Korean Gender Reader

With apologies for the short notice (my fault!), today is Korean Sex Workers’ Day, with a variety of cultural and informational activities planned, and a potluck dinner on Sunday. Please see Research Project Korea for further details.

Body Image/Health:

Hyomin’s thigh is smaller than her manager’s calf (Allkpop)

Seoul: Where even kids are fashionistas (Shanna’s 수다)

Tackling the overweight problem: “healthy” Japan is no exception (International Institute for Asian Studies)

Participant on ‘Hello’ struggles with her husband’s wish for her to be as slim as After School’s Uee (Allkpop)

Beauty Inside the DPRK: North Korean Ladies’ Hairstyles (Korea Bang)


Unnecessary Pixelating on Television (Dear Korea)


Rape victim suffered ‘ping-pong’ investigation (Asian Correspondent)

Shanghai Metro tells sexily-dressed female passengers to expect harassment (Shanghaiist)

Supreme court confirms a messy case of sexual harassment by police (The Hankyoreh)

Message sent from Korean victim of sex trafficking (The Korea Times)

Taekwondo Academy Director Detained for Rape of Pupils (Korea Bang)

Private tutor gets probation for molesting student (Asian Correspondent)


Is there a difference when someone refers to you as “애인” vs “여자친구”? (I’m No Picasso)

Getting Married in South Korea for 20 cents (Vegan Urbanite)

Who Do You Love?: Korean Ethnocentrism, International Couples and the Dating Dilemma (The Three Wise Monkeys)

Many Prefer to Stay Single Forever (The Chosun Ilbo)

Interracial Dating (cultural/ethnic) Black, White & Asian: PART 1 (The Vanguard Element)

The English Spectrum Series at Gusts of Popular Feeling:

Part 36: Viewers shocked by shameless acts of unqualified foreign instructors


Women Facing Harsh New Pressures in North Korea (International Herald Tribune)

Foreign English teachers get high and mock immigration (Gusts of Popular Feeling)

Women and Girls Are the Solution, Not the Problem (The Unlikely Expat)

China’s Child-Swap Reality Show Highlights Class Divide (Tea Leaf Nation)


Should Koreans work less? (The Korea Herald)

Older Women Outnumber Younger Women in Employment (The Chosun Ilbo)

Company Loyalty: Cultural or Generational? (Geek in Heels)

Pop Culture:

Director says ‘Concubine’ sex scenes are complicated (Korea Joongang Daily)

Academic sources for K-pop/Hallyu studies (Angry K-pop Fan)

How Korean and Japanese youth culture has impacted the youth culture of Thailand: academic links (Angry K-pop Fan)

When fandoms become something more, again (SNSD Free-For-All)

“A primer for how weird Korean fans are so you know whether you’re creepier than them” (My First Love Story)

Four Minutes to Build a Case for Cultural Sensitivity (Seoulbeats)

A word about fan behavior (Angry K-pop Fan)

I’m Just a Fan: Korea’s Dedicated Pop Stalkers (Leisure Only; some NSFW images in sidebar)

At Odds: Idol Working Conditions and The Entertainment Biz (Seoulbeats)

Agencies will take steps to protect teenage entertainers (The Korea Times)

Confucianism and The Female Roles in K-dramas (Seoulbeats)

K-Pop ‘boom’ faltering in Japan, 70% of housewives dislike Hallyu (Omona They Didnt)

Do YouTube Views Really Matter? (Seoulbeats)


Chinese woman under house arrest for telling her story of forced abortion to German press (Want China Times)

School demographics (Gusts of Popular Feeling)

Baby-Dearth Generation Start Primary School (The Chosun Ilbo)

How will a low birth rate and aging population affect Korea? (The Dong-a Ilbo)

KAIST chief objects to professors’ sense of privilege (The Korea Times)

(Links are not necessarily endorsements)

“Kang So-ra! When Are You Going To Stop Being So Fat?!”

(Source: Metro, Busan edition, May 31 2012, p. 11)

One of the great advantages of Erving Goffman’s Gender Advertisements, I tell students in my lectures on gender roles in Korean ads, is that it’s not language-based. Whether the ads are from Korea, Kenya, or Khazakstan, I rhapsodize, it’s all about the pictures, making cross-country and historical comparisons possible.

In reality though, culture and language are still important. The tendency towards positioning men higher than women in ads for instance, implying their superiority (just think of the purpose of thrones), can pale against a seated matriarch’s greater social status. Also, ads may allude to popular books, movies, or songs that a foreign observer is unaware of, and/or the text make a pun about the images that a non-native speaker would struggle to understand.

In short, Korean ads can be far more subtle than they may at first appear to someone like me, let alone less gender-stereotyping.

(Source: unknown)

With that in mind, I decided to quickly re-examine K-Swiss’s “S-liner Polo Shirt” ad with Kang So-ra (강소라), that I’d previously dismissed as just yet another example of the ridiculous poses Korean advertisers put women in to show their S-lines off. After all, however unlikely, maybe she’s done a humorous Walk like an Egyptian dance at some point in her brief career (say, in the popular movie Sunny last year), and was parodying that? Or maybe there was something in the text to explain her pose?

