Korean Gender Reader

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1) As mentioned in #9 last week, Christian Dior has been heavily criticized on the web for the heavily Orientalist imagery of its latest advertising campaign Shanghai Dreams. But it turns out not to be Christian Dior’s own creation, but rather that of Chinese photographer Quentin Shih, who commented in an interview at China Rises that he:

…wanted to express a dialogue between Chinese fashion (60s to 90s) and Western fashion (Dior Haute Couture represents it the most). During that time, China was a country with socialism — people wearing all the same outfits and divided into different groups/identities like workers, students, intellectuals etc.

And that far from being racist, the Caucasian model:

…stands there only to represent the clothes, not herself and not a western people. I was not lucky enough to shoot a Chinese model wearing Dior — if I did I would have put her in my work.

But as commenters there point out, given the obvious potential for misinterpretation then it was still a bad choice on Christian Dior’s part, and in particular Gary Soup says:

I half agree with Shih. The “cloning” of a representation of a Mao-era worker is just a device frequently encountered in contemporary Chinese art. It’s generally used to good effect, and the artist seldom seen as racist. But China certainly has plenty of tall, elegant models who could pull off the generational contrast, and the use of a Caucasian model certainly seems to send the wrong message.

While we’re on the subject of art, see works by Zhang Wei for examples of a common Occidentalist theme in East Asia, particularly Qi BaiShi vs. Marilyn Monroe and Madonna vs. Qi BaiShi (both NSFW).

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2) Just out of curiosity, I noticed these Bunny Girl-like headbands above all over Haeundae Beach last weekend, and wonder if they are just a Busan thing, or if they are the fashion in the rest of Korea too?

For a photo to compare the above headbands with the originals, see this interesting article about how the “Chick-Lit” label is very frustrating for women authors!

3) A doctor in Gwangju has been arrested for molesting sleep-induced patients, and was ultimately caught when one became suspicious and brought a hidden camera in her bag.

This reminds me of a UK scheme I once read about to prevent such abuses, under which all patient visits were to be recorded by a security camera and automatically deleted perhaps 3 months later, but before which they could be reviewed by authorities if any allegations of abuse are made. Can anyone confirm if that scheme was actually implemented?

4) From this week, sex-offenders and murderers are to be paroled wearing electronic ankle bracelets. See #2 here for more on why now exactly, but regardless it’s about time, as despite its low crime rate in general Korea is in fact becoming one of the worst places in the world for sex crimes against teenagers, outnumbering those in Japan by more than three times and Germany by nearly nine times. Moreover, those high figures are despite a great number of such cases ending up being unsettled because victims are reluctant to undergo police investigations, and also the age of consent in Korea being 13 serving to lower the number of ultimate prosecutions.

Meanwhile, the Korean military has set August up as a special month to reduce sex crimes within the ranks; see my post Sex as Power in the South Korean Military for more background, and also this follow-up.

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5) Not unsurprisingly, a recent straw poll has shown that most teen mothers quit school. Also, the numbers of miscarriages and infertile couples are rising, as are the numbers of women drinking alcohol during pregnancy, and it probably doesn’t help that some old people are almost literally assaulting pregnant women for sitting in subway seats reserved for both of them either.

Perhaps the government response will again be to devise slogans to encourage childbirth, just like in Taiwan?

On the positive side though, the drama Nanun Jonsol Eeda (I am Legend; 나는전설이다) is currently providing a very positive portrayal of a young single mother. And for positive news in real life, see the New York Times for more on a group that is resisting the Korean stigma for unwed mothers.

6) I haven’t been following the inane “virtual marriages” of various celebrities on Korean variety shows in recent years, but hijinx at SeoulBeats notes that in one, Ga-in of the Brown Eyed Girls has yet to show her bare face to “husband” to Jo-kwon of 2AM, and says that apparently a lot of Korean women do go out of their way to always have make-up on when their boyfriends or even husbands see their faces. Which says a great deal about their relationships if true, but is it?

