Korean Gender Reader


If you’ll please indulge an old Korean Studies geek for a moment, Girlfriday’s review of Dancing Queen (댄싱퀸) at Dramabeans this week instantly reminded me of The Adventures of Mrs. Park (박봉곤 가출사건), from way back in 1996. After all, both are about wives who blatantly defy their husbands to follow their dreams of becoming singers, both are comedies, and – I’ll take a wild guess about Dancing Queen – both wives are ultimately successful.

One likely difference though, is that Mrs. Park runs away from her husband. And in fact, The Adventures of Mrs. Park was the first Korean movie to ever show a wife getting away with such insubordination.

That may sound difficult to believe today, but director Kim Tae-kyun (김태균) would later confess to Cine 21 magazine that he was extremely concerned at how audiences might react to such “an unexpected ending”. As even comedies back then would invariably close with continued happy marriages, while more realistic movies would show a miserable and destitute wife returning home with her tail between her legs.

In contrast, I doubt director Lee Seok-hoon (이석훈) has any such qualms in 2012. And it’s always quite sobering, realizing how much Korea has changed in the time I’ve been here.

So, while I doubt I’ll ever make the effort to track down and watch The Adventures of Miss Park for myself (all of the above is based on this book chapter), I will watch Dancing Queen. For not only is Hwang Jung-min (황정민) my favorite actor ever (see here for my review of A Good Lawyer’s Wife {바람난 가족; 2003}, the first movie I saw him in), but I’ve always had a soft spot for Uhm Jung-hwa (엄정화) too, as she was very much the queen of K-pop when I came to Korea back in 2000. Here’s my favorite song of hers from back then (just give me the word, and I’ll translate it in a flash!^^):

And after all that reminiscing(!), finally here are this week’s links, in no particular order:

What K-pop can teach us about the ROK military (Seoulbeats)

Foreigners organize flash mob against prostitution (The Marmot’s Hole)

‘Dream High 2′ cast express the need for laws protecting minors in the industry (Allkpop)

Sexual harassment widespread in workplaces (Hankyoreh)

Did the Piggy Dolls ruin their credibility? (Mixtapes and Liner Notes)

Essential information for understanding divorce in Japan: there is no such thing as joint custody of children (Economist)

How Korean fashion is seen from an international perspective; opposed to how Koreans think it’s seen (Noona Blog: Seoul)

K-pop’s first lesbian love story? (Seoulbeats)

Congratulations on the Dragon baby! (On Becoming a Good Korean {Feminist} Wife)

290,000won bags for elementary kids – competition at the extreme? (Hangukdrama and Korean; also see my post on how pink and princessey the schoolbag ads for girls are, but sporty and full of space-shuttles and racing-cars for boys)

[Debate] Leave ancestral rites where they belong- in the past (Hankyoreh)

[Debate] Cultural rites provide key to understanding ourselves (Hankyoreh)

• “Holiday stress for an average married Korean woman is as bad as the pain of losing a close friend” (Arirang)

Statistics on social trends in Korea – a great resource (Korean Journal of Sociology; scroll down to the “research guide”s)

Roundtable: our friend, MOGEF (Seoulbeats)

Harsher punishment urged for pedophiles (Korea Times)

Monfemme: gender, feminist, and medical anthropology in the steppes and deserts of Mongolia (Blog recommendation)

9 thoughts on “Korean Gender Reader

  1. Not the first lesbian love story in k-pop, of course – we all remember After School’s Because of You. Admittedly an ambiguous video, but member Kahi confirmed it in an interview. Still, a nice enough lesbian story it is which looks much lik any other lovey dovey k-pop video. And indeed, reading the (korean) instiz comment section when the video was released everyone who commented about the subject saw it as a lesbian romance, not friendship.


    1. Erk – The very first thing I thought when I saw that post title too, but I forgot to mention it!

      Like you say, it’s a very ambiguous video, which Stephen and I struggled with a little for our book chapter, and so it would have been very helpful to know that Kahi actually confirmed it was a lesbian relationship in an interview (Erk again!). Do you have a link by any chance? (Thanks)

      (Here’s my translation of the lyrics btw, for any readers unfamiliar with it)


      1. Only thing I can find right now is this, in which she not so subtly confirms it between the lines. Kinda cowardly, though.

        (James – edited to embed the video. Click here to jump to the part where Kahi says that)


  2. Aww thanks for the mention, and thanks for supporting this little guy right from the beginning. And Happy New Years to your family!


  3. *blink* It’s like they threw in random “my boy”s just in case. I mean…seriously. There’s no guy there who could conceivably be a romantic interest. And did they throw the random rapping guy in there just to het it up a bit?


  4. Great post. I love Uhm Jung Hwa’s music and it’s very hard to find good translations (even bad ones) of her songs. So if you can translated 틈 I’d very much appreciate it. Cheers!


  5. I’m not familiar with Ms. Uhm, but I am quite familiar with Jung-Min, who is a classy musical actor and not to mention good on the big screen too.

    Will watch this as soon as it gets available here.

    One cannot do wrong with Mr Hwang in a movie/show/whatever else.


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