Korean Gender Reader


1) Sunny (써니) Now Playing in Theaters

And all about girl power, according to Dramabeans. Judging by the trailer, my first impression is of a comic version of the excellent Take Care of my Cat (2001; 고양이를 부탁해).

Meanwhile, does anybody know of any similar coming-of-age movies for guys? Other than the violent and overrated Friend (2001; 친구) or pornographic Plum Blossom (2000; 청춘) that is?

2) May 11th was 6th Annual Adoption Day in Korea

See Ask a Korean! for the details. Also, Korea Real Time has more on the controversy created by soon to be aired commercials encouraging more domestic adoption.

Update: Yesterday was also the first Korean Single Moms’ Day, Busan Haps had a good photo-essay on adoption last month, and the Korean Unwed Mothers Support Network has translated a December article on how unwed mothers are not necessarily poor, but society ultimately forces them to become so.

3) Only Foreign Staff Made to Attend Sexual Harassment Seminar at Korean University

After all, it was actually a Korean professor that was fired for having a sexual relationship with one of his students, so I’m sure you can see the logic. What’s more, the seminar was given by a completely unqualified speaker too, according to blogger Supplanter clearly both uncomfortable with and clueless about the subject he was presenting.

Ironically, the very next week after enduring that, Supplanter himself would be accused of sexual harassment at his local swimming pool.

4) A Normal Night Out in Seoul?

See Banana Milk to learn more about it. Call me sentimental and/or trying to (mentally) relive my twenties, but I subscribe to a lot of Seoul social, fashion, nightclubbing, and/or dance-music sites like it (in particular, M.S Photography always has *ahem* very interesting pictures), and am thoroughly jealous of people unencumbered by kids that get to actually enjoy it!

Speaking of which, tomorrow Paul Van Dyk will be performing in Seoul, only…sigh…10 years too late. See 10Magazine for the details.


5) Ending Bias Against White Male and Asian Female Couples

Like Shanghai Shiok! says:

Women with a preference for black men get a thumbs up. Women with a preference for Asian men get a thumbs up. Women with a preference for Middle Eastern men get a thumbs up. Women with a preference for white men get a thumbs down. Generally true?

Unfortunately, yes, and it took a lot of persuasion from her readers to get her to open the comments on that post!

6) “Prostitution Thrives on Twisted Entertainment Culture”

While I don’t mean to sound facetious, particularly not in light of seven bar hostesses committing suicide since last July, this is an unusually good article on the subject for the otherwise appalling Korea Times, and I look forward to reading more articles from author  Kim Tae-jong (see Extra! Korea also).

7) Korea: Sex Criminals Easily Become Taxi Drivers

Again I don’t mean to sound facetious, but, like Asian Correspondent explains, the fact that taxi-driving is one of the few occupations open to ex-convicts in Korea does explain a lot about their wild reputation.


8) Desert: A Movie About Kiwi-Asian Marriages

If you’re living in Auckland, New Zealand, make sure to see Desert while you still can. First shown at PIFF last year, it:

…reveals the untold story behind many Kiwi-Asian marriages….Based on real life events, Desert follows the story of Jenny, a young pregnant Asian girl living in Auckland who is left to fend for herself; when she is abandoned by her Kiwi boyfriend just before they are about to get married. Jenny is rejected by her Asian community for getting pregnant to a westerner out of wed-lock and after unsuccessfully searching for her run away boyfriend; she is forced to look inside herself to find a positive solution for her and her unborn baby.

Jenny’s story is a reality for the growing number of Asian women in New Zealand. The Asia NZ Foundation recently recorded that there are 26 per cent more Asian women than Asian men, aged 25 to 49, living in New Zealand and nearly a quarter came to New Zealand to get married. [Director Stephen Kang’s] inspiration for the film came from observing the struggles facing many Asian women living in New Zealand and Desert is the first film of its kind to give a platform and voice to these common challenges and personal stories.

