Korean Gender Reader


1) Cuban Boyfriend playing in theaters

According to HanCinema, it’s a documentary about a Cuban man who falls in love with a Korean woman 10 years his senior. Unfortunately there’s little information available about it in English, but it does looks interesting.

2) Economic burdens prompting Koreans to delay marriage

3) Mandatory 3-hour training class for Korean men importing Asian brides


4) Advice to male idols: don’t you dare avoid your military service!

Roboseyo discusses actor and singer Hyun Bin’s (현빈) decision to join the marines for his 24 months of compulsory military service, unlike most entertainers who prefer comfortable military PR-type positions.

But celebrities aside, Korea has 250,000 ordinary men conscripted each year, and this has a profound effect on Korean life. For more on that, see here, here, and here.

5) Picture of Day: ROK Army Female Cadets Head Out for Training

Like it says, its just a picture (source), but one commenter over at ROK Drop raised some interesting points about it:

ROK women in the military? Big deal. FYI, they’ve been serving alongside their male counterparts ever since 1948. The embarrassingly unjustified attention these Sookdae chicks are getting just b/c they’re in the first women’s ROTC outfit is disgraceful. Korean women have been getting commissions through OCS since the Korean War, the ROK service academies since 1998, and are serving in all ranks and branches (excluding Armor, Artillery and ADA) for decades. (Also, the reason they look so cute in their BDU’s is b/c the Gender Equality Ministry many years ago forced the Defense Ministry to provide tailored utilities specifically cut for women — e.g., female BDU pants have a more flattering cut around the hips, and micro-sizes they offer are small enough to qualify for junior misses or girls’ sizes back in the U.S.)

I disagree about some of the details about that last: the uniforms for women were only first tested last September (and won’t be fully introduced until July), and there’s no evidence to suggest that the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family Affairs (여성가족부) was originally behind the decision (see #2 here).

But although less then 1% of Korean soldiers are women, I have no reason to doubt that they’ve been serving for over 60 years, so the commenter is right to query the attention. And recall that The Chosun Ilbo is notorious for finding literally any excuse to post pictures of women and girls!

6) CEO of entertainment agency charged for sexually harassing a trainee

For the details, see allkpop, and see here and here for some context. Meanwhile, in other crime-related stories, Korea Beat reports that a serial child-molester was let off lightly by a judge for quitting his teaching job. And on the plus-side, albeit prompted by a tragic event, Global Voices passes on the news that:

A posting by the mother of the victim has mobilized net users to file an online petition and drawn media attention to a questionable murder case. The mother claimed her daughter was beaten to death while resisting being raped. The police has decided to reinvestigate the case.

7) Who are all these White chicks?

I’m no Picasso adds her insights to Mixtapes and Linear Notes’ post on G-Dragon (지드래곤) and T.O.P.’s recent High High music video.


8) Who are all these fat chicks?

And in turn, Hot Yellow Fellows does to my own on the “Piggy Dolls”  (피기돌스). Whom, in addition to everything else, now netizens are also calling too old-looking.

9) Hating the Korean Wave (NSFW)

I’ll let SeoulBeats summarize this one (The Marmot’s Hole also has a little on it):

Netizens have been in an uproar over a Japanese internet manga, created by otakus, which fetishizes a rather unflattering side of the Hallyu Wave that has recently invaded Japan.

The story is told by a fictional former Korean pop idol, working as a hostess, who gives an expose about the “real” inner workings of the K-pop industry to a journalist. The comic presents the Korean entertainment industry as extremely manipulative and seedy in which female idols are forced to give sexual favors to their bosses and their coworkers for fame. In the comic both SNSD and KARA are accused of performing such favors.The manga features highly sexualized images of SNSD and KARA members performing their hit songs “Genie” and “Mister.” Poor KARA has even been drawn performing naked.

10) New Gisaeng Story (신기생뎐) premieres this weekend


And for more on gisaeng (기생), the Korean equivalent of geisha, see here and here.


12 thoughts on “Korean Gender Reader

  1. Gender related – maybe, maybe not, but speaking of suing entertainment companies, three of five KARA members have split from DSP and are suing them over gruelling schedules, lack of communication and, according to some reports, lousy pay for their Japanese success activities. This is arguably the 2nd biggest girl group in Korea, not any old rookie, and it’ll be interesting, as with TVXQ, to see how the lawsuit will affect the industry. DSP is not as powerful as SM Ent (TVXQ’s company) and basically don’t earn money on any other artists at the moment.