Alas, no. Judging by the TV commercial above, the ridiculous pose and dance were definitely just for K-Swiss. And as for the text, that doesn’t redeem the ad either…although I’d have never guessed it would have taken me, my wife, and two of her friends nearly half an hour to figure that out!

It looked easy enough: “강소라” is Kang So-ra’s name, “언제까지” is “until when”, and “살텐가” is “will live”, as in the more formal form “살거예요”. But “통짜로”? Literally, it’s the adverb “wholly”, but that made no sense. So, with the logic that perhaps 22 year-old Kang So-ra formerly lacked feminine curves then, but now, as per the dictates of Korean consumerism and gender roles,  she’s compelled to show them off at every available opportunity, we decided it meant “통” as in the Hanja character that means a (usually cylindrical) container (i.e. a body), “짜” which can often mean “thing” or “person” (see pages 263 and 374 of the Handbook of Korean Vocabulary respectively!), and “로”, which in this case would mean “as”, or “in the manner of”.

Putting aside what role such exhortations may or many not have in Koreans’ intense body dysphoria for a moment (uniquely in the developed world, Korean women aged between 20-39 are becoming more underweight than obese), we were pretty proud of ourselves for figuring that out. But then my wife’s second friend arrived, who pointed out that “통짜” is actually a sort-of adjective means “fat”, as in “통짜몸메가 있어”. Specifically, after a lot of time arguing about whether it actually more meant “curved” than fat per se (recall what “통” can mean above), it means a fat waist, regardless of how curved the rest of the body is (or not — it can be used to describe me men too).

So there you have it: literally, the appalling “Kang So-ra! Until when —  fat person as — going to live?!”. But suddenly, as I type this, I have renewed doubts: was Kang So-ra considered fat previously? Even if so, surely she is indeed no longer living as a fat person, in the ad? And so on.

So by all means, I admit I may be completely mistaken, and would welcome any alternative translations and explanations of the text. But either way, I doubt it provides a very body-positive message.

Meanwhile, if it’s true that 통짜 bodies lack the shapely breasts and buttocks of an S-line, then perhaps there’s something to the photo of Uee (유이) above that show’s that there’s actually two concepts of the term? In the diagram, it says that men think it refers to the blue whereas women think it refers to the red, but the results seem pretty mixed at the original post on Facebook.

Which do you think it means?

Korean(?!!) Movie Review #5: Linda Linda Linda (2005)


Starring (L-R): Aki Maeda (Kyoko), Yu Kashii (Kei), Shiori Sekine (Nozomi), and Bae Doo-na (Son). Written and directed by Nobuhiro Yamashita. In Japanese (and some Korean) with English subtitles. 115 minutes

As a (very) fledgling film reviewer, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to relying on other, more experienced reviewers for guidance sometimes. So, I’m really struggling with why they made so many glaring mistakes about Linda Linda Linda.

Add to that a number of pithy one-liners that there’s actually no evidence for, and especially the willful ignorance displayed in shoehorning coming-of-age narratives into the movie, then I’ll seriously be taking all “expert” movie reviews with a big grain of salt in the future.

Despite what you may read elsewhere then, the movie is about a high school girl band that has just lost its guitarist (Moe) and lead singer (Rinko) to a hand injury and argument respectively, and opens with remaining members Nozomi, Kyoko, and Kei having to decide if they will still perform at the end of the high school festival week in just three days. As you’ve already guessed, they do, choosing to sing the iconic 1987 punk-rock hit Linda Linda (and 2 other songs) by The Blue Hearts.

But keeping Nozomi on bass, Kyoko on drums, and moving Kei from keyboard to guitar, still leaves them short of a vocalist. On a whim, they invite Korean exchange student Son to fill Rinko’s place, despite her occasional difficulties with Japanese.


Son gets asked 21 minutes into the movie, and the remaining 94 are about the band practicing (spoilers begin) over the next two days and nights, culminating in them performing on the day as planned, albeit much later and wetter than expected. Yes, that’s it. It’s not an underdog story, there’s no hint of fame and success once the performance is over, no big romances, nor are there any jealous rivals. There aren’t even any major dramas or even mild arguments between the four major characters either (spoilers end). Indeed, it’s probably the most minimalist plot you’ll ever encounter, no matter how much of a movie buff you are.


While fans of director Nobuhiro Yamashita may appreciate this, his previous works likewise featuring “aimless youth with nothing better to do than walk or sit around”, it’s easy to appreciate why others might find it slow and ponderous. One reviewer understandably wrote it off as “incident-free pic [that] will induce sleep” for instance, while another quite plausibly claimed that there were points when he was watching the movie where he “would leave, prepare part of lunch, and return, to find that literally nothing had happened.”

