Korean Gender Reader


Some interesting pictures of G-Dragon, even by his standards (via: Noona Blog).

1) Cory at Banana Milk unimpressed with Project Obaeksang’s “Speed So-Getting Contest”

2) Curfews for 20-something Korean women

How common are they? And like YOUNique, does getting a job mean that parents no longer enforce it?

I had big problems with my first Korean girlfriend’s one 11 years ago, while dating my future wife later was made much easier by her living away from home. What have your own experiences been? Has anyone ever met a 20-something Korean man that had a curfew?

3) Babies!

Congratulations to A Good Korean (Feminist) Wife on her impending Dragon baby, and congratulations in advance to Shotgun Korea, whose baby is due any day now.


4) Sex in Korean cinema vs. sex on Korean television:

YAM Magazine ponders the differences

– The Korean Film Archive is highlighting the theme “[A History of] Eroticism in Korean Movies” in August, with all(?) movies featured available for free viewing after signing up

– KBS has come under fire for its screening of the single-episode lesbian drama “Daughters of Bilitis Club” (클럽 빌리티스의 딸들) . Thanks to all the people who passed that news on, and also see YAM Magazine for a potted history of how LGBT issues have been covered on Korean television.

– KBS’s “Dream Team 2” has also come under under fire for, well, showing women in bikinis, even though I could go and see the same 10 minutes walk away at Gwanganli Beach. For more information, see Angry KPop Fan, who – unlike 99% of commenters at Omona! They Didn’t! and Allkpop – actually watched the segment of the show in question, and points out that internet portal Nate basically lies in reporting that cameras gave repeated close-ups of the women’s breasts (which would have justified the complaints).

Having said that, the offending objects were still pretty difficult to avoid, as tends to happen in an inane show featuring women in bikinis having a race in a swimming pool. But what else did complainers expect from something titled “Dream Girls Summer Special“?

5) B2ST, G.NA, and 4Minute help teenagers prevent crimes

While lame, it’s no more so than public service announcements in other countries, and I particularly liked the part at roughly 2:18 in the first video that says “음란물에서의 성은 잘못된 성입니다”, or literally “Sex in pornography isn’t good sex”. Rather than expanding upon that point however, a trying to look stern – but ending up looking cute instead – HyunA and G.NA unhelpfully simply say “Absolutely stay far away from 18+ things”.

See Angry KpopFan for more commentary on the pornography segment.

6) HyunA revealed to weigh 39 kg during her “Bubble Pop!” promotions

A man well over twice that, I’m not very familiar with healthy weight ranges for 164cm tall women. But the consensus of women that are appears to be that that is much too low, and – given how she looks in the music video – that that figure is exaggerated by Cube Entertainment, if not an outright lie.

7 Westin Chosun hotel tries to inject some fun into stuffy Korean weddings

Starting at $140,000 however, then I don’ t think wedding halls will be put out of business anytime soon! (via: @hanbae and @a_ahmad)

8) The more you learn about China’s One-child policy, the uglier it gets

What’s more, while Chinese proponents claim that it has avoided 400 million extra mouths to feed, most likely China’s rising wealth means that they would never have been born anyway.

9) “Cute and lovely” Korean S&M movie gets warm reception in Montreal’s 2011 Fantasia Film Festival

10) Korean couple fighting

This may make for uncomfortable viewing, but I include it for the reasons I give here:


30 thoughts on “Korean Gender Reader

  1. From YAM: “Correct me if I’m wrong, if you’ve seen any Korean drama that is at least rated R, do tell me. I would love to watch it.”

    – Unfortunately the aforementioned “Daughters of Bilitis Club”, laughably enough! I watched it, and there wasn’t even a peck, anywhere. And today KBS have made the important promise to restrict their online replay service so that anyone under 19 can’t watch this filth.

    (The show was good otherwise, from a sex politics viewpoint if not as entertainment – happy ending and all)


  2. Good post, but I question the youtube clip at the end — putting a couple fighting, filmed by an anonymous youtuber hiding behind a light post, who labels the clip “Korean couple fighting” as if their Koreaness is what causes them to hit each other, and not any other factor in their relationship, and when the girl calls out (if I’m hearing this correctly) “Hey, guy! What are you filming?” at the end, and you see just enough shaky camera to know the guy ran away immediately like he was doing something shameful… plus that this couple isn’t trying to represent anything about Korean culture, media, or gender relations…

    makes me uncomfortable, and question its relevance.


