Korean Gender Reader


1) Kiss of the Spider Woman (거미연인의 키스) comes to Korea

From HanCinema:

A Korean version of “Kiss of the Spider Woman“, a theatrical adaptation of Argentine playwright Manuel Puig’s novel, will take to the stage from Feb. 11 to April 24.

Set in a cell in Buenos Aires in 1976, the play revolves around two inmates _ the revolutionary Valentin and homosexual Molina. The play has sparked controversy over the relationship between the two main characters, but it has been widely produced in film and musical form. The musical version swept seven Tony Awards in 1992, receiving rave reviews both from critics and fans.

Lee Ji-na directs the Korean adaptation. She has built her reputation with the play “The Vagina Monologues” and musicals “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and “Gwanghwanmun Yeonga”. “I will create new characters suited to each actor”, said Lee.

2) Fatherhood in the ROK

Over at Busan Haps, writer and father Roy Early talks about the challenges of raising a kid abroad; which as I can personally attest to, are (usually) much greater than raising a child at home.

See also Oh, Baby! by Daegu Pocket’s Craig White.

3) How to deal with ajoshi, or middle-aged Korean men

Found via her recent column in the New York Times on the shortage of single men there, how can one not love Patricia Park’s observations about Korean life:

All day I patiently swallow the comments ajoshi make about my appearance, my bad Korean (even though, ironically, we can carry on whole conversations in the language and we understand each other 100%), how ethnic Koreans who move to America are “living the good life” (aka they sold out), or how I should be able to buy the more expensive item because I am “rich” because I am from America. The taxi ajoshi grumble about how you (as the customer) inefficiently stood on the wrong side of the street and so they are forced to do a U-turn. They get mad if you are going somewhere (still in central Seoul) that they don’t feel like going.

At night, all that piled up frustration gets released in the drunken cab ride back to my apt, and there have been moments where I have shouted back things like: “Eat well and live well!” (the K-equivalent to “F— you”), “I’m writing down your ID# to report you to the authorities!”, “Why else do you think Korean men have fallen in popularity?” and just, simply, “Why are you so mean?”

Needless to say, these tactics hardly work, and they only alienate you from the ajoshi. I learned this the hard way. I’m still learning; I’m still pissing off ajoshi who piss me off left and right. Because even though my father is an ajoshi, forty years of living in America has softened him up and he lets his children have opinions about things. But hopefully you can learn from my mistakes with the following tutorial.

For that tutorial, by no means only relevant for Korean-American women, see her blog New Yorker in Seoul here. Also, see here for why you might find landlords refusing to rent to you in areas with lots of coffeeshops and sooljeep (술집)!

4) Organization helps single moms

The Wall Street Journal interviews Dr. Richard Boas, who started and funds the Korean Unwed Mothers Support Network.

Also, see #12 here for another interview just after he founded it in early 2009.

5) People Who Eat Darkness: The Fate of Lucie Blackman by Richard Lloyd Parry

A review from the Economist:

EVERY foreign correspondent has stories that get under his or her skin—the ones for which the only hope of securing enough column-inches is to write a book. For Richard Lloyd Parry, who has spent 15 years in Tokyo for two British newspapers, the Independent and then the Times, it was one which linked his homeland with his adopted home: the death of Lucie Blackman, a 21-year-old Briton who was killed in Japan in 2000.

All of the review is interesting, but these last parts in particular caught my eye:

…shocking are the failings of the policing and judicial system. Mr Lloyd Parry partly blames the prejudices of the Japanese police about the foreign women who work in the [hostess] trade for their failure for so long to catch a serial rapist who used chloroform and knockout drugs to subdue his victims and filmed himself raping them…(source, above)

“People Who Eat Darkness” may fuel a Western prejudice that Mr Lloyd Parry himself tries to counter: that such crimes are peculiarly “Japanese”—perpetrated by desperate, repressed men infatuated with a myth about Caucasian sexual availability. Already, her case is often confused with the rape and murder of another British woman, Lindsay Hawker, in 2007. But in fact, violent crime is far rarer in Japan than elsewhere. The “Japaneseness” may lie in the illusion of safety which induced the two women to let their guard down. It is not Japan that is weird and terrifying, nor is it the Japanese alone who “eat darkness”; it is simply “people”.