What’s more, the English marketing for it was very misleading, Rob Humanick at Slant mentioning that the press notes for movie suggested “a foreign regurgitation of stale conventions from the American teenage flick,” and that it was “difficult to not expect something of a J-pop remake of Bring It On that substitute[d] an all-girl cover band for sexed-up cheerleaders.” Also, the US trailer suggested something much quicker and more comical than what audiences ultimately got:

In light of all that, I must concede that I’d probably be far less forgiving of the movie’s glacial pace if it was about high school boys rather than girls. But it takes much more than 18 year-old Japanese schoolgirls to get me to like a movie so much, and I’m sure other heterosexual male and lesbian reviewers likewise aren’t so shallow, let alone everyone else. Why, then, does the movie get almost universal praise?

One reason is Bae Doo-na. A long-time fan, I can’t be objective about her myself, so consider Tom Mes’s description of her performance at Midnight Eye instead, which is quite representative of the accolades she has received:

…[a] major factor to the film’s success is the casting of Korean actress Bae Du-Na in the role of Son. Several years older than her teenage co-stars [26 in 2005] and more accustomed to mature roles in the likes of Park Chan-Wook’s Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Hyeon Nam-Seob’s Saving My Hubby, Bae easily outshines the rest of the cast.

Or, as G. Allen Johnson of the San Fransisco Chronicle put it:

Not conventionally beautiful, with gamin-like features and a seemingly permanent mope, Bae is the Christina Ricci of South Korea, with a similar ability to inform a simple character with many layers, most notably in the Korean gem Take Care of my Cat. That makes her a perfect fit for the minimalist milieu of director Nobuhiro Yamashita…


I beg to differ on her not being “conventionally beautiful”: mirroring her acting abilities, a quick Google image search reveals she can be as feminine or as androgynous as her role requires, but let’s not go there. Rather, that “seemingly permanent mope” is a good way to describe Son’s social awkwardness as both an exchange student and — I suspect — a natural geek, and through conveying this so well she ironically makes a far more convincing teenager than her real-life teenage co-stars (although to be fair, their characters didn’t call for it).

With such a focus on her though, it’s surprising that Johnson would write that “Son can barely speak a word of Japanese, let alone sing it”. This is simply not true: while she does sometimes struggle with her words, or needs people to repeat themselves, she never has any real difficulties communicating. Nevertheless, Johnson’s assertion is echoed by virtually every other reviewer, which leaves me wondering if there were some mistakes in translations, and/or if there are other versions out there? Humanick at Slant, for example, mentions that the funniest scene in the movie is when Son attempts “to overcome her language difficulties in a restaurant where only paying customers are allowed to use the restrooms”, something which is strangely lacking in the file I downloaded (which, as always, I’ve watched twice).


Another potential misunderstanding is that, unless you’re familiar with either Korean or Japanese, it’s not always clear which language Son is speaking (Korean was only indicated by brackets in the version I watched). This becomes relevant (spoilers begin, including image below) when she sings by herself in a karaoke room, revealing her to be much more confident in her native Korean, and especially in a later scene (see here for a video) when Son is approached by long-time secret admirer Yusaka (nickname Makki) to confess his love for her. When you realize that he does so in halting Korean (which even astute reviewers like Didion at Feminéma missed, and Johnson of the San Fransisco Chronicle mistook as poetry), then you can’t help but feel much sorrier for the guy when Son quickly rejects him, especially if you’ve ever had your weeks of unrequited love and wooing preparations dismissed in an instant yourself.

Because of that, I was much less sympathetic to the spin Alyx Veseyputs on Son’s reaction over at Feminist Music Geek:

The rest of the girls look through the window of an abandoned classroom, watching their lead singer choose the band, and her friends, over some guy who happens to like her but that she doesn’t know.

I don’t mean to single out Alyx, who otherwise writes an excellent review. It’s just that it points to the tendency of many other reviewers and commenters to overstress the female homosocial elements of this movie. In the New York Times for instance, Jeannette Catsoulis is so gushing about how “the film’s sweet, slow rhythms bind them together” that you can be forgiven for thinking that they don’t think about boys at all. Admittedly, Catsoulis is clearly pressed for space, but still: the reality is that not only is Son very inquisitive about Kei’s history with Yomoki, her ex, but Kyoko’s attention is just as much on her own crush Kazuya as on her band-mates. And indeed it’s precisely that which the four of them talk about — and bond over — during their last communal meal (spoilers end).


But don’t get me wrong: I am definitely not saying that the boys in the movie should be given more attention, that it’s in any way about them, or that the movie’s main focus isn’t indeed about high-school girls bonding. After all, that last is the second reason the movie has received such high praise, especially from, naturally enough, women.

This presents an interesting question however, which I’d like to pose to female readers: just how genuine are the situations and the dialogue? I ask because following Jane Austen’s example, who never has two male characters talking alone to each other in any of her novels, I’d be very hesitant to ever do the same with female ones (something to consider with — but not apologize for — male-written and/or directed movies that fail the Bechdel Test). If they ring true though, then male director Yamashita, and crucially also writer, somehow has really hit the spot.


