Korean Gender Reader


소녀시대야! 900칼로리만 먹고, 이것 할 수있겠니? ㅋㅋㅋ

1) Miss A members scoff at other girl-groups’ starvation diets, and reveal that they eat healthily and normally.

For why this is such wonderful news, see here. I hereby appoint them as honorary ambassadors for this blog!

2) Three reports of sex crimes at Korean schools.

3) Can a Feminist diet?

4) More Korean married couples living with the wife’s parents

5) Korean women: please, for goodness’ sake, develop a personality! And men: get more comfortable with yourselves!

Complete generalizations of course, as the author happily admits, but still: I really appreciated this post in a “from the mouths of babes newbies” sense (no offense).

How accurate do you think her descriptions of Korean dating couples are?

6) Piggy Dolls “piggy” no more?

Turns out, their weight loss was for a diet advertisement (see #10 here for some background).

7) Same sex couple-tees?

We’ve all seen couple-tees of course, perhaps even worn them. But clothes designed to be worn by you and your friend?


8) Ministry of Gender Equality and Family Affairs urges teenagers not to use binge drinking as a study method.

After all, Korean teenagers are notorious for their alcohol problems, yes? Or was this supposed fad, of drinking baek-il ju (백일주) from 100 days (baek-il) before the university entrance exams, actually only highlighted by the Ministry in order to raise its profile and help justify its continued existence?

Not that I think the Ministry should be abolished by any means (despite its anti-abortion stance). But then it is notorious for some simply bizarre initiatives, and especially arbitrary, completely ineffective censorship in the name of protecting Korean youth. Neither of which I can see anything but corporatist reasons for.

9) Public protest scuppers plans for nudist forest.

Naturally however, the Korean media is still widely describing it as a nudist forest anyway.

Compare this similarly cancelled planned nudist beach on Jeju Island two years ago, which had been intended only to be open to non-Koreans.

10) New girl-group Chocolat set to debut on August 17. Has 3 bi-racial members (and 2 Koreans).

For which it’s been receiving a lot of attention, although it’s not the first to have bi-racial members (all 3 have American fathers and Korean mothers btw). Probably even more noteworthy and ominous though, is the fact that 2 members of the group are only 14 (the others are 17, 18, and {I think} 19).

See the following video for them introducing themselves. Note that the title says “Korean”, but it’s actually all in English:

Update: Ashley at SeoulBeats discusses them more here.


23 thoughts on “Korean Gender Reader

  1. Re Chocolat, I don’t think that omona is right either about the first Korean group with a “bi-racial” member. Insooni, whose father was African-American, started out in the late 1970s in a group called the Hee Sisters, where she was obliged to cover her curly hair.

    P.S. Because of the group’s name and the use of the word “bi-racial” to describe the half-American members, some omona members are disappointed that Chocolat doesn’t have any members with black ancestry.


    1. Thanks for the information. I’m not disappointed myself that Chocolat doesn’t have any members with black ancestry, although I admit I did expect some once I heard the name and that 3 members were biracial. If they did have some though, then that would be a pretty boring and unoriginal group name!


  2. Though this doesn’t seem like anything truly different, I suppose this is an indication of the growing acceptance of interracial couples and multiracial children in Korea. Though the group doesn’t truly break the mould by not being even more diverse, Koreans seem to accept or at least, not go against these societal changes. On Korea’s Got Talent we also see (from my understanding) a half-Caucasian/half-Korean girl within a girl group, though they were eliminated.

    And in the New Tales of Gisaeng drama, we find Kyle (whose storyline had been continued from an earlier drama Assorted Gems) marrying a Korean girl eight years younger than him, and she even bears his child. The family in the show were, to be sure, reluctant about the whole situation, but it seemed that after a couple of episodes, the bigger issue rather than race was that he wished to take his wife to the US with him to live.

    Once Korea can comfortably showcase Caucasian/Korean children and couples, then they can get to fully dealing with the touchier subject of basically every other race, but mostly Black/Korean children and Black/Korean couples.