7) Unfortunately the video that spawned it has since been removed from YouTube, but still see Curiosity Killed The Eccentric Yoruba for a great post on relationships between African women and Korean men. And for more practical advice, also see The Three Wise Monkeys and Hot Yellow Fellows for why you can seem to be having a great relationship with a Korean guy…but then all of a sudden he may completely and inexplicably cut off all contact with you.

8) Not that he doesn’t still have a great body, but perhaps I was mistaken in thinking that singer Chang-min’s pecs had been badly photoshopped?

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9) I’ll let Lee’s review of Remembering Koryo, a fascinating book written by S.K. Chae, a Korean French adoptee, speak for itself:

The story of Korean adoption is highly complex and prone to being misunderstood. While I don’t claim to know the whole truth behind the scenes, I do know some things from my own experiences and have heard a lot more from interacting with others in the Korean adoptee community. Making claims for or against adoption is futile unless one first understands that each case is unique and that there are a multitude of societal forces at play.

Remembering Koryo follows the lives of a few Korean adoptees returning to Korea for various reasons. The stories are unique and colourful, easily understood by an adoptee like myself, but perhaps more unfamiliar to the average reader. To appreciate Remembering Koryo in a realistic context, one first needs to know a little more about Korean adoption in general.

Read the rest at Lee’s Korea Blog.

10)As pedotastic as some of us feared” says Extra! Korea of GP Basic’s new video, whom with an average age of just 15 years, are easily Korea’s youngest girlgroup. But is it as bad as that? Take a look for yourself below, and see my posts Reading “The Lolita Effect” in Korea and Ajosshis & Girls’ Generation: The Panic Interface of Korean Sexuality for some context, then two separate posts by hijinx at SeoulBeats here and here for a big debate among its readers:


21 thoughts on “Korean Gender Reader

  1. I don’t want Korea to become like Japan in terms of young-young-young girl groups with highly suspect promotional activities (just google AKB48) clogging up the media so it’d be nice if those GP Basic girls failed and went back to school, inspiring others do to the same. But on the other hand what that particular group is actually doing is fairly innocent, dancing around in fashionable clothes like kids would do. I mean, you can hardly make a music video without it! Justin Bieber has done more provocative stuff in his videos!

    Thanks for the link to that NY Times article. Interesting and freaky read, even though the actual news contained within is positive.


    1. I took a longer look at the NY Times article, and man…it’s good that the group has been established, but they’ve certainly got their work cut out for them. It’s harrowing hearing what unwed mothers have to put up with, and unfortunately extremely typical that the government claims to want to increase the birth rate, but only gives single mothers half the financial support it does to foster parents.

      As for the video, I didn’t watch much of it before getting bored, but all agreed, although I’d echo commenters on SeoulBeats that the producers could have thought of something a little more original than the a lite version of the dance moves in every other K-pop music video, and that they look more like young girls playing dress-up than “bad” or “edgy” or whatever they’re supposed to be in the video. Not that there’s anything wrong with that per se though, although only if it’s genuinely aimed at fulfilling the fantasies of girls that age group themselves rather 30 and 40-something ajosshis like Girls’ Generations’ explictily were, and whom weren’t that much older when they debuted.


  2. Also, funny thing is, one of the fake married couples on that show’s previous season ended up getting together ‘in real life’.


  3. Very interesting articles!!!

    It is unfortunate that the Shangai campaign started on a good idea but ended up spawning those accusations.

    I remember seeing those bunny headband trend on the catwalk, I wanted to do it but I have not the cute face to go with it.

    I am rather shocked to see ederly people behave so badly in society. Bad enough to go to jail! Based on what I read though, it seemed that most of the time (except for the pregnant women), the people were only sick… It’s rather hard to judge who should get the seat, someone with the flu or a senior citizen….

    The black woman/asian guy was interesting but as the author stated, I hoped we could have more actual couple we could use as example… I also think that asian men has this ideal of the pure innocent girl that doesn’t really mix well with how the media portrays black women.. I guess it depends on where you’re coming from.

    I am not really shocked by GP… I think people tend to forget that most of the idols started training around this age. I think they realized the potential teen idols could have (just see what Disney did in the USA). I wish them good luck.


