“I am a Woman Who Buys Condoms.”

The reaction to having a woman in a condom ad is exactly why we need women in condom ads.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes. All screenshots via YouTube.

Korea has only ever had three condom commercials on TV since a ban was lifted in 2006, and none at all for the last five years. Korean women generally rely on men to purchase and use condoms too. I wish these realities weren’t true, and am always looking for evidence to show attitudes are changing. Yet they stubbornly persist.

That’s what makes commercials like this one for Common Day condoms so important. Produced for social media in April but only going viral this week, it’s surprisingly sweet, with messages that are simple but powerful. So why is it so disliked?

Here’s my translation of the captions:

난 콘돔사는 여자다.

여자가 콘돔을 어떻게 사냐고?

약국, 편의점, 인터넷, 성인샵에서

‘그냥, 사면 된다.’

I’m a woman who buys condoms.

How can a woman buy condoms you ask?

At pharmacies, convenience stores, over the internet, and at sex shops.

“Just buy them.”

물론 처음엔 쉽지 않았지

내가 콘돔을 사기 전까지

‘여자답지 못하네’

‘여자가 밝히네’

‘그건 남자가 사야지’

Of course, it wasn’t easy at first.

Up until the moment I finally bought them myself, I thought [people would say]:

“That’s not ladylike.”

“Wow, is she oversexed or what.”

“That’s something only men should buy.”

이런 말들과 싸워왔거든

나만 겪어본 건 아닐거야

근데, 지금은 21세기

‘그냥, 사면 된다’

Actually, I struggled with those thoughts too.

I’m sure I’m not the only who felt like this.

And hey, isn’t it the 21st Century now?

“Just buy them.”

현재의 우린 ‘자기결정권’ 이란 게 있어

생각과 말,

몸과 욕망을 스스로 결정할 권리

누가 준 것도 아니고

빼앗을 수도 없는 거야

내가 원래 가지고 태어나는 거거든!

We in the modern age, have the right to decide what’s best for ourselves

That includes rights about our bodies and our desires

This is something that wasn’t given to me, and so can’t be taken away from me.

This is something that we were born with.

예를 들면,

내가 원할 때 섹스하고

원할 때 임신하는 것

뭐 그런 거 말야

남자가 콘돔이 없을까 불안하다고?

그래서 내가 ‘그냥, 사면 된다’

For example,

I can have sex when I want,

and I can get pregnant when I want—

you know, things like that.

So you get concerned and worried when men say they don’t have a condom?

That’s why you should just buy them yourself!

난 19세기 여자가 아니거든!

난 힘이 있고,

욕망이 있으며,

모든 것은 내가 결정해

난 콘돔사는 여자다.

I’m not a woman of the 19th Century!

I am powerful,

and I have desire,

I decide everything for myself,

And I am a woman who buys condoms. (End)

Awesome, right? Yet it has 8 to 1 dislikes to likes on YouTube. Probably, because of trolls like this one below, who replied to the tweet I first found the commercial on. I don’t mean to feed him, but will translate a couple of tweets from his long screed to show what Korean women, condom manufacturers, and sexual-health advocates are up against (I welcome alternate translations; being such a typical troll, he’s not very coherent sorry):


Jeez, this is just such typical BS from a “21st Century woman.” What is it with “women hav[ing] the right to decide what’s best for themselves,” and carrying condoms in case men don’t have them, and choosing for themselves when they want to get pregnant? This isn’t something women should even buy! Men are supposed to buy them! Can’t you make a condom commercial for men instead?

And later, after discovering that the CEO of the promotion company behind the campaign is—wait for it—a man himself:


Ah, now I get it. Your company often provides junk information in its twitter promotions, like you did while selling diet supplements once. In this case, you just make a commercial with commonly-used feminist words thrown in, as you know women will automatically buy anything that says “feminist.”

Sigh. Please head over to YouTube and like the video right now, to encourage more feminist commercials like it. And please share this post and the video too! :)

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

“The Secret to a Perfect Vacation? The Oral Contraceptive Pill!”

A rare Korean government campaign promoting contraception use has many positives. But its motivations are anything but progressive.

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes. Image, via @smartlovekorea (Facebook): “Fun Waterplay! Sweet Couple Travel! The Secret to the Perfect Vacation · The Oral Contraceptive Pill ·”

Korea stands out for its over-the-counter access to the monthly contraceptive pill, and that’s awesome. Not just because sexual independence is a good thing in general, but because it’s essential when so many obstacles stand in the way of gaining that independence here, especially for unmarried women.

