Korean Sociological Image #93: Korea’s Dark Circles

Very busy with work and deadlines these days (sorry), I picked up these daily planner post-its to try to make more efficient use of my time:

Daily Planner(Source: ebay)

Korean Sleep Deprivation 1I don’t recommend them: at 8cm in diameter, they’re much too small to write in, whatever language you use. Much more interesting than my frustrations with my pudgy fingers though, is that example daily plan provided. It reads:

  • 11:30pm to 6am: Sleep
  • 7-9: Prepare for Conference
  • 9-12pm: Attend Conference
  • 12-1: Lunch
  • 1-3:30: Attend Exhibition
  • 3:30-6: Attend Hagwon (Institute)
  • 6-7:30: Skip 300 times
  • 7:30-9: Memorize English Vocabulary
  • 9-11:30: Watch Online Lectures

Did the copywriters consider that a typical worker’s daily plan? Or more as one the ambitious professional should aspire to, starting with the strategic investment of 1500 won for a pack of 30?

Either way, it’s an interesting example of how Korea’s study-hard, work-hard, sleep-when-you’re-dead norm gets manifested and perpetuated in daily life, and one that would probably be little changed for consumers in other (developed) East Asian countries. In contrast, US adults, for instance, may also get less than seven hours daily sleep in practice, but the eight-hours ideal is an enduring myth. And very, very few aren’t achieving that ideal due to attending hagwons.

Korean high school students sleepAnother manifestation of Koreans’ attitudes to sleep comes from a high school teacher friend of mine, who says a common saying students there goes something like “Four hours sleep, go to a SKY university; five hours sleep, you fail.” I was recently reminded of it by the second “dark circle” on the right, which you can read more about at the Hankyroreh.

In both cases, frankly I’m surprised that the sleeping time is so high

How about you?

Update: Some statistics, via The Korea Bizwire:

Toz, a business that rents meeting rooms, conducted a survey on 1,800 high school seniors who used their study center. Results showed that 31 percent of the respondents slept five to six hours a night, and 30 percent answered that they slept four to five hours.

In other words, six out of 10 high school seniors were only getting five hours of sleep every night. Those who slept more than seven hours represented only five percent of the respondents.

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

“Sexy Concepts with James Turnbull”

Lee Hyori Bad Girls SBS Inkigayo 인기가요 25 May 2013(Source)

Ahem. But really, they’re just a very small part of my July interview with Colin Marshall for the Notebook on Cities and Culture podcast, where we also discuss:

…what Westerners find so unappealing about Korean plastic surgery; the associations of the “double eyelids” so often surgically created; why he used to believe that Koreans “want to look white”; the meaning of such mystifying terms as “V-line,” “S-line,” and “small face”; the uncommon seriousness about the Western-invented concept of the “thigh gap”; how corn tea became publicly associated with the shape of the drinker’s jaw; Korea’s status as the only OECD country with young women getting thinner, not fatter; Korean advertising culture and the extent of its involvement with the “minefield” of Korean irony; the prominence of celebrities in Korean ads, and why the advertisers don’t like it; how long it takes to get tired of the pop industry’s increasingly provocative “sexy concepts”; the result of Korea’s lack of Western-style reality television; how making-of documentaries about 15-second commercials make the viewers feel closer to the celebrities acting in them; why he doesn’t want his daughters internalizing the Korean sense of hierarchy; why an expat hates Korea one day and loves it the next; how much homework his daughters do versus how much homework he did; the true role of private academies in Korea, and what he learned when he taught at one himself; the issues with English education in Korea and the oft-heard calls for its reform; the parallels between English test scores and cosmetic surgery procedures; the incomprehension that greets students of the Korean language introduced to the concept of “pretending to be pretty”; and how to describe the way Korean superficiality differs from the Western variety.

Apologies in advance for not being much more succinct when I spoke (I’m, well…er..uhm…working on that), and by all means please feel free to ask me to clarify or elaborate on any of those topics.

