Korean Gender Reader

This being the week of romance, allow me to repost this 2005 Mis en scène commercial featuring Ha Ji-won (하지원) and Jo In-sung (조인성), still the sexiest Korean commercial ever.

Apologies for the poor quality, but unfortunately this copy of mine appears to be the only one available. I have found (via A Koala’s Playground) a good copy of the 15-second version though, but, alas, you really need more of a build-up to fully appreciate Ha Ji-won’s smouldering stares!^^

V-Men Auditions in Busan, Sunday the 19th (Busan Haps)

Marriage and tears in Joseon Korea (The Marmot’s Hole)

All Camp in Korea (Bathhouse Ballads)

While Brazil Telenovelas Shrink Families, Jdramas Seek to Expand Them? (YAM)

Does Confucianism have a place in modern Korea? (The Korea Herald; hat tip to Colette Balmain)

The Korean Look Travels Well in China (The Three Wise Monkeys)

Brian’s “Let This Die” MV: Romanticizing Violence In Korean Media (Musical Dialect)

Cesarean Nation: The cautionary tale of how China came to have the world’s highest C-section rate (Slate)

Brokered marriages hurt husbands, too (Korea Joongang Daily)

The Baby Owner’s Manual: Operating Instructions, Trouble-Shooting Tips, and Advice on First-Year Maintenance (Geek in Heels)

Itaewon in 1984: A paradise for foreign gypsies that lead Korean women astray (Gusts of Popular Feeling)

Putting the fun into feminism (The Sydney Morning Herald; via: Blog in a Tea Cup)

DONA-International Workshops for Birth and Postpartum Doulas (10Magazine)

K-Pop and Consumer Nationalism (Seoulbeats)

Middle school students to spend more time on physical education (The Hankyoreh)

How young is too young to model? (Work That Matters)

(Links are not necessarily endorsements)

Mise En Scène: The Sexiest Korean Commercial Ever?

It’s much easier to say than do, but it’s true: sexiness is an attitude. To whomever is responsible for the spate of “sexy dances” in the Korean media in 2009, the vast majority of which have been anything but, let me counter with this 2005 Mis en scène commercial featuring Ha Ji-won (하지원), whose smoldering gaze at Jo In-sung (조인성) has burned in my memory ever since:

Granted, perhaps you had to be there: something really is lost in the transition to your smaller computer screen. And apologies for the poor quality, but this is now the only copy of the 30-second version available that I am aware of. Still, it’s worth preserving, even if only for myself.

I didn’t realize just how much however, until I saw this alternate 16-second version. While this particular copy – again, the only one –  has better video quality, and is worth watching just for that reason, it ultimately falls flat because it lacks the build-up of the music:

By the way, it’s actually her gaze at 0:21 (or 0:09) that really did it for me in 2005, but I’m certainly warming to her long lingering one at the beginning. Meanwhile, like it or loathe it, can anyone suggest any more genuinely sexy Korean commercials, subtle or otherwise? Perhaps I should start a new series…

Update: This was part of a series of several with the couple, most of which you can find here or on Youtube. Considering how easy those were to find though, I was surprised and disappointed at how this one slipped through the net so to speak (no pun intended).


Korean Gender Reader

Ha Ji-won Jinro Chamisul

Granted, that soju posters have been becoming increasingly risqué in recent years is by no means news (see #1 here), and it’s also true that advertisers tend to rely more on consumers’ baser instincts during recessions…but still, even I did a double take when I saw this latest one (source) with Ha Ji-won (하지원), and it makes one wonder what the summer of 2010 will bring if present trends continue.

Ironically however, it is actually rather tame compared to what Korean musicians have been doing recently to get themselves noticed, such as the Brown Eyed Girls (브라운아이드걸스) having a lesbian kissing scene in their latest music video, or former “race-queen” Jung Eun-joo (정은주) producing a music video that is literally soft porn, her management agency (not unreasonably) arguing that she wouldn’t get noticed otherwise. And yet while the latter in particular is complete trash that will never make it to Korean screens, and like Chae-yeon’s (채연) new music video Shake (흔들려) for “suggestive dancing” (see #1 here) and  TVXQ’s songs for their “lewd content” (see #2 here), the Brown Eyed Girl’s effort may similarly also end up being banned from television, those represent just a handful of cases that have cropped up just this year, as cultural producers really do seem to be testing the limits these days. Hence, although Korea’s various state bodies involved with censorship certainly do have corporatist interests in exerting their authority, they may well have their hands full at the moment, and I wonder if as a result we might be about to witness a tectonic shift in the liberalization of the Korean media similar to what happened in 2004, when the following commercial for Hong Kong clothing company Giordano with Jun ji-Hyun (전지현) and Jung Woo-sung (정우성) was banned:

But which resulted in so many clones shortly thereafter that censors seemed to give up on them. Here’s an example from the following year for 17차 for instance, again with Jun Ji-hyun:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

True, the former is very sexual, whereas the latter merely glorifies objectifies the female body…a distinction that I’m only just realizing as I type this, and one that I suspect I really haven’t given enough thought to previously: it deserves further exploring. Regardless, lest you think that I’m exaggerating about the potential for a shift, recall that it also occurs in a context where the Lee Myung-bak’s increasingly authoritarian policies towards the media are creating a backlash, and standards for movies have been liberalizing without pause for breath (see #1 here, #8 here, and #7 here for starters).

