“An epic battle between feminism and deep-seated misogyny is under way in South Korea”

(Revealing the Korean Body Politic, Part 10)
panorama-stad-amsterdam-1935-verhaal-ill-trampassagiers(Source: janwillemsen; CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Update: See @lookslikechloe’s blog for a Korean translation of the entire article.

Back in August, I was interviewed by reporter Isabella Steger for her article “An epic battle between feminism and deep-seated misogyny is under way in South Korea”, which came out at Quartz today. It’s a good introduction to current trends and conditions, as well as being a great read. So for this post, let me just add a few links and extra context to those segments attributed to me. Starting with:

In the late 1990s, the Asian financial crisis upended the stability of the Korean “salaryman.” Many men who lost their jobs started to compete with women for work. “A lot of the negative stereotypes about women, a lot of very gendered labels, started appearing in the early 2000s,” says James Turnbull, a long-time resident in the southern city of Busan who writes about feminism.

To be more precise, a large cohort of men lost their regular, full-time jobs between 2002-2004, and started having to compete for irregular work with women, who’d already lost their own regular, full-time jobs five years earlier in the wake of the Asian financial crisis (under the rationale that they would be provided for by their husbands or fathers). Then another point of friction came in 2013, when the percentage of women in their 20s that were working began to slightly surpass that of men.

Tellingly, the media portrayed achieving equality with men as a “tornado” of female power.

For the exact statistics, and my analysis of their implications, see part 6 of this series in the links below. As for those negative labels and gendered stereotypes, see Parts 3 and 4, or Part 7 for a summary.

Next:

While overall crime and homicide rates in Korea remain very low, more women in Korea are murdered than men, which is unusual in a developed country, says Turnbull. The United Nations singles out Japan, Hong Kong, and Korea as places with some of the lowest homicide rates in the world but where the share of male and female victims is near parity, with intimate partner violence also an acute problem in Japan (pdf, p.54-56).

In addition to the extra information on that provided in Isabella’s article, see this Facebook post by a friend of mine (which he generously made public) for a breakdown and analyses of the statistics involved, which was originally prompted by the blog post “Women Are More Likely To Be Murdered In South Korea Than The U.S.” by Matt Pressberg.

Reporter John Power also provides some things to think about:

Finally:

While women have gained some power and independence in Korea, a preference for male children in the 1970s and 1980s has resulted in an excess of men–and the disparity in numbers contributes to tensions. In 1990, thanks to the availability of selective abortion, Korea’s sex ratio at birth was 116.5, meaning 116.5 boys were born per 100 girls, a ratio that since has evened out (paywall). Many of those 1990 male babies are now grown men unable to find girlfriends and wives, says Turnbull. At the same time, more Korean women are choosing not to marry at all.

Again, see Part 6 for more detailed information on those statistics and their implications (also see the tweet below, which graphically shows the number of excess men by age group.) By a huge coincidence, the Korean media would only finally begin reporting on the potential consequences of this imbalance in April this year, just a month before the murder in Gangnam.

Thoughts?

You are Beautiful, Stop Hating Your Body

You are beautiful, stop hating your body(Source: 숭실 총여학생회 다락 Facebook Page)

Oops, I haven’t written in a while. Time to find something about body-image, the media, or popular culture to complain about then.

Seriously(?) though, there’s only so many times you can mention that young Korean women are chronically underweight, and the likely reasons for that. Better to highlight groups actually doing something about it instead.

One group is the Soongsil University Female Students’ Association, which recently encouraged women to stop excessive dieting by offering them free snacks, and passing on stickers and fans with messages like the one on the left above. It reads, “You’re different because you’re beautiful. Don’t feel bad or uncomfortable about your precious body based on other people’s stereotypes. Because you are you, you are beautiful. The 23rd Soongsil University Female Students’ Association: we are different, and we respect you.”

Those small efforts may seem futile in the face of the barrage of body-shaming messages women receive every day, but with three in five 19-24 year-old Korean women regularly skipping breakfast (nearly one in five, lunch and/or dinner too), then surely the growls in their stomachs at least got some questioning whether it was really worth it. As for the messages, body-image activist Minji Kim pointed out they’re surprisingly effective, and are now used by a number of organizations working on body-image issues:

“These messages create solidarity among people whose issues may have seemed daunting, because they were struggling alone. But when people share their stories and start talking about them? Then immediately they feel less lonely and empowered by knowing that there are other people like them out there and that they do have a support system.”

