Just a quick note to apologize for the slow posting everyone. Actually, I’m not taking a holiday (although Christmas was a little busy), it’s just that my next post is taking longer than expected. But rest assured that it’ll be up on Monday sometime next week (update: forgot that my kids were off next week sorry!).
In the meantime, my latest article for Busan Haps, “K-girl Power: The emerging trend of empowerment and sexuality in K-pop,” is available here, a condensed version of this post. And, as a Christmas present to myself, I’ve just ordered — squeee! — the third edition of She Bop above, just released this month; The Beauty Myth, by Naomi Wolf (my other copy is in my mother’s spare room, and my friend’s gift of a PDF just isn’t cutting it!); Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, by Richard Burger; and finally, belatedly, Tune by Derek Kim.
If anyone’s read any of them, I’d love to hear your thoughts. And Happy New Year everybody!
For anyone interested in my thoughts about the election result, Vishakha N. Desai at the Asia Society sums them up much better than I could:
The fact that so many Asian countries have accepted women as political leaders and heads of state long before Americans have managed to put a woman in the White House has led some observers to believe that it must mean Asian societies are ahead of the Western world in accepting women in leadership roles. The truth is far more complex than the simplistic observation that this automatically means women will benefit from such role models at the pinnacle of their power. In the case of Park, she may have earned the position on her own merits more than other female counterparts, but that doesn’t mean her leadership will bode well for women’s rights in South Korea or the region during her tenure.
See Tales of Wonderlosthere and here for short but telling summaries of exactly what Park Geun-hye has done for women’s rights so far; National Public Radio and Arirang for people’s expectations of her in this regard; and Bloomberg for more on the paradox of why Asia leads the globe in the number of years women have ruled, yet also leads the globe in gender discrimination (Hint: Many of those leaders come from political dynasties). Also, I think it says a lot about a candidate’s and his or her party’s democratic credentials when they refuse to extend voting hours to allow more people of working age to vote, effectively disenfranchising them.
I make a brief appearance in the Korea Herald today, in an article by John Power on the recent government crackdown on pornography. With his permission, here are all of his original questions and my replies, with some links for further reading:
1. Do you foresee the Korean public becoming increasingly unhappy with the heavy censorship of pornography and other sexual content in the short term? Or do you think a largely conservative Korean public will remain happy with the status quo?
2. Often, censorship is justified to protect young people. Do you think there is a feasible way of protecting youth, while not controlling what adults wish to see?
Frankly I don’t, but this is a dilemma faced by every democracy. Most, however, don’t resort to the draconian restrictions imposed by the Korean government, yet somehow have equal or lower rates of sex crimes by and/or against minors nonetheless.
(“Because I’m a man / 남자기 때문에.” For English subtitles, click on “captions”)
3. A local site pornography site called Soranet had 600,000 subscribers before it was shut down in 2004, showing the widespread nature of its consumption. Do you think the government is fighting a losing battle in trying to ban such material?
If nothing else, banned sites will remain available via proxy servers, but I’m sure young, tech-savy Koreans won’t need to resort to using those. With the proviso that of course the government should continue to monitor the pornography industry as a whole, to prevent exploitation and the use of minors, you have to question the government’s zeal in attacking an otherwise victimless activity, and which there is clearly a huge demand for. Surely the time and resources could be better spent? Perhaps on more up-to-dateandeffective sex-education, so people could better judge the supposed harmful effects of pornography for themselves?
4. What do you think is the true motivation for censorship of adult content in Korea? Or, put another way, do you think there are sometimes hidden agendas at play?
As someone who notoriously devoted Seoul to God as mayor, and who believes that (re)criminalizingabortion is an effective method of raising the birth rate, clearly Lee Myung-bak’s conservative and religious beliefs are playing a big role here. That aside, blaming pornography for sex crimes, and censoring it on that basis, is also an easy way for the ruling party to appear to be doing something to address public concerns during its candidate’s presidential election campaign, yet without doing anything about their real causes whatsoever.