    With Korea, it seems that you’ll have to chip away at the mould rather than break it outright.


    1. I also watched 신기생뎐, and I was truly surprised and pleased at the Kyle character. It’s the first time I can recall a caucasian male character in a Korean drama being portrayed both as a positive character AND as having sexual desires. The same actor also appeared in 보석비빔밥, as mentioned, but there, he was a monk, and while the character was portrayed positively, he was also entirely non-sexual.


      1. On second thoughts, he wasn’t a monk. He just wore hanbok, Robert Koehler-style. Either way, in the first drama (by the same writer, 임성한) he was never portrayed as having any sexual desires towards any of the female characters.


        1. Well, Kyle did leave to become a monk and he was shown as a monk in the last episode. However, it was fairly obvious (at least to me) that both he and Ryu-bi had feelings for each other. Neither of them had the courage to express these feelings to each other as neither of them realized how the other felt. When Kyle never came to her to have a relationship, she just gave in to her family’s pressure to be with the Korean doctor in the show. When Ryubi didn’t make it clear to Kyle that she wanted him, he decided that following his original plan would be easiest.

          Long story short, I think he was portrayed as having sexual and romantic desires, but they were never realized. In the second drama, he even expressed to Madame Oh that he had been in love before in Korea (this being Ryubi most likely) and he finally is able to express his desires, this time to Rara.


          1. Absolutely. I was hooked after a couple of episodes. Mind you, I originally watched them because of the Kyle character, but he has very little screen time, but the Korean characters all have strange and funny stories that make it enjoyable. The series are each 50+ episodes long, so you better be prepared for a long haul.


    2. Not to jump on this comment, because this is actually a sentiment I’ve seen expressed frequently from a variety of different sources, but I find this idea that black/koreans should patiently wait for Koreans to accept bi-racial Caucasian/Koreans and white/Korean inter-racial relationships pretty problematic. As a Black-Latina currently in a relationship with a Korean man, I sympathize with the struggles all interracial relationships face in Korea. However, there a definitely a unique set of stressors when one of the partners is of a darker hue, be it Black, Filipino, South Asian etc.


      1. I didn’t mean to suggest that black/Korean couples should wait. Indeed, all races should be accepted equally and considered together. But given the obvious preference (of course there are exceptions among Koreans, to be sure) for lighter skinned peoples, I just feel that black/Korean couples will end up having to wait longer to obtain the acceptance that Caucasian peoples have received. I hope this is clearer, as I’m trying to be as sensitive to the issue as possible.


  3. On omona there’s a video preview for a documentary about high school, beauty standards, plastic surgery and suicide in Korea. The producers are trying to raise money to give video cameras to high school students to document their lives.

    In sixty short years, South Korea went from being one of the poorest countries in Asia to having the world’s 13th largest economy. Korean students have some of the highest test scores in the world, and a higher rate of acceptance into American Ivy Leagues than any other foreign country. But Korea also leads the world in two not quite so stunning ways- the highest rate of plastic surgery per capita, and a higher suicide rate than any other developed nation.

    So. What’s life like for a Korean student? In one of the most competitive societies in the world, how does one find their place? What does it take to achieve your aspirations and goals? Our documentary will take a look at the lives of five Korean teenagers on the verge of either reaching- or losing- their dreams. The film will follow the students during the most stressful time of their lives- their last year of high school. After studying for roughly sixteen hours each day, their futures boil down to one last exam. On November 10th, 2011, thousands of high school seniors will take a nine hour test that for many, will determine their economic and social status for the rest of their lives.


  4. While I can see why the blogger and others see Korean women as having to fit into a certain passive role, I think it is a mistake to equate aegyo and the rest of it as automatically being so dis-empowering.

    Let’s face it: When many girls pout their cheeks and stamp their feet, they know exactly what they are doing, and, indeed, this kind of behaviour can be used to get one’s way. Both the guy and girl are playing a game, where both know the rules. It is romantic role play, and I think it is naive to assume that both sides don’t see right through it. I don’t see that it necessarily keeps women “in their place,” or at least as much as it might appear on the surface.