More specifically, Minji was talking about post-its like the one on the right, which reads “I would hate for you to lose even one gram in this world.” I’m unsure if it was placed there by the Soongsil students, by Korea Womenlink (remember their cool subway posters?), or if it was part of a collaborative effort, but the effect is the same!

You are Beautiful(Source: lunacharsky; used with permission)

Hat tip to the The Rootless Metropolitician, who led me to the group via the above photo.

The Women’s Issue

Groove May 2014Sorry for the slow posting everyone: I recently had food-poisoning, some editing deadlines and my students’ end of semester exams are looming, and on my days off I’ve been on a mini-whirlwind tour of Korean universities giving presentations about body-image. But I hope to be posting again soon, and, until then, the latest issue of Groove Magazine will easily provide more than enough insights and new information to whet your appetites!

If you can’t get a physical copy, please click on the image above to read it at Issuu (a quick registration is required), or to download a PDF (click on “share” to get the link).

Update: I forgot to mention that I was interviewed for Annie Narae Lee’s article on page 58, but it may not appear online unfortunately. Also, I’m still too busy to listen myself, but Groove’s recent podcast on abortion in Korea sounds useful and interesting.

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.

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!)

No V-lines Required: Miss Korea in the 1960s

(Source: Munhwa Ilbo)

Alas, this brief article from today’s Munhwa Ilbo isn’t exactly a scathing critique of Korea’s body-labeling craze, and I don’t mean to imply that there aren’t much more substantial ones out there. But still, it’s good to be quickly reminded that perhaps “V-lines” aren’t as necessary as pop-culture icons would like us to think (e.g., see ZE:A in Brazil below), and I hope the photo makes it to the front page of major Korean portal sites.

See here or here for better quality versions, or here and here for pictures of the 1957 and various 1970s contestants respectively.

60년대 미스코리아는 ‘V라인 아닌 건강미’ / In the 1960s, Miss Korea Had a Healthy Beauty, not a V-line.

‘미인’의 기준은 문화와 관습에 따라 다르지만 시대에 따라서도 변합니다.

The criteria for a beautiful woman depend on time, culture, and customs.

사진을 보면 1960년 미스코리아 선발대회에 나온 여성들은 건강미가 넘쳤습니다. 당시에는 서구적인 마스크를 선호했다고 하죠. 1980년대 이후 한동안 도시형 미인이 인기를 끌었고, 요즘은 ‘V라인’의 작은 얼굴과 뚜렷한 이목구비가 대세라고 합니다. 성형미인도 많아졌고요.

If you look at this photo of the 1960 Miss Korea contest, you see women overflowing with healthy beauty, [even though] it is said that people preferred Western masks [looks?] then. [But] from the 1980s, for a while urban beauties were preferred, and these days having a V-line and distinct facial characteristics are huge trends. There are many cosmetic surgery beauties.

1957년 시작된 미스코리아 선발대회는 초창기 큰 인기를 모았습니다. 공중파 TV를 통해 전국에 생중계됐고, 수상자들은 카퍼레이드까지 하며 미를 뽐내기도 했었죠. 그러다 여성단체 등의 ‘성상품화 조장’ 반발로 2002년 이후 공중파에서는 중계를 하지 않고 있습니다.

(Source: Yufit)

Starting in 1957, from the beginning the Miss Korea contest was very popular. From being shown live on TV, to winners taking part in car parades, their beauty was shown off. However, later women’s groups denounced it as promoting sexual objectification, and from 2002 it was only allowed to be shown live on cable.

예전에는 미스코리아 선발대회를 통해 연예계로 진출하는 경우도 많았지만 요즘은 오디션 프로그램 등 연예계로 나설 방법이 다양하게 생겨났습니다. 그래서인지 대회의 인기가 예전만 못합니다.

In the past, there were many cases of Miss Korea contest participants entering into the entertainment industry through the competition, but these days there are a variety of audition programs that provide the same opportunity. Because of that, the contest can’t reach the level of popularity that it enjoyed in the past. (End.)

Update: Here’s a video of the 1981 to 2008 winners. As one of the commenters on YouTube put it, it’s interesting to see how much their faces seem to change from the late-1990s onwards.

Korean Sociological Image #69: Attitudes Towards Sexual Objectification, 2004 vs. 2012

Back in 2004, I would study Korean by translating articles about Lee Hyori’s breasts. Because that was much more interesting than reading about the joys of kimchi-making in Korean textbooks.

