Korean Gender Reader


1) Abortion rate falls by half in last 5 years

According to a survey by the Ministry of Health and Welfare late last year. While that figure may well be true, it’s simply astounding that the Chosun Ilbo’s brief report doesn’t mention the huge role the criminalization of abortion undoubtedly played in that, instead quoting unnamed experts that attribute the drop simply to “a change in the social perception of abortion, the wide range of contraception available, and a rise in planned pregnancies”.

2) Less than 1 in 4 elementary school teachers are male

Anybody know how this figure compares internationally?

3) South Koreans account for 1 in 4 sex-trafficking victims in the US

To the best of my knowledge, sex-trafficking victims in a developed country usually come from much poorer ones. Why then, in the case of the US, are there more from South Korea than anywhere else? See this excellent report in the Washington Times by Youngbee Dale for an explanation, who argues that it needs to be understood in the context of Korea’s loosely-regulated credit-card mania and the limited financial opportunities available for women here.

(Sources: left, right)

4) Reebok forced to refund over $25,000,000 to gullible Easytone buyers

Strictly speaking, not (yet) Korean news. But as you can see from the assvertisements above, they’re also sold here, so it’ll be interesting to see what the Korean reaction to this order by the US Federal Trade Commission will be.

Hopefully a wake-up call, as it has been empirically proven that Korea has far more ads promoting passive methods of losing weight than active ones, such as this one that encourages women to literally sit on their asses all day…

5) Women 3 times more likely to be sexually-assaulted in Korea than in the US (Continued)

Some recent reports demonstrating the attitudes that underpin that surprising discovery, as discussed in last week’s Korean Gender Reader:

– First, the Korea Herald reported that the number of reported rapes has surged 33% in the last 3 years. This is bad enough in itself (although it may be positive, reflecting a greater willingness to report them), but unfortunately ended its first paragraph with the line “though the country moves toward harsher punishment for the crime, a report showed Monday”, which rings somewhat hollow upon hearing about the following from Asian Correspondent:

On Wednesday the ninth criminal division of the Seoul High Court (Judge Choi Sang-yeol presiding) sentenced 20-year-old Mr. B and three other young men, all convicted of sexually assaulting 12-year-old middle school student A over a period of hours, to three years in prison and four years of probation. This is a lesser punishment than that imposed by the trial court, which sentenced them to six years in prison and ten years of offender registry.

The judge wrote in the opinion that “viewing the situation as a whole there is no evidence that the victim lacked the ability to resist… The trial court misunderstood the facts”. The opinion continued that “as Mr. B and the others acknowledged their crime, regret their error,  have reached an agreement with the victim, and do not want to be punished, and as the defendants are young and this was their first crime, having no prior offenses rising to the level of a fine or higher, so we find this to be an appropriate sentence”.

– Next, also at Asian Correspondent, is the news that students that sexually abuse disabled students receive minimal punishment, in contrast to abusers of non-disabled victims. Partially, this is because disabled students are often unable to provide accounts of what happened, but it is also because many parents of disabled students, thankful that their children are in a mainstream school at all, do not want to rock the boat.

(For related news, also see #10)

– Finally, for those who weren’t already aware, spousal rape still isn’t a crime in Korea, with the Seoul High Court only ruling that it can be prosecuted at all just this week (a similar case in Busan 2 years ago was dismissed when the defendant committed suicide; see my post on that here). While this development is very good news then, which you can read more about at the Korea Joongang Daily here, if editorials like this one at the Korea Times are any indication (“rape” in inverted commas??) then unfortunately public and media attitudes have a long way to go before following suit.


6) New Zealand “goose mothers” network to avoid loneliness, depression

Not counting those who leave the family nest through marriage, as many as 1 in 8 Korean families have at least one immediate family member living away from home. The vast majority are men, either forced to live in a different city because of work, or remaining in the same city while their wives move their families to Seoul to try and take advantage of the educational opportunities there. While many are effectively forced to do so, others do so voluntarily, and in either case there are naturally large knock-on effects on their perceptions of “normal” family life and marriage, as I discuss in depth here and here. Either way, most hate it, particularly those wives and families who live overseas, while their husbands and fathers – known as  “lonely geese” (외기러기) continue to support them by working in Korea.

I confess, I haven’t given them much thought since writing those earlier posts 3 years ago, but I was still (naively) surprised to learn that technology isn’t really making the separation any easier for such families, as this report from Stuff makes clear.

(Also see those earlier posts for information about “weekend couples” {주말부부}, to whom many of the same conclusions apply)

(Source: Busan Focus, 08.09.2011, p.22)

7) Korea is world’s largest male skincare market

This will probably come as no surprise to most readers! But bear in mind that Korea isn’t exactly the most populous country in the world, which makes its 18% of global sales all the more impressive.

8) Korea to put more women on front-line

See the AFP for the details. In sum, the Defense Ministry said 6,957 women currently serve in the army, navy, air force and Marine corps, but the total was expected to reach 11,500 by 2020.

This compares to figure of 6000 women out of a total of 655,000 soldiers in the armed forces given by the Ministry last October, when it announced that it was going to produces uniforms specifically for women for the first time.

9) “Women to lead S. Korea’s foreign policy in 10 years’ time”

Which is great news. But as Subject Object Verb explains, unfortunately they’ll actually be “leading” by being diplomats’ wives and playing golf…

10) The Crucible (도가니/Dogani) surpasses 1 million viewers at box office

As described at Korea Real Time, the movie:

…is adopted from the bestselling book of the same name by Gong Ji-young, one of the most prominent and respected female writers in Korea. The book is about serial rapes of students by the headmaster and other adults in a school for the hearing-impaired in Gwangju, a city about 180 miles southwest of Seoul. The crimes went on for five years.

With a bungled and inadequate prosecution thereafter however, the subsequent public outrage is forcing a new investigation by the National Police Agency, and calls for better monitoring of private schools.

Anybody seen it yet? Has plans to?


Korea’s “Lonely Geese” Families: More of them than you may think

Back in July, I wrote a lengthy post* on the reasons behind and implications for Korean society of the high numbers of “weekend couples” (주말부부) and “lonely geese fathers” (외기러기) here, the latter generally referring to fathers who remain in Korea to work while their families live overseas for the sake of the children’s eduction. Back then, no statistics on the numbers of either seemed to be Shy Korean Boyavailable, so I speculated that the combination of both meant that a total of perhaps one in fifteen to one in ten Korean teenagers lived in a different city to their father most of the time (source, left: James Kim; CC BY-SA 2.0).

But it turns out that perhaps I underestimated that number: according to this recent survey of single women, effectively teenagers in this particular sense, for Koreans tend to live at home until marriage (although this is more for economic rather than the cultural reasons usually cited: see here and here), as many as one in eight Korean families have “at least one immediate family member living apart from the rest”. True, on the one hand that figure will include also university students living away from home, but then they are not common as I explain in those two posts linked to above, and on the other it wouldn’t contain the “international” lonely goose fathers I mention above either, so ultimately I’d wager that 90% or more of those one in eight immediate family members referred to would indeed be fathers working in different cities during the week.

There are some other interesting points made in that survey, but as it doesn’t mention the numbers and methodology (par for the course for most Korean newspapers unfortunately), then I’d take them with a grain of salt. But I think that the figures for geese families would be pretty consistent whatever the sample size.

*Since deleted sorry.