Korean Gender Reader


1) Why smart Korean girls can’t find guys

In a nutshell, because there’s not enough of them with the same level of education, as this comprehensive report from the Joongang Daily makes clear. Call it a side-effect of the number of women in universities doubling over the last 10 years (at least in Seoul).

Lest foreign readers also give up on ever finding a Korean man though, I’m No Picasso (posting at Ask a Korean!) has a lot of sage advice on how to do so, and then Suzy Chung at The Korea Blog provides a rundown of all the coupley things you have to in Korea do once you’re successful.

For those not in Korea, please consult Ask a Korean! again, who also has two posts on interracial dating from an American perspective.

2) Sexual assault on the rise in Seoul

For the details, see The Three Wise Monkeys here, to which Michael Hurt of Scribblings of the Metropolitican adds that it’s good that the Korean press is finally noticing. Unfortunately however, the news from Asian Correspondent that police harassment of a sexual harassment victim drove her to attempt suicide isn’t a good sign, nor that a rape victim successfully did so after being insulted by the judge (although this latter may actually be a fabrication by the Korean media).

Meanwhile, The Marmot’s Hole reports that sexual harassment of female teachers by students is also a big (and increasing) problem.


3) Finally, a female singer for my daughters look up to!

Like Busan Haps says, what’s not to like about Velvet Geena, and I’ll direct you to her interview there post haste.

After you’ve read that, contrast the role model one of Korea’s “official” female idols is providing, which apparently involves starving oneself:

4) Korea’s skincare obsession

Hey, I’ve said it myself many times myself, but then I’m a fat, bald, white guy that doesn’t exactly scream “skincare expert” to most. Hearing it from an actual model though, then I think I can now rest my case(!):

Growing up in Sweden, I have learned that the best way to take care of your skin is to eat healthy food, drink a lot of water, not to smoke or drink too much alcohol, and to protect your skin from too much sun. Even if it’s good to use moisturizer and other sorts of skin care products, that’s not the most important thing. Furthermore, how your skin changes with age also has to do with genetics, and that you cannot control.

In Korea, and I don’t quite know why that is, people seem to think that the most important thing is to use the right skin care products…

Read the rest at Noona Blog: Seoul here.


5) Kim Yu-na drinks!

No, really!

6) My abortion in Korea

As you probably know, I’ve written a lot about abortion in Korea, particularly the Lee Myung-bak administration’s decision to criminalize it in order to raise Korea’s world-low birthrate (yes, really). But still, nothing compares to Melissa Salvatore’s description of going through the process of getting one here:

This is a story of my experience with abortion as an expat in Busan, South Korea. I understand this is a controversial issue, and I am neither trying to encourage nor discourage abortion to other women. I simply want to use my story as an example of having this experience here and to provide other women with options and resources available to them. It is said that abortion is one of the loneliest experiences a woman can ever go through. I want women here to know that they are not alone, and have support.

Read on at Koreabridge.

7) Actress’s support draws public attention to female laborer’s fight

Likewise something that deserves to be much better known (source, right):

Actress Kim Yoh-jin’s open support of a female labor activist is drawing fresh public attention on the otherwise unnoticed struggle the laborer stages on a 35-meter-high crane in a shipyard in the southeastern part of the country.

Kim’s appeal for the union member is pitting netizens and civic groups against the police and management of the company.

The 39-year-old actress is making headlines almost daily as she is not only actively expressing her opinions through Twitter on a number of sensitive social issues but by actually visiting strike locations where various struggles are taking place as well.

Read the rest at the Korea Times here, and kudos to Kim Rahn for drawing attention to it.

Update 1: For further information and updates, see the Three Wise Monkeys here.

Update 2: Evan Ramstad provides an alternative, much less positive view of the protest here.

8) Ask not what Korea can do for Mini Han…

From subject object verb:

In [the June 4] edition of OhmyNews.com, Michael Hurt…contributed an excellent piece (titled “‘Korean Beauty’ Wins International Competition Only To Be Cast Aside By Korea”) on Mini Han (한민희), who won the 2010 Miss Internaional Queen pageant. He uses the pageant to raise awareness about the still widely held attitude of prejudice and fear regarding non-heteronormative sexual identity in Korea.

Speaking of Michael, let me pass on a belated congratulations for the launching of the Yahae! fashion magazine!


9) And you thought I was exaggerating about the abysmal state of sex-education here…

Okay, maybe not you specifically! But to anyone that did, let me point them in the direction of 유♥웃’s boyfriend’s friend’s first sexual experience.

Update: With thanks, here and here are more examples passed on to me by From Noona With Love.

10) Yonsei University students on sex and the media

Last but not least, the English-language Korean blogosphere can never have enough input from Koreans themselves. See here, here, and here for their opinions on sex stereotypes in the Korean media; the media’s effects on women’s body images; and overlooked sexism in the media respectively!