In other news:

1) Bending over backwards to satisfy his readers, Ask the Expat provides a very comprehensive and clearly well-researched guide to cruising for gay sex in Korean bathhouses.

2) Approaching things from a different angle, Korea Beat translated a lengthy article from The Chosun Weekly about Lesbian clubs in Hongdae, a major night-life area of Seoul.

The Price Of Sin3) Lee Myung-bak pledged Thursday to increase state subsidies for working mothers and provide more nurseries and daycare centers in an effort to boost the country’s birthrate, but given that (among numerous other things) married women have been overwhelmingly targeted for layoffs in the current recession, then I suspect that this will have minimal effect (see numerous past Korean Gender Readers for more information, but best are #1 here, #2 here, and #2 here, and here is the most recent newspaper article on the subject). It also doesn’t help that, with dwindling numbers of newborns, women’s hospitals are blatantly refusing to deliver babies in favor or easier and more profitable skin care and cosmetic surgeries either.

4) Again, Korea’s adultery laws continue to be baffle: apparently one can have sex with others if one is in the process of a divorce, but not if one’s husband or wife puts “proceedings on hold.” As a commenter at Extra! Korea reasonably points out, in this latest case did the husband even know his wife had done so? Indeed, what if the estranged spouse is in the act while being informed? Hopefully, upon hearing that the recipient is otherwise occupied, then the FedEx guy would have the decency to wait for a few minutes before knocking on the door and handing over the legal documents…

No seriously, it’s hypotheticals like this that demonstrate the law’s absurdity, let alone the arbitrariness with which it is by definition applied in a country with one of the world’s largest prostitution industries.

5) The issue is a little old (see here for an earlier discussion), but still, Kim Heung-sook does a good job of summarizing what is problematic about the choice of Sin Saimdang on the new 50,000 won bill.

6) With parallels to affirmative-action politics in the US, some male students preparing to enter law school are preparing to file a petition with the Constitutional Court against Ehwa Womans University Law School for only admitting, well, women. I can see both sides’ arguments, but given that only 17% of the Korean legal judiciary are women, then personally I’m more in favor of retaining the restriction. It is after all, the only law school in the country that has it.

7) I’m usually very wary of articles about polls in Korean newspapers, but for what it’s worth this one of 921 university students revealed that 30% planned to get some form of cosmetic surgery this summer. Broken down by gender, the figures are 40% of women and 19% of men.

Choi Han-bit8) Choi Han-bit (최한빛) on the right (source) has passed the preliminary stage of the 2009 Supermodel Contest. Nothing remarkable about that you might say, except that she was actually born a man, undergoing a sex change in 2006. See here and here for more pictures of her, including when he appeared dressed as a woman on a television show in 2005. To their (rare) credit, the consensus of netizens is that she is no more artificial a woman than all the other contestants that have had cosmetic surgery operations.

9) Korea Beat has translated the Chosun Ilbo’s response to the avalanche of criticism to its week-long attack on foreign teachers, which naturally created some lively discussion (165 comments and counting); don’t miss Korean Media Watch’s take on it also, and for those few of you that all this is news to, see #1 here for many links to get you started.

10) In a strange article that may well have been written – ipso facto – with the intention of actually creating the trend it is ostensibly merely describing, the Chosun Ilbo reports that 30-something salarymen are now avid shoppers and consumers at department stores. I’m not sure I give much credence to an article that prints the opinions of someone who attributes this to the fact that “men in their 30s are for the first time able to go shopping without the help of a woman” though, even if it did come from a professor at SNU.

11) Completing the transitions between the sexes as it were via the images in this post, let me finish here by passing on two photoshoots of Korean men that both made waves last week. First, these pictures of SHINee (샤이니, pronounced “shiny”) from Vogue Girl (source):


(Update: Here’s an interview where SHINee explain the concept behind the photoshoot)

And then these of Hyun Bin (현빈), from Cosmopolitan (source):

Hyun Bin Cosmopolitan

While it’s not for me to judge women’s tastes, I am sorely tempted to mention that, lacking pictures of actual transexual men with which to complete the set of woman-transexual woman-transexual man-man, then SHINee certainly provide a pretty decent alternative…!