Despite that, only 2.5 percent of Korean women actually use the pill. Probably, due to a combination of not being educated about contraception at all in school or university, aggressive sterilization programs in the 1970s and ’80s, a knock-on tendency to leave contraception in men’s hands, and because of scaremongering by the Korean Medical Association. More recently, desperate efforts to raise Korea’s birthrate have dissuaded from government efforts at promoting contraception use in general, and played a big role in the (re)criminalization of abortion in 2010.

But that last was implemented by disgraced, former governments. So far, while the current Moon Jae-in administration has been no radical reformer of sexual rights, it is left of center, and operates in a shifted political climate of Me-too and the Gangnam murder. It is legally required to respond to a recent popular petition to legalize abortion, and this week was further pressured by the Korean College of Ob & Gyn’s announcement that its members would no longer perform abortions while its members faced punishments for doing so. Also, governments are never monoliths, as different ministries can oppose each other as they jockey for funding and jurisdiction. In particular, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family (MOGEF) has officially supported legalization since as of this May, a 180 degree shift from its position under Moon Jae-in’s predecessors, and at odds with the Ministry of Defense that is concerned about its shrinking pool of conscripts. And there have always been excellent initiatives by various sex-education teachers, women’s rights groups, feminists, and NGOs operating in the background.

Which of those actors was behind this poster, encouraging hetero couples to use the pill? What were their motivations? Trick question—eagle-eyed readers will have already noticed the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s (MOHW) logo. Which makes it all the more remarkable.

Yes, remarkable. Sexual themes may well pervade the Korean media, but recall that even condom commercials are considered too risque for Korean consumers, only two ever making it to television screens in the 12 years since they were legalized. That’s indicative of how there are still such limits to discussing sexual relationships in Korea, which is why I’m so drawn to the rare, no-BS conversations about them favored by Korean feminist groups. And why I was so surprised to discover a government ministry acknowledging that, sometimes, people have sex just for fun.

Yet however refreshing, it seemed odd to focus on the pill, which doesn’t protect against STDs. For the sake of Koreans’ sex-lives, empowerment, and general well-being, shouldn’t the MOHW encourage the use of contraception in general? Including of those ever so vulgar French letters?

Fortunately, it does. Perusing the source, it emerges that many alternatives have indeed been promoted in the Ministry’s “Loveplan Campaign.” The “combined method” of the pill and the condom for instance, which I learned all the cool kids are now referring to as the “Double Dutch” method:

Source: Ministry of Health and Welfare Facebook page

And shortly after I saw the poster promoting the pill, there was a new post about using condoms, with good advice about using a fresh one if there is a tear, to not use oil-based lubricants, and so on:

Source: Ministry of Health and Welfare Facebook page

There are many more examples like it, which is just awesome. Any government should promote greater contraception use, and help spread awareness of all the different types available, as well as how to use them properly.

But I also learned the campaign was launched 3 years ago. And it got odd all over again.

Because that was during the Park Geun-hye administration, which was notorious for its hardline on abortion, and for using the aforementioned crucial access to the pill as a bargaining chip in a dispute between doctors’ and pharmacists’ associations—as well as making numerous other backward steps in Koreans’ sexual health and rights. In particular, the MOGEF, ironically, had been at the forefront of many these developments. So, if the MOHW had actually been its liberal, sex-positive counterweight during all that time, you can bet I would have noticed.

I hadn’t, because it wasn’t. As explained in The JoongAng Ilbo at the campaign’s launch, sadly it was never about sexual empowerment per se. Rather, it was entirely aimed at reducing the number of (illegal) abortions:

‘성’을 주제로 한 방송프로그램이 인기를 끌고, 숙박업소 광고도 안방에서 쉽게 접할 수 있을 정도로 ‘성문화’는 빠르게 개방되고 있다. 더불어 일명 ‘가출팸’ 사건과 같은 청소년 성범죄 비율도 10대 강력범죄의 70%를 차지할 만큼 빠르게 증가하는 등 그 문제점도 속출하고 있어 다양한 접근의 해결책이 요구되고 있다.

Through the popularity of television programs with sexual themes, and the increasing ease of finding love hotel advertisements, a “sex culture” is rapidly opening up. In addition, as the proportion of teenagers’ sex crimes such as “Runaway Family” incidents* account for 70% of all teenagers’ major crimes and is also rapidly increasing, various measures should be addressed in order to tackle these problems.

*(“Runaway Families” refers to runaway teens living together for support; implicit is that many must turn to sex work to do so.)

특히, 개방된 성문화로 인한 무분별한 인공임신중절 시술의 문제점으로 95%정도가 불법시술인 것으로 나타났으며, 이로 인해 청소년은 물론 성인들의 신체적, 정신적 건강을 위협하고 목숨까지 앗아가는 등 심각한 사회문제로 대두되고 있다.

