Korean Gender Reader


1) Abortion rate falls by half in last 5 years

According to a survey by the Ministry of Health and Welfare late last year. While that figure may well be true, it’s simply astounding that the Chosun Ilbo’s brief report doesn’t mention the huge role the criminalization of abortion undoubtedly played in that, instead quoting unnamed experts that attribute the drop simply to “a change in the social perception of abortion, the wide range of contraception available, and a rise in planned pregnancies”.

2) Less than 1 in 4 elementary school teachers are male

Anybody know how this figure compares internationally?

3) South Koreans account for 1 in 4 sex-trafficking victims in the US

To the best of my knowledge, sex-trafficking victims in a developed country usually come from much poorer ones. Why then, in the case of the US, are there more from South Korea than anywhere else? See this excellent report in the Washington Times by Youngbee Dale for an explanation, who argues that it needs to be understood in the context of Korea’s loosely-regulated credit-card mania and the limited financial opportunities available for women here.

(Sources: left, right)

4) Reebok forced to refund over $25,000,000 to gullible Easytone buyers

Strictly speaking, not (yet) Korean news. But as you can see from the assvertisements above, they’re also sold here, so it’ll be interesting to see what the Korean reaction to this order by the US Federal Trade Commission will be.

Hopefully a wake-up call, as it has been empirically proven that Korea has far more ads promoting passive methods of losing weight than active ones, such as this one that encourages women to literally sit on their asses all day…

5) Women 3 times more likely to be sexually-assaulted in Korea than in the US (Continued)

Some recent reports demonstrating the attitudes that underpin that surprising discovery, as discussed in last week’s Korean Gender Reader:

– First, the Korea Herald reported that the number of reported rapes has surged 33% in the last 3 years. This is bad enough in itself (although it may be positive, reflecting a greater willingness to report them), but unfortunately ended its first paragraph with the line “though the country moves toward harsher punishment for the crime, a report showed Monday”, which rings somewhat hollow upon hearing about the following from Asian Correspondent:

On Wednesday the ninth criminal division of the Seoul High Court (Judge Choi Sang-yeol presiding) sentenced 20-year-old Mr. B and three other young men, all convicted of sexually assaulting 12-year-old middle school student A over a period of hours, to three years in prison and four years of probation. This is a lesser punishment than that imposed by the trial court, which sentenced them to six years in prison and ten years of offender registry.

The judge wrote in the opinion that “viewing the situation as a whole there is no evidence that the victim lacked the ability to resist… The trial court misunderstood the facts”. The opinion continued that “as Mr. B and the others acknowledged their crime, regret their error,  have reached an agreement with the victim, and do not want to be punished, and as the defendants are young and this was their first crime, having no prior offenses rising to the level of a fine or higher, so we find this to be an appropriate sentence”.

– Next, also at Asian Correspondent, is the news that students that sexually abuse disabled students receive minimal punishment, in contrast to abusers of non-disabled victims. Partially, this is because disabled students are often unable to provide accounts of what happened, but it is also because many parents of disabled students, thankful that their children are in a mainstream school at all, do not want to rock the boat.

(For related news, also see #10)

– Finally, for those who weren’t already aware, spousal rape still isn’t a crime in Korea, with the Seoul High Court only ruling that it can be prosecuted at all just this week (a similar case in Busan 2 years ago was dismissed when the defendant committed suicide; see my post on that here). While this development is very good news then, which you can read more about at the Korea Joongang Daily here, if editorials like this one at the Korea Times are any indication (“rape” in inverted commas??) then unfortunately public and media attitudes have a long way to go before following suit.


6) New Zealand “goose mothers” network to avoid loneliness, depression

Not counting those who leave the family nest through marriage, as many as 1 in 8 Korean families have at least one immediate family member living away from home. The vast majority are men, either forced to live in a different city because of work, or remaining in the same city while their wives move their families to Seoul to try and take advantage of the educational opportunities there. While many are effectively forced to do so, others do so voluntarily, and in either case there are naturally large knock-on effects on their perceptions of “normal” family life and marriage, as I discuss in depth here and here. Either way, most hate it, particularly those wives and families who live overseas, while their husbands and fathers – known as  “lonely geese” (외기러기) continue to support them by working in Korea.

I confess, I haven’t given them much thought since writing those earlier posts 3 years ago, but I was still (naively) surprised to learn that technology isn’t really making the separation any easier for such families, as this report from Stuff makes clear.

(Also see those earlier posts for information about “weekend couples” {주말부부}, to whom many of the same conclusions apply)

(Source: Busan Focus, 08.09.2011, p.22)

7) Korea is world’s largest male skincare market

This will probably come as no surprise to most readers! But bear in mind that Korea isn’t exactly the most populous country in the world, which makes its 18% of global sales all the more impressive.

8) Korea to put more women on front-line

See the AFP for the details. In sum, the Defense Ministry said 6,957 women currently serve in the army, navy, air force and Marine corps, but the total was expected to reach 11,500 by 2020.

This compares to figure of 6000 women out of a total of 655,000 soldiers in the armed forces given by the Ministry last October, when it announced that it was going to produces uniforms specifically for women for the first time.