While I take exception to the title of the article that that’s from, the movie itself sounds really interesting, and you can see its Facebook page for more details, interviews, and a trailer. There’s also its webpage of course, but unfortunately the designers made a big mistake not providing a mute button(!),  and the trailer should really have been uploaded onto YouTube too.

9) The Changing Face of Cosmetic Surgery

As always, South Koreans have the highest rate of cosmetic surgeries per person in the world, but an increasing number of people receiving them are from China and Japan: 80,000 per year in fact, with many of the most famous clinics reporting 20% growth rates in their numbers of medical tourists.

As The Economist notes, Korea is a “nation that often struggles to attract foreign visitors, [so] it is hardly surprising that the authorities have begun actively encouraging this trade. It is now aiming at a target of 400,000 such visitors in 2015”.

The author BTW, also has a fine Korean blog of his own here.

10) Skirting the Issue

For those few of you that don’t know by now, a local education board in Gangwon-do is confronting the “issue” of female school students wearing shorter and shorter skirts by…spending $700,000 installing new desks with boards to stop teachers and male students being distracted by them.

For much more on this, see (in no particular order): Gusts of Popular Feeling; the BBC; Extra! Korea; and BusanHaps. But in particular, see Michael Hurt’s comments on Facebook here (roughly the 12th down), who notes the glaring absence of the opinions of the girls themselves in most discussions.


12 thoughts on “Korean Gender Reader

  1. oh dear, I’m in that placjeans video ^^
    I don’t know if you remember me through some comments, but I’ve been following your blog for a while now (from Germany). Love your blog and congrats on your facebook page! Finally :)


  2. RE: 5) Um . . . ok, I understand that Asian Female/Caucasian Male couples often do not have a walk in the park, and do suffer from discrimination and harrassment. Really, I do. But other couples of mixed ethnicity DO NOT get a happy “thumbs up” from the rest of the world, either. Really, we don’t. If you’re “lucky” you get to be invisible, and when you’re not, it’s not like the attention is terribly flattering.


    1. Good point, and perhaps saying relationships like your own get a “happy thumbs up” is overstating the case. But on the other hand, at least you surely don’t receive quite the same level of vitriol over the internet that Asian female – Caucausian male couples do (this post of mine being a mild illustration of that)?


      1. There’s certainly lots of online vitriol over the AF/WM coupling, but if you look in the right places you’ll see plenty of hatred directed at other sorts of pairings. Hell, just look at Dave’s ESL cafe when western women ask about dating locals and see the kind of trash that gets spewed out. Look at what people say on the tumbler Korean dating blogs. Look at sites that talk about blacks dating other races. I think that the impression that there’s more opposition to AF/WM online comes from the sites that we visit as expats here in Korea, and the fact that because there’s been more of these couples and they’re more visible, we hear more about them. Certainly white men on the Korean blog scene have not been shy about talking about their own negative experiences, which makes it more possible to talk about it and sympathyze and hear more awful stores, eventually cementing in people’s minds that this is the typical couple and these are their typical problems.

        But what’s really happening in many cases is that other kinds of pairings are invisible or silenced within the Korean blogs. Just read INP’s account of starting to date Korean men (start here: http://imnopicasso.blogspot.com/2010/10/myth-part-i-before-korea-sleeping-with.html#more and read through – especially III and IV and the comments). Other couples are erased and face hostility when speaking out online.

        I can tell you that as a white woman dating a Korean man, I’ve seen many an attempt to police our sexuality here, because we’re performing it “wrong” by dating Korean men while living here in Korea. Both in real life and online – that’s one reason for the ugly, fat, selfish white woman trope you’ll see on Daves.

        But if you step outside the Korean blogosphere, you’ll see plenty of other kinds of vile hatred shown to all kinds of couples that don’t date “appropriately” within their race. I had a college friend who was constantly harrassed by strangers, “well-meaning” friends and even her own family because she was dating a Jordanian, and surely he was going to make her convert and go around veiled before kidnapping her to Jordan and humiliating her with a parade of younger, newer wives.