In particular, this opening sex culture is responsible for 95% of casual, illegal abortions, and this is causing serious social problems due to the damage caused to teenagers’ and adults’ physical and mental health, even leading to suicide.

이와 같이 나날이 증가하고 있는 무분별한 인공임신중절 사례, 만연하게 퍼진 생명경시풍조 등과 같은 현 사회적 세태에서 보건복지부가 진행하고 있는 「2015 인공임신중절 예방 캠페인: 러브플랜」은 생명존중 문화와 올바른 성문화를 조성하고자 하는 점에서 중요한 의의가 있다…

Consequently, the MOHW is launching a “Loveplan, 2015 Abortion Prevention Campaign” to create a culture of respect for the sanctity of life and encourage a healthy and responsible sex culture…

…보건복지부는 청소년에게는 생명존중의식과 미래의 건강한 부모가 되기 위한 책임 있는 선택을, 미혼남녀에게는 양성평등에 입각한 책임 있는 사랑과 계획을, 가임부부에게는 건강한 아이를 출산하기 위한 계획 임신 등 상황에 따른 메시지를 전파하고 있다. 이는 인공임신중절 예방을 위한 실질적인 실천으로 이끄는 견인차 역할을 하고 있다.

…The MOHW is committed to spreading the message of the importance of respecting the sanctity of life, and to promoting sexual responsibility and planning based on gender equality for unmarried men and women, in order that they will become responsible parents in the future and raise healthy children. These goals drive its emphasis on promoting practical contraceptive methods for the prevention of abortion.

The article goes on to talk about its various promotion methods, which include(d) working with “LifeLove Supporter” university groups. For example, with Pyeongtaek University students, Hongik University students, and these students from an unspecified Busan university in 2016 (photo above); with Daegu University and Yonsei University students in 2017; and with these students from an unspecified Jeonju university this July. In fact, these groups predate the Loveplan campaign, which itself seems heavily based on an earlier “Lovekeeperscampaign.”

It’s difficult to feel any anger towards such friendly-looking, probably genuinely helpful and concerned young students. And even among pro-choice activists, who wouldn’t want the abortion rate to go down? The students are also mainly just educating people about contraception, and promoting men and women’s equal involvement in their use. So, all power to them, right?

Wrong. Because it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, when someone comes towards you with a big sign that that says something about loving or respecting “life” on it, 99 times out of 100 you know it’s not your lovelife that they’re advocating for.

And with this campaign’s stress that abortions are illegal and to be avoided, implicit is that they are morally wrong.

But abortions are not a necessary evil, the last, distasteful resort of irresponsible couples. Contraception doesn’t always work. People can change their minds as they realize they’re not ready for a child. Couples can break up. Raising a child isn’t easy, and societies shun single mothers (especially Korean society). People can lose their jobs, and realize they can no longer afford to have a child. And so on. And hell, irresponsible couples have just as much of a right to abortion as anyone else too.

In other words, people will always need abortions, and will always have abortions, whether they’re legal or not. The only difference their legality makes is whether they can have safe ones, or whether many will die from the procedure.

Ergo, abortion is a GOOD thing.

In the past, friends of mine have been amused when I’ve accidentally said I’m “pro-abortion” rather than “pro-choice”, but that’s no longer a mistake on my part.

Here’s hoping for a positive, very overdue response by Moon Jae-in to the petition for the legalization of abortion then. And with it, a refocusing of this campaign.

Related posts:

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

한국인이세요? 한국인이랑 데이트 해봤어요? 이 연구가를 도와주세요!

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes. Image source: Hutomo Abrianto @Pexels (CC0).

도와주세요! (2탄)

Grand Narrative 독자분들께,

안녕하세요! 제 이름은 Edward Glayzer입니다. 저는 미시간주립대학교 인류학과의 박사과정생이고, Grand Narrative의 오래된 독자이기도 합니다. James Turnbull씨는 제가 서울에 와서 한국의 성불평등에 대한 학위논문 연구를 시작할 때부터 많은 도움을 주셨고, 또한 저번과 같이 이번에도 연구대상자 모집을 공고할 수 있게 해주셨습니다. James Turnbull씨께, 그리고 제 첫 설문에 참여해주셨던 모든 분들께 진심으로 감사하다는 말씀 전하고 싶습니다.