Also note that Colin has interviewed over 30(?) other expats and Koreans, men and women, and Korea and overseas-based speakers for the Korean component of his series, all most of whom are much more articulate and entertaining than myself, so I strongly encourage you to browse his site. I myself was blown away by Brian Myers’ interview yesterday, which was full of insights and observations that all long-term expats will be able to relate to (and will be very useful listening for those thinking they may become one), and Bernio Cho’s is essential if you want to understand the Korean music industry better. And those are just the two I’ve listened to so far!

Quick Hit: Harassment Framed as Affection

Dummy Harassment(Dummy Harassment by gaelx; CC BY-SA 2.0)

Via The Korea Herald:

Former National Assembly Speaker Park Hee-tae is to be questioned over allegations of molesting a golf caddie, police said Saturday…

…Park admitted that there had been some physical contact, but maintained that he did not “cross a line.” He told a local daily that he poked the woman’s breasts with a finger once, adding that it was an act of adoration because she “felt like his granddaughter.” (My emphasis)

Read the link for more details, or The Korea Times. I mention it because a friend pointed out that they’ve heard that excuse on more than a few occasions in Korea, which rang a definite bell. Sure enough, a few years ago I translated an article by Ilda Women’s Journal writer Park Hee-jeong, who said exactly that in relation to the following commercial back in 2005:

“I touched her because she’s like my daughter”

여성들이 이 광고를 보면서 느끼는 불편함의 한 켠은 ‘몸을 만지는’ 행위에 있다. 우리 사회에서는 가족이라든가 친하다는 이유로 타인의 몸에 손을 대는 행위가 쉽게 용납이 되는 경향이 있다. 나이 지긋한 분이 성희롱 가해자로 지목되면 “딸 같아서 만진 건데 잘못이냐?”는 변명(?)이 나오는 것도 그런 이유다…

One reason women feel uncomfortable watching this ad is because of the act of the daughter’s body being touched. That is because our society approves of and/or grants permission to men touching them in a friendly manner, like they would their own family members. Indeed, when an older male is accused of sexual harassment, often he fastens on to the excuse that “Can’t I affectionately touch someone like my own daughter?”…

…“딸 같아서 만진다”는 말이 통용되는 사회에서 삼성생명의 광고는 많은 여성들에게 불편한 기억을 환기시킨다. 광고 속에서는 의도된 스킨십이 아니었지만, 불편해하는 딸의 모습을 아름답게 바라보는 시점 자체가 이미 여성들을 불편하게 만들고 있는 것이다.

…“I just touched her like I would my daughter” is an excuse used so much in Korean society, that this Samsung Life Insurance commercial evokes many uncomfortable memories in women. In particular, having something that would in reality be so uncomfortable for the daughter, to be just cutely dismissed instead, already makes women feel uncomfortable. Even though the father’s intention was not skinship. (My emphasis)

See my 2011 post for the full article and translation. Like I argued there, the prevalence of such attitudes in 2005 still goes a long way towards explaining the rise of “ajosshi-” or “uncle-fandom” just a few years later. Or, more specifically, why the media so quickly framed and celebrated middle-aged men’s interest in (then) underage female-performers as purely paternal or avuncular, despite the girls’ increasingly sexualized performances.

But that’s a very familiar topic with readers, so I’ll wisely stop there, and later this month I’ll make sure to write a follow-up post on the important challenges to those media narratives that have arisen since (suggestions as to what to add would be welcome). Also, boys’ performances have likewise become problematic, so it’ll be interesting to explore similar permissive media narratives about “ajumma-fandom“—or curious lack thereof.

Until then, what do you think? Do you feel older Korean men still have a palpable sense of entitlement to women’s bodies, however much it is rationalized as affection? Or is Park Hee-tae’s case an unfortunate exception?

Update: By coincidence, this issue has just been raised in a posting at Reddit’s TwoXChromosomes. An excerpt:

But [my Korean father] would act strangely at times. He commented in public and in private how large my breasts were, and how I could have grown up without him there, how the last time he’d seen me I was so small. He would often say teasingly that he wanted to feel my boobs and he would constantly try but I would be very self conscious and embarrassed and turn away.