    1. Do you live in Korea? I suspect not if you’re surprised by the behavior of the elderly people on the subway, as although the vast majority are fine there’s certainly a sizeable minority with a very deep-seated (no pun intended) sense of entitlement and privilege. And like the article says, unfortunately most people just let them have their way rather than confront them.


  4. apparently a lot of Korean women do go out of their way to always have make-up on when their boyfriends or even husbands see their faces. Which says a great deal about their relationships if true, but is it?

    Back in the 90s, I was told on a number of occasions by Koreans that a daughter-in-law living with her husband’s family would get up very early to put on her makeup before starting breakfast and other household chores. I was also told by a group of Korean men in their 30s that Western women appeared lazy because they did not put on makeup before leaving the house.

    I turned the teen group video off after 5 seconds because I couldn’t stand the noise, but there was nothing sexual about the clothing or the movements in the short portion that I viewed. That American girls’ dance troupe video I linked to previously was worse and the girls were years way from puberty.


  5. About GP Basic…what really alarms and annoys me to cringes in my face is the fact that all their beats SOUND THE SAME. Somebody’s got autotune, an electronic R&B beat, and English-peppered lyrics that make no sense.

    They are a Hearbreaker, no way, no way.


    1. Sorry, do you mean that the group as a whole sounds just the same as every other group, or that even though one member has autotune, one an electronic R&B beat, and one English-peppered lyrics that make no sense, they actually all sound just like each other?

      Actually I agree in both senses, although to play devil’s advocate them vis-a-vis the latter, like Mellowyel explains (at #5 here) having clearly differentiated personalities and/roles for members (however artificial) can actually be a good point of Korean bands, and least in regard to making them popular.


      1. I’ve often wondered, why this (fairly) recent trend of making up names for the individual members of groups? They all have such ridiculous “names,” I just don’t understand why it’s considered necessary. I understand why they have bad, nonsensical “English” lyrics, and why that helps create the desired image, but I don’t get why the made-up names are perceived to be an advantage.


  6. GP Basic are really wasting their childhood. As I remember, when I was 15 I was running around trying different sports and laugh my day off. As for them, over working themselves to achieve their dream. Achieving their dream is a good thing yet it will destroy the childhood. We in America think that Miley Cyrus grows up way too early, as for GP Basic I have nothing to say. They will totally regret this in the future especially they spend their one and only childhood making money.


    1. Agree and disagree. Yes, of course they’re wasting their childhoods, but considering how average Korean teenagers spend most of their free time at after school institutes, some of them only getting 5 hours of sleep a night (I’m NOT exaggerating), then even as older and wiser adults many of them might have rather been teen idols instead!


  7. I’ve been seeing the bunny ears around Jeollanam-do and Gwangju recently. Louis Vuitton put some out last fall, and I remember seeing a few women around Apgujeong wearing them — it may be a case of high-fashion stuff trickling down.


  8. Regarding the “fake” marriages, I think especially of late, the show WGM has become a way of idols “dating” safely, without worrying about anti-fans. Actually, to me, it fits right in with the trends in Korea of women marrying later and delayed adulthood that I’ve read about on your site. Idols in their twenties go through the motions of being a couple without having the burdens of a real relationship.

    And I think there was some photoshopping going on in Chang-min’s picture as one of his nipples seem blurred. I read your article in regards to it and I think I can say with some assurance, being a major fan of k-pop and American rap and hip hop, that although Korean still loves its pretty boys, a more masculine and beastly image ala 2pm has become popular.

    2am basically went through a make-over from their previous album from last year, Changmin losing the glasses and all of 2am members developing abs. They also went from being a group that mostly sang ballads to more K-pop music, in which they actually had to do some dancing in. This change in image resulted in much more success for the group, and the new and improved Chang-min, who became the showcase body for the group.

    To me, the hands over crotch is merely Korea’s way of following the trends of American hip hop or rap which routinely feature crotch grabbing. Like the rich kids who follow urban trends, Korea is simply adopting Western trends, albeit late. As usual.


  9. (English dubbed)

    Thought you’d like this one.
    Kinda envy you because you often sound like the proverbial cat that got the cream, heh..


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