    1. Sorry, but I’d have to disagree with just about everything you wrote there. Mostly, because I’d wager that “Korean couple fighting” is simply a description along the lines of, say, the far more awkward and unnatural ” A Couple Fighting in Korea”, and consequently that you’re reading far too much into it when you say that it implies that their Koreaness is what causes them to hit each other.

      Having said that, the video’s Koreanness is also precisely what makes it so surreal and compelling, to the extent that I wasn’t certain I wasn’t watching the filming of a Korean drama until the very end. You see, while I can only speak for my own personal experience as an adult, which would be 6 years in New Zealand and 11 in Korea, but in the former I never saw anyone raise their arm like the guy does at 0:57 in a feigned about-to-strike pose (whereas young Koreans have been doing since at least Sassy Girl; hell, even my daughters have picked it up from kindergarten), nor hit people on the head (and sort of dig in with one’s knuckles) like he does shortly thereafter. Not only have I seen both in real life in Korea quite often though, or at least years ago when I used to go out drinking more often, but I’ve seen them even more often in Korean dramas and movies, and believe that it’s no coincidence that the Korean public generally seems to tolerate and accept a much higher level of public violence, at least between couples.

      Which isn’t quite the same as saying that that’s unique to Korea, or that Koreanness is what causes them to hit each other. In my experience however, albeit a limited one, that violence does at least seem to be expressed in a uniquely Korean way in this video.

      I’m quite prepared to be corrected by other people’s observations of couples fighting in Korea or overseas though, and admit that I have some reservations about the video because their faces aren’t pixellated. However, I think that those negatives are outweighed by the women’s great example of not putting up with his crap, and ultimately kicking him in the balls. If only my daughters would do the same if they ever had a boyfriend like that.


      1. On at least a weekly basis, I see an angry woman try (or act like she’s trying) to walk away, and a man chase after, grab her arms, and physically restrain her until she agrees to listen to him/calm down/whatever. Where I grew up, this would probably get your ass kicked by a total stranger.


      2. It still amazes me how much, what should I call it, “restrained violence” shows up in Korean dramas between the lead actress and the actor who’s supposed to be the love interest. I haven’t seen much hitting, except for maybe a girl slapping a guy, but there’s plenty of questionable things. I’m kind of tired of seeing guys dragging girls out the door while they stumble behind them, or seeing guys use their knuckles to physically push the girls head down and off to the side (like in the video), even when it’s supposedly done in an affectionate manner.
        Just some more specific examples, Gu jun Pyo in Boys Over Flowers used both hands to pull Jan Di up by her collar and into his face in an aggressive manner a few times. In Coffee Prince, after learning Eun Chan is really a girl, Han Gyul shoves her against a fridge and kisses her violently. And then there’s My Lovely Sam Soon where the lead man, sorry forgot his name, is upset at Sam Soon and punches right past her face and hits the picture behind her head. I always think, and I’m supposed to like these guys?

        When I was studying abroad in Korea I personally didn’t see any street violence, but I was too busy taking classes and going on scheduled field trips to really see street life. I have read some interesting things on how a show of strength is important in Korea, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they intend to do anything. It’s more of a power play. This video reminded me of something I read in “The Koreans” by Michael Breen. Here’s a little excerpt:

        “Koreans are only beginning to develop the democratic attitudes and institutions to resolve conflict. In the past, is has been done by power. Hence the need to yell and make ridiculous demands. It’s a negotiating strategy. It’s noisy, but logical. Sometimes things go wrong. A British motorist once got into an accident with a Korean and it was not clear who was at fault. The Korean began yelling and demanded cash payment immediately. The strategy is to bully the foreigner into accepting guilt and, by making outrageous demands, get him to compromise at a lower, but still unfair, amount. The Korean, still making his point, grabbed the man’s tie. At this point British culture entered. Grabbing a tie is certainly the start of a serious assault. The Briton knocked the Korean to the ground. For Koreans, this is a shocking thing to do. I mean, they were only having a discussion. The Briton was arrested and fined for assault.”

