Korean Gender Reader


Sorry for the slow posting everyone: alas, I’m so busy with all my offline projects these days that my planned posting schedule for 2012 is already proving unsustainable. But in the meantime, the news stories just keep coming!

T-ara members sleep for 2 hours a day (Frank Kogan; see Seoulbeats also)

Convicted rapist successfully uses the ‘crooked dick’ defense (The Marmot’s Hole; update)

Korea divorce checklist for negotiation of a marital separation agreement in Korea (The Korea Law Blog)

Parents tremble at ‘pleasure parties’ thrown by foreign instructors (Gusts of Popular Feeling)

Travel in Korea still lacks women’s bathrooms (Travelwire Asia)

쓰레기 같은 학생, or, Why you might need pepperspray (Gord Sellar)

Hair freedom for Seoul students (Hankyoreh)

Internet hot over ‘bikini protest’ (Korea Times) vs. Gong Ji-young (“The Crucible”) Bikinis, Breasts and Weasels (Korean Modern Literature in Translation)

Fat tax elicits mixed reactions from S. Korean public (Xinhuanet)

Survey finds lots of sexual harassment at South Korean workplaces (Asian Correspondent)

Korean women and western/white men: a complicated and troubled relationship (The Unlikely Expat)

Women leading Korea (The Peninsula) vs. Lone Star and the women of Korea (The Wall Street Journal: Business Asia)

Jeju Island, known for wind, women, and water…now has more men than women (The Wall Street Journal: Korea Realtime)

My final post on Asian/white interracial relationships (Shanghai Shiok!)

Brides-to-be being ripped off ahead of their big day (Hankyoreh)

“[Is] dating a 28 year-old guy in Korea like dating a 15 year-old in the US?” Deconstructing inane and offensive reader questions (I’m No Picasso)

• An update to the above story – the question wasn’t as bad as it first looked!

Ministry strives for women’s rights (The Korea Herald)

South Korea’s racism debate – What debate? (Gord Sellar)

• Headline of the week: “Hard competition coming for erectile dysfunction remedies” (Hankyoreh)

Entertainment agency representatives voice opinions on idol dating, marriages, and age-limits on usefulness (Allkpop)

More elderly people sue their children for support (The Chosunilbo)

(Links are not necessarily endorsements)

8 thoughts on “Korean Gender Reader

  1. 2 hours of sleep a night isn’t at all uncommon for kpop idols. In fact, I’d say most of them claim to get about that much. The thing is, even if they only get 2 hours of sleep at night in their dorms, they still sleep in the car while their manager drives them to their schedules, while they’re getting their makeup done, while they’re waiting in the dressing room before a performance etc. . . so they aren’t quite as sleep deprived as it sounds.

    Having said that, T-ara are more overworked than most other groups. They’ve promoted 15 Korean singles and 2 Japanese ones since debut (less than 3 years ago), filmed and released 35 MVs, and several of the girls have dramas, films and musicals to do as well. Apparently Jiyeon and Hyomin are so stressed that they’ve started losing their hair.

    I’m concerned that Qri mentioned not being allowed on the internet (they were allowed previously) – it’s probably because they’ve been sounding depressed on twitter and worrying their fans.


  2. The ‘ol white guys taking advantage of chaste Korean maidens trope again, *sigh*.

    I am frankly so fed up of pseudo-sociological justifications for resenting people’s dating choices — it is no one else’s business, end of story. I won’t apologise for who I date and who I am attracted to. I won’t apologise for being white or middle class either, thanks very much. I really resent this thinly-veiled spite backed up by vaguely academic language.

    And, yes, they are lots of shallow relationships between westerners and Koreans. So what? Who is being so wronged exactly? There are lots of shallow relationships everywhere. If you want to date someone with a beautiful figure and no personality, that’s your business — it’s free country.

    “And if you are a white Western guy in Korea that wants to date Korean women, then you are going after the most stepped on group in society in a very oppressive culture, in a country that has not much power in the world. There is a HUGE imbalance of power there.”

    Garbage. The idea that white men have some incredible power over Korean women is just laughable. White men are the the ones outside the culture; they don’t have the language, generally, so exactly has the “power”? This is not a third world country; Korean women don’t need to marry westerners to escape poverty. They can make their own choices I think you’ll find.