9) “Women to lead S. Korea’s foreign policy in 10 years’ time”

Which is great news. But as Subject Object Verb explains, unfortunately they’ll actually be “leading” by being diplomats’ wives and playing golf…

10) The Crucible (도가니/Dogani) surpasses 1 million viewers at box office

As described at Korea Real Time, the movie:

…is adopted from the bestselling book of the same name by Gong Ji-young, one of the most prominent and respected female writers in Korea. The book is about serial rapes of students by the headmaster and other adults in a school for the hearing-impaired in Gwangju, a city about 180 miles southwest of Seoul. The crimes went on for five years.

With a bungled and inadequate prosecution thereafter however, the subsequent public outrage is forcing a new investigation by the National Police Agency, and calls for better monitoring of private schools.

Anybody seen it yet? Has plans to?


Bust Magazine on “Bagel Girls” (베이글녀)

(Sources: left, right)

It’s a short article, with much that is already familiar to regular readers. But thanks to Grace Duggan of Bust Magazine for asking for my contribution, and I especially liked her insightful point about the artificial dichotomy the term imposes on young women. Indeed, if you extend it to behavior also, then that dichotomy pretty much describes the way they’re presented by the entire Korean media really:

Sexualizing young women for having childlike features sets off all kinds of alarms, regardless of whether or not they are over 18. The “bagel girl” label does more than infantilize women. It compartmentalizes them by applying two irreconcilable ideals: looking like a baby and a full-grown woman at the same time.

Read here for the rest, and here and here for some wider context. Also, here is my post about the “X-line” referred to in the article.

On a positive note, I was happy to read that actor and model Shin Se-kyung (신세경) at least rejects the term. But I’m not entirely convinced: just that single picture above, for instance, shows that she’s quite comfortable presenting herself as innocent-yet-sexy when it suits her. I’m unfamiliar with her career beyond noticing her numerous commercials and magazine photoshoots in passing though, so if people that do know her find that she’s, say, deliberately shedding her childlike image as she ages, then I’d be happy to change my mind!

Free Women’s Self-defense Seminar in Busan, October 1st

See here and here for those 2 links on the poster, and also here for the Angels with Attitude website.

Anybody thinking of going? If so, please report back and let everyone know how it went!


Syndrome (신드롬) by ChoColat (쇼콜라): Lyrics, Translation, and Explanation / Reading The Lolita Effect in South Korea, Part 4


Way back when the internet was just for emails, getting on a plane was pretty much the only way to immerse yourself in another country’s pop-culture. But there were instant insights to be gained if you did.

Take the first Korean music videos I saw. Certainly, they were confusing at first: the hairstyles and clothing were downright bizarre, and I couldn’t understand a word of the language. But seeing the same dance moves, facial expressions, and hand gestures on Korean singers as those back home? I suddenly gained a profound sense of how manufactured pop music was in both countries, which I’d never been able to get from my hapless media studies lecturer.

And that was in May 2000. Fast forward to 2011, and it’s great having 24/7 access to K-pop, wherever you are in the world. But what would it be like encountering the K-pop assembly-line for the first time today?

(Source, all Syndrome screenshots)

Enter Chocolat’s (쇼콜라) music video for Syndrome (신드롬), offering similar quick insights into Korean girl-groups specifically, in this case through seeing girls doing things you normally only see women do. In particular, cutesy aegyo is bad enough coming from a 21 year-old singer, but simply surreal when you see it done by a 14 year-old.

Yes, surreal, not merely awkward and inexperienced. Essentially, you’re watching a child pretending to be an adult pretending to be a child.

Likewise, de rigueur sexy wistful stares at the viewer, hinting at hidden pain and heartbreak, while walking aimlessly in moodily-lit rooms? Receiving one from someone not yet old enough to date, only seems to highlight the pretentiousness of the device all the more. So much so, that I’m not sure I won’t be able to simply laugh at the next one I see now, unless it’s coming from a genuinely worldly-wise diva like, say, Uhm Jung-hwa (엄정화).

Oops: Juliane (줄리앤) above, is actually 18, albeit—if you’ll indulge someone twice her age—still far too young to pull the look off. But that’s not her fault, and I’m sure her and other members will improve with experience. Call it an occupational hazard of teenage groups: No More Perfume on You (향수뿌리지마) by Teen Top (틴탑), for instance, relies on a similar suspension of disbelief, as we’re supposed to pretend that all the boys are playas in a nightclub, despite none being old enough to even get in one:

Rather than dwelling on how teenage girls dancing in tight clothes made me think of teenage boys though, let’s wisely turn to the issue of Chocolat’s marketing instead. First, some quick context.

These days, with notorious levels of illegal downloading ensuring that girl-groups’ (and boy-bands’) management agencies overwhelmingly rely on endorsement deals rather than music sales for profit, then the most important thing is to get noticed. However, this is increasingly difficult, as 27 girl-groups have already debuted just this year.

One inevitable development then, is the increasing sexualization of K-pop, as I discuss in the Korea Herald here. Another, much more recent one, is explicitly using what’s known in advertising as a “unique selling point” (USP), such as the Swing Girls (스윙걸즈) highlighting the fact that all members have D-cup breasts, or the Piggy Dolls (피기돌스) that they are—or rather weremuch heavier than most other female stars.

(Update – Megan at Seoulbeats explores this more in her post about the very similar—and increasingly tiresome—use of “concepts”)

As for Chocolat, their own USP is that 3 members are biracial, with Korean mothers and US Caucasian fathers. Not the first Korean group with biracial or foreign members by any means, but certainly the first to emphasize it so (although as an aside, it would be interesting to see how SM Entertainment handled the issue of Kim Isak’s {김이삭} mixed race back in 2002).