        I don’t mean to diminish the wrongs that are inflicted on AW/WM couples – but it’s prominence is partially the result of the particular area and population we’re in, and partially because other couples are made invisible by the discrimination against them.


        1. Ack! As I was on the subway this morning I suddenly remembered that post by INP at least, and realized that I had to completely rethink my comment, along the lines you’ve written above. I’ve been dying to rewrite it ever since, but my classes only just finished. Grrr…you beat me!


          1. Agreed. Completely short-sighted comment there. Also, what’s not being taken into account is the sexism involved, re: the idea that men conquer and women are conquered. The reason why a certian kind of Korean will take issue with a white man dating a Korean woman, and not the other way around, is the simple idea that a white man is conquering a Korean woman, and a Korean man is coquering a white woman. Korean men get high fives and thumbs up because of sexism — not because of a lack of racism.


          2. Hmmm….well, please forgive me if I sound thin-skinned, but I think it’s a little harsh to call my comment (or Shanghai Shiok’s?) “completely short-sighted” – like Gomushin Girl said, because of the nature of the Korean English-language blogosphere (and I imagine Chinese one) it’s very easy to get the impression that “there’s more opposition to AF/WM online” than vice-versa, and there’s also blatant discrimination against the former in the Korean media to consider. But I certainly stand corrected (so to speak), and won’t make such assumptions or generalizations in the future.

            On the other hand, sorry to nitpick, but although I completely agree with you about the role of sexism, I don’t really understand why you say it’s “not being taken into account” – not being taken into account by who exactly, and how does it contradict any of what Shanghai Shiok or I have said? Indeed, it’s actually the first thing that comes to mind whenever I think about negative reactions to interracial couples, and if anything it would seem to suggest that there would indeed be more of a bias against AF/WM couple than vice-versa.

            (Update: Have no idea how I ended-up writing something so formal-sounding(!), and in hindsight I guess neither one of us did actually mention that issue. So thanks for raising it then, although my point about the ensuing bias still stands!)


          3. It’ short-sighted because it’s only viewed from a single perspective. The Korean blogosphere is a very small place. Telling a white woman dating a black man in the southern US that her relationship gets a “thumbs up” while AF/WM pairings do not is really, really short-sighted.

            The general idea of what she has written is a really important and very true one. Within the confines of our particular reality. But especially highlighting that particular quote is bound to raise the dander of anyone in an interracial couple in any other place. In Asian society, that particular combination is more offensive — that’s true. But even within this singular reality, I’d hate to see what a black woman dating an Asian man in Asia would have to say about the idea that every other combination gets a “thumbs up”. Less of a thumbs down, maybe. And an Asian woman dating a black man? A thumbs up? In Asia? Really? Ask any number of Asian parents if they’d rather see their daughter date a white or a black man. The best you could hope for would be a “neutral”. I’m sure of that.


          4. I have very mixed feelings about the original piece, and while I feel for her situation and feel it absolutely wrong for people to treat the couple badly, it seems incredibly short sighted to think that if she as an Asian American in China were to date, say, a black guy or somebody of Arab descent or a hispanic man that she would somehow be accepted more readily than with her white boyfriend. In a weird way, it’s a very “white priveledged” post.

            For the record, it’s not wrong of her to complain about mistreatement based on the racial composition of her partnership. We all have the right to point out BS, especially when it’s directed to us. Where she goes wrong is assuming that she and her BF are targeted more severely or more often *compared to other couples of mixed ethnicity.* She goes too far when she talks about the “thumbs up.”


          5. Sorry for the delay – busy weekend with an out of town wedding and preparing for an overseas conference and all – but thanks very much for your replies, and I’ve certainly learned a lot about what it’s (really) like for AM-WF couples from them.


  3. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    WHY didn’t I know about the film “Desert”???? I’m SO mad at myself for not knowing about this earlier, do you know if they’re going to release a DVD?! I feel very obliged (and interested) to watch this!!!!!!!!


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