(Source, left: Kevin Jaako, CC BY-NC 2.0. Source, right: Isabel Santos Pilot, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, edited)
Now, I’d be the last person in the world to victim-blame anyone who’s ever been the target of Yellow Fever. And I don’t doubt for a moment that the media is overwhelmingly responsible for creating and perpetuating the stereotypes that come with it. But for those men who bring those stereotypes with them to East Asia, there is one aspect of life here that is likely to further convince them of local women’s attraction to them. What’s more, it’s something so fundamental, so visceral, that frankly it completely fooled me too—even though I never shared those stereotypes, and definitely continued to treat Korean women as individuals.
See here to learn what it is, and why it has impacts that go well beyond mere dating. While it’s really quite simple, and I think most people who deal with people from a foreign country or live in one are already aware of it on some level, I think it’s enormously helpful to have it spelt out—especially if you’re having a bad experience. Also, although again I stress it only plays a minor role in perpetuating Yellow Fever stereotypes, I think it’s one that tends to get neglected in most (English) discussions of those, which tend to focus on Asian-Americans.
I’d be very interested to learn if readers have had any similar experiences, and what you did about them. (Or if your students have; if mine are going overseas, I make sure to photocopy the relevant pages of this book for them!) Also, how does it play out with the sexes reversed?
(Source: Ryan Somma; first, second. CC BY-SA 2.0)
Update: One thing that didn’t make it to the final article, is that the Korean gentleman mentioned proved to be enormously helpful once we arrived in Seoul, taking a good half hour out of his own time to make sure I got on my plane from Gimpo to Jinju. I was glad that I’d given him the benefit of the doubt when we first met.
Another is that the second university student I mentioned was so close that our crotches were touching (yes, really), which she too realized and was embarrassed about after noticing me flinching. Of course, I didn’t flatter myself for a moment that anything was meant by it. But if the same thing had happened to me in my first year here, when I was very young, very single, and incredibly naive, then I’m sure I would have misinterpreted it, as I did many other experiences like it.
How about you?
Update 2: Two interesting and relevant blog posts I forgot to mention are “No Personal Space and Consideration in Korea” on The Marmot’s Hole from back in 2008, and “Unawake and Korean” on Sorry, I was drunk last month.