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?


14 thoughts on “Korean Gender Reader

  1. The spousal rape case that was dismissed two years ago was an appeal. The man was found guilty, and committed suicide during the appeal process. So he was still guilty. This is the first time spousal rape has been upheld on appeal. What the appeal court actually said beggars belief, given that the woman was apparently stabbed. Korea Times headline, by the way, was Appelate Court Convicts Man of ‘Raping’ Wife. Not the best use of inverted commas I’ve seen.
    Those medical students at Korea University have been sentenced today. They groped (not raped) the students and got jail for it. They were expelled earlier this month.


    1. Thanks for the clarifications, and I’ve added the point about the inverted commas to the text. But I think you’re a little mistaken about the Korea University case sorry (which came up literally as I finished typing the post), as it was my understanding that a) it was indeed rape, and b) that just one victim was involved.


      1. Sorry, yes, students was a typo. But:

        “The Seoul Central District Court sentenced a 23-year-old male student surnamed Park, one of the convicted, to two-and-a-half years imprisonment for groping the breasts, stomach and other body parts of a long-time female friend from the same medical school.

        The court also handed down a one-and-half-year prison sentence to the other two male defendants, surnamed Han and Baek, for joining Park in sexually harassing the victim and taking pictures of her being molested. ”

        It’s a Yonhap story, but we’re carrying it, (Yonhap has a paywall).


  2. I’m more than a bit irked that the otherwise good article on sex trafficking contained this one obnoxious line:

    “In South Korea, many women attend college to meet an eligible husband, rather than pursue their own dreams.”

    I’m sorry, but I work at a college. I’ve attended college here. The women going to college are not in search of their MRS degree. They’re just not. They’re every bit as driven and interested in the future as their XY fellows in collge, possibly more so. Do a lot of them end up getting married and then dropping out of the workforce? Yeah. But they’re not going to college with that goal in mind.


  3. I wonder how the U.S. trafficking figures are complied. I hope better than those out of the U.K., which have utterly unreliable. The media has been very poor in reporting on this issue accurately. Half truths and fuzzy language mean that people are not even always talking about the same issue.

    The term trafficking itself is highly problematic — originally it was supposed to refer to those transported by force or coercion, but now some use the term to mean any sex worker travelling to another country, which is at best misleading and at worst dishonest.


  4. awesome sources for information as always. your homepage is enough to give me stuff to write for the next 5 years! I plan to watch Crucidable, the movie already made a fuss before it was out…


  5. Actually that story about the four men found guilty of gang raping a 12 year old being given “three years in prison and four years of probation” on appeal is incorrectly translated – They were given a three year sentence suspended for four years. In other words, a suspended sentence, or no jail time – hence the outrage.

    It’s unbelievable that the judge accepted the (to paraphrase) ‘I didn’t know she was 12 – she looked at least 13′ excuse to lessen their sentence.

    Translation-wise, it’s the ol’ difference between having an ‘에’ or a comma between the 징역 and the 집행유예 that makes the difference.


  6. Just a social observation from a Native English teacher here. I work in Middle School and High School, and I’d generally note that, looking at both the composition of my school’s staffs, as well as the general makeup of the school staffs on my island (who I occasionally see at large events of various kinds), the elementary schools are mostly taught by women, but then as you look at the middle schools and high schools, there are more men on staff. Sometimes the difference is pretty stark.

    I know that’s totally anecdotal, but I’d love to see the stats. Too bad that article provides none beyond the elementary figure.

    There’s some interesting research I’ve seen stateside about female educational cycles and how they excel in early grades and gradually lose momentum and start struggling more as they get older. I wonder how much of that could be down to having educators whose communication styles, abilities to sympathize with their students and gender-based biases change dramatically over time.


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