Korean Gender Reader


1) The difference between “sexuality” and “sexualization”

Angry K-pop Fan and I both love a recent post at Sociological Images for so succinctly explaining that:

I’m no prude.  I think that children are – and have a right to be – sexual beings.  However, there is a difference between sexuality (feeling sexual) and sexualization (being seen as sexy). I (and many other like-minded feminists) believe that girls should be sexual; but, sexualization (and its concomitant focus on appearance instead of desire) is bad because it denies girls’ sexual subjectivity in favor of sexual objectification.

2) International AIDS conference in Busan this weekend

See Busan Haps or the conference website for more details. Unfortunately though, it’s not really aimed at the public (it’s much too late to register, and was prohibitively expensive anyway).

Meanwhile, to any foreign readers that may be under the understandable but false impression that the Korean public doesn’t believe that AIDS exists here, let me point you to this eye-opening experience I had about that back in 2005 (scroll down to just before the “Lesbos” picture).

3) More babies!

– Congratulations to Roboseyo and Wifeoseyo, who are having a Miniseyo in October.

– Congratulations again to Shotgun Korea, who had Desmond William Wolfie Kim on August 18.

– And finally belated congratulations to Going Places, having a baby in November.

Dragon Korea, having a boy next March February (see last week’s post), ponders how to give a kid solid White-Western and Korean identities. And her husband designer diaper bags!

– Over at Busan Haps, Roy Early ponders how to keep strangers from constantly touching his children. I can’t say that I’ve had that problem myself, but we are both tired of our children constantly being given candy, which non-parents may be amazed to learn just how many Koreans seem to always have on their person.

(Source. It is just me, or does A-ran’s {아란} face on the far left seem very badly photoshopped?)

4) Please objectify us! Pleeease……

Hey, I’ve always maintained that it’s largely the current glut of girl-groups that is driving their increasing sexualization. So, to play Devil’s Advocate, Swing Girls (스윙걸즈) differentiating themselves on the basis of all members having D-cup breasts(!) are really just being explicit about something that other girl-groups have already been doing for years.

And boy-bands too of course. Two weeks ago for instance, Lee Joon (이준) of MBLAQ (엠블랙) helpfully reminded us of what’s really needed for a guy to succeed in K-pop these days:


Update: Angry K-pop Fan provides a more comprehensive analysis of the Swing Girl’s branding plans here.

5) Does Jung Ryo-won (정려원) have anorexia, or are netizens overreacting?

I’d be one of those netizens I guess, mentioning those anorexia speculations back in March and May 2009 (see #3 here), and adding that I wasn’t personally convinced by her explanation that she lost the weight for a movie role. While I do sympathize with her frustration with netizens though, I’m afraid that 2 years later I’m similarly unconvinced by her new explanation that she’s one of those voracious eaters that never seems to put on weight, especially as I used to be one myself (albeit 20 years ago!).

6) Singles eclipse nuclear families in Seoul

It’s a slightly inaccurate headline – two parents and any number of children constitutes a nuclear family, not just two – but it’s certainly true that more and more people are living alone: 24.4% in Seoul according to the JoongAng Daily, and 23.9% nationally according to Real Time Korea. These are only slightly below rates for Western developed countries, as this graph from 2006 indicates (I have more detailed statistics in my bookcase, but most are over a decade old sorry!).

See here for more background, and here for more on the industries that were already springing up to cater to the increasing numbers of singles way back in 2009. (The latter also happened to have that handy graph on the right)

7) Korean students with make-up

Under fear of being sued by parents, at least one teacher is no longer enforcing school rules that require them to wash it off (via: Yahae!)

For some context, see here.

8) Taiwanese woman sexually assaulted in Hahoe Folk Village

See the details at Asian Correspondent here. Also in Taiwan-related news, Gender Across Borders reports that a mass same-sex wedding is planned there later this month.


9) Korea not ready for a group like Chocolat (쇼콜라)?

An interesting angle on them from Gord Sellar:

…Whereas the media hypersexualization of children is pretty much accepted — if not admitted — in Korean society, and the media hypersexualization of white women is all but de rigeur now, I think the idea that the media sexualization of biracially white/Korean children might not turn out to be as profitable an enterprise in Korea.

The band seems to be getting a pretty negative reception online, and it’s not hard to see why: the particular anxieties regarding race in Korea that the group’s promoters are trying to exploit — ambiguities of race, and the permissible exoticism of the non-Korean female — take on a life of their own when there is not a Korean male in the picture to “own” her (and, likewise, to “pwn” her)…

See here for the full post, and here (and possibly here) for my own on the issues Gord alludes to with that last sentence. Also, Angry K-pop Fan makes some interesting comparisons between Chocolat and pan-Asian band Blush.