Fortunately no comparable Korean cases quickly come to mind, but then there are definitely similar myths about Caucasian women here, and as I type I can vaguely recall something about the death of a female English teacher(?) in Itaewon at about the same time that also wasn’t investigated properly (but not to be confused with this case). Does anybody know more about that ?

6) Why the crackdown on “Kiss Rooms” (키스방)?

In a follow-up to the last article on them (see #5 here), Asian Correspondent explains why the owners of these brothels are only being prosecuted for their advertising, not for what goes on inside them.


7) Korean lesbian film Ashamed (창피해) plays at Berlin International Festival

While the film “pushes the envelope for same-sex eroticism, a narrative first in South Korean cinema” according to Variety, surprisingly I can find little information about it in English other than this synopsis at Dramabeans, and this (albeit interesting) comment at Asian Media Wiki. Can anybody add anything?

8) Most divorcees dodge child support payments

Some basic, albeit shocking figures from the Chosun Ilbo:

Some 64 percent of divorcees ordered by a court to pay child support fail to do so, government statistics show. And of them, 70.4 percent fall behind out of spite rather than because they do not have the money…

…countries like Sweden and Germany try to avoid such problems by making the government pay first and then collect the money from the divorced parent.

Does anyone know how these compare internationally?

(“Some forms of prostitution – in particular [these] ‘pan pan’ teenage amateurs – were the direct result of the presence of GIs as sources of income and images of liberation.” Source)

9) Feminism and the Cold War in the U.S. Occupation of Japan, 1945 – 1952

An essential article for anyone looking at the origins of the current “Yellow Fever”  stereotype, and which I’m sure has many parallels to the Korean experience after the Korean War:

It was within this context of the American project to civilize and democratize a racially inferior other that Japanese women as gendered subjects emerged as centrally important figures. Seen by the occupation authorities as victims for centuries of “Oriental male chauvinism,” Japanese women embodied feudal tradition, backwardness, and lack of civilization. As helpless women of color, they became ideal candidates for American salvation and emancipation. The occupier’s zeal for liberation of Japanese women from indigenous male domination was all-consuming and multifaceted. MacArthur granted suffrage to Japanese women and praised their “progress” under U.S. tutelage as setting an example for the world. Other male occupiers “emancipated” Japanese women by initiating various constitutional and legal changes and policies. Following a familiar colonial trope of heterosexual rescue and romance, some American men expressed their desire to save Japanese women in more personal ways: Earnest Hoberecht, a correspondent for United Press International, advocated kissing as a path to liberation’ Raymond Higgins, the military governor stationed in Hiroshima, married his Japanese maid to “save” her from the aftermath of the atomic bomb and her abusive husband.

Read more at Japan Focus.

10) A Shanghai Scrap Valentine’s Day Exclusive Interview: East-West Relations(hip) Blogging with Shanghai Shiok!

In Shanghai Scrap’s own words:

Well. It has long been my observation that some of the best and most trenchant observations on East-West relations come from those who have – or have had – East-West relations. Which is to say: you might just have a keener appreciation for the different ways in which China and, say, the United States resolve differences if you’re an American who’s had to resolve who gets to do the dishes with your Chinese partner. Obviously, there’s limits to this kind of wisdom, but you sort of get my point. The regrettable thing, though, is that this kind of thinking is seriously devalued, if not outright ignored, by most so-called “serious” thinkers about China and the West (many of whom are in such relationships).

So today, Valentine’s Day, Shanghai Scrap is going to strike a blow in favor of changing that. Enter Christine H. Tan [above], author of the relatively new but already much celebrated Shanghai Shiok! blog to discuss East-West relation(ship) blogs…

Meanwhile, I know of and have linked to many Korean-Western relationship blogs here, but I confess I’ve lost track since writing this magazine article on the subject last year. Does anybody know of a convenient list of them somewhere?