제 연구는 한국 사회의 성불평등에 관한 광범위한 주제들을 더 잘 이해하기 위한 것이며, 이를 위해 한국인들의 데이트와 결혼 의식에서 일어나는 물질적 교환을 살펴봅니다. 제 연구는 또한 남성과 여성의 소득 불평등이 어떻게 상품 소비를 통한 친밀함의 표현에 영향을 미치는지를 다룹니다. 해당 연구는 전에 공고했던 연구의 후속 연구이며, 그 전 연구에서는 다루지 않았던 면들도 다루고 있지만 여전히 연구의 중심은 위와 같습니다. 이 연구의 유일한 참여조건은 “다른 한국인과 데이트를 해본 대한민국 국적의 성인”입니다. 이 조건만 충족하신다면 성적 정체성이나 성적 지향성 등 다른 특징과 관계 없이 모두 환영합니다.

독자 여러분의 의향이나 내주실 수 있는 시간에 따라 두 가지 참여방법이 있습니다. 이 중 하나 혹은 둘 다 자원해주신다면 매우 감사할 것입니다.

하나는 약 15분정도가 걸리는 간단한 온라인 설문을 해주시는 것입니다. 서베이의 링크는 다음과 같으며, 첫 설문을 참여하셨던 분이나 안 하셨던 분 모두 하실 수 있습니다: https://msu.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_bC46GYBqqZK8g3r

두 번째 방법은 전자 메일 또는 카카오를 통해 인터뷰를 요청하는 것입니다. 인터뷰는 한국어 또는 영어로 진행할 수 있으며 약 1 시간이 소요됩니다. 나는 당신의 시간 동안 음료와 간식을 제공 할 것이다!

Kakao ID: eglayzer

Are you Korean? Have you been dating a Korean? Please help this researcher! (2nd survey)

Update: Please note that Eddie is only seeking native Koreans (and gyopos) fluent in Korean for his research. This English translation is just for your interest, and the hope that you’ll pass on his request to your Korean friends and partners. Thanks!

Hello Grand Narrative readers!

My name is Edward Glayzer. I am a Ph.D. student in the Department of Anthropology at Michigan State University and an long time reader of the Grand Narrative. Since moving to Seoul to begin my dissertation research on Korean gender inequality, James Turnbull has been extremely helpful and kind enough to post this call for research subjects. I would like to thank James Turnbull and all those who participated in my first study.

My research aims to better understand the wide range of topics related to gender inequality in Korean society. For this purpose, I look at material exchanges that take place in Korean dating and marriage ceremonies. My research also deals with how income inequality in men and women affects the expression of intimacy through commodity consumption. This study is a follow-up study of the research that was announced before, and it covers the aspects that were not covered in the previous research. The only requirement for participation in this study is to be an adult of Korean nationality and have spent time dating other Koreans. If you meet these conditions, you are welcome, regardless of other characteristics, such as gender or sexual orientation.

There are two ways of participating, depending on your intentions and the amount of time you can give. I would be very grateful if you volunteered for one or both of these.

One is a simple online questionnaire that takes about 15 minutes. The survey link is as follows, and you may participate even if you also participated in the first questionnaire:

The second way to participate is to contact my via email or Kakao for an interview. Interviews can be done in either Korean or English and take about an hour. I will provide drinks and snacks for your time!

Kakao ID: eglayzer

Edward Glayzer M.A.
Doctoral Candidate
Michigan State University
Department of Anthropology

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

Quick Hit: Sex Survey of 6000 Korean University Students


A maddeningly short article, and — as per usual — completely devoid of any mention of the survey’s methodology. But if the result about men’s and women’s sexual knowledge holds true (and I’ll do some further investigation next month to check), it puts a definite twist on Koreans’ belief that contraception should only be men’s responsibility!

남자 대학생 50% ‘성경험’… 여대생은? 50% of Male University Students Have Sexual Experience. As for Female University Students…?

The Kyunghyang Shinmun, May 13 2012

우리나라 남자 대학생 2명 중 1명은 성관계 경험이 있지만 성에 대한 지식수준은 여학생들에 비해 낮은 것으로 나타났다. 이화여대 건강과학대학교 신경림 교수팀은 보건복지부 연구사업으로 지난해 5~11월 전국 대학생 6000명을 대상으로 ‘대학생의 성태도 실태조사에 관한 연구’를 한 결과 이와 같이 나타났다고 11일 밝혔다.

In Korea, 1 in 2 male university students have had sexual experience, but female university students are much more knowledgeable about sex. That’s one of the results of a nationwide survey of 6000 university students conducted between May and November last year by a team led by Professor Shin Gyeong-Rim of the Ehwa University Health Science College and the Ministry of Health and Welfare, which were announced on the 11th.

성경험이 있다고 응답한 대학생은 남학생이 50.8%로 여학생 19%보다 압도적으로 많았다. 연구팀은 이러한 차이는 남녀의 성에 대한 욕구, 태도, 가치의 차이와 더불어 군대 등의 이유로 남학생의 나이가 여학생에 비해 상대적으로 많고 군대의 성문화에 노출됐기 때문으로 보고 있다.

