Sex and Gender Stereotypes in Korean Advertising

Thanks to the students at Dongseo and Pusan National University for being such great audiences last week, and here is the presentation as promised. Sorry that the animations don’t work in the online version, but there weren’t too many.

For regular readers, unfortunately the slides may make little sense in themselves, but I’m happy to elaborate on any of them if you’re interested. The purpose of the first few, for instance, is not so much to illustrate the numerous subliminal sexual messages found in advertisements (although I certainly could spend an hour talking about those!), but more to make the point that nothing in an advertisement is accidental, and that it’s very naive to think otherwise. In turn, the picture of all the Korean churches is to provide a parallel to Normal Lewis’s point here, which is that if, say, my mother comes to Korea and notices all the neon crosses around, does that somehow make her a fundamentalist Christian? Or simply that there’s a lot of churches here? Likewise with noticing sexual themes in ads, no matter how perverted some people think that is.

Much better than me explaining here though, is for me to give a presentation at your own university or institution instead. Just give me a buzz — I’m pretty cheap!

Korean Gender Reader

“X FUNS cover” by Yuko Shimizu (2005; source). For more of her work, see Visual News, her website, or her Facebook page.

Body Image, Health

Convincing Women in China They’re Too Hairy (Bloomberg)

The Dark Side of K-Culture (Randomwire)

True ‘Gangnam Style’ Fashion (The Huffington Post)

A Brief History of the Double Eyelid (Korea You’re Beautiful)

South Korean girls’ obsession with double eyelid surgery as they strive to look like ‘pretty western celebrities’ (The Daily Mail)

Seoul rises as beauty destination (The Korea Herald)

Hyori looks gorgeous for Elle, but netizens focus on her “sagging” tits (Asian Junkie)

Jessica and Yunho named the ’2012 Barbie & Ken’ (Allkpop)

Censorship, Media

COOL’s Yuri Isn’t Dead, but my Faith in Korea’s Media Is (Seoulbeats)

KOCSC calls for regulations on outfits, choreography, slang, but do nothing to address real issues (Asian Junkie)

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Pre-screening MV’s (Seoulbeats)

Joking about North Korea gets young leftists thrown in jail (The Hankyoreh)

Idols and Endorsements (Seoulbeats)


Attempted rapist pleads drunkenness in appeal, gets HEAVIER sentence (The Marmot’s Hole)

Woman’s biting off of man’s tongue deemed self-defense (The Hankyoreh; The Marmot’s Hole)

Anger as Suwon Murderer Escapes Death Penalty (Korea BANG)

Key East Entertainment manager arrested for repeated sexual assault … fucking ugh (Asian Junkie; Soompi)

Taking Advantage of Passed Out Drunk Girls, Netizens Debate (Korea BANG)

Which is on the rise? Sex crimes or media sensationalism? (The Korea Times)

Dating, Relationships, Marriage

Matchmaking industry swooning (The Korea Times)

Picture of the Day: Baby Festival (ROK Drop)

Japan Court Rejects Suit Challenging Outdated Remarriage Law (Japan Real Time)

The Basics on Dating Chinese Men, Our Perceptions, And Stereotypes (Speaking of China)

I’m a Feminist AND It’s Tradition in China? On Not Changing My Maiden Name (Speaking of China)

Education, Parenting, Demographics

SKorea: Principal under investigation for hitting students (Asian Correspondent)

Interview: In New Film, Korean Adoptees Search for Roots, Redefine Family Tree (Asia Society)

Korea – U.S. International Adoption Ornament is Racist and Ugly (Korean Gender Cafe)

Are You Effing Kidding Me? (Geek in Heels)

Japan’s Demographic Nightmare (The Diplomat)

Economics, Politics, Workplaces, Ladygate

On My War Against the Window (On Becoming a Good Korean (Feminist) Wife)

Japan’s women: Can they save the country’s economy? (BBC)