Will this succeed? Angry K-pop Fan, ellieAisa (in the video below), Gord Sellar, and Ashley of Seoulbeats are pessimistic. In particular, let me quote Gord at some length:

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).

Put that mixed race woman in a group of Korean women, without a man in the mix, and I think you might find what I’ve seen in reality: she gets ostracized, because she is the one who’s enviably different. And then, if you take a few of them and put them together, make them dominate a group, and let media out where they could remotely be understood (or misunderstood, or willfully misunderstood even) as looking down on Korean girls, and…

Well, I don’t know what will happen. But I expect a lot of negative press, a lot of anti-fans. Korean girls are not going to like this very much. What remains to be seen is whether the appeal to middle-aged men is going to be enough to outweigh that narrowing of audience.

(Update—Related, also see Hello Korea!’s discussion of SuperStarK’s judges recently hesitating to approve a Caucasian entrant, as they anticipated “that the Korean people would be reluctant to let him win over a Korean”)

With the benefit of an extra month’s hindsight though, I’m going to wager that they will actually become popular, for several reasons.

First, because they have not just one USP but two: their race and their youth. Two of the three biracial members, Tia (티아) and Melanie (멜라니), are only 14 (the other biracial member is 18 year-old Juliane, mentioned earlier). From the perspective of management agency Paramount Music, this makes great sense both in the long-term and the short term.

In the long-term, because the younger a girl-group member becomes popular, the greater the range of consumers she can appeal to: ergo, both teens and young children and the uncle/ajoshhi fans. And she will have a much longer shelf-life so to speak.

This is the heart of “The Lolita Effect”, and why performers—especially female performers—are becoming younger worldwide, not just in Korea.

In the short term, while Girl Story (걸스토리) and GP Basic (지피 베이직) have even younger members, both groups seem to have quickly dropped off the radar, leaving – correct me if I’m wrong – Chocolat with the youngest girls currently active in K-pop. This presents a great opportunity for Paramount Music to gain notoriety for them by pushing the Korean public’s toleration of the hypersexualization of Tia and Melanie to the limit.


Call me projecting my own narratives onto K-pop, but, sure enough, Tia at least has already been in a romantic couple photoshoot with 27 year-old actor Ji Hyun-woo (지현우), even before Chocolat officially debuted. You could argue that that was simply one small part of their overall marketing strategy rather than presaging a focus on sexualization per se, but my money’s still on them following the footsteps of So-hee (안소희) of the Wondergirls (원더걸스); Sulli (최설리) of f(x) (에프엑스; see here also); HyunA (김현아) of 4Minute (포미닛); arguably Suzy (배수지) of Miss A (미쓰에이); just about all of Girls’ Generation; and so on. As like Gord Sellar has said elsewhere, it’s not sex itself that sells, but more sexuality and sexual relationships only just on the fringe of public acceptance:

…we westerners also have a lot of weirdness in our entertainment media floating around that grey area of the age of consent. We’re profoundly uncomfortable with — and at the same time fascinated by — the period where sexuality begins to form in the mind of people, and the moment at which that sexuality becomes permissible. Straight-laced objectionability is, in fact, the greatest determinant in whether you’ll see a sex scene between two characters in a film. This is why we so rarely see plain, slightly overweight forty-year-olds having marital sex in a film. Doubtless, there must be some plain-looking middle-aged married couples out there who have passionate, enviable sex lives, but you’ll never see that in more than a few films, because it’s the most permissible sex on the planet. It’s when sex becomes imaginably objectionable—transgressive—that it becomes worthy of depiction…

Second, USPs aside, another thing in Chocolat’s favor is how they’re already behaving like better established girl-groups, already dieting and claiming that they haven’t had any cosmetic surgery(!). But more seriously, it also didn’t take long for Tia at least to secure a cosmetics endorsement deal, according to Paramount Music precisely because of her exoticism (albeit hardly an objective source).

Next, you might reasonably expect me to also present the photoshoot with Ji Hyun-woo as an example of a Korean male “owning her”, but honestly I’m not sure what Gord is driving at there, and invite him to elaborate either in the comments or on his own blog. I will grant though, that while it’s difficult to generalize, I do get the impression that the more Caucasian women you see in Korean-produced ads, the more they’re depicted with a Korean romantic male interest, as is also the case for music videos (see two examples below). Not that there’s anything wrong with that of course (although it would be nice if the opposite were also true), and I’d be grateful if any readers could fill me in on how they fare in dramas and movies.

Also, it’s certainly true that, sometimes, Korean girl-groups’ music videos have a completely unnecessary, often distracting and confusing male presence. To my mind, the most notorious example would be Because of You (너 때문에) by After School (애프터스쿨; discussed here), which inexplicably features a male in it despite clearly being about a lesbian relationship between two of the members (although technically the lyrics leave the gender{s} open):

Finally, it’s only indirectly related, but it’s one of the first things I thought of when I read Gord’s take on Chocolat (so what the hell): while the “policing” of women in K-pop is constantly in flux, with many backward steps, generally I’d say its slowly but surely liberalizing over time. In particular, whereas S.E.S (에스이에스) was forced to make Caucasian rather than Korean men the target of their wrath for their music video for U back in 2002, lest Korean men be offended (see here and here), now Korean men are fair game, with Miss A’s music videos in particular coming to mind.