Many more men (50.8%) said that they had had sexual experience than the women (19%). The research team commented that the differences in [levels of?] sexual desire, attitudes to sex, and value placed on sex were due to the men’s greater ages and their exposure to sexual culture during their compulsory military service.


성지식은 ‘생식생리, 성심리, 임신, 피임·낙태, 성병, 성폭력’ 등 6개 영역 중 5개 영역에서 남학생에 비해 여학생의 점수가 높았다. 이는 남학생이 여학생보다 성지식이 더 많을 것이라는 고정관념을 깨는 결과로, 올바른 성지식 정도는 여학생이 더 높다는 것을 반영한다.

“Reproductive physiology, sexual psychology [James — a bit specialized surely?], pregnancy, contraception & abortion, STDs, and sexual violence” — in 5 out of these 6 areas examined, women scored higher than men [James — which one did the guys beat the girls on?]. This shatters the widely-held belief that men are more knowledgeable about sexual matters.

대학생의 성교육 관련 실태 및 요구도를 조사한 결과 초·중·고교 때는 대부분 성교육을 받은 경험이 있지만, 대학 때의 성교육 경험은 20.3%로 비교적 저조한 편이었다. 성관련 강좌 참여 희망도에 대해서는 33.6%의 대학생이 참여하겠다고 답했다.

Seeing how this reality is related to sex education, the survey found that while most survey participants had received [some form of] sex education in elementary, middle, and/or high school, only a relatively low 20.3% had at university. But if lectures on it were offered however, only 33.6% said that they would attend them (end).

For comparison’s sake, see here for a (much longer) survey of Yonsei University students in 2010.

(Thanks to Robert Koehler for passing on the link)

“Good women need our help, bad women need to be punished” — Learning about Sex Workers’ Rights in South Korea

Caption: South Korean women working in the sex industry stand on a stage during a rally in central Seoul on September 22, 2011 in protest at frequent crackdowns by authorities. About 1,500 women wearing masks to conceal their identities chanted slogans such as ‘Sex work is not a crime, but labour!’ and called for the abolition of a special law enacted in 2004 to curb prostitution. [Photo: Jung Yeon-Je — AFP/Getty Images]

[James] — Since September 2011, German-born researcher Matthias Lehmann has been conducting an independent research project to investigate the impact of South Korea’s Anti-Sex Trade Laws on sex workers’ human rights and livelihood. In this guest post for The Grand Narrative, he outlines key events that led to the adoption of the problematic law and the motivation for his research:

Korea’s Anti-Sex Trade Laws

In September 2000, the notorious Gunsan Brothel Fire killed five women who had been held captive. Their tragic deaths exposed the conditions in Korea’s sex industry and triggered a campaign by women’s rights activists to reform the country’s prostitution laws. Their proposals became the blueprint for the Special Laws on Sex Trade (성매매특별법, Seongmaemae Tteukbyeolbeob), enacted in 2004, which include a Prevention Act and a Punishment Act. By passing these new laws, the government vowed to eliminate prostitution and protect victims of exploitation and violence in the sex industry.

The laws drew inspiration from the Swedish Violence Against Women Act (the Kvinnofrid law) from 1999, which criminalises the purchase of sexual services but aims to protect women working in the sex industry. The success of the Swedish model remains heavily contested. In 2010, the government issued an evaluation report that found that the law had achieved its objectives, to which government member Camilla Lindberg and opposition member Marianne Berg responded by publishing a bi-partisan article stating that the law had not only failed to protect women but instead hurt them, and thus had to be repealed.

In Korea, the Special Laws on Sex Trade remain a subject of debate. The Ministry of Gender Equality celebrated the legislation as a milestone achievement that would “vigorously strengthen the protection of the human rights of women in prostitution”. However, others criticise the legislation’s discriminatory attitude towards sex workers, who remain criminalised unless they claim to be victims. This “distinction between victims and those who [voluntarily] sell sex is actually one between protection and punishment” and categorises women into “good women who are worthy of help” and “bad ones who need to be punished”, thus continuing the stigmatisation of women who sell sex.

The Criminalisation of Prostitution Has Failed

Surveys have shown time and again, that despite being illegal, prostitution remains widespread in South Korea. Most recently, a state-funded survey found that 53 per cent of Korea’s sexually active senior citizens bought sex at brothels. A 2005 study found that “only 6 per cent of crimes occurred through the intermediary of a brothel, compared to 34 per cent via the internet, 26 per cent in massage parlours and barber shops.” The same study stated that the Anti-Sex Trade Laws had simply forced prostitutes further underground and overseas, as well as resulted in an increase in Korean sex tourists, a development very similar to that in Sweden.

