Korean Sociological Image #80: Fashion’s Complete Body!

Sometimes, I wonder if I exaggerate Korea’s alphabetization craze. Then I come across advertisements like this one:

Korean Body LinesThe advertisement on the left reads:

Tight chestline, Sleek braline; Slender waistline, No-cellulite bellyline; and Attractive y-line, Smooth legline. Fashion’s Complete Body! Summer Event. 10% Event Discount.

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Please see here and here if this is the first you’ve heard of “alphabetization” though, with the latter link focusing on Western historical parallels and the Y-line specifically. Alternatively, see here for more on the physically impossible X-line!

(For more posts in the Korean Sociological Image series, see here)

Busan Slutwalk, Sat Aug 31, 6-7PM, hosted by Don’t Do That

Busan Slutwalk 2013 Flyer 1

Update: I’ve just been informed that Slutwalk Korea and Don’t Do That are very different organizations, and that the latter — the organizers of Saturday’s event — advocate wearing more conservative dress than in regular slutwalks, arguing that participants who wear racier costumes run the risk of being charged with indecent exposure, and that toning things down would be more appropriate for a first event in Busan. Nevertheless, they accept short miniskirts, hotpants, croptops, and whatever slogans participants wish to write on placards.

Apologies if I’ve inadvertently misrepresented either organization, and I’ll update readers if any new information becomes available. Alternatively, please also check Korean Gender Café or Don’t Do That’s (Korean) Twitter feed.

Update 2: The Korea Times discusses the disagreements between the two organizations here, saying Slutwalk Korea has accused Don’t Do That of slut-shaming itself in its emphasis on conservative dress. I don’t know enough about either organization to comment sorry, but wager that any such accusation will have been greatly exaggerated to better fit the snarky tone of the article.

Original Post:

Reblogged with permission from Korean Gender Café:

Don’t Do That Campaign welcomes you to participate in a slut walk

I had a great chat today with organizers of Don’t Do That (성범죄인식개선캠페인 돈두댓), a campaign to change mindsets about sex crimes. The group is organizing a slut walk campaign in Busan and Seoul. I translated the information below and hope that readers will share it widely.

Don’t Do That is a voluntary group that comes together to raise awareness about sex crimes. Their site offers a lot of information and is a great resource.

Event in Busan:

On Saturday, August 31, 2013, 6PM ~7PM there will be a slutwalk hosted by the Don’t Do That (성범죄인식개선캠페인 돈두댓) Busan Team.

The walk will take place near Bujeon-dong, Seomyeon Subway Station (Line 1 & 2), Exit 1.

Participants will meet at the ally next to Judies Taehwa and march toward Lotte Department store. Please see the map below and spread the word~

For additional information about this event, please contact organizers via KakaoTalk ID jinamarna or via Facebook.

Here is a little map I made of the area in Busan where the slut walk will take place:

Busan Slutwalk 2013 MapThis is an image I found of Judies Taehwa storefront, participants will meet nearby at 6PM:

Judies Taehwa BusanFor more information about Don’t do that (성범죄인식개선캠페인 돈두댓) please check them out on Facebook, Twitter, and Daum Café.

Please share the flyers below (James — I included one as the opening image):

Busan Slutwalk 2013 6PM Flyer 2

Busan readers, if you attend the event, I would really love to hear about it~ I wish I could make it out this time, but I can’t. Please share this event and support the cause.

Readers in Seoul, I will be sure to provide similar translation/map when I hear from the Don’t Do That Seoul Team.

Another group that may interest readers is Slutwalk Korea. Slutwalk Korea organized the first slutwalk movement in Asia in early 2011. They launched a number of events in global solidarity with the slutwalks that started in Toronto and all over the world that year. They have also hosted global solidarity events for Pussy Riot and on March 8, 2013 for International Women’s Day. They have a great Twitter feed and regularly post information related to sexual violence or slutwalk-type events in Korea ( I learned about Don’t Do That from a Slutwalk Korea Twitter post).

Posted by

(See here for a write-up of the 2011 Seoul event by Roboseyo, or the “잡년행진” tag and “Rape” and “Sexual Harassment” categories for related posts on this blog)

Update 3: Here’s a report of the event, written by one of the participants.