Moreover, the debut of a girl group focused on its biracial members provides a great opportunity to do away with convention.

It’s such a pity then, that the music video for Syndrome has such a cookie-cutter feel about it instead, although that is of course what you’d expect from something so representative of the genre. For an analysis, see Quynh’s breakdown of it at Seoulbeats, while I’ll finally—belatedly—provide a translation of the lyrics for the remainder of this post:

Oh yeah~

그 얼굴 닳아질라 널 자꾸 보게 돼 baby baby

너 귀가 따가울라 여기저기서 니 얘기뿐야

Woo~그 hair, fashion 모든 게 it style 닮고 싶은 hot style

Boo 떠오른 new icon uh huh

Oh yeah~

Your face is fading, but I want to see it often

Your ears are burning, everyone is talking about only you

Woo~ that hair, fashion everything it style, a hot style I want to resemble

Boo a rising icon uh huh

Mercifully after a such a long discussion, Syndrome is probably the shortest, most repetitive song I’ve ever translated. Unfortunately though, just like the music video lacks any story, so too do the lyrics too seem disjointed and thrown together, chosen more for their sound than their meaning. Add an excessive amount of English nonsense, even by K-pop standards, then I’m going to forgo discussing my translation on this occasion, although I’d be quite happy to in the comments if people have alternative translations and/or think I’ve made a mistake.

Next, there’s the chorus:

빠 빠 빠 빠 빠져 버린 걸 헤 헤 헤 헤 헤어날 수 없게

너땜에 앓고 있잖아 모두 다 la la la la like me

폐 폐 폐 폐 폐인이 된걸 너 너 너 너에게 중독돼

이순간 Shake me up Fill me up Heal me again

I’ve so fa- fa- fa- fa- fallen for you, I can’t escape

I’m suffering because of you, everything la la la la like me

You’ve cr- cr- cr- cr- crippled me, I’m addicted to you you you

This moment, shake me up, fill me up, heal me again

널 새겨 놓은 my eye eye eye eye 멋진 그 목소리 in my headset

어떡해 미쳤나봐 낮이나 밤이나 니 생각뿐야

Woo 그 ment, motion 모든 게 issue 폭풍눈물 tissue

Boo 빛나는 new idol uh huh

You’re engraved into my eye eye eye eye, your cool voice in my headset

What am I supposed to do, I only think about you every day and night

Woo, that ment, motion everything issue, storm tears tissue

Boo, shiny new idol, uh huh


너땜에앓고있잖아모두다 la la la la like me


이순간 Shake me up Fill me up Heal me again

I’ve so fa- fa- fa- fa- fallen for you, I can’t escape

I’m suffering because of you, everything la la la la like me

You’ve cr- cr- cr- cr- crippled me, I’m addicted to you you you

This moment, shake me up, fill me up, heal me again

내가 어쩌다 이렇게 됐나 몰라 몰라 몰라 몰라


내맘을알아줘 baby 맘을알아줘 baby You never break break my heart

날잊지말아줘 baby 잊지말아줘 baby la la la la like me

내맘을알아줘 baby 맘을알아줘 baby You never break break my heart

이순간 Shake me up Fill me up Heal me again

How did I become like this, I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know

To me, you’re like an unreachable star

Please know my heart baby, please know my heart baby, you never break break my heart

Please don’t forget me baby, please don’t forget me baby, la la la la like me

Please know my heart baby, please know my heart baby, you never break break my heart

This moment, shake me up, fill me up, heal me again

빠 빠 빠 빠 빠져 버린 걸 헤 헤 헤 헤 헤어날 수 없게

너땜에 앓고 있잖아 모두 다 la la la la like me

폐 폐 폐 폐 폐인이 된걸 너 너 너 너에게 중독돼

이순간 Shake me up Fill me up Heal me again

Never break break my hearta

I’ve so fa- fa- fa- fa- fallen for you, I can’t escape

I’m suffering because of you, everything la la la la like me

You’ve cr- cr- cr- cr- crippled me, I’m addicted to you you you

This moment, shake me up, fill me up, heal me again

Never break break my hearta

Make sure you see ellieAsia‘s short video (“Chocolat Scares Me”) for her rendition of the way Tia says that last line—it’s hilarious.

And on that note, apologies for the long delay with this post: blame an editing job at work that took much longer than expected, and then a cold from the lack of sleep. Also, no vote for next week’s song this time sorry, as One More Chance (나 좀 봐줘) by Dana & Sunday (다나&선데이), sub-unit of  The Grace (천상지희 더 그레이스), came a very very close second to Syndrome when votes closed on Friday at 5pm (or were supposed to close sorry – PollDaddy doesn’t seem to be working very well):

The “Reading the Lolita Effect in South Korea” series:

“University Students’ Sex Culture is Out of Control”


I warn you: while entertaining, this article is just sensationalist tabloid trash really. Which is precisely why so many Koreans read it back in July, and now you can too!^^

하룻밤후기에 인증샷까지막가는 대학생 性문화

As far as a confirmation shot after “one night”… university students’ sex culture is out of control

  • 하룻밤 성관계 맺고 “홈런쳤다” 글 올려 / Have a one-night stand and post “hit a home run”
  • 여성을 외모 따라 엘프·휴먼·오크…게임 캐릭터에 비유 / Women described as game characters – elf, human, orc – according to their bodies
  •  만남에서 잠자리까지…온·오프라인 강좌도 / From first meeting to bed . . . on- and off-line courses