        Now, I’m NOT saying it’s OK for him to raise his hand to her like that or for him to push her head around. Certainly if any guy raised his hand to me like that, well, someone’s going to the hospital and someone’s going to jail. What I’m wondering is if I’m seeing this video with American eyes and like the Briton in the story, am seeing a bigger threat of violence than is intended. I’d like to hear from people who have lived in Korea to tell me if like Michael Breen, they have seen shows of force that are simply that, a SHOW of force in order to gain the upper hand.


        1. I have read some interesting things on how a show of strength is important in Korea, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they intend to do anything. It’s more of a power play.

          My own view is that a huge majority of the effect that force/violence has in the world is in cases where no real violence is likely to take place. The example I often use is being at a bar and accidentally spilling a drink on the coat of a guy (a stranger) who’s either much bigger than me, or much smaller. Of course, I’m the kind of guy who’s going to apologize quite a bit in either case — but how I do it, my tone of voice, posture, whether I laugh and make a joke about the situation, all of this is going to be different based upon a perception of who could beat the crap out of whom. Similarly, even if the other guy and I say exactly the same thing, the perception of everybody around is going to differ based upon our respective sizes. (This is a pretty good explanation for the notion that big guys are nice — when we clearly see that they could employ violence successfully, but instead they just behave decently, this registers in the “nice” column in a way that it wouldn’t for less violence-capable people.)

          This is the kind of thinking that led me to abandon my youthful libertarianism years ago. I came to realize that there’s simply no way you can just outlaw force, have everybody free to swing their arms up to the point where another’s nose begins, and have that be freedom. Our brains are wired in such a way that once I perceive that I could punch you in face (even if there’s no way I will), then you just can’t speak as rudely to me as I can to you, and probably you don’t touch my things as readily as I touch yours, and you don’t grab hold of my body to lead me somewhere, etc. What I’m saying is, the kind of “power play” you mention is the essence of violence — the main purpose of injurious force is so that it can pay off in all kinds of subtle interactions when it’s never used.

          And this is why the ethical habit as a man to never push a woman, hold her down, grab her roughly, punch things or slam things anywhere near her, is so damned important. Even she is consciously 100% sure that you’re never going to cause her physical injury. Her brain and your brain are wired in such a way that those actions send signals that inherently interfere with the ability to interact as equals.


      3. I always make that “I’m gonna hit you” threat, or something that looks a lot like that, since way before I started watching k dramas. My family does it too, and I know friends that do something like it, so I don’t find it weird.

        That being said, that was clearly *not* a situation in which he should’ve done such a thing, and from the way she reacted, I can infer she’d dealed with his kind of “male-assertiveness-stop-arguing-with-me-woman” before and was not in the mood for one more round of it that night.

        And oh, man, I can’t exactly understand what she’s saying, except at the end (Ahjussi, what are you doing?!), but I know I’ve heard everything she said in kdramas. Bizarre.

        As for the commenter of the wrist-grabbing, you should know that’s pretty much exclusive to kdramas, and it doesn’t really happen in everyday life. Most of the other things you’ve seen in dramas are also highly exaggerated, and/or inspired by japanese mangas (my first dramas made me feel as if I were watching shoujo live action, and not in the good sense).


      4. Well I don’t understand a word that they said to each other but it is clear that the woman is more aggressive than the man. I agree this is a real clip taken by bystander. But the violence between young couple, I have not seen it to that extend when the man is being kick to the ground.

        I understand woman have their right to defend themselves if they are attacked but this is too much for my view. My experience with korean that they generally short temper. I don’t understand how they can change their mood with a flick of a switch.

        The Sassy Girl movie did give a big introduction of Korean culture and relationship perspective. It was years later when I had a relationship with a Korean woman that I can’t handle their mood swing. Especially those around 18 to 35 year old woman.

        I know from many Korean man marrying Chinese wife as the are more mild temper and easier to talk to them Korean woman. So is K-generation (both male and female) destine to be lonely?


  3. “음란물에서의 성은 잘못된 성입니다”, or literally “Sex in pornography isn’t good sex”

    Nice translation. One of the things that’s especially hard for me to get my head around these days, is properly mapping Korean expressions for “right”/”wrong” onto “good”/”bad”. I think I make a lot of mistakes in this area, trying to preserve the sharper distinction that exists in English.