Korean Girl Rockers, Defying the Stereotypes

Jia, Rubber Duckie(Jia of Rubber Duckie; source)

This translated article is maddeningly short on details, and the author writes as if sexual attractiveness and musical ability were mutually exclusive. But it’s good for learning some of the names out there.

Can any readers tell me any more about any of the bands mentioned, or recommend any grrrl-power songs of theirs to translate? :)

상품화 판치는 가요계, 걸밴드의 비애 / Girl Bands’ Disillusionment as Sexual Objectification Reigns Supreme over the Music World

Korean Indie Girl-groupsNate News via StarIN, 15/11/2012, by Cho Woo-yeong

왼쪽부터 시계방향으로 스윙즈, 스윗리벤지, 러버더키(사진=디앤씨뮤직 제공) / Caption — Clockwise from left: Swingz, Sweet Revenge, Rubber Duckie (Photo= DNC Music)

여성록밴드 ‘런어웨이즈’(Runaways)를 아는가. 런어웨이즈는 1970년대 후반 미국 록 음악계의 견고한 남성 카르텔에 당당히 도전장을 내밀었던 10대 걸밴드다. 이들은 당시 여성의 자유와 해방, 저항 정신의 아이콘이었다.

Do you know the US Girl Rock Band “The Runaways”? They were a group of teens that set it upon themselves to boldly challenge the firm male cartel of the US rock world in the late-1970s. At the time, they were an icon of female liberation, resistance, and rebellion.

기성음반 제작자들은 런어웨이즈의 저항 의식을 철저히 상업화했다. 결국 이들은 자신 스스로 무대에서 옷을 벗는 등 성적 상품화되는 데 익숙해져 버렸다. 약 3년간의 활동기 동안 런어웨이즈는 해방을 부르짖으면서 정작 자신들은 해방될 수 없었던 역설을 노래했다. 그들은 결코 자유롭지 않았던 셈이다.

(Cherry Bomb, their signature 1976 hit which went to #1 in Japan)

Their seasoned record producers would strongly promote this image of them. [However], ultimately the group became used to taking off their clothes and sexually objectifying themselves. Doing this for about 3 years, while singing about independence they would also sing about [the irony of] how they lacked that independence themselves. In the end, they had never been free.

30여년이 지난 지금, 대한민국 록 음악계는 어떨까. 음반 제작자들의 마인드와 환경은 변했을지 몰라도 대중의 인식은 크게 달라지지 않았다. 록은 여전히 남자들의 전유물이다. ‘자우림’ 김윤아, ‘체리필터’ 조유진 같은 몇몇 여성 멤버가 팀의 보컬을 맡아 인기를 끌고 있으나 홍일점일 뿐이다.

Korean Girls Rock Fesitival 2013Roughly 30 years have passed since then — what is the Korean rock industry like? [Unfortunately], while the minds of producers and the environment has changed, the public’s remains largely the same. Rock will always be a man’s world. Kim Yun-ah of Jaurim, Cho You-jeen of Cherry Filter, and others like them are popular vocalists of their groups but are also the only female members in them [source, right].

국내에서 온전한 여성 밴드는 다섯 손가락으로 꼽을 수 있다. 홍대 인디신서 현재 이름이 알려진 여성 밴드는 스윙즈, 와인홀비너스, 스윗 리벤지(Sweet revenge), 러버 더키(Rubber Duckie), 니아(NIA) 정도다. 최근에 씨엔블루·FT아일랜드 소속사에서 내놓은 에이오에이(AOA)가 인기를 끌고 있지만 이들은 아이돌 밴드에 가깝다. 상업적으로 최소한의 수익을 담보한 걸그룹 색깔을 포기하지 못했다.

Domestically, the number of all-female rock bands can be counted on just one hand. Well known in Hongdae at the moment are Swingz, Wind Hold Venus, Sweet Revenge, Rubber Duckie, and NIA. Also, recently CNBlue and FT Island’s management company [FNC Entertainment] has been promoting the popular AOA, but they are very similar to a typical idol band — FNC couldn’t give up on getting at least a minimum profit from them.

