Korean Gender Reader


소녀시대야! 900칼로리만 먹고, 이것 할 수있겠니? ㅋㅋㅋ

1) Miss A members scoff at other girl-groups’ starvation diets, and reveal that they eat healthily and normally.

For why this is such wonderful news, see here. I hereby appoint them as honorary ambassadors for this blog!

2) Three reports of sex crimes at Korean schools.

3) Can a Feminist diet?

4) More Korean married couples living with the wife’s parents

5) Korean women: please, for goodness’ sake, develop a personality! And men: get more comfortable with yourselves!

Complete generalizations of course, as the author happily admits, but still: I really appreciated this post in a “from the mouths of babes newbies” sense (no offense).

How accurate do you think her descriptions of Korean dating couples are?

6) Piggy Dolls “piggy” no more?

Turns out, their weight loss was for a diet advertisement (see #10 here for some background).

7) Same sex couple-tees?

We’ve all seen couple-tees of course, perhaps even worn them. But clothes designed to be worn by you and your friend?


8) Ministry of Gender Equality and Family Affairs urges teenagers not to use binge drinking as a study method.

After all, Korean teenagers are notorious for their alcohol problems, yes? Or was this supposed fad, of drinking baek-il ju (백일주) from 100 days (baek-il) before the university entrance exams, actually only highlighted by the Ministry in order to raise its profile and help justify its continued existence?

Not that I think the Ministry should be abolished by any means (despite its anti-abortion stance). But then it is notorious for some simply bizarre initiatives, and especially arbitrary, completely ineffective censorship in the name of protecting Korean youth. Neither of which I can see anything but corporatist reasons for.

9) Public protest scuppers plans for nudist forest.

Naturally however, the Korean media is still widely describing it as a nudist forest anyway.

Compare this similarly cancelled planned nudist beach on Jeju Island two years ago, which had been intended only to be open to non-Koreans.

10) New girl-group Chocolat set to debut on August 17. Has 3 bi-racial members (and 2 Koreans).

For which it’s been receiving a lot of attention, although it’s not the first to have bi-racial members (all 3 have American fathers and Korean mothers btw). Probably even more noteworthy and ominous though, is the fact that 2 members of the group are only 14 (the others are 17, 18, and {I think} 19).

See the following video for them introducing themselves. Note that the title says “Korean”, but it’s actually all in English:

Update: Ashley at SeoulBeats discusses them more here.


Korean Gender Reader

(Source: unknown)

1) Street harassment and respect in Korea

After a terrible Korean New Year’s, It’s Daejeon, darling! wrote the following:

I am tired of feeling so fucking vulnerable in Korea. I am tired of inappropriate bosses and groups of drunk guys who yell awful things in the street. I am tired of guys who think No means Maybe! or Just keep trying! I’m tired of fighting with men about wearing condoms. I’m tired of the fucking cat-and-mouse game where even if they do wear one, you have the exhausting task of making sure they keep it on. I’m tired of men who don’t respect my personal space and try shit with me that they would never attempt with a Korean women. I’m tired of taxi drivers who hit on me and give me their business card, men who leer and intimidate me. I’m tired of feeling like there’s a significant group of people out there who don’t view me as an equal, and it’s because I’m foreign. I’m tired of people expecting that I should be fucking pleased by the “attention”. I’m tired of the people who pass this shit off as a “cultural difference”. I am tired of feeling so fucking vulnerable in Korea.

See here for a follow-up on the condoms issue, and here for more on groping and street harassment in Korea.

Update: a recent survey of 1500 men and women by the Korea Transport Institute and the Korean Women’s Development Institute found that “about 26 percent of the women said they experienced sexual harassment on buses and 21 percent on the subway, compared to 2.3 percent and 2.4 percent of men respectively”.

2) Hot sweaty Korean women

In his review of E. Taylor Atkins’ Primitive Selves: Koreana in the Japanese Colonial Gaze, 1910-1945 for the Japan Times, Gord Sellar noted that:

One of the things that grabbed me, while reading this book, was how much of the stuff Westerners in Korea complain about, that Japanese were complaining about back in the colonial era.

