Revealing the Korean Body Politic, Part 6: What is the REAL reason for the backlash?

Misandry Large 1Misandry Large 2Misandry Large 3(Source: Unknown)

Whenever one group suddenly starts competing with another for jobs, there’s going to be a backlash. That’s just human nature.

Especially if one group has any real or perceived advantages in that competition.

In Korea, the targets are young women, who are exempt from doing two years of military service. They are often made scapegoats for young men’s inability to get work, rather than blaming the government which just reaffirmed that it’s only men that must spend so much time out of the workforce, and/or lose opportunities for further education and gaining extra qualifications. Previously, former conscripts were compensated with extra points when applying for jobs with the government or public organizations, but that policy was ruled unconstitutional in 1999, on the grounds that it was discriminatory. Repeated attempts to reintroduce it have failed.

(To clarify, I’d prefer an end to conscription and the creation of professional armed forces instead, despite the difficulties Taiwan is currently having with that.)

Ironically though, the backlash in much of the 2000s was not due to women taking over “men’s jobs”. In fact, it was the other way round, with a significant number of men losing better paid, advancing, more secure, regular work and being forced to compete for the irregular jobs that were—and still are—primarily done by women. You can see this in following slides I used in my last presentation (see here for the source and a more detailed explanation).

First, here are graphs showing the percentage rates and numbers of all workers (both men and women) doing regular and irregular work over time:

Korea Regular vs. Irregular JobsTo be clear, the above graphs give no indication that it was primarily men that lost those regular jobs, and were forced to take up irregular ones instead. However, unstated is the fact that women with regular work were already targeted for layoffs in the aftermath of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, with the result that they took up irregular work in droves before 2002. So it’s a safe assumption.

What’s more, there’s the next graph, which shows the the percentage rates and numbers of men and women doing irregular work. As women’s rates barely changed, the implication is that the regular jobs men lost weren’t taken over by women:

Korea Irregular Jobs Men vs. WomenWith rates settling in 2004 though, it’s a bit of a stretch to blame the ongoing backlash in 2014 on the shift (although it certainly echoes in popular culture, with today’s freshmen—of both sexes—espousing the negative stereotypes). Today’s generation of young, job-seeking men are much more used to the difficulties of finding regular work, and certainly have no objective reason to fear or resent working women.

Or do they? See my next slide, a screenshot from this Arirang news video:

Korean 20s Economic Participation Rate 2013 ArirangWhat’s more, Yonhap just reported that the gap has continued to widen—in fact, that the crossover occurred as early as 2010. As translated by koreaBANG (my emphases):

The trend in the employment rate of female to male workers in their twenties over the last 4 years has made a historic reversal. Due to so-called ‘female power’, the gap is getting larger.

According to the National Statistics Office’s statements on the 19th, the employment rate of 20-something female workers last year was 57.8%. This is 2.1 percentage points higher than their male counterparts(56.8%)…

…Since 2010, the employment rate of female workers in their twenties has been higher than their male counterparts.

In 2010, the employment rate of female 20-something workers, at 58.3%, surpassed the rate of males by 0.1%. In 2011, the lead increased to 0.4%, and in 2012, as women lead by 1.5%, the gap continues to widen.

The rate of economic participation of female 20-somethings was 62.5% in 2011, then rose to 62.9% in 2012. Conversely, the men went from 64% down to 62.6%, being surpassed by the women for the first time by 0.3%.

The labor market is changing little by little as women obtain higher levels of education and more positions in the workplace.

In every part of society, the female tornado is blowing strong even in specialized careers, and women are making considerable advances.

A gap of 2.1% hardly sounds like a “tornado” of “female power” to me, and much more like natural variation. But I can understand how news of women’s “considerable advances” might rankle, especially in the context of Korea’s lowest twenty-something employment rates since 2000, and the numbers of students deferring graduation nearly doubling in the last two years. It’s not at all difficult to empathize with a male graduate stuck working at (say) a convenience store, frustrated at how some women he went to university have regular jobs because they gained skills and qualifications during the two years he was stuck in the military.