I asked him to please stop and get angry. I even cried once because he was making me feel bad and humiliated. He also kept trying to sneak in when I was bathing and kept implying that he wanted to bathe me like when I was young. He would often try to see me when I was changing. I felt very conflicted and always refused. I felt revolted by the whole thing.

Anyway, I admitted to my grandmother that I had felt strange, and kind of traumatized by this behavior. She immediately responded with, “You’re wrong about this. This is normal behavior in South Korea, and you’re just seeing this in the wrong light because you’re American. Your father has a temper problem, but he’s a pure person. I’m one hundred percent sure that he just was being a loving father.”

Read the rest there, as well as the numerous comments. Again, there’s quite a debate as to how common such excuses and rationalizations are in Korea (or not).

Update 2: Clearing out my archives, I came across the following case from October 2007:

An appellate court gave the “not guilty” verdict to a father who had touched his 11-year-old stepdaughter’s breasts, saying it was a “sign of affection.”

Kim, 43, was married in 1996. He became the stepfather of his wife’s daughter, whom he treated as his own child. He had often showed her affection through touching, which the girl did not used to consider as unpleasant…

…However, the Seoul High Court only acknowledged the domestic abuse [of his wife]. He was given a two-year suspended jail term and 160 hours of community service. It ruled: “Kim’s act was a rather excessive sign of affection spurred by alcohol.”

The court made this decision based on the fact that the girl had not reached puberty yet and previously had not felt uncomfortable about such acts as sleeping next to her and touching her hips.

Read the full article at the Korea Times or Waygook.

Korean Sociological Image #74: Child Sex Offender Notices

Korean Sex Offender Website(Source)

Update: With thanks to reader Lily for pointing it out, the notice I received says not to post it on the internet, so I’ve replaced it with a screenshot of the Korean sex offender registry website, www.sexoffender.go.kr. Sorry that that makes the post and comments now difficult to follow.

Received in my letter box this morning. And, presumably, every other one in the neighborhood.

I don’t have time to translate the entire thing sorry, let alone the advice and information provided on the back. But here is the information about his crime:

In October 2011, in Haeundae-gu, XX-dong, this person attempted to rape a teenage girl, but failed. On May 17 2012, he was convicted according to the “Protection of Children and Juveniles from Sexual Abuse Act,” imprisoned for 2 years and 6 months, with 4 years’ probation, given 40 hours of sex violence treatment lectures, and required to have his personal information be made available to the public for 3 years.

Apologies for the confusion — has he just been released? If not, why is this notice being provided now? — and would appreciate it if anyone could clarify.

Meanwhile, regardless of the country, how would you react if you received something similar? Has it happened to any readers before?

Also, you may be interested in comparing this wanted notice sent to all Busan households in March 2010, after the rape and murder of a 13 year-old girl.

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

Ali Meets Father of 8 year-old Rape Victim “Na-young”

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes. Source: maniadb

If you’ve never heard of Ali, Na-young (a pseudonym), or their connection, please see Seoulbeats for some background. Assuming that you have, I’d like to add just two things in this introduction to today’s translation.

First, that back in December 2008, the combination of the particularly horrific nature of the crime, and the light sentencing of the rapist, simply incensed the Korean public. So perhaps one can understand the severity of netizens’ reactions to Ali using Na-young’s name in a song title.

Next, that that public outrage in 2008 ultimately led to many changes to the Korean pop-culture industries, which we’re still seeing the effects of today. For, triggered by Na-young’s case, public anger about sex crimes against minors came to a head by the following summer, leading to increased scrutiny and concern about those working in the music industry especially.

Combine that with the sex-crime revelations that followed suicide of actress Jang Ja-yeon, and we came to have the widespread restrictions on and/or censorship of song subjects, lyrics, clothing, dance moves, and so on that we see today (albeit not just on minors). Working around those—or deliberately breaking them to create publicity—has now become an integral part of the production of K-pop.