  4. After watching the Crime and Violence Prevention video, though I understand the inherent confusion involved in how far a video should go to prevent delinquent/anti-social behaviour, and Korea is certainly not the only country to make such videos, I find the attempt at a prevention utterly weak and laughable. It would be my guess (and I doubt I’m far off) that most of the students who watched this didn’t give a damn about the content and probably laughed (however silently) at it. Hell, even Korea’s censorship laws water down the video by blurring the offending material so as to lower its visibility and therefore seriousness.

    I don’t know about the rest of Canada, but in my province, at least in my high school days, to prevent crime, the videos actually showed the crimes to their full extent (sometimes in a disturbing manner) and to prevent teen pregnancy or other sexual “no-no’s”, we watched footage of actual teens giving birth in our sex-ed class. I know that scared some of us into responsibility. Of course, Korea is not Canada and times have changed and are still changing, but I feel that the video could have been MUCH more forceful in its message.


  5. if a man hits a woman thats a very serious fault. Here in Argentina, that is consireded very low, or whith a considerable lack of culture, even self respect. You only see this in environments were theres an abundance of poverty and ignorance. (in some cases, to make an exception, the man hits the woman because she cheated on him or something like that, but he does in her cheek… meaning “you offended me”, that would be “acceptable” in some extreme cases, but hiting her in the head, that`s exagerating) what i cant believe from this video is that after the girl defends her self, the man hits back… he isn´t a man at all!!!!
    i remember seeing once a video from a sports tv show, that showed angry fanatic women hitting a poor footbal player because he missed a goal. those women punched him, kicked him and also spit on him, but he didn´t do anything to defend himself, only walked back and pushed them away but without violence. I was like, 12 years old when I was watching it with my parents and I remember they told me “a woman never behaves like that…” but also, “that man should be an example, a man never hits a woman, even if she hits him first”
    sorry if I have some English mistakes. ^^


  6. My vote goes for her weight being an outright lie. I’m 152cm to HyunA’s 164cm, and when I was that weight I was nothing but skin and bones with no muscle tone to speak of. At that time, if I wore a tight shirt you could clearly see all of my ribs. She looked far too healthy to be of that weight in her music video, even if the camera “adds 10 pounds” like they say it does.

    Check out the first diet ad in this link:

    I’ve seen the exact same ad in Ageha magazine before, so I can assure you that the author of the blog did not photoshop it further for added effect. The “after” pictures are around 39kg. Despite being heavily shopped, this is still a more realistic image of what she’d look like at that weight (especially with her height!)

    It makes me wonder if it was somehow misreported. 49kg would still be low but at least realistic for how she looks.


  7. I don’t understand Korean, so I am curious as to what is being said in the video ‘Korean couple fighting’. What started the physical attack? Bravo to the girl for standing up for herself!

    Regarding HyunA, the weight is a lie. I am a bit over 5’4″ and am considered skinny by my friends and family, I weigh about 54 kg and have nowhere near as much muscle in my thighs as her. A BMI calculator would tell you that she is /extremely/ underweight, but in the livejournal link, she is anything but underweight. You can clearly see the muscle tone. One defining characteristic of anorexia is when the individual is less than 85% of what should be their normal weight. She most definitely does not have the appearance of an anorexic.

    (I am aware that BMI calculators are faulty as they don’t take into account the various shapes people come in.)


    1. Even with little Korean knowledge, the message was pretty clear.

      The guy kept saying stuff along the lines of “Let’s talk about this” and “listen to me.”

      The woman said things like “how could you do this/be like this?” and when he grabbed her arm and tried to hug her she said “don’t touch me!”

      I don’t know what started it, but I’d say it’s anything from cheating to obsessive/overly controlling behaviour. But, like I said, it’s not stated clearly.


  8. I’ll just say that there is plenty of aggressive and unacceptable behavior against SK women shown in their media, where it seems to be accepted and quite normal.

    But onto my relative subject of expertise, the CCP likes to think that they have ushered in a period where China is the dominant power for a thousand years, except that the country is going to go broke caring for all the oldies in the future, with an extremely low worker (ie tax payer) to oldie ratio, not to wonder who is going to do the caring – either robots or vast numbers of foreigners.

    So while the OCP might be considered a short term success, it’s going to create massive problems later on. Not to mention the vast numbers of girls who were aborted, badly skewing the sex ratio, and the atrocious resulting wife and child trafficking.

    SK, Japan, Taiwan, and other countries also have this problem, and any prudent government would start saving and planning sooner rather than later… Though making it easier for women to have kids and continue to have fulfilling work would be a start.