According to the recent Report of the UNAIDS Advisory Group on HIV and Sex Work, “the approach of criminalising the client has been shown to backfire on sex workers. In Sweden, sex workers who were unable to work indoors were left on the street with the most dangerous clients and little choice but to accept them. … [Criminal laws] create an environment of fear and marginalisation for sex workers, who often have to work in remote and unsafe locations to avoid arrest of themselves or their clients. These laws can undermine sex workers’ ability to work together to identify potentially violent clients and their capacity to demand condom use of clients.”

Caption: Screenshot from a short film by Istvan Gabor Takacs, Hungarian Civil Liberties Union and the Sex Workers’ Rights Advocacy Network

Research Project Korea

Conducting research into the human rights situation of Korean sex workers is of particular importance because, while Korean sex workers have some links to the global sex workers’ rights movement, too little is known about their everyday experiences.

Since 2004, Korean sex workers have repeatedly staged organised protests against the Anti-Sex Trade Laws and police harassment, most famously in May 2011, when pictures of sex workers dousing themselves in flammable liquid made global headlines.

Caption: South Korean prostitutes in underwear and covered in body and face paint, douse themselves in flammable liquid in an apparent attempt to burn themselves after a rally in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, May 17, 2011. Hundreds of prostitutes and pimps rallied Tuesday near a red-light district in Seoul to protest a police crackdown on brothels, with some unsuccessfully attempting to set themselves on fire. [AP Photo/Lee Jin-man]

But despite an even bigger protest last September, the human rights situation of sex workers remains grim. While I cannot yet estimate the frequency of such occurrences, it is evident that verbal and physical abuses against sex workers are common features of police raids in the Korean sex industry, as is corruption.

Human Rights become Collateral Damage

Through my previous research and work in the field of human trafficking prevention, I have gained a deeper insight into the negative side effects of anti-trafficking policies. Research by the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women found that some of them are undesired or unexpected, while others result from problems related to the implementation of new legislation, such as the lack of knowledge, training or aptitude of law enforcement officials.

But there are also desired side effects, resulting from policies that are intentionally worded vaguely and do little more than to satisfy what international human rights standards require. As a result, human rights quickly become the collateral damage of urban redevelopment projects, such as in Seoul’s Yeongdeungpo district, or efforts to curb unofficial migration and undocumented labour.

The conflation of anti-trafficking measures with campaigns to eradicate the sex industry has resulted in uneven policies that do not help the majority of trafficking victims, but instead drive the sex industry further underground, cutting off sex workers from their usual support networks.

Improving sex work-related legislation is a hotly contested issue that deserves to be discussed on the basis of sound knowledge, which I like to contribute to through my research. However, my project is not just meant to add to academic or legal discourses.

Graphic Novel about Sex Work

Sex workers often rightly criticise researchers, politicians or the media for distorting the reality of the sex industry. We are therefore developing a graphic novel entirely based on experiences shared with us by sex workers in Korea. It will be made available in both English and Korean, with the publication planned for the second half of this year.

Many Koreans have a keen interest in supporting humanitarian causes abroad. Yet, I have found that they are often quite surprised to learn that the hardships that sex workers endure in Korea can be quite different from their expectations.

Through the graphic novel, we would like to help making the situation of Korean sex workers known to a wider audience, both in Korea and abroad, in order for people to better understand that sex workers are part of their communities and deserve the same rights just as everyone else.

Research Project Korea + You!

Research Project Korea is an independent research project, unaffiliated to any university or organisation and exclusively funded by private donations. We publish regular updates on the project’s website, where you can also learn more about my team, and you can follow us via Facebook and Twitter. A Korean language section will be added to the website shortly.

Please visit our website to learn how you can support us and how our funds are spent.

WordPress: http://researchprojectkorea.wordpress.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Research.Project.Korea
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/photogroffee

Further information and highly recommended viewing/reading

[VIDEO] “We want to save you. And if you don’t appreciate it, we will punish you!”
Swedish sexworker Pye Jacobsson on the criminalization of clients

[ARTICLE] Wendy Lyon “UNAIDS Advisory Group condemns Swedish sex purchase ban”

[VIDEO] South Korean sex workers rally | Reuters News Agency

[IMAGES] South Korean Prostitutes Protest Closing of Brothels

[ORGANISATION] Giant Girls – Korean Sex Workers Union

[ORGANISATION] Hanteo – National Sex Workers Union

Sex and the University, Part 4: A Scared 19 Year-Old’s Ob-Gyn Experience

(Source: Dramabeans)

With thanks to Marilyn for translating it, allow me to present the fourth and final article in the Sex and the University series:

겁많은 스무살 기자의 산부인과 검진 체험기 / A scared 20 year-old reporter’s ob-gyn exam experience (19 in Western age)

대한산부인과학회는 지난 5월 ‘퍼플리본 캠페인’을 시작했다. 올해부터 매년 5월 셋째 주에 진행될 예정인 이 캠페인은 여성암 중 사망률 2위를 차지하고 있지만 비교적 잘 알려지지 않은 자궁경부암에 대해 알리고 검진율이 낮은 20~30대 여성들의 관심을 유도하기 위한 것이다. 김상운 사무총장은 “많은 여성질환들이 젊을 때부터 정기검진을 하면 예방효과가 크다”며 대학생들도 산부인과 검진을 받을 것을 권했다. 그러나 이러한 필요성에도 불구하고 많은 여대생들이 병원을 찾기를 꺼린다. 산부인과는 임신한 여성들만 찾는 다는 인식이 미혼 여성들로 하여금 산부인과 문턱을 넘는 일을 어렵게 만들기 때문이다.

Last May, the Korean Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology started the “purple ribbon” campaign.   This purposes of this campaign, planned to take place during the third week of May from this year [2010] on, are to raise awareness of cervical cancer, which, though the second deadliest of cancers that only affect women, is not well known, and to increase interest among women in their 20s and 30s, who rarely get screenings.  Secretary-general  Kim Sang-woon said, “If many female patients get regular screenings from a young age, there will be great preventative effects,” and recommended that university students get ob-gyn exams as well.  However, despite such necessity, many female college students are reluctant to visit a clinic.  This is because the belief that only pregnant women go there makes entering the ob-gyn’s office difficult for unmarried women.


이런 상황에 놓인 여대생들을 대표해 10학번 새내기 기자가 직접 산부인과를 방문해 검진을 받아보기로 했다. 미혼여성을 대상으로 한 가장 기본적인 검진은 초음파 검사와 혈액검사라고 한다. 기자는 인터넷을 통해 신촌의 산부인과를 수소문한 끝에 신촌역 근처 S산부인과로 결정했다. 방문 전 인터넷사이트의 예약 게시판에 평소 생리통이 심했던 기자의 고충을 적고 예약을 완료했다.

Representing college women put in this kind of situation, this freshman reporter, who entered university in 2010, agreed to personally visit an ob-gyn and get an exam.  It is said that the most basic exam for unmarried women is an ultrasound and a blood test.  After asking around about Sinchon-area obstetrician-gynecologists on the Internet, I chose ‘S’ Obstetrics-Gynecology, near Sinchon Station.  Before going, I wrote on the appointment board on the clinic’s website that my problem was severe menstrual pain and booked my appointment.

예약한 날짜가 다가와 초조한 마음으로 병원을 찾았다. 산부인과와의 인연은 20년 전 태어나며 맺었던 것이 마지막이라 그곳에서 무슨 일이 생길지 도무지 감이 잡히지 않았다. 잠시 기다리자 접수대에서 이름이 호명됐고 전문의와 오늘 받을 검진의 기본적인 사항에 대한 이야기를 나눴다. 혈액검사는 난소암 유무를 가리기 위한 것이고, 초음파 검사는 자궁에 근종이나 난소에 혹이 있는지를 알아보기 위한 것인데 항문 또는 질을 통해 검사한다고 했다. 검진 받는 여성의 성관계 여부에 따라 추가적인 암 검사가 더해진다. 그렇게 접수를 마치고 이유 모를 공포에 휩싸여 호명되기를 기다렸다. 내 나이 꽃다운 스무살, 산부인과에 있다는 사실만으로도 이미 부인과 질병에 걸려버린 느낌이라 불안감은 점점 더 증폭됐다 (source, below).

The appointment date approached and I went to the clinic with an anxious heart.  My last connection to the ob-gyn had been made when I was being born twenty years ago, so I had no clue what was about to happen there.   After waiting a moment, my name was called by the front desk and I talked with the specialist [prob. the doctor] about the basics of the exam I would receive that day.  The specialist said the blood test would detect ovarian cancer, and the ultrasound would check for uterine fibroids and ovarian cysts; the exam would be done through the anal passage or vagina.  Contingent upon the sexual activity of the woman receiving the exam, additional cancer screenings are added.   In that manner, I completed my registration and then, filled with fear without knowing why, I waited for my name to be called.  I am a 20-year-old in the bloom of youth, but just the fact that I was at the ob-gyn gave me the feeling that I already had a gynecological disease, and my discomfort continued to increase.