이들 모두 밴드로서의 기본인 작사·작곡 능력과 악기 연주 실력을 갖췄다. 웬만한 남성 밴드 못지않다. 특히 KBS2 ‘톱밴드2’에 얼굴을 내비친 스윙즈는 3차 예선까지 올랐다. 660팀 가운데 49강이었다. 다소 부족한 경험과 긴장 탓에 중도 탈락의 고배를 마셨으나 심사위원 신대철과 김도균으로부터 “떨어지기 아까운 밴드”라는 칭찬을 받았다.

All these bands have the skills necessary to be described as such (writing lyrics, composing songs, and being able to play instruments), and are just as good as their all-male counterparts. In particular, Swingz came to prominence through competing in Top Band 2 on KBS2, coming 49th out of 660 teams and making it to the 3rd round, but ultimately failing through inexperience and nerves. Judges Shin Dae-chul and Kim Do-kyun complimented them and said it was a pity they didn’t make it further in the competition.

James — Over at Koreanindie, Dahee confirms that Swingz were betrayed by their nervousness (see here for more on their performance in earlier rounds). Yet a much more interesting — if controversial — choice of Top Band 2 group to discuss might have been Rubber Duckie instead, who Dahee alleges suffered from the judges’ own stereotypes of female musicians on the one hand, but who Lightinthemind alleges emphasized their “charm and cuteness and looks” rather than their musical ability on the other:

Dahee: Right away I’m struck with the bad choice of songs for Rubber Duckie. Their vocals aren’t strong enough for the cover song, and it doesn’t really show off their charms very well. And then Shin Dae Chul starts talking about how some of the judges whispered amongst themselves before their performance that “The guitar is a man’s instrument”(!!!), and how hard it is to find a good female guitarist. I cannot believe he is saying this. The guitarist kind of looks like she wants to sock him in the face. And then he compliments her on her skills, saying “I didn’t know you’d be so good,” meaning he didn’t expect much from her BECAUSE SHE’S A WOMAN. Ugh. Sorry, Shin, but you’re officially on my shit list now. Maybe it’s this kind of attitude that stops women from taking up the electric guitar in the first place, ever thought of that? I wonder if Rubber Duckie has to deal with this kind of bullshit on a regular basis? This also makes me wonder why there isn’t a female judge. Would it have been so hard for them to get someone like Kim Yoon Ah on the panel?

Lightinthemind: Urgh… I have double feelings here. No, triple-way feelings. First, I like their attempt to pull off another song which is not as sweet as their own. Unfortunately it wasn’t so successful but at least they tried. Second, I also liked the guitar solo and can agree with Shin Dae Chul that to find women playing guitar on this level is a rarity. And it is not a thing of feminism here. Just a fact. How many really famous females guitarist do we know? Can you name? And third, the thing that I don’t like in girlish bands. If you take advantage of your charm and cuteness and looks, don’t pretend that you weren’t expecting all these compliments from other musicians and that attitude towards you. ‘That’ means “oh, such pretty young girls, let’s enjoy their young bright faces cause they won’t be able to compete here anyway’’. Sorry again, but this sweety image these groups are taking is hurting my teeth. That is why I was relieved when they took the Sixpence None the Richer cover. Hope that they would concentrate on really doing music rather than entertaining with their looks.

Neh Magazine Rubber DuckieFor the record, a September 2010 interview in the now defunct Neh Magazine (p.16) also fixates on their looks — but that may or may not be the fault of the interviewer rather than Rubber Duckie themselves. Either way, alleged prejudiced judges and/or allegedly exploiting one’s looks would certainly disrupt author Cho Woo-yeong’s breezy narrative here, which is possibly why Rubber Duckie weren’t also interviewed (although I concede they may simply have been unavailable).


스윙즈는 “그럼에도 사람들의 선입견을 바꾸기는 아직 어렵다”고 고충을 털어놨다. ‘걸(Girl)’ 밴드에 대한 대중의 편견 때문이다. 걸밴드가 무대에 오르면 대부분 사람은 ‘너희가 해 봐야 얼마나 잘하겠어’라는 생각부터 머릿속에 떠올린다. 아무리 실력이 좋아도 ‘어? 좀 하네’ 식의 반응이 돌아온다. 스윙즈는 “남성 밴드들보다 두 배 세 배 더 연습했다. 인정받지 못하는 서운함보다 보이지 않는 벽이 존재한다는 사실에 부담감이 크다”고 말했다.