  9. Some news from the panic interface of Korean sexuality: Tia (age 14) from Chocolat has done a “couple photoshoot”with actor Ji Hyun Woo (age 27). But don’t worry folks, she’s just showing her appreciation for a helpful senior from her company. :)

    Last week, netizens discovered a picture of Chocolat’s Tia, taken with her labelmate senior, actor Ji Hyun Woo. On August 7th, the full photoshoot was finally unveiled, featuring shots of the young singer in various ‘couple poses’ with the actor.

    Considering that she was born in 1997 (and he was born in 1984), the photoshoot has become a source of much debate online amongst netizens. Still, they couldn’t deny that both looked stunning together, making for one amazing couple photoshoot.

    Ji Hyun Woo had actually debuted as a lead guitarist in 2004 with his group, ‘The Nuts‘. He’s been known to have given Tia and the members of Chocolat some valuable advice in his capacity as a senior as they prepare for their impending debut this week.

    Meanwhile, all three of Chocolat’s “bi-racial” members come from US military families. Some commenters on allkpop think that this will be a negative factor for Korean audiences because of historical associations between mixed-race children and prostiutiion.

    the promoters are idiots. This will only make people hate them more. There’s a reason why there are next to zero hapas in KPOP where is they are everywhere in JPOP – hapas opens up the major wound of American bases in Korea and its historical baggage. To many Korean, having American bases (and it’s related issue of violent GIs and massive amounts of prostitution) is a major embarrassment and a dent to national pride. Now you actually want to tell people your idols are Military babies? Are you serious? Koreans are much more proud of their Asian heritage than other East Asians, and this will just turn of a bunch of people. Again, they are morons.

    And some commenters don’t discuss such prejudices so much as embrace them.


    1. I’ve actually been quite uncomfortable with a K-drama,Triple 트리플 (2009), where an underage girl falls in love with her mid-30’s brother by marriage. The way she tries to seduce him and how he gets swayed just made me want to scream pedophilia at the screen.

      I saw that a few times in k-movies too and don’t really know what to make of it. I think it is very important to have clear boundaries between adults and teenagers. Both have sexual lives, but are very distinct and should not intermingle.

      I just saw the Foxy Festival movie at the Montreal film festival, I really loved it! The acting, the story, the subtlety… but here again the boundary between teenage and adult relationships was blurred. All the fetishes and kinky habits of the characters were depicted with humor and complicity, but the only one that I disliked was the teenage girl being pushy and seducing the street-food vendor.

      By the way, the director, 이해영 Lee Hae Youn, did a really great job at making a “cute” movie about sex.


  10. I remember watching Secret Garden (K-Drama) where the main male Lead hugged/forced the female lead onto the bed…in a sense that was supposed to be romantic or such. #shrug#

    But almost every femme around me cried “rape” at that time.

    But I’m also old enough to remember Watching ‘Gone with the Wind’ with my moms and her sisters.
    None cried ‘rape’ as Rhett Butler forced Scarlet O’Hara into a kiss and carries a still struggling Scarlet up the stairs into the bedd-room. All the ladys were like -Oohhh-

    So, without going psychological, i guess it’s fair to assume that’s its a primal human thing/leftover in a different frame.


    1. That’s a good point bringing up Gone With the Wind, because it has the exact same thing. He even forcibly carries Scarlett to the bedroom to um, play yatzee when he’s drunk.

      I think a large part of it is when we’re watching something foreign we are more sensitive to what’s going on and looking for “differences” without realizing they’re in our own media. :) I’m guilty of this too.


  11. Great post, as always, but I wanted to share with you something unrelated.
    Yesterday I bought a daily planner from Artbox. When I got it home and took off the outer wrapping, I noticed that there was a purple envelope in the back. I opened the envelope and found these decorative little 2×4 in cards…I’m not sure exactly their purpose, but it seems like maybe you would write on the back and give them to friends. I came to one in particular and found myself incredibly offended by it, and I thought you might be interested in seeing it:

    I would seriously hope that no one would actually hand that to anyone.


  12. About the fighting couple video, I couldn’t believe the way they behaved so I showed the video to a Korean woman who told me straight away “They’re acting!” and said their tones were those of actors. She then jokingly said “If it was for real it would be worse!”


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