사생활 존중 안중에 없는 기형적 대인관계 우려 /Concern about abnormal personal relationships in which respect for privacy is ignored

일부 대학생들의 성(性)문화가 ‘막장’으로 치닫고 있다. 이성과의 성관계 장면을 인터넷에 올리고, 거액을 주고 성관계 맺는 법을 가르쳐주는 학원에 다니는가 하면, 스마트폰을 이용해 하룻밤 파트너를 찾아다니고 있다. 최근 문제가 된 고려대 의대생들의 동기 여학생 성추행 사건도 이 같은 ‘막장 성문화’의 한 단면을 보여준 셈이다.

The sexual culture of some university students is headed for extremes. Some post sex videos on the Internet and pay a fortune to go to academies that teach how to get sex, while others use their smartphones to look around for one-night partners.  The current problem of the Korea University medical students’ sexual molestation of a female classmate also shows an aspect of this same “extreme sexual culture.”


성관계 후기 남기고 인증샷까지 / As far as posting a confirmation shot post-sex

지난 8일 대학생 회원이 대부분인 인터넷 포털사이트의 한 카페. ‘블루’라는 아이디를 가진 회원은 “두 번째 부킹에서 만난 이날의 홈런녀는 K대 법학과 2학년. 간단히 술 마시고 모텔에 갔습니다. 집에 데려다 준 후 전화번호 삭제”라는 글을 올렸다. 글 아래에는 여학생이 벗어놓은 것으로 보이는 속옷 사진이 첨부되어 있었다. 홈런녀의 ‘홈런’은 성관계를 의미하는 은어. 이 회원이 남긴 글은 ‘홈런 후기’, 속옷 사진은 ‘홈런 인증’에 해당한다고 한다.

July 8th, on an Internet portal site’s cafe whose members are mostly university students.  A member with the ID “Blue” posted, “Today’s home run girl, the second I met though booking [process, found in some clubs, in which waitstaff drag women over to meet male patrons], is a second-year law student at K University.  We briefly drank alcohol and then went to a motel.  Erased her number after taking her home.”  At the bottom of the post there is an attached picture of undergarments that look like a female student took them off.  The “home run” in “home run girl” is slang for sex.  They say the post that this member left represents “post-home run”, and the underwear picture is “home run confirmation.”

이 카페의 다른 글에는 이성과 어떻게 만났는지, 모텔에 갈 때까지의 과정, 상대 여성의 나이와 신체 사이즈는 물론 학교·전공까지 상세히 적혀 있었다. 사실성을 부각시키기 위해 글의 말미에는 사진이 붙어 있다. ‘인증샷’이라고도 하는 이 사진 중에는 성관계 후 자고 있는 이성의 모습은 물론 가슴, 성기, 얼굴 등이 그대로 노출되어 있는 것도 있다. 심지어 ‘구장 입장권'(모텔 신용카드 영수증)을 첨부하는 회원도 있다. 이런 ‘인증샷’ 아래에는 “대박이다” “부러워요” “저도 가르쳐주세요” 등 수백개의 댓글이 달린다. 글을 남긴 회원은 부러움을 받는 동시에 이들 세계의 ‘영웅’이 되는 것이다. 이들 카페에는 전혀 알지 못하는 회원들끼리 나이트클럽으로 ‘사냥’을 떠나자는 글도 쉽게 찾아볼 수 있다.

In other posts in this cafe, there is of course how they met the other person, the process leading to the motel, and the female partner’s age and size, and also as far as school and major are written in detail.  To highlight the reality, pictures are attached to the end of the post.  Among these pictures, also called “confirmation shots,” there are of course the woman’s post-sex sleeping form, and also their breasts, genitals, and faces as they may be exposed.  There are members who even attach the “stadium ticket” (motel credit card receipt).  Below these “confirmation shots” there are hundreds of replies like, “Awesome,” “I envy you,” and, “Teach me too.”  The member who posted this is being envied, and he is becoming the “hero” of these people’s world at the same time.  In their cafe, it is also easy to find posts in which members who don’t know each other at all invite each other to go “hunting” in a nightclub.

서울의 한 사립대 경영학과 4학년인 최모(26)씨는 “친구들과 일주일에 한 번 정도 ‘원나잇’을 즐기기 위해 클럽에 간다”며 “누가 홈런을 많이 치는지 경쟁을 하고 카페에 글도 남긴다”고 했다.


A Mr. Choi (26), fourth-year business management student at a private university in Seoul, said, “About once a week I go to clubs with my friends to enjoy a one-night stand.  We compete to see who can hit the most home runs, and leave posts in cafes.”

다른 포털사이트에서도 유사한 카페를 쉽게 찾을 수 있다. 인기 카페는 회원이 5만명을 넘는다. 글 내용에 ‘계절학기’ ‘수강신청’ ‘취업’이라는 단어가 자주 등장, 대학생 회원이 대부분이라는 사실을 알 수 있다. 남성 회원이 많지만 일부 카페는 여성만 회원으로 받고 있으며, 여성이 올린 ‘인증샷’과 ‘후기’도 가끔씩 찾아볼 수 있다.