Swingz lamented that “Rather than that setback, we’re more saddened that the public’s preconceptions about girl rock bands haven’t changed. When we step on stage, people think ‘Let’s see how good they are,’ but no matter our ability they will still think we’re ‘just okay’ [at best].” They continued “Compared to male bands, we have to practice two to three times more. But it’s not that the public doesn’t acknowledge us that really gets us down — it’s the unseen barriers thrown in the way [of female performers].”

Swingz vs Rubber Duckie아쉬운 점은 이들이 단지 여성이라는 이유로, 무대 매너나 음악적 역량이 아닌 성적 매력이 얼마 만큼 있느냐가 먼저 평가되는 현실이다. ‘홍대 여자 싱어송라이터’에서 ‘홍대 여신’이란 중의적인 의미의 대명사로 굳어진 요조·타루 등 미모의 여성 가수들 인기와 달콤한 노래가 이러한 편견을 더했다. 우리 사회가 얼마나 여성 가수의 외모에 민감한지를 단적으로 드러내는 대목이다.

What’s regretful is that, as female performers, they are judged more on their sexual attractiveness and charms than their stage manners and musical ability. The sweet songs and popularity of pretty female singers Yozoh and Taru, who were originally known as ‘Hongdae female singer-songwriters,’ have added to this sentiment through their transformation into ‘Hongdae goddesses’ instead. That female singers have to be so careful about their appearance like this directly exposes a flaw of our society.[source, right]

스윙즈는 “우리가 아무리 혼신의 힘을 다 해도 결론은 항상 ‘예뻐요’라는 목소리가 들려온다”며 “물론 그 역시 팬분들의 소중한 응원이지만 기왕이면 ‘연주 멋졌어요’라는 말을 듣고 싶다”고 바랐다.

Swingz said “No matter how much work we put in, in the end we just hear cries of ‘You’re so pretty!’,” and wished that, “Although of course we do find our fans’ support valuable, we really want them to say “That was a great performance!’ instead.”

세상이 바뀌었지만 일부 우리 정서에는 남존여비 사상도 뿌리깊게 박혀 있다. 스윙즈는 “걸밴드는 호사가들의 입방아에 오르내리기 쉽다”고 한숨을 내쉬었다. 공연이 끝난 후 뒤풀이 때 맥주 한 잔 마셨을 뿐인데 다음날 ‘술고래’가 돼 있다. 다른 남성 밴드 멤버와 친해져 차(茶)도 마시고 늦은 시간까지 함께 연습이라도 했다가는 ‘두 사람이 그렇고 그런 사이’라는 소문이 돌아 활동에 타격을 받기 십상이다.

SNSD gossipping and judgingThe world has changed, but this patriarchal system is deeply embedded in our unconscious. Swingz sighed “Girl bands are an easy target of gossipers. If we have one beer after a hard performance, we’re labelled alcoholics. If we go out late and have a friendly cup of tea with a member of a male band, we’re hit with all sorts of rumors about our relationship.” [source, left]

윤정주 여성연예인인권지원센터 소장은 “그간 여성의 선정적인 콘셉트를 내세워 돈을 벌려는 일부 기획사와 그를 쫓는 대중·미디어의 책임이 크다”고 지적했다. 음악적 실력보다 성적 매력을 부각하는 기획사와 이를 자극적으로 확대·재생산하는 미디어가 여성에 대한 대중의 인식을 가볍게 하고 있다는 설명이다.

Yun Jeong-ju, head of the Female Entertainers’ Human Rights Support Center [below; source], pointed out that “The media has a big responsibility for management companies making money through using sexy concepts with women and for the public following that trend.” The widely-held notion that sexual attractiveness is more important than music ability is heavily encouraged by the media.

Yun Jeong-ju대중이 다양한 장르의 가수들을 주목하기 어려운 상황에서 이러한 악순환은 반복된다. 윤 소장은 “록 장르 자체가 우리나라에서는 비주류인데다 남성성이 강한 분야여서 여성들이 진출하기 어렵다”면서 “그들이 ‘섹시 가수’에 밀려 미디어 속에서 배제되고 있는 현실이 더 높은 장벽”이라고 말했다.