Gangnam Style

Gangnam Style: how Seoul’s most exclusive neighbourhood went global (The Guardian)

Japan’s deaf ear to Gangnam Style riles South Korea (The Telegraph; Japan Today)

Psy reaches 500 million viewers in shortest time. And Japanese Youtube users suck (The Marmot’s Hole)

Can Psy start a new Korean Wave? (Asia One)

Dennis Hong debuts a robot that dances to “Gangnam Style” (TED)

Big Trouble in Little China + Gangnam Style. John Carpenter approves (io9)

From ‘Gangnam Style’ to ‘Dartmouth Style’ (3WM)

Psy meets legendary American actress Betty White (Omona They Didn’t!)

Ai Weiwei Parodies ‘Gangnam Style,’ Confuses Pundits (Asia Society; Scene Asia)

Gangnam Style hits South Park (Gusts of Popular Feeling)

Oppa earning $60K per Vegas gig (Omona They Didn’t!)

The data behind Gangnam Style: The rise and rise of PSY (The Economist)

LGBT, Sexuality

Gay-o?!: Glee and Call Me Maybe in the classroom (Alleyways)

More elderly enjoy sex (The Korea Herald)

A rise in abortions shows Chinese students need more sexual freedom, not less (Shanghaiist)

“The true sign of rough economy is not the weakness of the country’s exports industry, or the difficulty fresh college graduates face in landing a decent job, but rather when a 73 year old woman gets arrested on prostitution charges.” (The Japan Daily Press)

Reading List: Toward a Queer Korean American Diasporic History (The Kimchi Queen)

The King and the Clown’s Love Story (Seoulbeats)

Everything you wanted to know about sex in China, but were afraid to ask (Seeing Red in China)

Japan allows male-to-female transgender children to attend school as “female students” (ILDA)

If anyone ever tells you homosexuality was brought to Korea by the West… (The Kimchi Queen)

A look at prostitution among teen runaways (Gusts of Popular Feeling)


Study: female N. Korean defectors suffer depression, sexual abuse (Yahoo! Korea; The Hankyoreh)

Female athletes’ rights on radar as stars multiply (Korea Joongang Daily)

Rain Under Fire For Special Military Treatment (MTVK)

Seoul Fashion Week S/S2013 off to a Running…Fumble (Yahae!; Scene Asia)

The Story of Nobel Peace Prize Nominee Geum-Soon Yoon, A Woman Farmer (The Next Women)

Pop Culture

We’re famous for not having talents, though (Frank Kogan)

The Pre-debut Touch (Seoulbeats)

More thoughts on the question of SM trainees (Angry K-pop Fan)

Counterpoint: Reasons I’d Want to be a K-Idol (Seoulbeats)

K-pop’s ‘Music Factory’ Exports Knock on America’s Door (Asianaut)

— New York-Based K-pop Academy Scandal Put on Blast by Local News (MTVK)

Social Problems

Steep increase in income inequality since 1990s (The Hankyoreh)

(Links are not necessarily endorsements)

Quick Hit: CNN on Saseng Fans


A good introduction to saseng (사생) fans by Collette Bennett at CNN, and I’m not just saying that because I get a mention towards the end(!). But if anyone’s confused by the connections I make to the Korean advertising industry and celebrity endorsements though, please see here for links to many posts and articles I’ve written about the subject.

Also, for related reading, see here for a discussion of the article at a JYJ fansite (they’re mentioned in the article), Asian Junkie for “Korean Executive Says K-Pop Fans Are A Cult + The Fandom Scares An American Journalist,” and XX Factor for “Your Pop-Culture Obsession Is Not a Sickness.”

p.s. Apologies to Colette if it’s my fault (I made the same mistake in my email), but it’s sa (“a” as in “hat”) seng (“e” as in “pet”), not “saesang” (pronounced “say-seng”) as reported in the article. Or is that some Seoul variation that I’m unaware of?