An example of this is clothing. Japanese anthropologists especially liked to complain about Koreans’ clothing, which if you will think back to the early 20th century was quite different from what most people wear today–it was mostly white ramie fiber clothing. Because it was all-white, it tended to get dirty quite easily, and as a result, according to those Japanese anthropologists…Koreans, especially women, tended to avoid any kind of exercise or physical activity as it presented the risk of dirtying their white clothing

And which reminded him of comments made by many expats including myself, that Korean women don’t tend to exercise very hard in gyms here. Granted, a lot can change in 100 years of course, but still: modern Korean attitudes to exercise may have deeper roots than we think (Source above: Gord Sellar).

3) Japan custody heartache for foreign fathers

From the BBC :

In Japan, the courts normally give custody to one parent after a marriage breakdown and it is up to that parent if they let the other parent have any access.

Many separating couples come to amicable agreements, but it is not unusual for one parent to be cut out of their children’s lives forever.

And the article gives the example of one foreign father who, as things stand, will effectively never see his children again, and the numbers of similar cases are growing with the rising number of marriages to foreigners.

But without any other evidence though, then observers should resist the temptation to assume that custody rulings are automatically made in favor of the Japanese parent. And although there is definite pressure for change, note that the system does have some logic, being based on “the expectation that families should largely work things out for themselves”, rather than “the state enforcing agreements on access and child-support payments” (source, right: BBC).

Does anybody have more information on how foreign parents usually fare, and/or know what the Korean system is like? And speaking of the latter, now 1 in 10 Korean marriages are with foreigners.

4) Cambodian wife cuts off husband’s member in Sunchang, Jeollabuk-do.

Yes, I think this will be the most clicked link this week too.


5) “Kiss Rooms” raided because of their…advertising

As reported by Asian Correspondant:

Police have begun a harsh crackdown on “kiss rooms” and other varieties of prostitution that until now existed under legal loopholes.

The Ilsan Police Station in Gyeonggi-do announced on January 20 that it conducted a two-day crackdown on the 17th and 18th against kiss rooms and internet prostitution in Ilsan New City, and arrested without detention 32 people, including 38-year old “B”, the owner of a kiss room, on charges of [their advertising] violating the law on the protection of teenagers (청소년보호법).

As hinted at there, this seems to be very arbitrary use of the law, as it’s difficult to so much as step out of one’s apartment in Korea without coming across numerous advertisements for brothels. Or, indeed, peacefully sitting by the river in beautiful Jinju in September 2003, enjoying your last morning there before moving to Busan later that afternoon…only to be suddenly presented with this business card by a passing local:

6) South Korea: online haven for gays

When Suh Eun-pil was being harassed at school last year because of rumors he was gay, the internet was one of the few places he felt safe. One website in particular, called Rateen, provided a haven from critical eyes and verbal abuse.

Suh began visiting Rateen regularly, and six months later his life had completely changed — for the better.

On a recent Friday afternoon, Suh, 18, was surrounded by friends, everyone chatting and laughing. The small group of friends — all whom met through Rateen — was planning a social event for gay and lesbian teens, with games, prizes and special speakers…

Read the rest at globalpost.

7) Seo-hyeon (서현) of Girls’ Generation (소녀시대) revealed to be 9kg underweight

But this is no great surprise given the group’s 1500 calories a day dietary regime of course, and belies claims by their gym instructor that “otherwise they love snacks and eat well.”

Later, netizens worked out her exact weight to be 51kg (source, right).

8) The perils of trusting oppa

A hotshot young app developer, a great idea, and technology that lets you know where your loved ones are. What could possibly go wrong?

Plenty, as it turns out.

9) Korean dermatologists assume that unmarried women don’t have sex

More insights gained the hard way by It’s Daejeon, darling!:

The doctor…put me on Accutane. Hella cheaper than the states but the health oversight is SHITTY. Accutane carries a lot of serious health risks and I researched quite a bit on my own because the derm didn’t tell me dick about it. All he asked was, “Are you married?” No. “Then no problem. You can take this.” I’m guessing that question was to assess if there was any reason to warn me about the dangers of getting pregnant while on the drug. The US has the iPledge program, Korea has the ‘Let’s believe that unmarried women are practicing abstinence, so there’s no reason to discuss this and that’s that thankyouverymuch’ program.

