Korean Gender Reader

(Slightly risque, slightly awkward, and very badly photoshopped poster for upcoming movie You’re My Pet. See Dramabeans and Seoulbeats for more details)

1) Women 3 times more likely to be sexually-assaulted in Korea than in the US?

From The Washington Times, as part of an article on plans to revive women-only subway cars in Seoul:

In South Korea, women are more often victims of sexual assault than their counterparts in the United States. Reports from the Ministry of Gender and Family show that in 2008, the latest year data were available, 5.1 of every 1,000 adult women in South Korea were the victims of rape or attempted rape.

In the U.S. in 2007, also the most recent year data were available, that number is 1.8 per 1,000 females.

While that’s just one source, and needs to consider possible different definitions of “sexual assault” and methods of data collection used, it is at least based on official statistics. If the comparison holds true, then this news shatters widely-held perceptions that Korea is much the safer country in this regard.

Meanwhile, see the comments here for an extensive earlier discussion on merits and demerits of women-only subway cars; #2 here for more on increasing sexual assault rates in Seoul; here for more on new groups of “sheriffs” set up to patrol Seoul subways; here for more on a new smartphone app that makes it very quick and easy to alert police when being harassed (and has already been successfully used); here for which Seoul subway station has seen the most sexual assaults; and finally here for some context, on how bad groping is in Korea.

Update – The Hankyoreh is also reporting high sexual harassment rates for irregular workers.

2) Teens involved in 1 in 10 cases of prostitution

Being such a short report from Yonhap though, let me quote it in full here:

Minors have accounted for one out of 10 prostitution cases, police said Tuesday, prompting calls for proper measures to discipline and protect youth.

According to the data collected by the National Police Agency, 1,184 adolescents aged 13-19 were caught for buying or selling sex in the first seven months of this year, accounting for 9.7 percent of the total of 12,212 offenders.

3) How to hit on an Asian girl How not to harass an Asian-American woman

As Sociological Images explains (and later taken up by Jezebel), this is a video made:

…at Sweet.Sour.Satire [to] highlight the specific kinds of comments Asian American women often face from strangers and even acquaintances. These experiences, both on the street and on dates, represent the intersection of generic sexism and the stereotype of the submissive, hyper-feminized Asian woman, plus…

Read the rest there.

4) Blog recommendation: Quibbling Jottings

With thanks to Diana Sung (a.k.a Going Places) for passing it on, let me heartily recommend Jeanny Lee’s blog. A Korean-American woman from LA that does visual effects for films (but in Korea at the moment), I particularly liked her long analysis of a recent Economist article on Asian women’s increasing rejection of marriage (which I’d overlooked because of this slightly shorter, teaser version of the article that I commented on), and especially her take on “Korean Vanity”. To wit:

What…can one do, when one is fast approaching 30 with no sign of improvement in one’s skin?

Turns out, one spends money. Korean women use time and money to get their skin to be better than it really is, and I was rather taken aback by the sheer amount of products and propaganda that bombards me from all angles.

Advertising is pervasive, especially in such a wired country, to the point that I have a hard time remembering that when I was back home, I wasn’t too perturbed about my skin’s condition. Here in Korea, there are commercials, billboards, and constant reminders that YOUR SKIN IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

Read the rest here.


(Also on the subject of recommendations, the British F-Word Blog has a list of good feminist podcasts available here, albeit none of which are Korea or even Asia-related sorry)

5) Getting an abortion in Seoul: a foreigner’s story

See here for some very detailed and useful information, with contact details for a friendly, non-judgmental, English-speaking abortion-provider in Seoul (via: Hot Yellow Fellows).

6) Quick links on gender inequality in Korea:

Fostering female CEOs (The Korea Herald editorial)

Gender inequality remains prevalent in Korean workplaces (The Korea Herald)

For women, a nearly impervious glass ceiling at major corporations (The Hankyoreh)

Glass ceiling remains in S.Korea’s firms (Yonhap)

Korean women struggle to break glass ceiling (Korea JoongAng Daily)

Thanks very much to John Power of The Korea Herald for passing this one on to me, who pointed out that unlike The Hankyoreh article above (and I’d add most others), this article at least mentioned the important fact that the lack of women in top management positions in turn means that women do not aspire to them. In short, things are not entirely companies’ fault.

Korean paternity leave to be extended from three to five days (Arirang)

Employment rate for women in their 50s at highest in decades (The Hankyoreh)

Korean women use invention to jump over gender gap (Yohhap)

Japan’s sexist labour market: hit the road (The Economist, for the sake of comparison)

(Source: unknown)

7) Yet another K-pop idol has a dramatic weight loss

Seoulbeats discusses Ji-young of Kara’s recent weight loss in the context of the extraordinary pressures on Korean female stars to be (dangerously) skinny.

Also, see Allkpop for a rare (male) vocalist who spurns cosmetic surgery despite his eyes being the butt of many jokes; The Marmot’s Hole on how people that once bought brand items to fit in the crowd are now buying them to stand out instead; and Sociological Images on how most cosmetic surgery patients in the US undergo procedures because they felt ugly or strange, but which I don’t think is quite as important a consideration for Koreans as aiding in job interviews etc. is (for reasons like these).

8) On being a female teacher in the Korean English classroom

From bitter personal experience, there are many factors that render an ESL career in Korea ultimately unfulfilling, unrewarding, and frustrating. But unlike female teachers, at least I don’t have to be constantly cute and/or use aegyo to gain some respect from students, if indeed “respect” is the right term for it!