17 thoughts on “Korean Gender Reader

  1. About #9, that first sexual experience written about in a blog. Yes, that was a sh*tty situation. Yes, Korea needs more sex ed. But what kind of help was that blogger to the girl who came to her? This girl goes to talk to the blogger about her first sexual encounter and… after reading the blog I still don’t have a clue what that girl said. Did she ask questions? Did she just talk about what happened? If there were questions asked, did the blogger answer? And if so, how? If not, and if that girl just wanted to have someone who would listen to her, she obviously talked to the wrong person. Korea needs more sex ed. H#ll, everyone needs more sex ed. But don’t complain that there isn’t enough sex ed after missing the opportunity to help someone by being judgmental.


    1. Sure, the blog post is a little unclear in places, but then it is a rant after all. And I wrote what I did because I got the strong impression that the woman (and men) involved didn’t use any contraception whatsoever, neither during her first time nor in her later sexual encounters, and also because she seemed to take the consequences very lightly. To wit:”…she’s almost cocky about it–I don’t feel like she’s very sorry. She was laughing when she told me and this is a serious matter! She was telling me how she could be pregnant!”.

      As for your questions, I think they’re better directed to the blogger, whom I can’t and shouldn’t speak for. But still, it doesn’t sound to me at all like the woman wanted someone who would listen to her. And I also think it’s a little unfair to assume that a blogger airing their critical opinions of someone online means he or she said or did exactly the same thing to them in real life.

      Finally, I’ll grant that it’s a bit of a generalization to saying that Koreans don’t have enough sex education based on just this one example, but then I’m not, as the posts in the link in the title to #9 make clear. Please read them before you completely dismiss my criticism simply with “Korea needs more sex ed. Hell, everyone needs more sex ed”.


      1. I’m sorry if I seem to be arguing with you. That wasn’t at all my purpose. I more just wanted to voice what I thought about it. You’re right it might make more sense for me to take it up on that blog. I didn’t because I thought that would make an argument more likely, I don’t want to argue.

        I’m sorry you thought I was dismissing you by saying “Korea needs more sex ed. Hell, everyone needs more ex ed.” I can understand how you might hear that as a dismissal. That was actually me agreeing with you. I do truly believe that everyone needs more sex ed. I almost wrote there that I need more sex ed.

        As for the blogger herself and what we have both said about her. I agree that everything you wrote is perfectly reasonable. You’re right that it’s a little unfair to assume that the blogger expressed as much dismay to that Korean girl as she did on her blog. And you’re right no contraception at all is bad. Everything you said is reasonable.

        But then again, on the other hand, I think that everything I wrote was perfectly reasonable as well. Much of what I wrote was phrased as a question. Questions are entirely reasonable to ask. The only part in which I feel I got opinionated was at the end, ” But don’t complain that there isn’t enough sex ed after missing the opportunity to help someone… (because you were) being judgmental.” (modified for clarity). That wasn’t a criticism of you or your work here at The Grand Narrative. I’m a huge fan. That was a criticism of that blogger.

        I suppose it might be more helpful if I was to comment on the great number of incredibly useful and enlightening things I have learned here thanks to you.


        1. In all fairness I was also judgmental when I wrote something about the blogger being of no help to the girl who came to talk to her. I might be wrong, but I think it’s fair to think that the Korean high school student might have been reaching out for help. Maybe not help with a problem so much as help in understanding all this new sex stuff. I would probably think that even if the girl appeared to be bragging. I’m very guilty to psycho analyzing everything way too much without even trying, I suppose I’m doing it again. Consider their conversation from that perspective for a moment. Even if it may be a mistaken assumption, it’s not unreasonable. How helpful do you think the blogger could have been? She started the blog off by saying she wasn’t angry at the girl. Why even say that? Why would that even be possible? Don’t let me psycho analyze why the blogger might be angry at the girl, it wouldn’t be a pretty sight. And the blogger obviously had a pretty low opinion of that girl and Korean girls in general. How helpful could she have been? And if you, or she or me or anyone else… if we perceive a problem, and if we are in a position to help deal with that problem, than we should try to be helpful. And if we see a problem and yet fail to help, why complain about it?

          I wasn’t arguing against sex ed. And as you, James Turnbull, are very helpful with these issues, I wouldn’t complain criticize you even if I disagreed with you. As I see it, you have more of a right to an opinion on the matter than I do, whether I agree or disagree with your opinion or not. But that girl does not seem helpful at all. Of course, she can say, think, write or do whatever she wants. But I have no interest in listening to somebody complain about something they could have helped with a little when they didn’t.