Radio Interview Tonight, 7pm

Tonight at 7pm I’ll be on Busan e-FM’s Let’s Talk Busan again, this time talking about bans on alcohol consumption on Korean campuses, and then Korean weddings. You can listen on the radio at 90.5, or online here (please note that you’ll have to download Windows Media Player 10 first), and I’ll add a link to the archived version once it becomes available.

Sorry in advance for my voice (I’m still recovering from a cold), and I should finally be able to catch up with comments and emails tomorrow!

Korean Gender Reader

(Source: Stuff No One Told Me, via My Journal)

Sorry for the slow posting everyone: I’ve had a bad cold for 3 days. But I’m nearly better :)


Film Screening: Sa Bangji/사방지, Korean Queer Archive, Friday 26 October (The Kimchi Queen)

Body Image, Health

Angry Little Asian Girl pokes fun at the Asian stereotype (Mochi Magazine)

Beware of Image Changes (Seoulbeats)

On Our Radar: DVF and China (Thick Dumpling Skin)

Music Video Lessons: Ailee’s “I Will Show You” teaches us that it’s okay to be an asshole (Asian Junkie)

Girls’ Generation, SECRET & more reveal their diet meal plans (My Journal)

Roundtable: Picture Perfect (Seoulbeats)

Modesty in Australia vs. China (Speaking of China)

Hong Kong woman dies after shady ‘beauty’ treatment intended for cancer patients (Jezebel)

Censorship, Media

Erroneous report of the murder of COOL’s Yuri basically sums up the state of the Korean media (Asian Junkie)

Media manages to make false story of COOL’s Yuri’s murder worse by outing victim’s details (Asian Junkie)

40 Months for stealing Korean broadcasts (The Marmot’s Hole)

This year’s collection of foreign teacher cartoons (Gusts of Popular Feeling)

More cartoons full of needles and gropers (Gusts of Popular Feeling)

Why not the Corea? (Expat Hell)

YG Entertainment & Lee Michelle may be having issues, so let’s invent narratives! (Asian Junkie)

South Korea: Professor Acquitted in Obscenity Case (The New York Times)

Bias Tracker: Why does allkpop trash certain events but not others? (Asian Junkie)

Trending: China Skepticism (Seeing Red in China)


Alarming Rise in Sex Crimes Committed by Teens (The Chosun Ilbo)

Park Geun-hye pledges to expand police force to bolster public safety (The Korea Times)

It’s Not Easy Being a Yakuza Boss, Part 1 (Japan Subculture Research Center)

Dating, Relationships, Marriage

Black and Asian Couple, Lily and James’s love story (Facebook Page)

10 examples of how lovers match their outfits in South Korea (MSN Now)

Why Korean Men Marry Foreign Women (The Chosun Ilbo)

Feeling Sexy as a Mom (Geek in Heels)

Asian Women “Too Tempting” To Husbands/Boyfriends? Please (Speaking of China)

Ask the Yangxifu: My Chinese Boyfriend Doesn’t Express His Feeings (Speaking of China)

Education, Parenting, Demographics

Spending the Last Year as a Teenager Outside of School (ILDA)

Is Corporal Punishment Good or Bad? (Koreabridge)

On Getting Behind in the Parenting Game (On Becoming a Good Korean (Feminist) Wife)

ExamiNation: A short documentary (Lost in Traffic Lights)

Economics, Politics, Workplaces, Ladygate

Korean Professor Uses Twitter to Critcise Online Misogyny Trend (Korea BANG)

Cook, clean, and be pretty (The Korea Times)

Seniority-based Promotions being Replaced by Merit-based Promotions in Korea (The Korea Law Blog)

‘Testosterone is the problem’ [in the finance industry] (The Korea Times)

Cracks in the Asian glass ceiling (Business Without Borders)

Feminist Feels Pity For Men in Continued Online Misogyny Debate (Korea BANG)