(Translation begins)

Source: 우리다시여기에

[오늘의 세상] 아픔을 사랑으로 감싸다나영이 아버지, 알리 만나 주며 위로 / Enveloping pain with love . . . Na-young’s father meets Ali, gives flowers and consolation

Chosun, December 19, 2011,  by 정지섭/Jeong Ji-seob

아버지와 같이 온 나영이, 부끄럼 많아 차에서 기다려 / Na-young, who came with her father, was too shy and waited in the car

나영이 아버지:”그런 고통 있는 줄 몰랐네요 많이 힘들었죠… 울지마요, 네티즌들 진정했으면 좋겠다” / Na-young’s father: “We didn’t know you had that kind of pain.  It was very hard, wasn’t it.  Don’t cry, I hope the netizens calm down.”

편지 5장에 마음 담은 알리 “나영이에 용기주려 했는데 미리 말씀 못드려 죄송해요… 언니가 정말 미안해” 눈물 / Ali’s heartfelt 5-page letter: “I intended to give Na-young courage, and I am apologize for not informing you in advance. I am really sorry,” tears

“제가 작사·작곡자인데 미리 말씀드리지 않은 것 죄송합니다. 힘든 일 겪어도 언니처럼 이겨낼 수 있다고 용기를 주고 싶었어요.” (가수 알리)

“I am the lyricist and composer, and I am sorry for not informing you in advance.  I wanted to give you courage by saying that though you went through a difficulty, you can overcome it like I did.” (Singer Ali)

“앞으로 할 일이 많은 아가씨가 이렇게 힘 빼서 되겠어요? 울지 마요.” (나영이 아버지)

“Is it okay for a young woman who has so much ahead of her to lose strength like this?  Don’t cry.” (Na-young’s father)

17 일 오후 서울 강남의 한 연예기획사 사무실. 자신의 또는 가족의 ‘성폭행 피해’라는, 어쩌면 인생의 가장 무겁고 감추고 싶은 짐을 진 두 사람이 마주 앉았다. 한쪽은 검은 정장을 입은 여가수 알리(27). 다른 한쪽은 2008년 벌어진 조두순 성폭행 사건의 피해 어린이 나영이(가명)의 아버지.

The afternoon of December 17th in the office of a Gangnam entertainment management agency. Two people, who personally or whose family bear the burden of the damage of sexual assault, maybe the heaviest and the one they would most wish to conceal of their lives, sat opposite each other. On one side, the singer Ali (27), wearing a black suit.  On the other side, the father of Na-young (false name), the child victim in the 2008 Cho Doo-soon sexual assault case (illustrator, right: 이철원/Lee Cheol-won).

모든 일은 14일 알리가 조두순 사건을 다룬 자작곡 ‘나영이’를 새 앨범에 담아 발표하면서 비롯됐다. 일부 네티즌은 ‘청춘을 버린 채 몸 팔아 영 팔아…’ 등의 가사를 문제 삼으며 알리를 무차별 공격했고, 알리는 그날 밤 나영이에 대한 사과문을 낸 뒤 앨범을 전량 수거·폐기했다.

The whole matter began on the 14th with the release of Ali’s new album, which includes a song she wrote, called “Na-young-ee,” about the Cho Doo-soon incident.  Some netizens questioned the use of lyrics like, “You threw away your youth, selling your body, selling your soul,” and attacked Ali indiscriminately; that night, after releasing an apology for “Na-young-ee,” Ali collected and discarded all copies of the album.

그래도 일부 네티즌의 악플이 멈추질 않자 알리는 16일 아버지와 함께 기자회견을 열어”3년 전 나도 성폭행을 당했다”고 고백하며 거듭 용서를 구했다. 알리 측은 14일 문제가 발생하자마자 나영이 가족에게 “찾아가 사죄하고 싶다”는 뜻을 전했고, 안산에 사는 나영이 아버지가 알리 측의 기자회견을 본 뒤 “내가 나영이와 함께 찾아가겠다”고 해 만남이 성사됐다.