  2. Those silly old conservative men – educating women means that they get pesky ideas about doing things other than having kids and doing what their husband and MIL order. Not to mention that many men don’t like women who are more educated than they are. Hello desperate, less educated women from North Korea, China, Vietnam, etc. All these highly educated Korean women, but no one to marry…

    And I’m afraid that Suzy’s post nearly made me lose my dinner. A touch over the top, no wonder they get so upset when it all goes off the rails.


      1. I’m afraid that it was merely concerning – was a bit over the top. I kept getting the image in my mind of a dog being led to jump through hoops… and I just couldn’t shake that image.

        But I guess if you’re crazy about someone, and they’re crazy about you, what you would have once considered crazy becomes perfectly acceptable.


    1. Probably both… as is the case when we begin to exercise some personal power in their lives… rapists use their penises to punish… the women tend to report more readily.


  3. Crap!

    The boys’ club definition of “innocence” … keep women ignorant about the facts and realities of sex… it makes them easier targets who can be blamed for what they never learned… obviously alive and well in Korea.


  4. I wasn’t able to finish your post just because I stopped reading after you introduced Yuri’s diet. 1500 calories per day, for a training person isn’t enough!. I used to workout everyday, ate more than she does, and still got into hospital for not being on a healthy diet. Now I have severe osteopenia and I’m regretting that period of my life. I am now afraid to be less than 49 kilograms, because that means worsening my chronic disease.


  5. Hello!

    About #4 and Korean people’s obsession about skincare, I for one do not think that this is a whim or something that skincare lovers follow blindly for the sake of adding steps to an already long skincare routine morning and bedtime.
    Of course one can discuss that between brands the chemicals do not dramatically change (except for when you reach a certain level of luxury) and therefore do not have significant differences in the results they may achieve on one’s complexion. However skincare in Korea most of the time (and not necessarily for hardcore porcelain skin lovers) involves visits at the skin clinic and not only products used at home. I understand women who invest (because some of those clinics or some of the higher end skin care products cost an arm) in the overall beauty of their skin.
    I didn’t quite get it at first because I was so used to see women already in full makeup as early as 7 am and didn’t quite have the chance to see any of the girls who later became my friends without any makeup. Some of them were self conscious about not wearing makeup and showing me their bare face even though I’m a girl as well, so I asked what about their boyfriends and the answer was that they had pretty much never shown their bare face (no BB cream, no concealer, no makeup primer whatsoever) to them because they thought they had pimples and dark circles, that I honestly didn’t see myself…
    It’s like the more makeup products become efficient in creating flawless faces and the more resumes photos are photoshopped, the more it becomes a significant step (in terms of showing the bond you share with someone) to show your bare face. That’s the feeling I get at least.
    Investing in skincare makes sense and is for me healthier than buying makeup products (which are hella good in South Korea by the way) in terms of self esteem. It is not random that more and more women spend an atrocious amount of time making their makeup look unnoticeable (skinlike) because they’d rather be not putting it on in the first place.
    And Korean women for the most part do not neglect nutrition, I think the blog article suggests that it’s one way or the other: that you fully rely on self proclaimed wonders making skincare or you are satisfied with the basic sun screen – moisturizer combo and rather take care of your lifestyle. I don’t think you come to take care of your skin to the point of putting sometimes up to 6 different products on your face without completely ignoring how much water you drink daily, how you should eat healthy stuff and do exercise.
    It’s like building a really nice house on a swamp if I can use this image, nobody’s that dumb and the act that a lot of Korean skincare lines are inspired by or contain actual food or traditional ingredients shows that there is no such clear demarcation line between people who focus only on skincare and people who focus only on their lifestyle.
    Errr those were my two cents on that but as always I write too much and ramble (and make mistakes ><)
    Miso ~


    1. It’s pretty much a vicious cycle–put tons of makeup with drying ingredients like alcohols and irritating ingredients like fragrances on your skin, and then pay the same companies for expensive skincare products. And in my experience, the same women who pay a lot of money for this stuff really DON’T hydrate enough or exercise or eat lots of fruits and vegetables, etc. (Staying out of the sun, sure.) Just like weight loss/”a nice figure,” my friends are convinced that good skin can come out of a bottle if they pay enough money. I guess because it’s too depressing to think that a) it’s work to do other things b) maybe they can’t really control it.

      “hella good”? Maybe they look nice (at least, to other people with the same standards — to me (for example) Japanese mascara looks awful, so heavy)). They’re tearing up your skin little by little.


    2. oh, and you’ll see the same kinds of ingredients in the skincare products. Anyone can add some plant-derived stuff to their chemical and alcohol-based formulas and then market it that way. It’s called “greenwashing.” It’s unfair, but it’s a really effective technique for selling. I was shocked when I looked more carefully at some of the stuff I was using.


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