Korean Gender Reader

(Sources: left, right)

1) Oh! Boy (오! 보이) Audition Reality Show Premieres

Does anybody else have misgivings about such a show being explicitly aimed at teens? And that its first two episodes featured high school students? After all, despite the feminine name, the “Lolita Effect” can certainly apply to boys too.  Recall my summary of it from last December:

[The Lolita Effect] is the natural consequence of various industries’ (fashion, cosmetics, cosmetic surgery, diet-related, food, and so on) need to build, expand, and maintain markets for their products, which obviously they would do best by – with their symbiotic relationship with the media through advertising – creating the impression that one’s appearance and/or ability to perform for the male gaze is the most important criteria that one should be judged on. And the younger that girls learn that lesson and consume their products, the better.

Just replace “male gaze” with, say, “opposite sex’s gaze”, then I think Oh! Boy serves as a great example of “the younger that boys learn that lesson”.

2) Sexism in the Korean Literary Establishment?

Granted, it was published back in 1996, and Korean Modern Literature in Translation’s charge comes with many qualifications. But still: it’s just remarkable that less than 1 in 1o of the writers in Who’s Who in Korean Literature were women.

3) Pognae Baby Carriers Rock!

As Geek in Heels explains:

Baby carriers are big in Asia. This is especially the case in urban areas where there is limited space and the majority of the population choose to take public transportation rather than drive.

And where there is demand, there is supply. A great variety of quality supply, I might add.

The Pognae is one such baby carrier. Made in, and popularized in Korea, the Pognae is currently one of the most popular soft structured baby carriers in Asia and Europe.

Read the rest there. If pognae are not to your liking though, then consider modernized Korean podaegi (포대기) instead, discussed in the second half of this post.

(Source: unknown)

4) On Being a Dating Blogger

Dating in Korea ponders her third year of blogging.

Semi-related, see here and here for two Korea Herald articles on what single Korean men and women want from dating these days.

5) Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Becoming a Stewardess in Korea

It’s easy to criticize an industry that – in Korea at least – so needlessly stresses age and appearance, and to consider the young women that aspire to it as hopelessly vain and naive. However, despite these stereotypes, not only do the limited options available to Korean women (see #6 below) arguably make stewardessing a rational, adventurous, and even quite rebellious career choice, but Korean airlines even require university degrees from applicants too (and some cabin crew actually have Ph.Ds!).

See the Korea Herald here for more information. Guaranteed, you’ll be much more sympathetic to Korean stewardesses (and hopefuls) after reading it!

6) Should Korean Firms Have Quotas for Women?

Full disclosure: I’ve been a firm advocate of these ever since I wrote an undergraduate essay on the subject back in *cough* 1996. But still, I do think Shin Dong-youb, management professor at Yonsei School of Business, makes a good case for them here. Certainly his opponent Kim Joon-gi, a professor at Yonsei Law School, lacks all credibility when he fails to mention how alleged gains in female employment through  “informal government prodding” of companies, for instance, would prevent the same government encouraging the mass-firing of women again when it felt it was expedient, like it did in 1997 and 2008.

Having said that, one point Shin makes is that women are necessary to bring “feminine values”, such as “openness, diversity, sensitivity, emotional intelligence, nurturing, cooperation, horizontal community spirit, and innovation advantage” to the creative 21st Century economy. Not only do I find that notion repetitive and tiresome, but I’d question whether those are particularly “feminine” values at all, and would argue that the gender stereotypes they are based on not just flawed but actually positively unhelpful in getting women into the workplace. In particular, however modern-sounding, his argument sounds suspiciously like the logic that was used to justify giving women the vote in New Zealand in 1893(!), which, while successful (and the first in the world at that), was actually very much a backward step for New Zealand women, ossifying the Feminist movement there for at least the next 4 decades.


7) “The more feminine you look, the more children you want. Wait, what?”

Not strictly about Korea sorry, but long-term readers will recognize the above image from my post “Sex and the Red-Blooded Woman“, about how the redder a women’s cheeks, the sexier. Which is still quite a valid conclusion from the study discussed there, but for this post at I09 though, instead the image was used to illustrate a:

study published in the latest issue of Hormones and Behavior, [that] concluded that women’s facial features and estrogen levels correlate with their self-reported desire to have children — where higher estradiol concentrations and more “feminine” facial features both correspond with higher maternal tendencies (i.e. wanting more kids, sooner).

As Io9 correctly points out however:

Of course, the findings of the paper are what they are: correlations. Correlation, as most of us know, does not imply causation. That said, correlative results do have a nasty habit of turning into soundbites…”The more feminine you look, the more children you want,” for example.

In the interest of cutting these types of soundbites off at the pass, Scientific American bloggers Scicurious and Kate Clancy have taken the liberty of engaging in a little pre-emptive debunkery.

Read that thoroughly deserved debunking there!

8) The Constitutional Court Rules on the Vandom Case

Which if you’ve never heard of before, was Andrea Vandom’s petition to find mandatory in-country HIV tests for non-Korean non-citizens on E-2 visas unconstitutional. For more background, see the list of articles mentioned at the start of Matt’s usual thoroughly-researched post at Gusts of Popular Feeling.

Unfortunately, the petition was ultimately rejected.  But, as Matt explains, some positive things did still emerge from the ruling.