8 thoughts on “Korean Gender Reader

  1. With a little digging I found this source on child support payments in the US:


    “Among custodial parents with a child support award, the percentage who received full payment of all support owed them in the previous year increased from 37 percent in 1994 to 47 percent in 2007. The share who received partial payment has declined from 40 to 30 percent. The percentage of custodial parents who were owed support but received no payment remained relatively stable between 1994 and 2007, ranging from 24 to 26 percent.

    Between 1994 and 2007 the percentage of custodial parents who had a support award has fluctuated between a high of 60 percent (in 2003) and a low of 54 percent (in 2007).

    A primary reason for the increase is rigorous enforcement through court-ordered garnishing of wages and denial of passports to parents behind on child support payments. As noted in the source, child support conflicts with public assistance. Poorer mothers are better off financially seeking welfare rather than going after the father for support. While means-tested benefits are a well-intended safety net, they have also somewhat replaced the provider role of the father, who is often little more than a sperm donor. Would poor women make the same mating and fertility choices if the state did not guarantee support for any children they bear? Call me old-fashioned, but I feel sad when a child at my school tells me, “I don’t have a dad.”

    In the US, there is one group of children whose mothers have little chance of ever collecting support: children with undocumented immigrant parents. Fathers without valid Social Security numbers, often using aliases and fake IDs, are virtually impossible to track down. At my school are children whose fathers ran off and left their mothers with sole responsibility for raising the children and providing for the family, a task made more difficult by the fact that the mother and any children not born in the US do not qualify for any federal public assistance and no state assistance either in my state. If and when there is ever a second amnesty, I want provisions to ensure that these deadbeat dads never get papers. One way to achieve this is to limit eligibility to illegal immigrants brought here as children and custodial parents or noncustodial parents who can document financial support. An adult by himself and not supporting a family here doesn’t need a green card anyway.


    1. I have to dissagree with your characterization of why poor women in the US would prefer welfare to child support. If I were in a position where income was precarious, I’m sure I too would much prefer a consistent but low income over one that was much more dubious in terms of consistency and amount. Also, your analysis ignores that fact that in order to be able to get child support in the first place, you have to be able to have the time, money, and knowledge to access the court system. You have to have proof of paternity, and be able to file the proper legal paperwork to make the claim and then hope he has an income to contribute in the first place. You have to hope he doesn’t just dissapear. And again, I don’t think women are making choices about their reproductive status based on the idea that they’ll get a fat welfare check. Poor women experience unintended pregnancy more often because they don’t have the same access to birth control as women who are better off.


      1. Social Services is only too glad to help women file for child support. The woman does not have to prove paternity. The court can request a DNA test from the male the woman is filing against. Medicaid covers most common forms of birth control, so I don’t know why poor women wouldn’t have sufficient access to avoid unwanted pregnancies. In most states, minors can get contraception without parental consent, too. I don’t think poor women deliberately get pregnant to collect a check. I do think the decision-making process is different between a woman already on assistance or in a neighborhood where many are versus a woman who is financially self-sufficient. The former get an increase in benefits while the latter must budget to accommodate the new family member. Public benefits do not provide an incentive to having a baby. Rather, they remove a disincentive against having a baby. A distinction with a difference.

        The women with the least access to birth control are undocumented immigrant women. Among these women, I see some with only one or two children and some with four or more. It’s possible that the women with few children have fertility problems. It’s also possible that they use birth control effectively to limit family size. According to our Spanish-speaking parent liaison, there are family planning resources accessible to Spanish-speaking undocumented immigrants ineligible for Medicaid-funded birth control.


  2. The murder you’re thinking of is of Jamie Penich in 2001, an exchange student (see here). There was also a female American English teacher killed in 1988 by a female American co-worker. It’s an interesting story – I’ll probably post about it in the near future.


    1. Thanks very much for that, and I look forward to the post.

      Thanks also Sonagi and Gomushin Girl. I don’t really have anything to add to your conversation sorry, but it’s been interesting reading.


  3. when you as well as other bloggers talk about western women and sexuality you actually are talking about white women and sexuality.

    not all western women or men for that matter are white


    1. If you’d written that on a post where I’d made such a generalization, then I’d concede that you had a point, but here I don’t whatsoever. Not only did you clearly not even read the post you’re criticizing then, but you seem to have a definite chip on your shoulder about White bloggers. Please take it elsewhere.



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