However, some netizens’ negative comments didn’t stop, so Ali held a press conference on the 16th with her father and confessed, “3 years ago, I was also sexually assaulted,” and asked once more for forgiveness.  On the 14th, as soon as the problem appeared, Ali conveyed her wish to “go and apologize” to Na-young’s family, and Na-young’s father, after watching Ali’s press conference, said, “I’ll go with Na-young to visit her,” and the meeting was arranged (caption, left: 알리가 17일 나영이 아버지를 통해 나영이에게 준 사죄의 편지 / The apology letter Ali gave to Na-young through her father on the 17th).

이날 나영이 아버지는 알리가 눈물을 흘리며 사죄하자 갖고 온 백합과 안개꽃 다발을 내려놓고 거듭 알리를 달랬다. “나도 어제 기자회견한 내용을 들었어요. 그렇게 큰 고통이 있는 줄 몰랐네요. 얼마나 힘들고 어려웠을지 충분히 짐작돼요. 사전에 우리에게 알리지도 않고 노래를 만들었단 얘길 듣곤 화가 나 음반 판매 금지 가처분까지 생각했는데 노래를 폐기하겠다고 해서 마음이 좀 누그러졌어요. 그런데 그런 사정(성폭행)까지 있었다니, 내가 다독여줘야겠다는 생각이 들었죠.”

On this day, Ali apologized with tears streaming, and Na-young’s father put down the bouquet of lilies and baby’s breath he had brought and comforted her repeatedly.  “I heard what you said at the press conference.  I didn’t know that you had such great pain.  I can guess how difficult and hard that must have been.  When we heard that you’d made the song without letting us know beforehand, we were angry and even thought of an injunction banning sales of the album, but you said you would discard the song so our feelings softened.  But you had that kind of situation (sexual assault), so I felt I should console you.”

나영이 아버지가 “참 많이 힘들었죠?” 하자 알리가 울먹이며 입을 열었다. “(나영이와) 같은 해에 저도 당했어요. 그래서 (나영이) 기사가 나오면 스크랩해서 주변 사람들에게 보여주고 (나영이 돕기 모금 기관에) 익명의 기부도 했어요. 남의 일이 아닌 것 같아 더 적극적으로 돕고 싶었지만 그러면 주변에서 ‘혹시 너 뭐 있니’ 할 것 같아서 공개적으로는 못 했죠.”

When Na-young’s father said, “It was very hard, wasn’t it?” Ali was on the verge of tears as she spoke.  “I was assaulted in the same year (as Na-young).  So when the articles (about Na-young) came out, I saved them and showed them to the people around me, and donated anonymously (to the fund-raising organization for helping Na-young).  It didn’t feel like someone else’s problem, so I wanted to help more actively, but it seemed like if I did that, the people around me might ask, ‘Did something happen to you?’ so I couldn’t do it openly.”

나영이 아버지는 알리에게 “힘들겠지만 위축되지 말고 당당하게 정면 돌파해라. 그게 이기는 길”이라고 했다. “우리 사회 풍토가 슬프지만 ‘목소리 안 내는 사람이 바보’라고들 생각하잖아요. (성폭행 피해자들이) 자기 목소리를 당당하게 낼 수 있는 기회가 만들어져야 해요.” 그는 “이번 (나영이 노래) 일 때문에 네티즌이 많이 화가 난 것 같은데, 오해도 많이 풀린 만큼 진정됐으면 좋겠다”고 했다.

Na-young’s father said to Ali, “It must be hard, but instead of cowering, face things confidently head-on. That’s the way to win.  Our social climate is sorrowful, but as people say, ‘The person who doesn’t speak out is a fool.’  Opportunities need to be created for (victims of sexual assault) to speak out confidently.”  He continued, “Because of this matter (the song “Na-young-ee”), netizens seem to have gotten very angry, and I hope this misunderstanding gets cleared up so they will calm down.” (caption, right: 가수 알리가 (본명 조용진) 16일 오후 서울 종로구 홍지동 상명아트센터 콘서트홀에서 열린 알리의 정규 1집에 수록된 ‘나영이’곡 논란과 관련한 공식 기자회견장에서 2008년 성폭행당한 사실을 밝히며 눈물을 흘리고 있다 / Singer Ali {real name Jo Yong-jin}, at an official press conference at the Sangmyeong Art Center in Hongji-dong, Gongro-gu, Seoul, regarding controversy caused by her song, 나영이, in her 1st regular album, crying while announcing that she was raped herself in 2008)

나영이 아버지가 1시간여 동안 얘기를 나눈 뒤 “바쁜 사람 시간 잡아먹으면 안 된다”며 일어나자 알리는 다이어리와 연필, 꽃 장식이 달린 머리띠가 든 종이 가방을 전달했다.