A related question is raised by Burl Burlingame’s review at Honolulu Star Bulletin, which opens with:

I have a friend who used to play in an all-girls punk band. She said rehearsals took forever because they’d play one song, talk about their feelings for an hour, play one song, talk about their feelings for an hour … which pretty much describes Linda, Linda, Linda, Nobuhiro Yamashita’s slacker success story about girls who form a band for a high-school talent show.

Taken out of context, I would have condemned Burlingame for perpetuating gender stereotypes, but now I’m not so sure. What do any female musicians amongst you make of it?


Either way, I can understand all the one-liners on grrrl-power bonding then, but can’t overlook the blinders some of the reviewers seemed to have on. Humanick at Slant, for instance, describes the movie as “an emotionally attuned look at adolescent life amid the invisible social structures of high school with an underlying emphasis on gender and cultural barriers to boot, all surprisingly free of manipulation”, but I’m at a complete loss as to what those barriers are myself. Likewise, Catsoulis asserts in the New York Times (yes — she’s an easy target) that “the irritations and tedium of high school life are staged with refreshing simplicity”, whereas in reality these are glaring for their absence, the unregimented nature of their school life greatly puzzling me until I realized that the movie began already well into the school’s festival week.

(Update — I forgot to mention that one minor flaw in the movie is that it would have been unlikely for Son to have bonded so well the other band members in just over two days; starting the movie a couple of weeks earlier, giving a more realistic time-frame for this, would surely have required only minimal plot and technical changes)

It also puzzled Alyx at Feminist Music Geek, who wrote:

I’m also not entirely clear about the nature of Japanese schools. I came through an underfunded, less-than-superlative Texas public school system. Thus, Paran Maum’s school seems like a tony liberal arts magnate where teenagers are given considerable support and resources for their artistic inclinations, thus implying that the students come from respectable middle- to upper-middle-class families. But I’m not sure if this high school is exceptional in Japan….while I initially feel the need to mention the classed dimensions of privilege that allow the girls the fine arts education and leisure time to form a band (instead of, say, take jobs or quit school to support their families), I don’t want to suggest that what I see as an American viewer is in accord with Japan’s classed realities.

Whether this surprising freedom the girls have is the norm or just for the duration of festival week however, that they behave more like they’re in university than high school is crucial for the movie’s last major source of appeal: the ability to project coming-of-age narratives onto it (spoilers begin).


As I stated in the introduction, I actually think this is quite misguided: the girls (re)form a band, they practice, they perform, the end. Where’s the coming of age drama in that? But I can empathize (spoilers end). Given how free the girls are to do things under their own initiative, to set their own hours, and to come and go between activities as they please, things utterly denied to most Japanese (and Korean) teenagers, it’s difficult not to see them as near-adults. In particular, although Nozomi’s background is woefully underexplored (you know no more about her by the end of the movie than at the beginning), Kei above seems to to have had quite a history with — and lingering feelings for — much older ex Yomoki below, yet stoically accepts that he’ll be moving on to Tokyo (personally, it wasn’t until I was much older that I realized life was like that).

Combine that with being the de facto leader of the group, and things like getting the band, sans permission from parents or teachers, halfway across town to get some extra practice at Yokomi’s studio, then in short she seems much more capable and assured than your average 18 year-old.


Mention must also be made of ThrownMuse’s comment here (difficult to find on the site; look for the 6 June 2007 entry) that “the movie has a very subtle feminist and punk-rock aesthetic that I don’t think every viewer picks up on”. Which would include me, and, again, it’s annoying that it’s not elaborated on. But perhaps Alyx of Feminist Music Geek fills the gap:

I do find the girls’ fandom of The Blue Hearts, whose songs they cover, to be quite interesting. For one, girls identifying with a fast, hard-rocking all-male rock band, while at no time talking about how cute certain members are, seems to suggest a wider range of possibilities for who can influence a girl. The band even goes so far as to call themselves Paran Maum, which is “blue hearts” in Korean (an indication of Son’s importance to the band). There’s a lot of talk on this blog about the importance of women and girls influencing one another in popular music. However, we shouldn’t short shrift what it means for girls finding their sound and voice through boys and men or ignore the progressive and possibly queer potential in girls identifying with boys. Like Patti Smith, PJ Harvey, and Sleater-Kinney before them, these girls don’t plug in and rock out to be with the band — they are the band and want to thrash just as hard as the boys.

I find any queer potential here a little forced though, both because of the characters’ random choice of the band in the movie and the mundane reason Yamashita chose to use it, as he explained below in a Cinema Strikes Back interview. But I’d be happy to be persuaded otherwise:

CSB: Was Linda Linda Linda always the main song or were there other possibilities you considered?

Nobuhiro Yamashita: Linda Linda Linda is such an iconic song done by the Blue Hearts. Everybody knows it. When you hear the Blue Hearts, it’s the song that first comes to peoples’ minds. It was always the first choice for the main song we were going to use. (With respect to) other songs (in the film), we did have many choices we had to go through.