Still, likely that’s not the only reason he’s angry:

Korean Gender Ratio 1981-2012(Source: Cinnamon Ginger Tea; reprinted with permission)

Put simply, most of Korea’s extra boys are now men, and many of them can’t find girlfriends and wives. Most likely, precisely those who lack the steady jobs and money to be considered good partners.

Yes, I know what you’re all thinking, so let’s not mince words. I mean they can’t get laid.

That may sound facetious, and/or that I’m laughing at them. I’m not. Because fourteen years ago, frankly I was in a very similar situation myself. After graduating, I too couldn’t find a good job, and had to work three part-time ones just to scrape by (when my Doc Martins got holes in them, I had to put cardboard in them every day until I could afford new ones; yes, really). Needless to say, I didn’t have much time for dating, and wouldn’t have been very successful if I did.

I felt trapped.

Fortunately, I had the privilege of being able to take up a well-paying job (for a 24 year-old) in Korea, and, desperate in more ways than one, I took advantage of that just six months after graduating. So, while I can definitely empathize with how my students must feel today, on the other hand I can only imagine what it must feel like to never have the option to escape that I had, with no prospect of a partner or steady job for your entire twenties or beyond.

Still, I wasn’t spewing hatred about New Zealand women back in 2000, and likewise most of Korea’s angry young men (or indeed, China and India’s) aren’t destined to be misogynists in 2014 either. Most do direct their anger at the government and chaebol that deserve it.

Unfortunately though, all too many seem to firmly believe in such charming stereotypes as ‘kimchi bitches‘ instead. Moreover, China and India’s own “angry young males” are already considered huge sources of instability, crime, and sexual violence in those countries. Why would Korea’s be any different?

Also, the data raises a simple but important question: do the statistics about twenty-something men and women’s economic participation rates take into account the fact that there’s actually far more twenty-something men than women out there? That while a greater proportion of women than men are working now, that more men than women may still be working overall?

If not, then that “tornado” of “female power” may prove to be nothing more than hot air. Which makes you wonder why the media seems so full of it…

angry-chinese-man(Source: GR × HERMARK, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Either way, of course I’m grossly overgeneralizing in this post, so please feel free to call me out on that, and add any important information I’ve overlooked (I acknowledge I’m no great statistician too, and would appreciate any additional sources of data). But I think these demographic realities do significantly add to the many, often quite legitimate reasons for many young Korean men’s sense of anxiety in post-crisis Korea (which is not to say that things are any rosier for young Korean women), and it’s also fair to say that anxiety seems to be manifesting itself in excessive, distorted, and/or caricatured critiques and stereotypes of women. So at the very least, I hope knowing about all the extra men out there provides some much-needed context to current employment statistics and women-blaming. In hindsight, it’s extraordinary that any discussions of either wouldn’t take them into account.

What have I missed?

Update: Meanwhile, note that Korean women’s overall employment rate remains one of the lowest in the OECD, and that this is one of the main reasons for its equally dismal birthrate. However, as reported by Asian Correspondent yesterday, the Korean government is not about to upset gender norms by making life any easier for working parents. Lest that sound like an exaggeration, recall that the previous Lee Myung-bak Administration also (re)criminalized abortion in order to raise the birthrate, a policy continued by Park Geun-hye (my emphases):

In a nationwide survey conducted by the Federation of Korean Industries in 2010, marriage was the leading cause for South Korean women to quit their jobs – not childrearing. According to the poll, females in general have a 37.8 percent higher chance to give up work after getting married than if they were single – a percentage that shoots up to 58.2 for those in their 20s. The likelihood, however, of married mothers to leave their jobs was only 2.9 percent higher than married women without children. The federation explains these statistics by saying it is due to the foundational social belief that females should be full-time homemakers…

…Despite these numbers, measures to change cultural expectations – that it is not only the woman’s responsibility to care for children – are being opposed. In January, the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Strategy and Finance rejected one of President Park’s campaign promises: mandatory paid paternity leave, or “Father’s Month.” Ministry officials quoted potential financial problems such as the depletion of employment reserve funding for the opposition against the bill. They added that they will work towards a resolution but are unsure how they will initiate it.