    “For one thing, mediocre-looking, or downright fugly white guys – most of whom work in sub-professional English teaching jobs – are able to come to Korea and date women who are attractive, successful, and way out of their league.”

    How dare white men meet women out of their league! God bless ’em, I say, and forget about resentful haters.

    It would never be acceptable to say resent, say, black men dating white girls — and rightly so — but somehow it is fine to rag on big, bad white men in Asia; and funnily enough foreigners are some the biggest offenders in this regard. They have my contempt.


    1. Perhaps you should consider *why* these accusations keep happening, instead of dismissing it as “pseudo-sociological justifiations”? People don’t hate or accuse without a reason (whether the said reason is a valid, logical one or not)

      I have to disagree on white men not having power simply because they can’t speak the language. If your argument is true, then Koreans should have more power over ALL foreigners. But do they treat, say, a man from Bangladesh the same way they treat a man from America? Absolutely not. Both foreigners are both outside their culture and don’t have the language, but the white man will be held in a higher regard. Their Caucasian face alone still speaks “I come from a country with a higher GDP/standard of life/stronger political power than yours”, something that the Bangladeshi man cannot assert when being in Korea. Their language mastery or position becomes irrelevant. You may chalk this up as racism (and it is), but people everwhere will have different attitudes to those who they consider “above” or “beneath” them, which may also include race.

      No, Korea isn’t a third world country anymore and they do not need to “escape”. But there MAY still be a power imbalance in terms of cultural accumulation; when they enter a relationship, how many white men attempt to learn Korean, and how many Korean women learn English to communicate? I am not citing statistics, but what with English being a much sought-after language (too obsessively so, IMO), you could expect one trend to exceed the other. There are shallow relationships everywhere, yes, but when race and culture is involved, you cannot ever pretend that such factors do not play any role in the shallow relationship.

      The concern that “fugly” white men are meeting Korean women “out of their league” is not just one based on appearances. Sometimes, white men who may have dropped out of college, or ones who may do drugs, or ones who never got women in the West because they were general assholes – DO swim in women who would NEVER have dated a Korean man with the same qualities, therefore, “way out of their league”. If you read the whole post, the OP also mentions men of undeserving personalities and attitudes being able to score women just because they are white. The whiteness SOMETIMES excuses the general assholery or abysmal credentials as a person that no woman of any culture should deserve. That was the core of the argument. I would not say “God bless them” to undeserving men who abuse their sociopolitical position onto women just because they could get a date in another country and the women don’t know better, thank you very much.

      (A lot of subtle behavior and mannerisms are indeed lost in translation, making it harder to detect, before you argue that those women are stupid)

      People do not rag on black men (or any man of color) dating white women because men of color are not on the top of the sociopolitial food chain, simple as that. People find it difficult to assume that a man (traditionally considered to have more power) of a lower sociopolitical position to fetishize and abuse a woman whose position is “higher” on that scale. With white men and Asian women, it’s all too easy to suspect a power imbalance, and some assholes DO abuse their power, unfortunately. Its just the same as how a husband abusing his wife is easier to believe than a wife abusing her husband.

      I agree that the orignal blog writer used extrememe language and used stereotypical caricatures sometimes. I agree that others are unfairly judged. I know people whose interracial relationships are based on mutual respect and love, I should know. But the way you dismiss all the criticisms as “hating” or “racism” is ignoring a real problem that actually exists for some. It’s like some people who argue racism doesn’t exist in the US anymore because Obama is president. Race relations do not work that simply. And frankly, your argument is suggestive of a “But think of the poor white mens!” whining. I suggest you consider every aspect f your argument and try not to argue in such a hotheaded manner.


  3. “But think of the poor white mens!” whining.”

    No whining. I just call out nastiness when I see it. Being white is neither here nor there.

    As to there has to be a reason: as far as I am concerned, the biggest reason is resentment and lazy identity politics. There are a surprising number of people who just don’t want white men “stealing” the local women. And that ill-will comes from foreigners too.

