure you that I’m very familiar with the show, and they are neither, so I really do think the unfortunate naming is just a coincidence.

          I don’t know where the name Loopy is derived from, but Petty probably comes from Betty, as many Koreans consider them virtually interchangeable. It’s also standard not to spend even 5 mins checking the English connotations of something that sounds good in Korean (or rather to Koreans) also, even though this show’s success meant that it’s just been put on the all-English Disney channel in East Asia.


          1. oh wow so Petty is from Betty…. i hate to think what Loopy may have been from (Snoopy? Poopy…) lol well thank you for the article and the replies!


    1. Always grateful for links thanks, but to be frank that was sheer drivel probably the most superficial “analysis” of Korean advertising I’ve ever seen. And considering that it was written by the associate editor of CNNgo to boot, means I’ve lost any fledgling respect I’ve ever had for that site.

      If you want a pithy summing up of Korean advertising by someone who actually knows something about it instead, see this interview of Londoner Bruce Haines, currently head of Korea’s largest ad agency Cheil Worldwide.


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