The Revealing the Korean Body Politic Series:

12 thoughts on “Revealing the Korean Body Politic, Part 6: What is the REAL reason for the backlash?

  1. The new song 거런 남자 by Bro is just another example of the backlash, along with Kimchi Bitches, Deonjang Bitches, and everything else.

    Korean men (not to mention men in general worldwide) are wakening up to the toxic effects of feminism, which doesn’t seek male = female equality but female superiority at the expense of men. Third wave feminism views gender relations as a zero sum game, which it’s not. I think the vast majority of sensible men would have NO problem with men = women across the board. But then feminists wouldn’t like that because MERIT would win out.

    You need to view stuff like this:

    After this aired, The Nordic Council of Ministers (a regional inter-governmental co-operation consisting of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland) decided to close down the NIKK Nordic Gender Institute. The NIKK had been the flagship of “Gender Theory”, providing the “scientific” basis for social and educational policies that, from the 1970s onward, had transformed the Nordic countries to become the most “gender sensitive” societies in the world.

    The decision was made after the Norwegian State Television broadcasted this documentary called “Hjernevask” (the Norwegian word for “brainwash”) in which comedian Harald Eia exposed the hopelessly unscientific character of the NIKK.

    Again, most Korean men just want a fair shake, and shit like the Ministry of Gender Equality doesn’t do that. If there was a Ministry of Male Affairs, blogs like yours would be decrying sexism against women. This movement will continue to gain force, and you can’t stop it with blogs like this. More and more people even in the “enlightened West” are changing their attitudes in favor of traditional marriage. Lady Gaga, Cameron Bure, and other female celebrities on polar opposites of the political spectrum are on record as being pro-“gender different” after realizing that feminism denies basic human premises: that men and women are fundamentally different, with women being naturally hypergamous and men being naturally hypogamous.

    So to OP: Keep on fighting a losing battle, because feminism has had its day and failed. It’s failed because it forsakes that abovementioned rule. It shames women who want to be feminine and completely neglects 50% of the population (men). It has failed because it tells women that it’s “okay” to ride the cock carousel for 10 years, forsake family, pursue a “career” in communications, and that a man will still take them later on (because they are “worth it”). Then they hit the wall at 30 and realize the high value men aren’t going to take their shit anymore; men like me are in our primes and we are in control. The only men left are beta provider men who would do anything to get their dicks wet (like having a feminist blog); yet these men aren’t the ones women want in the first place (Hence, all the “where have all the good men gone?!” jezebel posts you see; there’s plenty of men around, it’s just not the ones these women had when they were 21).

    You can shame me, shame the women I sleep with, call my life “low-quality”, try to redefine your experience as “superior”, or even just call me outright dumb, but that doesn’t change the results: Women WANT to be around men like me more than supplicating people-pleasing men who seek women’s approval. It doesn’t change the fact I get laid 3x a week with Korean + International student girls at universities like Yonsei. Women love being around guys like me who treat them as WOMEN and not as men with boobs who are supposed to be able to do the same things men can do (newsflash: they can’t).

    Lastly, remember bro, you’re nothing more than a “mansplainer” to them, because “feminism is a female-only space”. So for all your efforts to please women (specifically Korean women who supposedly are the ones who popped your cherry and were willing to marry you after you fled the west), you have zero credibility when it comes to “manhood” (just being honest; I’d never listen to a guy try to give me advice on how to be a man if he had a feminist blog dedicated to shitting on 50% of Korea while being an apologist for the other 50% despite their participation in Korea’s current gender problems).


        1. It’s for his benefit. That comment probably took a good 20-30 mins. Imagine if he’d spent it on doing something more constructive? Like, say, thinking about a *single* point made in my post?

          (Edit: Ooops — the entire first sentence was related to points made in my post. My bad.)