Finally, no matter how cliched, I’d be lying if didn’t admit that the music didn’t immediately remind of me of some scenes from Kill Bill Volume 1, most notably the’s in “The House of Blue Leaves” nightclub:

Even if — ahem — it turns that they don’t actually sing any Japanese songs in the movie, I’m definitely more curious about Japanese rock now (it helps that I’m also heavily into retro-themed Japanese artwork like this too {source}, but which I could obviously never put up on a Korea-related blog). And perhaps you too, for nobody watching can’t help but sing along to Linda Linda by the end of the movie.

And on that note, this music video isn’t from the movie, so don’t worry about spoilers. Sing away!^^

The original Blue Hearts song for comparison:

Korean Gender Reader

A reminder that Busan’s first ever drag prom is happening tomorrow, with all proceeds going to charity. Please click on the image for the details, or here for the Facebook page. Hope to see you there!^^

Update: I’ve just been asked to also pass on the news that, on Sunday, celebrated author Krys Lee will be coming to the 10 Magazine Book Club meeting to discuss Drifting House, her internationally acclaimed debut collection of short stories (many of which deal with many issues prevalent in Korean society and recent Korean history). Held at 2pm in the Cafe Bene Book Cafe in Itaewon, see the Facebook page for the details.

Body Image/Health:

Overheard in a Cafe: Korean-Koreans Lamenting Their Weight (Korean Bodega)

Actress Lee Chae-young under fire for tweets degrading the overweight (Allkpop; Korea Bang)

Korea has many beautiful people. Korea also has many wealthy cosmetic surgeons. (Alleyways; see here and srslsly also)

Takeaway Trolling: Attack of the Midnight Snack (Korea Bang)

A Tumblr of photoshopped blue-eyed K-pop idols? (My First Love Story; update)


Closure still not brought to allegedly abused Indonesian crews (The Hankyoreh)

Suwon murderer sentenced to death (The Korea Times)

Sexual Harassment on Korean Buses (I’m No Picasso)


5 Famous, Inspiring Asian Men Who Also Married Non-Asian Women (Speaking of China)

— Facebook Group Shout-out: Western Girls Married to Korean Guys

$60,000 Will Buy You a North Korean Wife (The Marmot’s Hole)

The English Spectrum Series at Gusts of Popular Feeling:

Part 34: The rising tide of unqualified foreign instructors

Part 35: Warrant for Canadian English instructor who molested hagwon owner


Picture of the Day: 1904 Gisaeng School In South Korea (ROK Drop)

Parents of Girls Killed In 2002 USFK Armored Vehicle Accident React To the 10 Year Anniversary of the Tragedy (ROK Drop)

The Camptown Prostitution Workshop (Hello Korea!)

Photo: Feet of Chinese woman, bound, compared with tea cup and an American woman’s shoe (via Sociological Cinema)

May, 1970: Juvenile Delinquency Up (Gusts of Popular Feeling)

Picture of the Day: Korean Women In 1904 (ROK Drop)

Defense Ministry finally admits thousands of child soldiers were drafted during Korean War (The Chosun Ilbo)


Law on Contraceptive Pill Changes (Korea Bang; Kitty Kitty Korea)

Sex, Anti-Korean Sentiment and Videotape (The Marmot’s Hole)

Queer Comrades: Interview with Stijn Deklerck (YAM Magazine)

Two Weddings and a Funeral: Interview with Kim Jho Kwang-soo (YAM Magazine)

The Importance of Kim Jho Kwang-Soo (YAM Magazine)

Male Homosexuality in the Japanese Media (YAM Magazine)

Korea’s only openly gay comedian reveals split with boyfriend (K-Pop Express)

Can Korea ever accept homosexuals? (Asia One News)

China, Hong Kong: ‘Happy Ad’ for Student Abortions Ignites Debate (Global Voices)

Oh my gay and lesbian K-pop Tumblrs (Occupied Territories; update/disclaimer)

Bumper Year for Adult-Oriented Korean Movies (The Chosun Ilbo)


Meet fighter pilot Liu Yang, China’s first woman in space (io9)

For Liu Yang, sexism is still the final frontier (Want China Times)

‘Sexy’ Mandarin language school slammed by Chinese feminists (The Telegraph)

Guangdong TV apologizes for bikini hosts (China Daily USA)

Why China Doesn’t Like Barbie, Best Buy or DIY (Daily Finance)

Humor, tears on North Korean defector TV show (The Chicago Tribune; The Telegraph {automatic video})

(The worst and best G20 countries for women, Thomson Reuters Foundation)


Celebrity Suicides, Netizen Trolling, and the “Success” of the Real Name System (Gord Sellar)

The Importance of Women for the Future of Korea (The Hankyoreh)

Too early for a woman president: Lee Jae-oh (The Marmot’s Hole; The Wall Street Journal)

Young Korean men will still have to choose between jail and the barracks (The Hankyoreh)

Lady Business: When Men Are Condescending at Work (Bitch Magazine)

Pop Culture:

Celebrity Suicides: An Unfortunate Trend (Seoulbeats)

Understanding K-pop Fan Fiction (Angry K-pop Fan)

Latest K-Pop Invasion: The Fans (The Wall Street Journal)

Young At Heart: Debunking K-Pop’s Age Limit Myth (Seoulbeats)

Far East Movement try to break Asian stereotypes with “Fetish” (MTVK; note that the music video automatically opens)

Counterpoint: f(x) Still Has the Math Right (Seoulbeats)

Opinion: Asian-American women pay price for lurid rumors about actress Zhang Ziyi (inAmerica)

Making Sense of English phrases in K-pop songs (Angry K-pop Fan; see here and here also)


Multicultural Military ‘Inevitable’ (The Chosun Ilbo)

Military Becomes More Multicultural (The Chosun Ilbo)

On Shock and Awe in Intercultural Parenting (On Becoming a Good Korean {Feminist} Wife)

Happy Father’s Day! 5 Most Famous Dads in Korean Entertainment! (Soompi)

Korean society struggles to embrace multiculturalism (The Korea Herald)

Sungkyunkwan University won’t accept bullies (The Korea Times)

Korean Airlines Gaffe: Kenya’s “indigenous people full of primitive energy” (AlJazeera; see also The Marmot’s Hole)

Word of the Day: Pinkerton Syndrome – and Korean Racism/Racialized Insecurity (The Unlikely Expat)

Mongolian Kids in Korea (The Unlikely Expat)

My Kid’s Not Cold; or The Possible Reason Korea Has the Lowest Birthrate in the World (Asia Pundits)

Korean society aging fastest (The Korea Times)

(Links are not necessarily endorsements)

“Harmful” Advertisements Surge 3-fold in Online Korean News Media


“Is it true that your hair grows if you have ‘dirty thoughts’?” (2002)

When so many websites struggle to open under the weight of smutty ads, it’s difficult not to think that the Korean internet used to be a much more innocent place.

At the very least, you’d assume exceptions would be made for articles specifically about such ads.

With no apparent sense of irony however, not only does the website today’s article comes from feature camel toes, nude women, and couples in flagrante delicto, but some media companies will even censor photographs in news stories while keeping similar accompanying advertisements intact. Most recently and notoriously perhaps, some websites pixelated the breasts of “Bikini Girl” and her supporters for instance, but not the heaving bosoms used to advertise cosmetic surgery clinics:

Given that, and given how difficult it was to find a news website that didn’t plaster today’s article with such ads, I was very surprised to find that the normally quite alarmist Ministry of Gender Equality and Family found that only 5.5% of registered media companies had them on their websites.

Partially, that low number is explained by the very narrow definitions used, as outlined in the article. But if you take a look at the top of the following table (not — as per usual — mentioned until the final paragraph), which lists total registered media companies, total active sites, total sites with advertisements, and total sites with harmful advertisements respectively, you soon realize that that 5.5% is derived from 176 of 3216 total registered media companies. As a proportion of the 2,158 sites with advertisements however, which is surely a more appropriate measure, it jumps to 8.2% (although that still sounds much too low to me).

Finally, of special interest is how MOGEF calls for (and has recently helped implement) self-regulation by internet companies rather than imposing its own regulation system, which may come as some surprise considering how actively it censors Korean music. But despite its reputation however, in reality MOGEF has very limited powers (and only 0.12% of the total government budget), which I think plays a big role in the zealousness with which it monitors K-pop.

여성가족부 ‘19 광고’ 언론사들 고발 검토 / Ministry of Gender Equality and Family Affairs  Considering Prosecuting Media Companies for “18 and Over Advertisements”

‘유해 광고’ 올해들어 3배 늘어… “자율규제기구 설치 촉구, 광고주 심의 요청” / 3 times more ‘harmful advertisements’ compared to last year…”We strongly recommend advertisers consider establishing a self-regulatory system”

by 최훈길/Choi Hoon-gil

선정적인 내용이 담긴 언론사의 인터넷 광고가 작년에 비해 3배 가량 증가한 것으로 조사됐다. 여성가족부는 언론사의 자율 규제를 우선 촉구하되, 해당 언론사에 대한 고발도 검토하고 해당 광고주에 대한 심의 요청도 추진하기로 했다.

A survey has shown that media companies display 3 times more sexually suggestive internet advertisements compared to last year. The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family (MOGEF) recommends that media companies self-regulate themselves, and is considering prosecuting both offending media companies and advertisers themselves.


여성가족부가 11일 발표한 ‘인터넷 신문의 청소년 유해광고 유통 현황 모니터링 결과’에 따르면, 올해 유해성 광고는 176개(5.5%)로 작년 유해성 광고 62개(2.5%)보다 3배가량 늘었다. 한 인터넷 신문은 성인용품 사이트 등 청소년 유해 매체물 광고를 성인 인증 없이 게재해 정보통신망법을 위반했다. 유해성 광고는 네트워크 광고의 일종으로, 상당수가 의료쪽 광고이며 문구나 이미지가 선정적이어서 ‘혐오 광고’로도 불린다.