먼저 초음파 검사를 받기 위해 탈의실로 가 아래를 모두 벗고 발목까지 오는 긴 치마를 입었다. 두려운 마음으로 검진실 문을 열자 특이한 모양의 의자가 보였다. 치과 의자처럼 생겼는데 다리를 벌려 고정하는 받침대가 추가된 형태였다. 좋지 않은 예감이 든다. 예감적중, 간호사가 의자에 누워 다리를 벌리라고 한다. 겁에 질려 검사가 아프냐고 묻자 간호사는 태연하게 “불편할 수 있어요”라고 대답한다.

First, in order to get the ultrasound exam, I went to a changing room, took off all of my lower-body clothing and put on a long skirt that reached to my ankles.  Fearfully, I opened the exam room door and saw a specially-shaped chair.  It looked like a dentist’s chair but with the addition of a rack to which spread legs could be fastened.  I had a bad feeling about that.  My feeling was right – the nurse told me to lay down on the chair and spread my legs.  Scared, I asked if the exam would hurt; the nurse calmly answered, “It may be uncomfortable.”

이윽고 냉철한 표정의 여의사가 들어와 초음파 검사 도구를 항문에 집어넣는다. 간호사 말대로다. 아프지는 않지만 확실히 ‘불편’했다. 마치 배변을 보고 있는 듯한 느낌이 몰려왔다가 사라졌다. 윤활제를 바른 탓에 시원한 느낌이 들었다. 기분이 묘하다. 이 와중에 그나마 여의사라 다행이라는 생각을 한다.

(Sources: left, right)

Before long, the female doctor entered with a dispassionate expression and put the ultrasound exam instrument in my anal passage.  It was as the nurse had said.  It didn’t hurt, but it was certainly uncomfortable.  A strong feeling that I was about to have a bowel movement came and disappeared.   Because of the lubricant spread [on the instrument], there was a cool sensation.  I felt strange.  At that time, I thought it was at least fortunate that it was a woman doctor.

누워서 눈앞의 스크린을 보자 나의 자궁과 난소가 보인다. 혹이나 다른 이상은 발견되지 않았다. 스크린을 보던 의사가 “생리하실 때 아플 것처럼 생긴 자궁이네요”라고 말했다. 산부인과에 온 목적이 해결되는 감동적인 순간, 내 몸에는 전혀 이상이 없으며 단지 ‘자궁 모양’ 문제였음을 깨닫는다. 산부인과에 진작 왔으면 불안에 떨지 않아도 되었을 것을. 며칠 뒤에는 “난소암 혈액검사 결과, 정상입니다”라는 간략한 문자가 도착했다. 모든 검사 종료, 이제야 안도했다.


As I lay and looked at the screen in front of me, my cervix and ovaries were visible.  No cysts or other irregularities were detected.  The doctor, looking at the screen, said, “Your cervix looks like it would hurt during menstruation.”  At this emotional moment in which my purpose for coming to the ob-gyn was resolved, I realized that there was nothing wrong with my body, only a problem with “cervix shape.”  Also, that had I come to the ob-gyn earlier, I wouldn’t have needed to be anxious [about the pain].  A few days later, the brief text message, “Your ovarian cancer blood test results were normal” arrived.   At the end of all the exams, I finally felt relieved.

스무살 기자에게 산부인과 검사는 약간의 수치와 6만원이라는 비용을 수반한다는 점에서 그리 유쾌한 경험은 아니었다. 하지만 자신의 몸을 위해 한 번은 가볼 필요가 있는 것 같다. 기자의 경우 마침 결과가 좋아 적어도 5년 동안은 다시 이 경험을 하지 않아도 되겠다 싶어 안심했다. 그러나 부인과 질병에 가족력이 있거나 성관계 경험이 있을 경우 1년에 한 번씩은 산부인과에 가는 것이 좋다고 하니, 참고하면 되겠다.

Considering the slight shame and the 60,000 Won fee, the ob-gyn exam was not a very pleasant experience for this 20 year-old reporter.  However, it does seem that going once is necessary, for the sake of one’s body.  I felt relieved that I wouldn’t have to have this experience again for at least five years because the results happened to be good in my case.  Just know that if you have a family history of gynecological diseases or have sexual experience, though, they said that going to the ob-gyn once a year is good (end).


A little disappointed with the reporter’s plan not to lose her virginity in the next 5 year however, a genuine waste of one’s youth(!), then let me end on a rather more lecherous note via the above image, found in passing while preparing this post. Indeed, with a cover that says “Reasons Women Have To Get On Top“, the book sounds intriguing, and now I feel like doing some translating of my own next week!^^

(For more in the Sex and the University series, please see Parts 1-3 on students’ levels of sexual experience and activity, on an interview with a sex columnist, and on students’ cohabitation culture respectively)