9) Illict Sex in North Korea

As explained at Clever Turtles, there are a few things that should be kept in mind whenever reading stories “from” North Korea:

Pretty much all news comes through a few anti-North Korean activists who cultivate communication channels with dissidents inside North Korea and refugees who have recently run the border. Several of them have religious motivations and ties with the South Korean evangelical community, who remain the most actively interested audience for news from North Korea. This is transparently obvious in this article.

That said, it is an interesting window into the daily lives of the people of North Korea, and a reminder that they are no more or less than human.

For more commentary, and the article itself (“about how North Korea is becoming a pit of sexual decadence), see here.

10) Sex-trafficking Awareness Ads a Little too Graphic

Again not technically Korean sorry, but from Singapore, and definitely NSFW if viewed at full size. But in light of the fact that 1 in 4 sex-trafficking victims in the US are Korean (see #3 here), and this recent horrific Australian case involving Koreans, then certainly such shocking ads couldn’t do any harm to the anti-trafficking cause here:


See CopyRanter for more details.


12 thoughts on “Korean Gender Reader

  1. I had no idea Oh! Boy was being marketed to teenagers seeing as I’m way past that age now and consider myself a noona fan. My interest in the series is due to that fact that Taeyang’s (Big Bang) older brother Dong Hyun Bae is making his acting debut in it.


  2. Wow, those pics from Singapore really show just about everything that could happen. A bit surprising to me at least, since Singapore isn’t exactly known for its openness about sex, but welcome. Since I’d guess that there aren’t many Singaporeans who get trafficked, I presume that it is more for the customers (ie Singaporean males)?

    Yes, after watching that recent program one can only wonder at how little the authorities have done about well known dubious persons and establishments… I can only hope that the recent spate of publicity causes something useful to happen.


  3. In the continuing ‘healthy=???’ saga, from a Secret interview: ‘Zinger then added, “If SNSD have their tall model-like bodies, we have our small, cute and healthy bodies.”’

    not even sure what that means, but it’s repeated: “If SNSD accentuate their nine member synchronized choreography, we will be emphasizing our healthiness and individual charms.”

    Healthiness: now a group concept! Is that a dig at their unhealthy competitors or a roundabout way of saying ‘we’re curvy’ ? Who knows, but it sounds as silly as ever.

    link: http://www.soompi.com/news/secret-going-facetoface-with-snsd-we-have-our-weapons

    (SNSD make fun of the diet articles http://youtu.be/Mtn0JLHtzM0?t=52s)


  4. Does anybody else have misgivings about such a show being explicitly aimed at teens? And that its first two episodes featured high school students?


    After all, despite the feminine name, the “Lolita Effect” can certainly apply to boys too.

    The Lolito Effect™.


  5. Regarding Clever Turtles’s caveats about North Korea news and the evangelical community, I remember that a few years ago Channel 4 News in the UK showed a special report about North Korean defectors moving through China, Laos and Thailand, based on material filmed by a team from the Chosun Ilbo. The report showed a group of defectors praying in a safehouse in China, without explaining where or how they became Christians. (North Korea analysts say that Christian institutions in the North are bogus organisations set up to give an illusion of free religious activitiy and con foreign churches into giving humanitarian aid.)

    There were also interviews wth defectors who had reach South Korea through the same network, which was — surprise! — run by an evangelical pastor, I rather got the impression that their lives in Seoul revolved around that pastor’s church, and that he was perhaps as much interested in winning souls for his church as helping people escape from the North.


  6. Those baby carrying things are basically what my mother, her mother and every single one of my relatives did, were carried like for FREE, with a piece of cloth. Sorry, that sentence is horrible.


  7. Re #5, this is the time of year when a few of my students always try to get into Inha U. or Yeungjin College or whatever other place has the hottest cabin crew programme. It sure puts them under a lot of stress, and what do you say to an 18-year-old who’s probably a little too short or doesn’t have light enough skin to make it? Fortunately, there are a lot of decent related jobs, such as ground crew, Korail, and international hotels for those many who don’t make the cut. Still, there’s just something said about girls turning down academic prgrammes to ‘major’ in cabin crew.


      1. Given all of the homoerotic interplay between Korean teens of the same sex I wonder if addressing this openly is such a good idea. For instance, I have some HS students whose behaviour would obviously be viewed as lesbian in the English-speaking world: in their dress, their hair styles, their mannerism, taking on boys’ names, and a tendency not to get very touchy-feely with other female students (even if they like to play-fight) the way the really girly girls do with each other. I imagine that some of them really are gay and some of them are just tom-boys. For the ones who are gay, this kind of accepted female type allows them to avoid bringing out the awkwardness of such behaviour being interpreted as lesbian in a western perspective. Bring out a pronouncement of gay student rights, however, and suddenly it’s harder to fly under the radar. There’s also the problem of students outing gays in an environment where there’s very little privacy, especially at boarding schools. Pretend there are no gays and it’s not an issue.


        1. Regardless of potential issues, of which I’m sure there will be many for various reasons, pretending that there are no gays is not exactly a solution to anything.


          1. It’s not a solution, but in a society that’s just emerging from being very culturally restrained, it might still be better than suddenly creating a category of “gay students” who will be stigmatised.


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 )

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s