For the record, she does mention that this may just be her dermatologist, but she’d probably agree – and have the experiences to back-up – that such attitudes exist throughout the Korean medical establishment. But note that this frequently doesn’t apply to foreign women though, whom hospital staff often assume that their visit is simply because they want the morning-after pill, and it can take a lot to convince them otherwise (see here and here as to why).


10) The Piggy Dolls (피기돌스) finally explain their name, and why they don’t think it’s degrading

If this is the first you’ve heard of them though, first see #10 here and #8 here on why there’s such an interest in them.


Korean Gender Reader


1) 1 in 10 elderly have unsafe sex.

And for more on many elderly men’s reliance on prostitution, the Korean public’s attitudes to elderly sexuality, and depictions of that in popular culture, see here.

2) Gender inversion in K-pop.

Why do you find so many male groups imitating female ones, but never the other way round?

3) 50-year-old member of Japanese parliament and prominent reproduction-rights advocate gives birth.

As explained at The Wall Street Journal, that has prompted a lively debate on maternity issues there, as:

Despite Japan’s embrace of innovative medical technologies, egg donation is virtually banned, and the practice of using a surrogate mother is forbidden by the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology, an official doctors organization. However, artificial reproduction using sperm donation is allowed.

In comparison, laws in Korea are probably much more liberal, as the notorious case of Hwang Woo-suk’s (황우석) faked stem-cell research illustrates.

4) Bus driver sentenced to jail for injuring a male student who molested a female passenger and then attacked a female escort on a school bus.

Like Brian in Jeollanamdo says, examples like this show why “don’t interfere” is an unfortunate necessity of living in Korea, and which is ultimately self-destructive for Korean society.

Fortunately though, the 2 year sentence was suspended, so the bus driver will not actually go to jail.


5) American film critic Roger Ebert thinks Korean groups don’t really understand all the Playboy references they’re using

To put it mildly, and it doesn’t help that the same-sounding Korean word (플레이보이) literally only means a guy who has many girlfriends.

In fairness though, I’ve heard that the Playbody bunny logo is popular across much of the rest of Asia, so this isn’t just a Korean thing. But still, I’ve been amazed at the numbers of women sporting the bunny ears on Korean TV recently, and was about to write a post about it myself before this came up.

6) Sex and Chinese Men

The latest in the “Ask the Yangxifu” series from Speaking of China, a blog by a Western woman with a Chinese husband.

7) The science of getting men to take off their shirts in Korean dramas


8) What is Confucianism?

Essential reading from Ask a Korean! for anyone wanting to understand Korean gender issues.

9) Casting couch still has huge role in Korean entertainment industry

As explained by John Glionna at The Los Angeles Times, nearly 2 years since the suicdie of Jang Ja-yeon (장자연) for being forced to prostitute herself by her managers, unfortunately:

…little has changed in the cutthroat “Korean Wave” of TV, film and music that each year draws thousands of young hopefuls ready to endure whatever it takes — including sexual abuse and exploitation — to make it big.

And in particular:

An April 2010 survey conducted by a human rights group here found that 60% of South Korean actresses polled said they had been pressured to have sex to further their careers. In interviews with 111 actresses and 240 aspiring actresses, one in five said they were “forced or requested” by their agents to provide sexual favors, nearly half said they were forced to drink with influential figures, and a third said they experienced unwanted physical contact or sexual harassment.

10) New girl-group “Piggy Dolls”  (피기돌스) debuts with Trend (트렌드)

And so unusual is it for members of girl groups to be anything but skinny, there has already been a lot written about his group. But for the basic details, then I’d recommend allkpop or Popseoul!, and then I’d suggest Seoulbeats for more commentary and analysis (and extra clips). Last but not least, I’d share Mellowyel’s critique of their marketing at Mixtapes and Liner Notes, and am happy to report that, as she hoped, the news report in it is indeed (sort of) about young girls feeling alienated because of their weight, and that the song as a whole is about them breaking stereotypes. See for yourself by clicking on the video above and accessing the subtitles over at Youtube.

Meanwhile, thanks to reader @izzysangtae for first passing the news of them on!