It is easy to find similar cafes on other portal sites.  Popular cafes have more than 5,000 members.  At the frequent appearance of phrases like “vacation school”, “course registration”, and “getting a job,” one can know that most of the members are university students. There are many male members, but some cafes accept only women as members, and “confirmation shots” and “post-[home run]” uploaded by women can sometimes be found.

이런 카페들은 대부분 2008년 이후 개설됐으며 최근 회원이 급속히 늘어나고 있다. 한 인기 카페의 경우 글과 사진의 절반이 올해 올라온 것이었다. 특히 카페의 글에는 은어가 많아 기성세대들이 이해하기가 어려울 정도. 처음 보는 이성과 전화번호를 교환했을 경우엔 ‘#-close’, 키스를 했다면 ‘k-close’ 라고 칭하고, 성관계를 했을 경우 ‘F-close’ 라고 표시한다. ‘홈런’과 달리 성관계를 하지 못하고 돈만 쓰고 나왔을 경우엔 ‘내상’이라는 용어를 쓴다.

Most of these kinds of cafes have been opened since 2008, and these days the number of members is rapidly rising. In one popular cafe’s case, half of the posts and pictures were posted this year.  In cafe posts, especially, there is so much slang in the posts that the older generation will find them hard to understand. Exchanging phone numbers with the other person is “#-close”, kissing is termed “k-close”, and sex is indicated by “F-close.”  In contrast to “home run”, when they don’t have sex and leave after just spending money, the term “nae-sahng” is used [Marilyn – language exchange partner thinks this may be the opposite of 외상 (wae-sahng) which means to buy something on credit; so basically it would be paying for something now but not getting it].

상대 여성을 지칭한 용어도 노골적이다. 얼굴과 몸매가 뛰어난 여성은 ‘엘프(요정이란 의미)’, 평범한 여성은 ‘휴먼(사람이란 의미)’, 외모가 떨어지는 여성을 ‘오크(괴물이란 뜻)’로 표현하는 식이다. 인터넷 게임에 등장하는 캐릭터 이름으로 이성관계를 게임에 비유하고 있는 것. 지난해 대학을 졸업한 회사원 정모(29)씨는 “후배들과 모이면 무슨 얘기를 하는지 알아들을 수가 없다”며 “같은 20대인데도 세대 차이가 느껴진다”고 했다.

There terms used for the female partner are also frank.  In their style of expression, women with outstanding faces and bodies are “elves”, average women are “humans”, and women with below-average appearances are “orcs.”  This is comparing relationships with the opposite sex to a game, through names of characters from Internet games.  A Mr. Jeong (29), who graduated from university last year, said, “When I get together with my juniors [younger people from the same school], I can’t understand what they’re saying.  Even though we’re all in our 20s, I feel a generational gap.”

(Sources: left, right)

스마트폰, 막장 성문화 부채/ Smartphones, fanning the flames of extreme sexual culture

최근 보급되고 있는 스마트폰은 막장 성문화의 주요 도구로 이용되고 있다. 스마트폰의 보급률과 인터넷 카페 게시물의 증가 시기가 일치하고, 선정적 게시물도 최근 집중적으로 늘어나고 있는 것. 스마트폰을 가지고 있는 대학생의 수는 지난 1월 기준으로 50%를 돌파했다. 스마트폰에는 고화질의 카메라 기능이 있을 뿐 아니라 인터넷 기능까지 있어 손쉽게 사진을 찍고 글을 올릴 수 있는 것이다.

Smartphones, popular these days, are being used as the main tools of extreme sexual culture.  The distribution rate of smart phones coincides with the age of rising numbers of Internet cafe posts, and suggestive posts, especially, are currently rising.  The number of university students who have smart phones has risen 50% since January.  Smartphones have not just a high-definition camera, but also Internet access, so one can easily take a photo and make a post.

여기에 이성과의 즉석 만남을 가능하게 해 준 애플리케이션이 등장하면서 스마트폰은 일회성 성문화를 더욱 부추기고 있다. 인터넷 카페 등에는 ‘하데로 홈런친 이야기’ ‘1㎞ 홈런 인증’ 등의 글을 쉽게 찾을 수 있다. 하데(하이데어)와 1㎞는 즉석 만남을 주선하는 스마트폰의 애플리케이션이다. 이용자가 100만명이나 되는 이런 애플리케이션은 반경 1㎞ 안에 있는 가입자들의 목록을 보여주고, 전혀 모르는 불특정 다수의 사람들이 쪽지를 교환할 수 있는 프로그램이다. 대학생 김모(26)씨는 “여자들에게 만나자는 쪽지를 쭉 돌리다 보면 한두 명 답이 온다”면서 “만나는 과정이 쉬울수록 그날 밤을 같이 보낼 확률도 높다”고 했다. 이런 애플리케이션의 보급으로 소셜네트워크서비스(SNS) 시대의 연애, 즉 소셜데이팅(Social Dating)이란 용어가 탄생했지만 건전한 교제보다는 ‘하룻밤 교제’에 사용되는 사례도 적지 않은 것이다.