This leads to a viscous circle whereby [female] singers from varied genres [beyond K-pop] get ignored by the public. Yun continued “In Korea, rock isn’t mainstream and is dominated by men; it’s difficult for women to get ahead in that world,” and that “The media creates a high barrier for [female] singers by placing them [so far] behind sexy ones.” (end)

As always, I appreciate any corrections, and thanks from my long suffering wife to some of my FB and Twitter followers for help with some questions I had while I was working on the translation!

Korean Sociological Image #79: The Anti-Communist Hyundai Car

Anti-Communist Hyundai(Source: Moreska. Reproduced with permission.)

As described by the photographer Moreska:

“This bizarre prize giveway ad, with a Hyundai car and hidden-treasure puzzle, circa 1985, features an ‘anti-communism’ prize – first prize, Hyundai car; second prize, set of steak knives; third prize is your fired….oops wrong contest – the first prize is a “anti-communist” Hyundai vehicle and the second prize is a “unification” prize….down the list there’s a Mount Paekdu prize and Mt. Kumgang prize. A really weird one.”

This reminded me of the “Consumption is Virtuous” (소비가 미덕이다) slogan I once read in a Korean newspaper from the late-1970s, back when economic development was explicitly conflated with national security. Previously, I’ve overemphasized how much that sentiment still applies today, not realizing that government and the media actually began to criticize (alleged) overconsumption by the 1990s, in what were really just thinly disguised attacks on women’s new economic rights and freedoms (and important precursors to the “beanpaste girl” {된장녀} stereotypes of the 2000s). This ad though, demonstrates how things were indeed very different just a few years earlier.

Or does it? Moreska, whose Flickr feed is a treasure-trove of retro Koreana, points out how strange it is — so it may have been the exception rather than the rule, even before Korea democratized in 1987. Can any Korean history buffs help out?

(For more posts in the Korean Sociological Image series, see here)

The Pornification of K-pop?

K-pop Porn

Pornography is art, sometimes harmonious, sometimes dissonant. Its glut and glitter are a Babylonian excess. Modern middle-class women cannot bear the thought that their hard-won professional achievements can be outweighed in an instant by a young hussy flashing a little tits and ass. But the gods have given her power, and we must welcome it. Pornography forces a radical reassessment of sexual value, nature’s bequest of our tarnished treasure.

Camille Paglia, Vamps & Tramps, 1994.

For reasons of space and propriety, an opening quote that didn’t make it to my latest article for Busan Haps. But, without denying for a moment that there’s been a lot of gratuitous T&A in K-pop this summer, with many more examples in just the few weeks since this article was written, I think Paglia’s quote brings a healthy dose of realism to the discussion, and frames the one on Beyoncé’s Super Bowl halftime show in the conclusion nicely. Please click on the image to see what I mean.

For much more on the concept of sexual objectification, why it can sometimes be positive, and why consent is so important for determining that, please see here. Also, a must-read is Peter Robinson’s “Naked women in pop videos: art, misogyny or downright cynical?” in The Guardian from last week, which raises many of the same issues (and is a reminder that the “pornification” of K-pop still has quite a long way to go).

Lecture This Sunday — “Korean International Adoption: From Militarization and Neocolonialism Towards Human Rights”

Korean International Adoption From Militarization and Neocolonialism Towards Human RightsI’ve been asked to pass on the following:

“Korean International Adoption: From Militarization and Neocolonialism Towards Human Rights” with special guest lecturers Tobias Hübinette and Jane Jeong Trenka

August 11th (Sun), 5-7:30pm at Haechi Hall (Seoul Global Culture & Tourism Center, Myeongdong, M Plaza – 5th floor). Korean interpretation will be provided. Attendance is free but all collected donations will be given to the Korean Unwed Mothers’ Families Association.

“한국해외입양: 군대화와 신식민주의 개념에서 인권으로” 토비아스 휘비네트교수와 제인정트렌카 작가 특강

날짜: 8월 11일 (일) 5시부터 7시반까지, 장소: 해치홀 (서울글로벌 문화와 광관센터, 명동 엠프라자 5층). 한국어 통역 제공. 입장료 무료. 모금은 한국미혼모가족협회에게 기부.

FB event page here. come, come, come! (also all reblogs greatly appreciated!)