Korean Sociological Image #84: What’s that old, fat, bald, white guy doing here?

S Diary Busan Play Audience(Sources, edited: Interpark, Miscellaneous Maddness)

GLASGOW (n.): The feeling of infinite sadness engendered when walking through a place filled with happy people fifteen years younger than yourself.

The Meaning of Liff, Douglas Adams and John Lloyd (1983)

Ever been tempted to watch S Diary, because of its eye-catching posters? Don’t. It’s decidedly less raunchy than it looks, even by 2004 standards, and it’s strangely serious for a romantic comedy. Instead, watch it for what it is: “a simple exploration of a woman’s past romantic relationships and how they influenced her,” and for the insights — and confidence in future relationships — that can be gained from doing so. (Also, for Kim Sun-a‘s suburb acting.)

Customer Demographics BusanAs my first Korean play then, and the first night out my wife and I will have had together since we had kids, we could do much worse. But we noticed something strange when we went to check the dates and times: scroll down the page on the ticketing site, and you’ll notice an age and sex breakdown of those customers who’ve already bought tickets online, as seen on the right.

This one is for the Busan play; interestingly, the sex ratio is reversed for the Seoul one (click here if you are reading this after its run has ended). Also, the data may not be entirely accurate: when my wife does buy two tickets, will those be counted as two 35 year-old women in the data (which would make no sense), or will she be asked to—possibly even required to—provide more information about the other attendee?

We’ll let you know, once my sister-in-law tells us when she’s available to babysit(!). (Update: All booked. My wife wasn’t asked for information about the second ticket holder.) Either way, it turns out that providing these statistics may be standard for online booking sites in Korea, as indicated by a similar breakdown for online tickets to the The Fault in Our Stars movie on the CGV website. It gives the same results regardless of the cinema chosen, so I presume that they’re nationwide figures (again interestingly, the male to female ratio is the exact opposite of what you’d expect for a romance movie):

The Fault in Our Stars -- Customer Demographics(Source: CGV)

I’d appreciate it if readers can send any more examples, and/or let me know if they’re also available when booking tickets online in other countries. If not, and they turn out to be unique to Korea and/or (I suspect) the East Asian region, what significance do you think that has? Does it speak to any wider feature of Korean society or culture?

Of course, Koreans are not alone in tending to avoid events where they’re likely to be significantly older or younger than the majority of other participants or audience members. The main question is, why do Korean companies make this information available to them? Is it simply testament to the importance of age in Korean relationships? Is it because more people would go if they felt the audience matched their own demographic, than be dissuaded because it didn’t? Or it is just useful extra information given on a whim, which shouldn’t be overanalyzed? Please let me know your thoughts.

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

Quick Hit: Korean Play 10 Girls ChoonHyang Satirizes Sexual Objectification

10 Girls ChoonHyang(Source)

First, watch this short MBN news report about the play. Unfortunately, I can’t embed or save the video, but I can provide a transcript:

열녀춘향‘, 고전 비틀기로 성상품화 고발 / 10 Girls ChoonHyang: A Twist on the Korean Classic to Critique Sexual Objectification

앵커멘트: 요즘 성폭력이 사회적으로 큰 골칫거리인데요. 이러한 풍조에 경종을 울리는 작품이 대학로의 한 소극장에서 공연되고 있습니다. 서주영 기잡니다.

Anchor: In recent days, sexual violence is becoming a very troubling social issue. One play in a theater on Daehangno (“College Street”) is ringing alarm bells about this trend. Seo Ju-yeong reports.

기자: 딱 붙는 셔츠와 핫팬츠를 입은 여성들이 소극장 무대에 잇따라 등장합니다. 어설픈 리듬체조와 몸을 사리지 않는 레슬링은 섹시함을 강조합니다. 지조와 절개의 상징인 춘향을 현대 남성들이 원하는 시선에 빗대 발칙하게 표현합니다.

Reporter: Women wearing tight t-shirts and hot-pants come out in succession onto the stage. Their awkward rhythmical gymnastics and reckless wrestling emphasizes their sexiness. Through ChoonHyang, a [classic] symbol of principles and fidelity, it savagely satirizes the modern male gaze.

10 Girls ChoonHyang 2(Sources: left and center, right)

인터뷰, 박현지 / ‘열녀춘향’ 강인한 춘향 역: “기본적으로는 춘향을 바라보는 시선 자체가 남성의 시선으로서 바라보는 거잖아요. 그러니까 그 욕망 자체가 그 안에 녹아져있다라는 설정하에서….”

Interview, Park Hyun-ji, ‘Strong ChoonHyang’ character: “Basically, to think about ChoonHyang is to ponder the male gaze. This desire is a strong theme of the play….”

바이올린 연주자를 훔쳐보는 남성들의 모습과 농염한 포즈로 고추전을 만드는 장면은 성상품화를 직접적으로 풍자합니다. 남녀 관객 모두 즐거운 표정이지만, 작품에 대한 시선은 조금 다릅니다.

ten girls choonhyang 2Scenes in which men secretly watch a female violin player, and in which a women suggestively make pepper pancakes, are direct satires of sexual objectification.

All members of the audience seemed to enjoy the performance, but men and women had slightly different perspectives on it (source, right).

인터뷰 , 정영신 / 서울 성산동:  “(너무) 노골적이지도 않고 아주 재미있게 잘 표현해낸 것 같아요.”

Interview, Jeong Yeong-shin, Seoul Seongsan-dong: “The subject wasn’t (too) blunt, and it was expressed well and interestingly,”

인터뷰, 이해림 / 서울 서초동: “남녀 간의 성관계를 주제로 했던 것 자체가 파격적이었어요.”

Interview, Lee Hye-rim, Seoul Seocho-dong: “It was very striking that the play’s theme was sexual relationships between men and women.”

무대에서 펼치는 고전의 비틀기가 성상품화라는 사회문제에 따끔하게 일침을 가하고 있습니다.

10 Girls ChoonHyang CastBy giving a twist on a classic, this play offers stinging criticism of the social problem of sexual objectification (end; source, right).

The theater was the Guerrilla Theater (게릴라극장); the director, Kim Hyeon-tak (김현탁); and the theater group Seongbukdong Beedoolkee (성북동비둘기). Alas, the play actually ended at the end of last month sorry, but I’ll keep an eye out for any more interesting performances by them in the future. And I’m happy to translate much longer, more substantive reviews and/or articles on 10 Girls ChoonHyang if anyone expresses an interest in the comments!