    Of course the average westerner/white person will have an easy ride in Korea than the average South Asian, for instance, for a whole host of reasons. But that is not what is being argued. The point here is western men having enormous “power” over Korean women. That is ridiculous. Even with the advantages white skin can bring and relatively high wealth we can hope to enjoy, as a foreigner you are *always* ten steps behind any Korean woman in “getting” the country and being able to navigate the world around you. And, again, why is it that “white” men are the problem? Am I to take it that black, Hispanic or Asian Americans dating Korean women is simply fine? Because you know there are Korean women who are particularly attracted to such men, who also bring western “power” — *rolls eyes* — to the table.

    ” People find it difficult to assume that a man (traditionally considered to have more power) of a lower sociopolitical position to fetishize and abuse a woman whose position is “higher” on that scale. ”

    Are you saying black men, for instance, never fetishize white or Asian women? Come on. Of course they do. So the point is: why is it white men who are so sinister, not even westerns?

    And why is it fine for this blogger to date a south Asian girl? Presumably because she is from “enlightened” Canada. He should worry about his life not other people’s relationships.

    Finally, yes, there is a type of Korean woman — I’d say they are a pretty small minority to be honest, and I think the blogger vastly exaggerates how much “we” are seen as “kings”: Gimme a break; Koreans aren’t that starstruck — who is particularly, or even exclusively, attracted to white guys, and obviously that attraction works both ways. I say: so what?

    How is factoring ethnicity into attraction any worse than height, or chest size, or weight or eye colour? Most of us are shallow creatures on some level. If a white guy is particularly attracted to East Asian women, and doesn’t treat them like personified China dolls, that’s his business. End of.

    And why is that in relationships that are shallow — again, how is it anyone’s business? — the man is guilty of something and the woman is a victim? How patronizing is that to Korean women? They aren’t children; they don’t need protecting from themselves — or white men. Trust me, I have dated enough here to know that Korean women are as perfectly capable of “using and losing” you and never calling again as any man. Life goes on. We are adults. There is no war against the local populace from some malevolent outside force.

    Until you, or anyone else, can produce stats that show white men are more likely to abuse Korean women than Koreans or anyone else, the argument holds no water and would be called bigoted if you switched the races around.


  4. I may say that the reason behind resentment is a little more complicated than plain “resentment and lazy identity politics”. You have to consider the times of the Korean War and the relationship between American GI’s and some Korean women, and the impressions and feelings of pain history have left people. You may argue that such is a thing of the past and does not apply anymore, but the war is still living history, where the eldest generation still holds memories of. Prejudice, especially when the ones who have seen them first-hand are still alive, does not go away for the general society as a whole, and when the media reports incidents of English teachers smuggling drugs or American GI’s assaulting people, it’s the idiotic minority that will be remembered for time and time again. And when some foreigners in such occupations have Korean girlfriends, people will easily jump to conclusions, as unfair as that may be.

    (additionally, “lazy identity politics” towards a minority race happens everywhere. Does the average white person, for instance, have the ability to differentiate and care about the quality of people in every minority race that live in their country? They do not. If one stereotype firmly roots in the collective mind, Black people will always be “uneducated and violent”, Asian people will be “nerdy and misogynistic”, etc.)

    You have asked why the “white” men are only the problem. Although the example stated in the original blog post were limited to white men, I can tell you that in general, Koreans would not be too thrilled about ANY sort of foreigner – black, Hispanic, and most non-Korean Asians of any sort – dating Korean women. As to why white men seem to get MORE flack than any other racial group, there are probably also various reasons, ranging from white people being the quintessential image of “foreigner” in the Korean public, white people being more visible than any other race (due to American GI’s and preference for white people in English teachers), and again, white people being seen as the top of the sociopolitical food chain. The group perceived to “have it all” will always be criticized the most, whether it is about money, gender, race, looks, or any other factor.

    I have also never stated that non-white men do not fetishize white or Asian women. I have said that it is EASIER for the white man to be ACCUSED of fetishism towards a minority woman than the other way around. I have stated the example of the husband abusing wife vs. wife abusing husband cases for this very reason. Are there wives that abuse husbands? Absolutely. But do people think that issue is as common or as serious as a husband abusing a wife? Sadly, no. The same (faulty) logic holds in cases involving race relations.