And, crucially, it doesn’t just poke fun at the obvious negatives, but also at the public discourses surrounding the industry. Namely, the hypocrisy of the men who loudly criticize women who get operations, yet shamelessly admire the results.
In this one, the main character is Narsha (나르샤), joined by co-member JeA (제아) and Miryo (미료) (Ga-in /가인 is absent). None of the other actors are familiar, but I can find out who they are if anyone is interested:
Here’s my translation. Apologies in advance for any mistakes, but frankly there were some very new words that even my wife didn’t know (let alone be in my smartphone dictionary), and of course the swear words especially are open to interpretation!
Line 2 [in Seoul] really disturbs me, I try to avoid it because I have too many weird experiences. I have also made interventions like the one in this video, to ask someone if they know another passenger or if they need help.
In one of the comments, 니애미종범 basically writes “she should have moved” which seems like a simple thing, but I can speak from my own personal experience. On three different occasions a stranger has sat uncomfortably close to me and I moved, and they FOLLOWED me. Two of those times I moved again and they left me alone. I was lucky that there were other passengers around because I just said to them to (politely) leave me alone. But in one of those cases, the guy CONTINUED to sit next to me and talk about my appearance, ask me questions, even though I kept politely declining conversation and then said directly that I do not like to talk to someone I do not know. At that point, I decided to get off the train with a larger group of people… I pretended to go toward the stairs but when out of view I dashed onto another car and walked through the train 3 more cars… I called my boyfriend and asked him to hurry and meet me at the station and described the guy to him and told him I needed him to meet me… I debated whether to try to call the police and how to describe the situation or ask if there was a security box at the station where I would exit… All this time, I thought I had been out of sight… but then he appeared at my side AGAIN… he had seen me and followed me further. At that point, there were no people standing to get off the train and I was really afraid to get off onto an empty train platform again, so I stood up in the middle of the car and just walked around and made light conversation with random people so that people would notice me… and he finally stopped, but when I exited the train I was looking behind my back.
This is besides the frequent (monthly?) ‘accidental’ butt groping on a crowded bus or subway that does not seem so ‘accidental.’ I have taken to wearing my backpack even though it would be more ‘convenient’ to other passengers if I stored it on the top shelf, because wearing my backpack creates a buffer between me and other people and creates a little bit of space so that it is not so easy to discreetly grope and pretend it is ‘by accident.’ Even so, I still have to often tell someone not to touch me.
There are also a number of posts that criticize the person who intervened. I think it is important to be supportive to other people in our community. I try hard to avoid sending a friend home alone, or drunk, but sometimes you can’t control that. So, I take photos of taxis or other things. If my friend has been drinking, I tell the taxi driver directly where she/he is supposed to go, that someone is waiting, and photograph the name plate in the front seat of their taxi that says their name and taxi ID, etc. as well as the plate #. I ask about how long it will take and how much it will be and verbally confirm to the passenger so taxi driver avoids arguing the bill, etc. I do this because I think it “discourages” the idea that my friend is vulnerable, but it isn’t enough because there are still predatory people, complex situations and laws, and we need to support each other in navigating these scenarios.
While she’d like to remain anonymous, she adds for the sake of context that she is a (Caucasian) foreigner, with intermediate Korean skills. Also, another issue is the perception that police will not help and that self-defense might be dangerous to legal liability and visa status, which unfortunately happened with two of her friends that were assaulted
As a non-Seoulite, I was aware that Line 1 was dangerous, but had no idea about Line 2 (although to a certain extent, traveling on any line can be anunpleasantexperience for non-Koreans and non-Caucasians). But as my friend tells me, apparently it’s a magnet for sexual harassers because “it connects a number of universities with stops like Gangnam, Sillim, Sadang and others that are very crowded.”
What are readers’ own experiences? How do you recommend dealing with harassers on the subway?