10) 16 year-old Suzy (수지) of Miss A (미쓰에이) endorses French Lolita Lempicka perfume


A friend of mine, a close watcher of K-pop, believes that manager JYP has tended to make Suzy wear more conservative costumes and do slightly less risque dances than her adult co-members of Miss A, nor made her the focus of the group, all quite unlike what he did for So-hee of the Wondergirls when she was a minor (a practice replicated by other entertainment companies, such as: SM Entertainment with Sulli of f(x); Cube Entertainment with HyunA of 4Minute; and indeed Paramount Music of {at least} Tia of Chocolat in #8 above). With this loaded endorsement however, that may all be about to change, as indeed a similar one (“Lolita Sexy”) early last year arguably symbolized a great deal about his past and future marketing of the Wondergirls.


10 thoughts on “Korean Gender Reader

  1. My kid got another feature in the Reader? Fantastic! One change – he’s due early Feb (aka he’ll be in big trouble if he tries to hang out in the womb til March!).^^ Thanks again for the mention :)


    1. You’re welcome, but with that Feb/March thing I’m suddenly reminded of how my class reacted to learning about Chinese animal signs as a kid, with us Dragons teasing kids we didn’t like for being born before…let’s see…January the 31st 1976, but not caring less if our friends were also born before then. It’s just amazing what kids will tease each other for, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you son does the same (or is the recipient of it) in 2022 or so!


  2. Thanks James! We’re having such a good time with our newest Kim! Just one thing– his middle name is Wolfie, not William. Have a wonderful day and thanks for all the baby love!


  3. I have to disagree with your friend about Suzy. Suzy is clearly the “face” of Miss A, she has the most screentime, all the endorsements, magazine photo shoots and other individual activities and heck she was even the lead in the JYP drama Dream High. In fact it seems sometimes that Miss A is really Suzy and her back dancers.
    As a whole Miss A’s dances tend to be on the sexier side, so I don’t know if the argument can be made that she is less sexualized than perhaps other girl group members. Interestingly enough her stage outfits always consist of a skirt, in contrast to the other members. For her there seems to be a greater emphasis on appearing feminine, more like Korea’s ideal.


  4. I’ve noticed the Suzy thing as well (bit of a miss A fan) and she does wear more conservative outfits. I also feel like her dance moves involve slightly less off the passionate butt shaking (no other way to describe it) of the other members, but then again that could just be because she’s not that great a dancer, certainly not in comparison to the other three.

    @nan: I did hear an interesting opinion that miss A was basically a launch group for Suzy’s acting career (backed up by her appearance in Dream High) as proved by the fact that the other two members are a couple of Chinese dancers and Min, the disgraced Korean-American trainee, who probably couldn’t have held a group on their own, and they weren’t actually intended to gain the huge popularity that they have. I’m not JYP though so I can’t verify it.

    James, be careful as to what you say about my baby Joon. He’s my one true love that doesn’t quite recognise my existence yet -.- I’m joking, say what you want. J-Tune have given him the image of the ‘muscle babo’ – the goodlooking fool that’s really unintelligent – so he’s always doing stuff like that, ripping his trousers on television etc. I’m entertained by it all so I don’t complain like the sheep I am.


    1. I’ve heard the same rumor as well. It could be just that a rumor, but I’m inclined to give it credence for a few reasons. First if I remember correctly I heard it first a little bit after miss a’s debut but way before Dream High was announced to the public. So it’s not just a rumor made up to fit the facts. Second, the astonishing lack of hype surrounding miss a’s debut. It seems every time a group debuts, even before they set foot in stage there is a large amount of press dedicated to what makes this group different and the specialties of each of the members, and accompanied by videos of members showing their skills. But for miss a the hype was minimal if not nonexistent. We got names and a video of min and jia dancing that also served as a reader. But that was all, profiles weren’t even released until a few days into their debut. At first I attributed this to jyp’s marketing strategy, but now it could be read as lack of interest in the groups future. The wonder girls, 2am and 2pm all had a reality show prior to their debuts. In addition there were rumors that miss a was getting shipped to china for long promotions there, but those plans probably got put on hold because of their songs success. Lastly jyp was extremely willing to let suzy miss group activities for the sake of her individual ones, especially so early in their career. That is probably the biggest sign that miss a was a vehicle for suzy’s solo career.


  5. I find the idea that should children should “be” and “feel” sexual rather disturbing in that it would seem to imply that once activity is empowering for them or too their liking, it is acceptable. I *seems* that the writer is saying that the girl (or boy) is the one who should be “deciding”.

    A 10-year-old can’t consent to sex (and I would say sexually explicit photo shoots as well) and, so, it really doesn’t matter, to me, what he or she “feels” or “wants”. The point isn’t whether someone else or the child is doing the sexualizing — it shouldn’t be happening full stop. I’d like to know more clearly what the writer meant because it is sufficiently ambiguous to be unsettling.


  6. This really has nothing to add to the post, and it certainly has nothing to do with Korea, but when I saw Suzy’s “lingerie” pictures the only thing I could think was “Oh, how tasteful…” due to the fact that female models in my country start modelling lingerie at 16~17 and some of the pictures I’ve seen really do look like watered-down ero material. I’m not surprised at the fact more men buy the “teen l-catalogue” than actual teenager girls.


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