9) A round-up of stuff from the rest of Northeast Asia:

Gender, obentos, and the state in Japan

Durex overcomes Taiwanese youths’ reluctance to talk about sex by building an old-school fortune booth to distribute condoms and warnings about unsafe sex (see video above)

China is losing the war against porn, according to sex scholar Katrien Jacobs

Chinese Law Could Make Divorced Women Homeless

– The Puffy Shoes: NOT your average Japanese girl-group

Complex attitudes to breastfeeding in China

10) Sticking it to the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family (MOGEF)

The Ministry does do a lot of good work on very limited resources (only 0.12% of the government total), but in addition to criminalizing abortion in order to increase the birth rate, at the moment it’s best known in Korea for banning pop songs every other week for being “harmful to youth”, but usually for completely inane, contradictory, and arbitrary reasons (and in one recent case, 3 years after the song had been released!). Very much speaking for their entire generation then, Phantom, a new project trio under Brand New Music, has released a stunning medley arrangement of songs banned by MOGEF in response:

As explained at AllKPop:

Members Hanhae, Sanchez, and Kiggen (HybRefine) delivered a song titled “19 Song (Love Songs That Teens Cannot Listen To)”, which contains lyrics by popular banned songs like TVXQ‘s “Mirotic“, DJ DOC‘s “I’m This Kind of Person“, Vibe’s “I’m Always Drinking“, GD&TOP‘s “Knock Out” and “Don’t Go Home“, 10cm‘s “Americano“, and 2PM‘s “Hands Up“.

At the end, they rewrote the lyrics of “Americano” to say, “Elementary, junior high, and high school students, don’t listen to this!”  To further emphasize their jab at the MOGEF, the staff brought in students with their eyes and ears covered for the video.

Finally, apologies in advance, but work commitments mean that next week’s song translation may have to go up on Tuesday or Wednesday rather than Monday. Sorry!


15 thoughts on “Korean Gender Reader

  1. I have tried to stay up to date regarding the new regulations for Seoul students’ rights, reading things here and there, sometimes in English but mostly from Korean sources where my limited Korean hinders my comprehension of the issue. The things I caught from English articles talked about uniforms, hairdos, extra hours and so on (in addition to corporal punishment), but there seems to be a conflict on points concerning sexual discrimination? At least that’s what I gathered trying to translate it, and that these clauses may end up removed from the regulations put into action. Have you followed this? I may have misunderstood everything.


    1. Sorry, but I haven’t really seen anything myself about sexual discrimination in relation to students’ rights issues. But if you could give me some links, then I’d be happy to look into that more and translate some articles for the blog.

      Meanwhile, if you haven’t read them already, then I think Korea Beat has a lot of articles about that sort of thing.


      1. Thanks. I think I might just be following people on twitter who care about those things and complain that there are more problems than those adressed.


      2. like this tweet from lgbtaction

        2차 성소수자긴급번개 / 9월22일(목)7시30분 / 명동향린교회 항의글 올리기도 함께 해요!!


        1. Hmm, not all of it was pasted.. here

          학생인권조례에 성적지향, 성별정체성 차별금지를 넣어라! 2차 성소수자긴급번개 / 9월22일(목)7시30분 / 명동향린교회 항의글 올리기도 함께 해요!!


  2. When I first read about the 5 day paternity leave on the Korea Times, I immediately picked up the phone and excitedly called my husband. Perfect timing right? He was skeptical, and I think the Arirang wording is better than in the article I originally read. “Korean men MAY be able….’ Sigh. He hasn’t heard official word yet from his company, but he is doubtful that managers will be given the same benefits as workers in lower positions. Then again, just recently they started giving managers the full 3 days (instead of ‘your wife gave birth on Friday, and then you had Sat/Sun, so now you best be back at work on Mon). So maybe there is hope!


    1. It’s could to hear that your husband’s company gives them any of the time at all: when the 3-day law first came out, a friend’s husband was told that he wouldn’t be given any time off whatsoever when he inquired about it during an interview (my friend was 6 months pregnant). In fairness though, that was just one case, and I’d be surprised if most companies didn’t comply. After all, 3 or even 5 days is still pretty damn short, especially if the couple doesn’t have any family or friends to help.


  3. I always new Korea had shockingly low paternity leave, but I felt compelled to see just how badly it compared internationally. The table in this page paints a stark picture: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paternity_leave

    To give just one example, Denmark offers the following parental leave: “52 weeks. 18 to be taken by the mother, 2 weeks by the father, the rest as they see fit.”

    Possibly upgraded from 3 to 5 days. Staggering.


    1. Thanks for passing that on. Not that I’d support Korea’s minimal length of paternity leave by any means, but to play Devil’s Advocate, I’d take it for granted that any Scandinavian country would be the polar opposite. And looking at that list, several other supposedly enlightened European countries such as Ireland and Switzerland likewise give none at all or just 2 days respectively.


  4. http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2010/03/03/the-submissive-asian-stereotype-classy-asian-ladies-dating-site/

    I have to ask you, was I the only one offended by this article? I understand the stereotypes that go into dating Asian females.. (though, the article makes it seem as if women of Asian descent are the only ones who face flirtatious stereotyping), but how about the stereotypes going along with the white male? The idea that they are only dating those of Asian descent because they want these stereotypes and want to fulfill their fetishes.. I understand the point of the article, I wish they weren’t who bias and defensive and would choose their words wisely.

    Just a thought.


  5. Subway plan would never be deemed acceptable if segregation was on grounds of race or if the gender involved was reversed.

    More to the point, the whole thing is a canard: By my very rough calculation, there is about one reported incident per 2,000,000 subway rides. Is that a good enough reason for such an idea?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s