    I actually both agree and disagree to an extent the Koreans are star-struck towards white people. I would agree with you and say that the average Korean is not too fazed at the sight of a foreigner anymore. But there are still a degree of positive and negative stereotyping going on with foreigners of various racial groups, and namely, one of the biggest positive stereotypes Koreans have of white people is that they are extremely chivalrous towards the womenfolk and treat them like princesses, not like the Korean men who are “selfish” and “macho” and just like to “bitch about how feminism is ruining the country”. If one has not known too many foreigners in their lives, I can see that they could make incorrect assumptions based on stereotypes.

    (Interestingly enough, white women who date Asian men also say that Asian men are extremely chivalrous towards womenfolk and treat them like princesses, unlike the white men who are “selfish”, “macho”, and “bitch about how feminism is ruining the country”. Just goes to show that people project easily on foreigners, when people everywhere are pretty much the same!)

    Additionally, it’s not just the man who is considered guilty in such relationships. I know the blogger inferred Asian women being victims in some cases, but in such relationships, BOTH the man and the woman are seen as guilty. The Korean women who date foreign (or white) guys are severely slut-shamed, accused as being a dumb, vapid bitch who looks down on Korean men and is just generally morally corrupt. Cases where the women are seen as clueless and naiive who need to “know better” are a minority case; most of the time the general public sees the woman as an adult who disregards all the rules and does all the wrong things when they “shouldn’t”, much like how they would view a sociopathic murderer. If the blogger victimized the Korean women, it is probably due to him not knowing too many Korean women that well or him projecting personal feelings towards the cases he know.

    It would be too simplistic to think preference towards ethnicity had as little weight as preference for height, chest size, or other physical attributes. When people say that they prefer people of a certain ethnicity, they are also basing their attraction on what they THINK the people of race X are like. Asian women are commonly stereotyped as being submissive, docile and domestic. Do you not think it is strange that some will actively say they prefer entire people of a certain race, when each person is an individual with vastly different personalities and viewpoints, even if they are of the same race? It suggests that they are seeing Asian woman as an idea, rather than an individual. This is different from preference towards height or chest size or eye color because preference for features is just that, preference for features. Do we assume that a woman with blue eyes are kinder than women with brown eyes, or that women with small noses are more fun-loving than a woman with a full Grecian-looking nose? Except for certain cases (ex. the dumb blonde stereotype), liking certain physical features just stops at liking what you see. We do not attach stereotypes with physical features alone.

    As for the original blogger dating a South Asian woman, the fact that she is Canadian probably “lifts up” the stigma just a little bit. But I’m sure he gets judgments or dirty looks from passerby at times. I will assume that it is because he is self-conscious of this fact he is asking other white people not to date Asian women to fulfill their fetish; he does not want to be lumped as “the dumb white man with a China doll” stereotype just because other people do, which is understandable.

    I am sorry that I cannot produce cold and hard statistics. I also assume (and hope) that the messed-up interracial relationships are the minority case and that most people genuinely love each other. But like everything, the minority case is usually the loudest, ugliest, and most well-known, and in this case, it almost completely clouds the majority who have no problems at all. I do not argue against you because I think white people are evil, I argue against it because it is too simplistic, too lazy to dismiss everything as people being racist and ignorant instead of finding where people’s fear and hatred stems from. And I feel that simply having a “haters can suck it” attitude would not help the negative stigma go away, but that positive examples represent and outweigh the negative ones for there to be any change in attitude.


  5. The sooner the real definition (i.e. not the dictionary definition) of racism is taught in schools, the better. It’s startling how little people understand about their whiteness.

    In a nutshell: anyone who is white in Korea and doesn’t admit it’s awesome is an asshole. Recognize white privilege in order to abuse it less. This is a moral obligation.

    BUT, anyone who judges a white guy/korean girl couple based on their race is also an asshole. I don’t care if he is an ugly slob and she is a fashion model. Recognize that you know nothing about their private business. I think speaking generally about race is a good thing, but judging a particular couple is not, when you know nothing about their circumstances.

    Oh and to the poster who thinks that pointing out racism is ‘nastiness’.. god damn, racism is nasty. Pointing it out is good.


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