    1. Both the guy and girl are playing a game, where both know the rules. It is romantic role play, and I think it is naive to assume that both sides don’t see right through it.

      Spot on.

      Furthermore, she’s not talking about “women.” She’s talking about a subset of women of a certain age. Her lack of specificity bothers me. I won’t even go into my issues with the rest of the post.


      1. I can’t speak for the issues you have with the rest of the post Amanda (I’d probably agree with you on them!), but I’d have to strongly disagree with you and John that “it is naive to assume that both sides don’t see right through [the romantic role play]”. Certainly some women might be quite calculating when they use it, but with childish images of women so pervasive and ubiquitous in Korea then I think there’d be rather more women doing aegyo simply because they – and men – are used to it, and think it’s perfectly normal and correct for women to do so. Also, granted that it’s not necessarily disempowering, but against that I can’t help but recall Erving Goffman’s adage that to behave like a child encourages one to be treated like one.


        1. I have to strongly disagree that the acceptance and use of aegyo isn’t disempowering. Goffman is dead on. Furthermore, even if both parties are aware of what aegyo is and see it as “romantic role play” it’s still problematic. It says that women do not and should not have power in relationships, and should be regulated to pleading and whining in order to obtain what they want from men. It turns her into both a person without power and a person without direct access to it. It says that manipulation and deciet are appropriate because more open routes to obtaining one’s needs and desires are unattractive.
          In short, I hate aegyo.


  5. To burst the Miss A bubble, have a look at articles about Suzy and weight. I think at one point she even apologises for being bigger than some strangers would like her to be. The hypocrisy in their statement left a rather bland taste.


    1. Yup, bland taste indeed.
      If you’ve been a kpop fan long enough you notice the pattern easily. They debut only skinny idols. If they’re not skinny they get skinny. And even if they don’t need it they always try to get skinnier. Any actual or perceived (by netizens/by their management company/by themselves) weight gain is promptly followed by a public apology and/or a crash diet . Any words about healthy eating are more often lip service than anything else because idols brag more about loosing weight than eating healthy. I guess it’s a some sort of an image thing because even though most of the time they look like skeletons, their management companies don’t want them to promote unhealthy lifestyle.
      And speaking of bursting bubbles, Uee is not a very good example for healthy eater either. I don’t know where you get your kpop news but Google Uee or at least go to allkpop and search for articles about her. The girl diets like everybody else in the industry.
      Having said that,James, I’d like to thank you about the very informative and interesting blog. I’ve been a long time reader but since I don’t have much else to contribute, saying “Thank you!” is the least I could do.


      1. @Seri – Noooooo! But then she is only 16 still, so there’s plenty of time for her to get older and wiser (although I’ll certainly keep an eye on her for backtracking!).

        @Nell123 – Thanks for the nice words about my blog. I’d agree that Uee isn’t necessarily the best role example – in the post I link to, I chastise her for reveling in her objectification for instance – but although I don’t doubt that there’s posts about her dieting and so on, actually I know her far better for being critiqued for being “fat”, such as #6 here…oh wait…she didn’t say “I’m not fat!”, but instead responded with “slim” photos. Point very much taken then!


  6. I’ll have to call “well-intended but quite misinformed” on the blog about Korean couples as well. Both parties know what they are doing, and while some don’t conform to the “cute girl protective guy” mold, that is what is generally expected in the dating game, and like people adhering to the rules of the game, most don’t try to break it. I have Korean guy friends who can’t be bothered to date precisely because they don’t like the rules and don’t want to deal with “the game” on top of everything else.

    I also have a bit of an issue regarding her assumptions that Korean males need to act tougher because they’re smaller in stature. Most men across the world tend to dominate over women, regardless of physical stature. Isn’t it slightly condescending to attribute the misogynistic tendencies on perceived body size? It’s not like only small men are misogynists. That being said, there are a good number of tall and/or huge Korean men out there, my own 6ft-tall brother, for starters.


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