After talking for an hour, Na-young’s father said, “I shouldn’t take up a busy person’s time,” and stood up.  Ali gave him a paper bag containing a diary, pencil, and flower-decorated headband.

알리는 나영이에게 사죄와 격려의 메시지를 보내는 내용의 다섯 장의 편지도 초록 봉투에 담아 함께 전달했다. “내가 부족해 너에게 상처를 또 주게 돼 정말 미안해. (중략) 만약 괜찮다면 너의 얘기도 들려줘. 친구가 되었으면 좋겠어.”

Ali also gave Na-young a five-page message of apology and encouragement, contained in a green envelope.  “I’m very sorry that my mistake caused you to be hurt again.  (…) If it’s okay, tell me your story in return.  I’d like us to be friends.”

나영이 아버지가 집으로 출발하려는 차 안에는 나영이가 타고 있었다. 나영이 아버지는 “나영이가 차를 오래 타고 와 피곤했던 데다 부끄러움을 많이 타 밖에 있고 싶다고 했다”고 했다. 알리는 안이 잘 보이지 않는 창밖에서 “언니가 정말 미안해”라고 몇 번이고 말했다.

Na-young was in the car that her father took to go home. Her father said, “Na-young is tired from riding in the car for a long time, and also she is very shy, so she said she would like to stay outside.” Outside of a window into which one couldn’t really see, Ali said several times, “I am really sorry.” (end)

(Thanks to Marilyn for the translation)

If you reside in South Korea, you can donate via wire transfer: Turnbull James Edward (Kookmin Bank/국민은행, 563401-01-214324)

Korean Police Can Now Give Restraining Orders on the Spot


It’s just a short article, tucked away on page 6 of the Busan edition of the November 10th Focus (below). But still, it’s always nice to hear that a new domestic violence law is actually being enforced:

Abusive husband ‘officially isolated’

First incident since implementation of special exemption law

After the implementation of a special exemption law which includes domestic abuse punishment that allows police at the scene to officially isolate the persons concerned in the event of serious domestic abuse, the first case in the Busan area has emerged.

Busan Seobu Police Station revealed on November 9th that a police officer dispatched to the scene used his authority to order isolation and a restraining order for a  Mr. Kim (43), currently in the waiting period [lit. “careful consideration period”] for a divorce, who had gone to his wife, who is raising their 5-year-old son, and assaulted her; a court later decided to keep those measures in place.

Mr. Kim is under suspicion of going to the house of his wife (32), with whom he is in a divorce suit, in Busan’s Seogu on November 1st at 12:05AM, asking, “Why didn’t you answer the phone?” and committing violence that included hitting her, which he did habitually.

The couple filed for divorce in September, and a court ordered that Mr. Kim be allowed to visit his son, of whom his wife has custody, once a week on the weekend during their 3-month waiting period, but Mr. Kim went to his wife’s house on weekdays and became violent.

His wife, while being assaulted, notified the police, and the officer dispatched from the Ami Precinct Station ordered Mr. Kim to leave the house, not to come within 100 meters of his wife’s home, and not to use electronic communication like a cell phone or email to contact her.  After a review, a judge decided on November 2nd to keep the measures in place.

The measures represent the first case in Busan since a special exemption law for domestic abuse punishment that gives front-line police officers the authority to take such measures came into effect on October 26th.

Front-line officers can appraise conditions like the seriousness of the violence, the use of a deadly weapon, or habitual beating, and then take official action, and if the suspect violates those orders, the officer can impose fines of up to five million won or imprison him or her for a maximum of two months (end).

(Thanks to Marilyn for the translation)