Moreover, with the appearance of apps that make possible impromptu meetings with members of the opposite sex, smartphones are further encouraging one-off sexual culture.  In sites like Internet cafes, it is easy to find posts like, “story of a home run through Ha-deh” and “1km  home run confirmation.”  Ha-deh (ha-ee-dey-uh [hi there]) and 1km are smartphone applications that arrange impromptu meetings.  Apps like this, which have 1 million users, are programs that show a list of members within a radius of one kilometer and allow random, unknown people to exchange messages. University student Mr. Kim (26), said, “If I keep sending out messages to girls saying, ‘Let’s meet,’ I get answers from one or two people.  The easier it is to meet, the higher the chance that we will spend that night together.”  Through the popularity of this kind of app, dating in the era of social network service (SNS), or “Social Dating” was born, but there are fewer instances of it being used for healthy relationships than for “one-night relationships.”

성관계 가르치는 학원 / Academies that teach sex

비뚤어진 성문화는 새 직업도 만들어냈다. 할리우드 영화 ‘미스터 히치(Mr. Hichi)’와 우리나라 영화 ‘시라노 연애조작단’에 나오는 이른바 연애 컨설턴트다. 연애 컨설턴트는 연애를 못하거나 짝사랑에 잠 못 이루는 남녀를 구제해 주는 직업으로 1980년대 미국에서 처음 시작된 것으로 알려져 있다.

Warped sexual culture has also generated new jobs.  They are so-called dating consultants, like in the Hollywood movie Hitch and the Korean movie Cyrano Agency.  Dating consultants, beginning in the United States in the 1980s, are known as jobs for saving men or women who are bad at dating or can’t fulfill their one-sided love.

그러나 우리나라에선 연애 컨설턴트의 역할이 변질돼 길거리와 클럽에서 이성을 유혹하는 법, 단 한 번의 만남으로 성관계를 갖는 방법 등을 가르치고 있다.

However, dating consultants’ role in Korea is degenerate and involves teaching methods like ways to seduce the opposite sex on the street or in a club, and how to get from the first meeting to sex in just one shot.

‘픽업 아티스트’라고도 불리는 이들은 남성 전용 인터넷 카페에서 주로 활동한다. 자칭 ‘연애 고수’ ‘작업의 달인’들이 픽업 아티스트이다. 이들은 주로 대학생 회원들을 상대로 돈을 받고 ‘비법’을 가르친다. 통상 온라인 수강료는 30만원, 오프라인 수강료는 150만원쯤 한다. 단과반과 종합반으로 나뉠 뿐 아니라 1박 2일 동안 집중 교육을 받는 ‘부트캠프(신병훈련소)’까지 있다. 길거리에서 여성을 유혹하는 ‘헌팅이론’, 나이트클럽에서 이성을 유혹하는 ‘클럽이론’, 즉석 만남에서 잠자리까지 이르는 방법을 가르치는 ‘홈런이론’ 등 학과목도 다양하다. 픽업 아티스트 A씨는 “20대 초반 대학생들이 주요 수강생”이라며 “말하는 법부터 (전화)번호 따는 법, 홈런치는 법까지 다 가르쳐준다”고 했다. 그는 또 “직접 제작한 교재를 사용하는데, 강의를 듣고 나면 인생이 180도 바뀔 것”이라고 주장했다.


These people, also known as “pickup artists,” are mainly active on men’s Internet cafes.  The self-styled “dating masters” and “come-on experts” are pickup artists. They mainly receive money from and teach the “secret method” to university students.  Usually, tuition for online is 300,000 won and for offline is about 1.5 million won.  They are not just split up into specialized courses and comprehensive courses, but there are even two-day/one-night “boot camps” for intensive instruction.  There is a variety of subjects, like “hunting theory”, which is how to seduce a woman on the street, “club theory”, for how to seduce the opposite sex in a night club, and “home run theory”, which teaches how to get from a first meeting to bed [in one shot].  Pickup artist “A” said, “Students are mainly university students in their early 20s.  I teach everything from how to speak, to how to get a (phone) number, to how to hit a home run.”  He also claimed, “I use teaching materials that I made myself; after attending my lecture your life will turn around 180 degrees.”

전문가들은 막장 성문화에 대해 대인관계의 왜곡은 물론 사생활 침해 등 우리 사회에 많은 부작용을 가져올 수 있다고 경고한다. 서강대 사회학과 전상진 교수는 “즉흥성에 의존한 인간관계가 젊은이들 사이에서 이뤄지고 있다”며 “깊숙한 관계가 되기 위해선 인간관계의 친밀도가 필요한데 젊은이들 사이에선 인터넷 기술 등의 발달로 인스턴트 섹스의 갈망이 커지고 있다”고 했다. 전 교수는 또 “인증샷 등을 볼 때 개인의 사생활을 지켜줘야 한다는 생각도 느슨해지고 있다. 기형적이고 불구 상태의 대인관계가 사회에 만연할까 우려스러울 정도”라고 했다.

Experts warn that extreme sexual culture could have side effects like distortion of personal relationships and of course violation of private life. Sogang University sociology professor Jeon Sang Jin said, “Relationships that depend on off-handednss are happening between young people. For a deep relationship, a level of [emotional] closeness is necessary, but between young people, with the development of things like Internet technology, the desire for instant sex is growing.”  Professor Jeon added, “When we see things like confirmation shots, our belief that personal privacy must be protected loosens.  I wonder if personal relationships’ abnormal and deformed state will spread in society, to an alarming level.”

Writers: Seok Nam-jun (namjun@chosun.com); interns Seo Sang-hee (4th year Chung-ang University student) and Kim Hyeon-gyeong (4th year Ehwa Women’s University student)

(Thanks very much to Marilyn for the translation)


Getting an Abortion in Korea

(Source: Unknown)

Update, September 2014: This recent Groove magazine article on abortion is a must-read.