On the 11th of June, MOGEF announced the results of their survey “The present situation of the circulation of internet newspapers’ harmful advertisements among teenagers”, according to which there were 176 sites with harmful ads (5.5%) among those surveyed, roughly 3 times more than last years’ 62 (2.5%) [James — considering the different numbers of sites examined, proportionately there were really only 2.2 times as many]. Among other advertisements harmful to teenagers, one internet newspaper had an advertisement for a sex products site that could be accessed without age verification, which violated the Information and Communications Network Law. Harmful advertisements are a kind of internet advertisement called “disgusting advertisements” [James – called that by who?]; the majority have sexually-suggestive images and terms and/or refer to sexually-related medical procedures.

176개 인터넷 신문 중 20개 인터넷 신문이 전체 유해성 광고물(915건)의 50.3%(406건)을 노출하고 있었다. 여성 가족부는 해당 언론사 실명을 공개하지 않았다. 청소년매체환경과 관계자는 “인터넷 점유율이 높은 곳들이 유해성 광고가 많았고 스포츠, 연예 신문들이 많았다”며 “고발을 검토하는 인터넷 언론사는 종이 신문을 발행하지 않는 곳으로 잘 알려진 언론사는 아니다”라고 설명했다.

Out of the 176 internet newspapers that were found to have harmful advertisements, 20 had more than half of their total advertisements, 406 out of 915 (50.3%), taken up by them. MOGEF didn’t reveal the offending media companies’ names. An official in the Division of Youth Media Environment of MOGEF said: “The internet sites which had the highest number of harmful advertisements were sports and entertainment sites, and those with a lot of traffic,” and added that “the news sites which we are considering prosecuting are not well-known and don’t publish physical newspapers.”


해당 유해 광고의 내용은 성행위·성기표현 문구(21.2%)가 가장 많았고, 성적욕구 자극문구(17.7%), 가슴 부위 노출(17.4%), 성행위·성기 관련 묘사(15.8%), 허벅지·둔부 노출(14.5%) 순이었다. 해당 광고주는 성기능 식품(21.%) 관련 업체가 가장 많았고, 비뇨기과(17.3%), 건강보조식품(15.6%), 성기능 개선용품(12.8%), 성형외과(6.8%) 광고주 순이었다.

Of the harmful advertisements, 21.2% — the highest — had expressions related to sex acts or genitalia, 17.7% had expressions designed to arouse sexual desire [James — e.g. “할래/Do you want to do it?], 17.4% exposed the breasts, 15.8% had descriptions of sex acts or genitalia, and 14.5% exposed the thighs or buttocks. Of the advertisers themselves, 21% were selling sexual function products [James — like Viagra?], 17.3% urology services, 15.6% health assistance products, 12.8% products designed to improve sexual performance [James —  how are those different to “sexual function products”?], and 6.8% cosmetic surgery procedures.

여성가족부는 작년과 비교해 유해 광고는 늘었지만 법 위반 언론사들이 대폭 감소한 것을 감안해, 언론사에는 우선 자율 규제를 촉구하겠다는 입장이다. 청소년매체환경과 관계자는 “작년에 34개 언론사가 법을 위반했는데 올해에는 다 시정됐다”며 “언론사들을 직접 규제하기 보다는 인터넷신문협회 등에 자율규제기구인 인터넷신문광고심의위원회의 설치를 촉구하겠다”고 밝혔다.

Although MOGEF points out that the numbers of harmful advertisements have increased since last year, the fact that there are actually less media companies breaking the law also needs to be taken into consideration, so first MOGEF is going ask media companies to regulate themselves. The official in the Division of Youth Media Environment continued: “The 34 media companies that broke the the Information and Communications Network Law last year have all since rectified their mistakes,” and so “a self-regulatory system is preferable to direct regulation, and we demand that the Korean Internet Newspaper Association and so on establish an internet newspaper advertisement consideration committee.”


이 관계자는 “이번에 법 위반으로 적발된 언론사에도 시정 조치를 우선 요구하고, 시정이 안 될 경우 형사고발을 할 것”이며 “유해성 광고를 의뢰하는 광고주 사이트에 대해서는 방송통신심의위원회에 유해성 심의 요청을 할 것”이라고 말했다. 언론사에 대한 형사 고발 검토와 광고주에 대한 심의 요청은 올해 처음으로 시행되는 조치다.

Also: “In this case, first we demand that measures are taken to rectify the mistakes of offending media companies, and if this is not done we will consider prosecuting them,” and forward their harmful advertisements to the Korean Communications Standards Commission for consideration. These steps are being enforced this year for the first time.”