So, I hardly romanticize that era as more innocent and chaste than today’s. Nor, by highlighting just one complaint by one women’s group from then, do I mean to imply that the Korean public was necessarily more prudish back in 2004, or that it’s necessarily more permissive today. After all, my Google News Alert for “성상품화” (sexual objectification) still provides me with fresh critiques of the recent Miss Korea Pageant every day. And who can forget the role “Bikini Girl” played in April’s congressional elections?

Having said that, things definitely have changed in 8 years:

  • Starting about 2006, ubiquitous soju ads started featuring women in revealing clothing after decades of almost exclusively using demure, virginal-looking models.
  • A little later, dominant media narratives about girl-groups, depicting middle-aged male fandom as platonic rather than sexual, provided a window for their objectification to flourish.
  • Men have also been increasingly objectified, particularly after the “chocolate abs” label was coined in 2009.
  • The number of smutty online-ads has surged, especially in the last year.
  • And last but not least, it’s difficult to find an advertisement for water-parks (also ubiquitous) that doesn’t feature a scantily-clad girl-group, with one—Ocean World—even inventing a group specifically for that purpose. (Boy bands and male models are used also, most notably by Caribbean Bay below, but my strong impression is that there’s much less of them than women)

In short, it is via the increasing objectification of (especially) girl-groups that you can see a clear McDonalidization of Korean cultural industries in recent years (see here, here, herehere, and here for more on the hows and whys). And, because of that shift, it’s difficult to imagine a complaint like this being given much attention in 2012:

전남관광 책자 두고 ‘여성상품화’ 논란 일어 / Controversy over Sexual Objectification of Women in Jeollanam-do Tourist Brochure

Oh My News, June 15 2004. By Gang Seong-gwan.

지난 6월초 전남도가 여름 관광객을 겨냥해 제작배포한 관광 홍보책자 ‘남도스케치’에 사용된 비키니 차림의 여성사진이 논란이다. 광주여성민우회는 14일 성명을 통해 “남도스케치 배포를 즉각 중단하라”고 요구하고 나섰다.

Controversy has arisen over the use of women in bikinis in the June edition of tourist brochure Namdo Sketch, a widely-distributed brochure aimed at summer tourists . In an announcement on the 14th, the Gwangju branch of Womenlink demanded that it stopped being distributed immediately.

(Source: James Turnbull)

전 남도는 ‘남도스케치’를 제작하면서 책 표지, ‘전남이 추천하는 여름 여행지 BEST’ 중 완도 명사십리 해수욕장 등 7곳을 소개하면서 비키니를 입은 여성의 사진 10여장을 게재했다. 이 책자는 겉표지까지 총 85페이지로 구성됐으며 비키니 사진은 책자 앞 부분에 게재했다. 전남도는 제작된 책자 2만여부를 터미널 등 공공장소와 전남도내 기초단체 등지에 배포를 마친 상태이며 조만간 2쇄에 들어간다는 계획이다.

이에 대해 광주여성민우회는 “여성을 성 상품화했다”면서 전남도의 공개사과는 물론 책자 배포 중단을 요구하고 나섰다.

With a cover title of “Best Recommended Tourist Sightseeing Areas in Jeollanam-do” [James – I can’t see that title myself, but unfortunately that opening photo was very small], Namdo Sketch introduces 7 tourist sights, including Wando and Myeongsashibri Beach, and uses a total of 10 pictures of women in bikinis on the front cover and in the first part of the brochure, out of 85 pages. By the end of its first printing, the Jeollanam-do Provincial Government had distributed roughly 20,000 copies to transport terminals, public places, and civic groups, and planned to make a second printing.

Gwangju Womenlink said that the brochure sexually objectified women, and demanded a public apology as a matter of course, as well as a halt on further distribution.

“여성 성 상품화 한 것, 배포 중단”…”문제제기 이해하지만, 시원한 여름을…” / “This is the sexual objectification of women, distribution must stop”…”We understand, but hey: this is summer…”

광주여성민우회는 “전남 관광홍보는 여성의 비키니만이 유일한 대안인가”라며 “공공기관에서 나온 책자인가 할 정도로 낯뜨거운 장면이 많이 실려 있어 당혹스러움과 황당함을 느낀다”고 밝혔다.