        1. Thanks, and I’d like to. But when I ban someone I think it’s better to leave the original comment(s) up, so people can see the reasons for the banning and judge for themselves whether it was justified or not.


    1. You might as well ban me as well cause I’m right there with him. We call it cultural Marxism, a product of the Franfurt School. The emanation point of feminism, gay rights and all other P.C. “progressive” abominations…..


      1. Okay, if you insist.

        BTW, I don’t ban people for having a different opinion to me. Only for blatantly trolling, and/or for completely ignoring what was written by me and other commenters.

        If you want to side with someone who does both though, then I don’t think anyone needs to hear anything more from you. Thanks for the heads-up.

        p.s. Congratulations on knowing big words like “Cultural Marxism” and “Frankfurt School”, but the way you used them here shows you don’t really have a clue about either.


  2. It still really baffles me that Korean politicians and the conservative Koreans who elect them think that this sort of thing can go on forever. Why is South Korea not taking advantage of having followed Japan’s economic path thus far by seeing what a disaster it turns out to be in the long run, and avoiding it?


  3. I hate that you felt the need to ban him. I watched the video by the Norwegian comedian about gender differences and thought it was interesting. The only thing he got out of it was that Norway knee jerked and closed down their state sponsored gender studies. So by default the Koreans should do the same. He seems to be suffering from the same inclination as the Norwegian scientists, a narrow interpretation of the data towards a preconceived outcome. Even if biology and evolution do have a direct effect on the behavior of the sexes it doesn’t mean that feminism is “toxic” or that these differences should be codified by law and society. What I found most interesting about one of the profiled studies is that the more “free” a society becomes the more these choices become apparent. Just as the researcher suggested, women will “choose” roles that strengthen their societal position regardless of the field. It’s what I continue to tell people all the time. Women make their choices based on the promise of the outcome. If their choices are narrow then they will follow the path that brings them greater security and stability. It’s the reason Korea has “kimchi bitches”. What he didn’t seem to take away from the studies is that neither type of society, a free or restrictive society seems to effect the actual outcome for men. Men still dominate the job market in traditional “male” disciplines like science and engineering. So what does he have to whine about, seems like nothing to me since he’s getting he’s getting his wick dipped 3 or 4 times a week and that seems to be huge benchmark for his success in life. I’m not sure why he’s so angry at women other than he thinks he should be for some reason. Perhaps 3 times a week isn’t enough?


    1. If you want to talk to him, you can click his name to find his blog. I seriously doubt he wants any kind of genuine, two-way discussion though.

      What I found most interesting about one of the profiled studies is that the more “free” a society becomes the more these choices become apparent…

      …What he didn’t seem to take away from the studies is that neither type of society, a free or restrictive society seems to effect the actual outcome for men. Men still dominate the job market in traditional “male” disciplines like science and engineering.

      Forgive me if I’m misinterpreting you, but you seem to be arguing/implying that even in a free, (gender-)egalitarian society, men *will always* dominate the job market in traditional “male” disciplines like science and engineering, because of biological differences?

      I think that’s an unprovable argument, regardless of how influential (or not) you think those biological differences are. Because, even if women are technically just as free as men to enter those fields at 18, it’s not like girls are encouraged to do so as much as boys are before they make that decision, or find it as easy to stay in and advance in those fields as men if they do choose to pursue them. Ergo, the fact that more men happen to do science and engineering in free societies doesn’t, ipso facto, mean that women don’t really want to do them anyway (or wouldn’t want to do them).

      Again, sorry if I’ve misinterpreted you(!), but I’ll just throw that out there. Either way, in case all that sounds familiar to any readers, a hit tip to Mary Wollstonecraft, who argued that you couldn’t say jack shit about women’s “natural” intellect and abilities until girls were provided the same education as boys.


  4. 14 years ago young Korean men weren’t working as baristas, hairdressers and restaurant waiters, though they were working as waiters in booking clubs and host bars.

    Next “women’s” job to be encroached upon in Korea is nursing.


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