한편, 이번 조사는 지난 3월7일부터 5월21일까지 문화체육관광부에 등록된 3216개 인터넷 신문(지난 2월말 기준)의 메인 페이지 및 10개 기사면을 점검한 것이다. 여성가족부는 작년에도 해당 조사를 했으며, 조사 이후 한국인터넷신문협회와 한국온라인신문협회는 ‘인터넷신문광고 자율규제 가이드라인’을 제정한 바 있다. 청소년매체환경과 관계자는 “낙인 효과를 고려해 이번에는 언론사 이름을 비공개로 했다”며 “올해 하반기나 내년에 또 조사를 할 것”이라고 말했다.

The survey, of 3216 sites registered with the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism (as of February) was conducted the 7th of March to the 21st of May this year, and examined the main pages and 10 [random?] posts of each. Last year’s survey was conducted by MOGEF, after which the “Internet Advertisements Self-regulation Guidelines” were established with the Korean Internet Newspaper Association and the Korean Online Newspaper Association [James — ironically, Firefox blocks the latter as a dangerous site!]. The official in the Division of Youth Media Environment of MOGEF explained that “because of the harm to their reputations that would come with naming the offending media companies, that information shall be kept private”, and that “a similar survey will be completed in the second half of this year.” (end)

Korean Gender Reader

For any readers who don’t already know, this Sunday the 17th there will be “International Couples and Friends Picnic” from 12pm to 6pm in Yeoido Park in Seoul. See here for the details and a press release, while here are some of the most recent blog posts about the original MBC story:

MBC to Mixed-Race Couples: Maybe you have a guilty conscience (Gusts of Popular Feeling)

MBC, The Vilification of Foreigners, and Hallyu (Seoulbeats)

Thoughts on the MBC Clip and the Facebook Reaction (Gord Sellar)

Media Strike in Korea (Ask a Korean)

MBC’s “Shocking Truth” Is Another Black Mark (Infidel World)

Meanwhile, on Sunday the 16th at 2pm,  a recent North Korean defector will speak and take questions at Busan National University. See Busan Haps or the North Korea Awareness Facebook page for further details.

Here are this week’s regular categories:

Body Image/Health:

On Babies and Body Image (On Becoming a Good Korean Feminist Wife)

South Korea: Birth Control Regulation Changes Provoke Debate (Global Voices)

Uncomfortable in our skin: the body-image report (The Guardian)


Dude with Asian Fetish in Boston Public Library (Korean Bodega)

The fine line between ‘obedience’ and rape in North Korea (Women Under Siege)

Government investigation finds foreign workers on Korean vessels were abused (The Hankyoreh)

Oh Won-chun (Suwon rapist & murderer) sentenced to death (The Marmot’s Hole)


Loving Day: the 45th Anniversary of Anti-Miscegenation Laws in the United States (Shotgun Korea)

Radiation likened to angry Japanese wife (The News)

A brief guide to Korean weddings (Alleyways)

Finding Love on the Internet: Does it Work? (Psychology Today)

The English Spectrum Series at Gusts of Popular Feeling:

Part 32: Invasion of Privacy Degrades Korean Women Twice Over

Part 33: 60 unqualified native speaking instructors hired for English instruction


The 2002 USFK tank accident, ten years later (Gusts of Popular Feeling)

— Remembering the 10th Anniversary of the 2002 Armored Vehicle Accident (ROK Drop)

Tenth anniversary of girls killed by US military vehicle (The Hankyoreh)


Male Homosexuality Study: Gay Men Have Evolutionary Benefit For Their Families, New Research Suggests (The Huffington Post)

16 Million Chinese Women Married To Men… Who Like Men (Überfacts)

Tired of beating up on drunks, Chosun declares war on Korean prostitutes abroad (The Marmot’s Hole)


China to send first female taikonaut into space (io9)

Ladygate: ‘Cup Noodle Girl’ Divides Netizen Opinion (Korea Bang)

Korean Soju is World’s Most Popular Spirit (Korea Bang)

North Korean Defectors A Hit On Popular South Korean TV Show (ROK Drop)

American v. Korean Communication: Talking v. Listening (The Unlikely Expat)


S Korea: long slog to a tricky future (Financial Times)

Easy Economic Boost: More Women at Work (The Wall Street Journal)

The Trials and Tribulations of MC Mong (Seoulbeats)

Pop Culture:

T-ara Pure (Frank Kogan)

귀엽다 Korea: The World’s (second) Cutest Nation (The Culture Muncher)

The Best Kdrama Kiss as Selected by Netizens (Soompi)

Apparently MBC thinks Egyptians are the same as Native Americans (Asian Junkie)

SNSD Unit Group “TaeTiSeo” Changing Members Tomorrow, Replacing Seohyun with 8-year old girl (The Yangpa)


Depression and Motherhood (Geek in Heels)

Chinese students bitching (The Marmot’s Hole)

S. Korean Army to appoint first mixed-race officers (Yonhap)

Cabby fined for refusing to pick up foreigners (The Marmot’s Hole)

40% of multiracial children have difficulty with Korean (The Korea Times)

Men In Blackness in Korea: Will Smith & Life (The Vanguard Element)

‘Forced abortion’ picture causes uproar in China (The Korea Herald)

(Links are not necessarily endorsements)