Gwangju Womenlink argued that “Are women in bikinis the only option for a tourist brochure?”, and said “We are embarrassed and perplexed that a public institution would go so far as to use such crude [James – I think this is a better translation of “낯뜨겁다” than “obscene” or “rude”] images in a tourist brochure.” (source, right)

이어 “지역에 관광객을 유치하기 위해 명소를 소개하는 것은 좋지만 관광지역의 구체적인 정보와 특색 있는 프로그램의 홍보 대신 여성의 비키니 복장을 내세워 시선을 끌어보고자 하는 공무원의 얄팍한 속셈은 용납될 수 없는 행위”라고 비판했다.

Continuing: “It is good that tourists are being attracted to this area by having places of interest introduced to them. But instead of providing concrete information and unique tourist programs, the PR simply consists of pictures of women in bikinis, designed to attract one’s attention. This is both shallow and misguided of Jeollanam-do officials, and can’t be forgiven.”

또 여성민우회는 “지역의 명소를 알려내기 위한 기본 조건은 다른 지역과 차별되는 테마를 만들어 남도만의 색다른 맛을 느끼게 하는 것이다”면서 “노력해야 할 것은 따로 있는데 엉뚱한 것으로 메꾸려는 것은 직무유기”라고 주장했다.

여성민우회는 “여성의 성 상품화를 부추기는 공공기관의 홍보책자는 결코 용납될 수 없다”면서 ‘남도스케치’의 배포중지를 요구했다.

Also, Womenlink emphasized that “What should have been done to inform tourists about places of interest was showing them how different they were to other ares and what unusual tastes, experiences, and feelings Jeollanam-do has to offer. Instead of making an effort and doing their duty though, officials offered this rubbish.”

It added that “Promoting the sexual objectification of women is never acceptable”, and so demanded an immediate halt to the distribution of the brochure.

(Sources: left, right)

이에 대해 전남도청 한 공무원은 “문제제기는 이해한다”면서도 “여성의 사진을 표지에 넣는다고 해서 이 책자가 눈길을 끌고 있는 것은 아닌 것 같다”고 말했다.

그 러나 또 다른 공무원은 “여성의 비키니 사진을 두고 상품화까지 이야기하는 것은 지나친 것 아니냐”며 “오히려 여성단체들이 그렇게 주장하면서 폄하시킨 것은 아닌지 모르겠다. 물론 어느 정도는 이해할 수 있지만 이런 사진을 많이 사용한 것도 아니지 않느냐”고 주장했다.

In response, a Jeollanam-do official said ” We understand the concerns, but it’s not because of the women in bikinis on the cover that people are drawn to the brochure.” Another emphasized that “It’s a complete exaggeration to claim that just pictures of women in bikinis is objectification. Rather, it’s women’s groups that are degrading women by doing so. And it’s not like we used many in the brochure.”

관광책자 제작 담당부서인 전남도청 관광진흥과 이명흠 과장도 “여성단체의 지적사항에 대해서 전혀 모르는 바는 아니다”면서도 “행정관청에서 발행한 책자여서 그럴텐데 여름에 맞춰서 시원한 해수욕장과 수영복을 입은 모습의 여성을 모델로 했을 뿐이다”고 말했다.

이어 이 과장은 “행정기관이 발행했다는 느낌이 들면 잘 보지 않는다. (관광객들의) 눈길을 끌 수도 있다는 생각에서 진행한 공격적인 마케팅의 일환이다”며 “너무 한쪽으로만 생각하지 말고 발상을 바꿨으면 좋겠다”고 주장했다.

(Source: Metro Seoul, 31 May 2012, p.49)

Lee Myung-hum, the head of the Tourism Promotion Office of Jeollanam-do Provincial Government that produced the brochure, said “It’s not like I don’t understand women’s groups concerns. But only swimsuits are appropriate for female models promoting cool swimming areas in the summer.” He added that “No-one ever pays attention to anything produced by a council tourism promotion office. The images were simply part of an aggressive marketing technique designed to get the attention of tourists, and shouldn’t be overanalyzed.”

한편 ‘남도스케치’ 표지모델은 전남도청 여성 공무원 중 희망자들이 참여하기도 했으며, 지난해에도 전남도는 여름 관광홍보 책자를 제작하면서 표지 등에 비키니을 입은 여성 사진을 게재한 바 있다.

The models used in the brochure included Jeollnam-do female officials [James — it says only the cover, but there were only 2 women on that], and a similar brochure was produced the previous year (end).

James — While the Jeollanam-do officials didn’t sound too sympathetic in that June 2004 article, another from the next month points out that in the second printing the bikini models were removed from the cover and 2 more pages, although some did still remain. It’s from that article that the before and after covers came from.

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