    Except for 2 of them staying behind, I take it as good news, standing up to what is no doubt unfairly hard work conditions. If they win in court, anyway. There’s something to be said for doing this at the peak of your career, as well. Maybe other company CEOs are getting nervous seeing these news, and rightly so.


    1. Oh, it’s still very interesting thanks, but I heard it was just leader Gyuri (see here and here) that hadn’t split from DSP (yet, I’d wager). But either way, yeah, it’ll be very interesting to see what comes of it, especially given that right now they’re at the forefront of the burgeoning 2nd Korean wave in Japan and all.

      Surprised it took them so long to be frank, but like you say, the timing probably couldn’t be better in many respects. And jeez…only $3000 each from all of their Japanese activities??? Heck, even I make more money that that!


      1. The lawyers for the three are further alleging that (a) DSP tricked the members into signing the Japanese contract and then refused to allow them to read it, (b) DSP created a shell company to divert the members’ shares of the revenue from Japanese releases and (c) DSP’s executive director personally owns the Karaya online clothing store and has given jobs at Karaya to her relatives.

        The thought occurs to me that disputes between K-Pop artists and companies are more or less bound to involve lawsuits because the companies are in the position of both agent and employer. The artists do not have agents who work for them and represent their interests. The only option they have for resolving a diisagreement with the company is to get a lawyer and fire off a lawsuit.


      2. Mr.Turnbull, I’ve been reading your blog for a while and i was wondering if you would be willing to do an article on JYJ vs SM ent. I think this case really brings the darker issues in KPOP to light and seems to be right be up your alley.

        If you’re interested this site has a lot of intelligently written articles about the issue. Some of the articles are written for the fans but the ones concerning the legal aspects of the case might be more interesting to a casual reader like yourself: http://thejyjfiles.wordpress.com/

        As an international JYJ fan it saddens me to see that they’ve been blocked from promoting their music simply because they decided to go against the status quo. International fans like me are writing letters to the Korean Government but if you would write an article it might make a bigger impact

        I know your taste in kpop runs in the direction of girl groups but these boys are AMAZING LIVE and can sing acappella.
        check it out:

        If you would consider it me and another million or so fans would be truly thankful!!


        1. Thanks for drawing my attention to this. As you’re probably aware, I’m very interested in censorship issues, and so did hear about it when it the whole thing first started, but it was very much in the back of my mind by this stage.

          I’ll look more closely at the blog and think about writing a post of my own then, but to be honest I probably won’t sorry. It’s not just that I’m busy (although I do have a lecture in Seoul to give in March, a book chapter to finish by April, and a conference in California to present at in May!), but more that – other than these KGR posts – I really prefer to write about topics that haven’t been done so already, or at least not the perspective that I’d hope to give to the subject, as it’s really really demotivating writing under the knowledge that things would be so much easier for your readers if they just left your own blog and read what’s already been written elsewhere. Add the fact that decent posts on serious topics take sooo much more time than they probably look too, then it’s unlikely I’d ever get started really.

          Sorry it’s a no then. But I’m now subscribing to the blog at least, and will certainly keep thinking about it.


          1. Thank you for taking the time to reply to the post. I feel glad that atleast one more person will be aware of their situation.
            Its not just about censorship though, these boys until the end of 09 had been sleeping 4 hours a day for 6 years, and do not even have the rights to the songs they composed and received a measly sum for earning close to a billion dollars in revenue for their companies
            The sunbae-hoobae culture and its almost blind respect for authority in korea also seems to effecting the situation. The Korean entertainment industry has learnt nothing from the death of Jung Ja Yeon. The time for change is now. These boys have the largest fanbase the world over even though we have stayed mostly latent and it is only now that we are beginning to make a combined international effort to change their situation.
            Love your blog!


  2. Props to Hyun Bin for taking the hard road when he doesn’t have to, although the concept of mandatory military service, and what it does to a society, really disturbs me.

    I just wanted to say that I’ve been reading your blog on and off for a while now, and I absolutely love it! I knew nothing about Korea or Korean culture before I stumbled upon Korean dramas a couple of years ago, after which I really become interested in the country and people. Your blog has provided a wealth of information and insight, and all of your posts are so eloquent and entertaining! Thank you for many hours of pleasurable and eye-opening reading. :)


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