“I’d rather sell my c*nt than my paintings”: Women artists’ position in China 20 years ago and today (The F-word)

The All-China Women’s Federation, propping up patriarchy since 1949 (Shanghaiist)

It’s easier for Chinese women to become astronauts than members of the Standing Committee (Shanghaiist)

China’s ‘Leftover’ Women (The New York Times)

Powerful Chinese men still straight pimpin’, all about the bitches (Shanghaiist)

Gangnam Style

Why ‘Gangnam Style’ Didn’t Catch Fire Instantly in China and Japan (Asianaut)

Gangnam Style out of the most viewed music chart due to YouTube changes (Omona They Didn’t!)

How YouTube Just Screwed “Gangnam Style” [Update] (Kotaku)

Should We Be Scared of Gangnam Style? (Seoulbeats)


Cut your hair or go to jail (The Hankyoreh)

LGBT, Sexuality

Interview with Harry: Being gay is nice because I don’t have to deal with aegyo (The Kimchi Queen)

Chinese sex fair shows how prudishness and liberation sit side-by-side (The Guardian)

K. Will’s New Single is Fantastic (The Kimchi Queen)

Reaction to Seoulbeats Review of K.Will’s Please Don’t music video 케이윌 이러지마 제발 (Korean Gender Cafe)

— The Shifting Terrain of Sex in China (Scene Asia)

Reading List: KoreAm Journal- The Queer Issue (The Kimchi Queen)

Director set to marry his boyfriend (Korea Joongang Daily)

How to come out to a Korean friend (Lost in Traffic Lights)


My Korean identity: Michael Hurt (Groove Magazine)

The 정 Challenge (Gord Sellar)

Pop Culture

Unpopular Opinion: Enough with the Aegyo Bashing! (Seoulbeats)

The Five Faces Of E.via (Frank Kogan)

Working hypothesis on appropriation in pop culture: response to Occupied Territories (Occupied Territories)

A Response to Occupied Territories (Frank Kogan)

K-Pop Boot Camp: Video (Nightline)

The grim reality behind the rise of the entertainment market (Omona They Didn’t!)

Video: K-Pop Group 2NE1 Discuss Breaking Into the U.S (Wall Street Journal, Forbes, MTVK)

Are Lost Foreigners a Lost Case in Variety? (Seoulbeats)

Why would anyone sign up with SM Entertainment? (Angry K-pop Fan)

Perspectives: K-pop in Japan (And a Bit About the World) (Seoulbeats)

Dear Kpop Music Industry: Why is it so hard to find out the director of a video? (YAM Magazine)

Social Problems

Daegu parents seek solution to student suicides (The Hankyoreh)

Court Bans Sign Language Interpreters (Human Rights Monitor)

A Few Things to Realize About Bullying (Gord Sellar)

(Links are not necessarily endorsements)

Korean (Movie) Censors in Retreat?

(Sources, edited: left, right)

With so much attention on restrictive censorship in K-pop these days, it’s easy to overlook how much standards in movies have actually been relaxed in recent years. See my latest column in Busan Haps for more information, especially if you’ve never heard of Shortbus before…

But please let me reiterate here though, that the freedom to show more sex and nudity in popular culture is just one aspect of becoming a more sexually liberal society. For sure, it’s a step in the right direction, and can have positive knock-on effects, just like the first kiss in a Korean ad in 2009 lifted the taboo on PDA for a lot of young couples for instance. (Yes, only anecdotal; but prove me wrong). But on the other hand, with the (re)criminalization of abortion by the Lee Myung-bak administration, recent attempts to limit access to the contraceptive pill, and the continued stigmatization of single mothers, you could reasonably argue that Korea is really just as sexually conservative as ever. No matter how much T&A you can see on the silver screen now, and which is often (usually?) just for financial reasons anyway.

In short, it’s complicated. Anyone that’s been here more than a couple of years, what impressions do you get? And how do you think things will change after the elections?