Update, August 2014: Please note that this post is nearly three years old, and that the author left Korea before it was written. I’m happy to pass on the name and address of the specific clinic she used, but unfortunately it may no longer be there, or may no longer be performing abortions.

Instead, I recommend listening to this May 2014 interview of another woman who had an abortion here, and contacting the producers of that podcast if you’d like any more information.

Thanks again to this university student for taking the time to write about her recent experience. Naturally, she’d like to remain anonymous, but she’d be happy to answer any questions readers may have in the comments (provided they’re not too intrusive):

……For me it started when I didn’t get my period. I was a bit worried as two weeks ago, during intercourse, my boyfriend’s condom slipped and so we had to change in the middle to a new one. Anyways, the pregnancy test kit came out with two visible lines. I was surprised and was stunned for about two minutes. Then, reality hit me: I didn’t cry, I immediately called my boyfriend, and we talked about this together, which I think was, for me, a better way to relax and calm down than crying.

We accessed the situation and decided to get an abortion, as we were both university students and thus didn’t have any ability to support ourselves. For me, having a baby in Korea meant that any chances of you getting a professional job was over, and I just couldn’t face that, not only because of my dreams but also because of the huge demands that my parents bore to put me in college. Even if we had the baby, I reasoned, we wouldn’t be able to raise him/her in a high-quality environment, as both of us would probably be working at low paid jobs w/ long hours just to support our family. We began to search up abortion clinics in our area and was lucky to find one with ease.

However, due to the government regulating abortions with more severity, we were worried about the price of an abortion. We searched up and found that (I was 4 weeks pregnant, or 2 weeks past from the initial fertilization) about 3 yrs ago, before the minister of health had said that stupid comment about abortion and fertility rates, it was about 400,000 won for women who were 4 weeks pregnant like me. But, more current searches showed that it could now be anywhere from 1 to 2 million won – basically it depends on what the hospital says, as there is no set price, and with the new regulations doctors can lose their license if it’s proved that they’ve done it more than 3 times. We were very stressed over this issue, as prices tend to skyrocket with each passing week (source, right).

Anyways, we entered the clinic, and I got an ultrasound. The doctor said that the fetus at that stage was too small, and that I should visit the next week. I was initially skeptical as I wasn’t sure if the doctor was telling the truth or if she wanted me to pay a bit more, but I had no choice, and did as the doctor told me. The following week I re-visited the clinic but this time a different doctor checked the fetus. And what she said made me upset. Basically, she told me that I shouldn’t have such a loose lifestyle, that I should care more about contraception, why I had waited so long before coming to visit, and so on and so forth. But I had no choice, since if I go to a different clinic I have to pay for the ultrasound again. After that dismal lecture, I went to discuss the pay and other things with another person (I don’t know what her job is exactly-maybe some sort of consultant?). The pay was 800,000 won, which was a relief. The consultant explained everything: how I shouldn’t eat anything 6 hrs before the operation, how I might not be able to have a baby ever again, how much it costs, what the aftereffects were, how I needed my boyfriend (who’s a bit older than I was) to act as a guardian and so I needed him to come with me on the day of the operation, and so forth.

During the next day, we desperately raised some money; I was worried as well not because of the money but because of the guilt. I tried to assuage my feelings – after all, a 5 week old baby doesn’t have its cerebrum developed yet; it doesn’t have feelings – but it was a bit hard. But in the end, the day came, and I went to the clinic, signed everything (the abortion was to be called a missed abortion, and since it’s outlawed I can’t demand any sort of papers from them), paid (in cash), and got ready for the operation. When I went into the operation room, it frightened me. There was this bed, and there was a little metal bowl right under it-that’s when it hit me the most that something that could potentially grow into a being with feelings would be erased forever, never to appear again, and it made me quite sad, but I had no choice – I couldn’t back out. They strapped me onto the bed, and I was knocked out. The next thing I remember is being back in the little ward (it’s very small-about the size of a small elevator, and is for one person only) with my boyfriend right next to me; apparently I had just cried, hugged the nurse and said “sorry” and “thank you”, and then had thrown up. After about 30 minutes of lying down and talking with my boyfriend, the dizziness subsided, the cramp in my stomach had went away, and I walked out of the ward. The lady at the counter said that I had to re-visit about 2 days from now, and then every 3~4 days to check up for the next two weeks (the price was all included in the initial payment) and gave me some medicine.

Overall, it was not that much of a traumatic experience, but I won’t ever be able to forget the little bowl. It saddens me even now (end).


See here and here for two more accounts of getting an abortion, in Seoul and Busan respectively, and here for more context on the criminalization of abortion in Korea in recent years (or, technically, the sudden enforcement of existing laws, after being ignored for 60 years).

Update: See here for a thoughtful response to this post by Roboseyo.

Update 2:  And here for another by Angry K-pop Fan. Just to clarify something mentioned in both though, while my wife, for instance, was once unfortunate enough to come across a very judgmental pharmacist when buying the pill, that was over a decade ago. Indeed, as Gomushin Girl and many other commenters here have pointed out, that is extremely rare these days (especially in the cities), and regardless they did (and do) still sell it nevertheless, unlike some US pharmacists that refuse to for religious reasons.