Korean Gender Reader

( Source )

1) Life is Beautiful (인생은 아름다워) cuts out gay vows

Highly commended for being the first Korean drama to feature a gay couple (see #3 here), many viewers have been disappointed and angered at the decision to literally mute a key scene in response to a complaint by the church in which it was filmed. Let alone the actors themselves.

2) Korean military’s ban on gays ruled unconstitutional by the National Human Rights Commission (NHCR)

A welcome contrast to the above news on the surface, in Korea homosexual men are usually merely judged “psychologically unfit” to serve. Homosexual acts that occur between enlisted soldiers nevertheless however, are punishable by up to 1 year in jail, and indeed 3 male soldiers were convicted of it in the years 2004-2007 (out of 176 cases).

Unfortunately however, the Korean military already has a long history of simply ignoring NHCR rulings, and ROK Drop also notes that “gays in Korea do not have the political connections, media backing, and the money of the gay groups in the US.” Moreover, as I explain in detail here, 15.8% of Korea’s new 250,000 conscripts each year already experience sexual violence, so I too expect virtually no changes to come as a result of this ruling.

3) Celebrity couple targeted by crazed anti-fans

Within hours of the announcement that singer Kim Jung-hyun (김종현) and actress Shin Se-kyeong (신세경) were dating:

Preexisting “anti-cafe” sites of  Se-kyeong surged in membership

More were formed

Se-kyeong was forced to close her personal homepage due to the overwhelming number of personal attacks. Later, her main fan-site also had to close

Many of Jung-hyun’s fansites were also closed (albeit because of the disappointment of their owners rather than because of attacks)

And Jung-hyun’s management company SM Entertainment cut off all contact between his group Shinee (샤이니) and the public (source, right)

While excessive, by itself this case doesn’t seem particularly noteworthy compared to most celebrity news. Place it in the context of numerous prior victims of Korea’s “anti-fans” however, the most recent and well-known of whom would probably be singer Tablo (타블로), then suddenly it seems much less like the irrelevant rantings of broken-hearted teenagers, and more a fundamental part of Korea’s wider netizen culture, with very real – and often tragic – effects on people’s lives.

To prevent broken-hearted teenagers growing up to become netizens though, surely it would help if they were actually punished for trashing their classrooms, not simply forgiven because they were so angry with Shin Se-kyeong?

Hell, it’s no wonder most Korean celebrities go to such elaborate lengths as these to hide their relationships.

4) Awwww

A romantic story? Or, more cynically, a simple reflection of the fact that many Koreans seem to get married very quickly after first meeting?

( Source )

5) HIV-positive 19 year-old prostitute arrested for having sex with 20 men

Possibly a high-school student, reportedly she did actually suggest using condoms, but her clients refused to wear them.

Would such acquiesce be typical for most Korean prostitutes however? It’s difficult to tell: in general, sexually-active Korean women are similarly reluctant to insist on using contraception, but I would have assumed that prostitutes had less qualms about losing their virginal reputations.

Much more interesting though, how on Earth did the police that found her learn about her HIV status? And more worrying, that one third of her classmates would similarly consider exchanging money for sex.

6) Foreign prostitutes no longer required to have AIDS tests to get a visa, but English teachers still do

Like numerous commentators have said, you simply can’t make news like this up, and there is probably no greater testament to the regular scapegoating and stereotyping of foreign teachers by the Korean media here.

In fairness though, the E-6 visa category is a real mess, and by no means are all the “entertainers” that come to Korea under it are prostitutes, as well explained by Benjamin Wagner (who filed a complaint about the tests last year).

7) “Dad? I don’t know why I need him”

It sounds like a gross generalization, but I have heard from numerous personal and written sources that Korean children (and adults) are much closer to their mothers than their fathers. Kim Seong-kon, a professor of English at Seoul National University, explains why here.

( Source )

8) Korea: the hub of cosmetic surgery?

Well of course I hear I you say, but in practice it’s often difficult to find exact numbers. And so, before the financial crisis at least:

…an estimated 30 percent of Korean women aged 20 to 50, or some 2.4 million women, had surgical or nonsurgical cosmetic procedures [in 2008], with many having more than one procedure.

Note that the 30% figure is for women that received procedures just in 2008, and so the figure for all women who have received procedures is likely to be far higher.  See here for more information and counter-arguments that the US is far more deserving of the title; and while we’re on the subject, also see here and here for composites made of female celebrities’ faces from various countries.

9) Ethics teacher fired for sexually harassing his students

Unfortunately, not only is he unlikely to be charged with anything, but commenters point out that his record will be wiped clean and he will be able to teach again in 5 years.

Much of the blame for that lack of punishment can be placed on the Korean Teachers’ and Education Workers’ Union, which apparently believes that verbal abuse is far more heinous.

10) No Sex Please, We’re Korean

Apparently “other than an alarming amount of rape, their is very little sex in Korean fiction.” And this is a big issue for translators and the popularization of Korean fiction overseas too, as even when it is there it is mentioned it is hardly explicit, and “and this means that translations from Korean will not seem ‘natural’ to western readers who expect bodices to be heaving and trousers (and panties) to be dropping.”

Apologies for all the largely negative stories this week folks: please send me in positive ones if you have them!^^

Update: with thanks to London Korean Links, this was nice to see the instant after typing that last line:

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The Hips Don’t Lie…

( But is she smart too? Source )

As long-term readers will be well aware, I’m a big fan of evolutionary psychology. And why not? It usually provides both simple and extremely compelling explanations for many universal cultural features and human behaviors, such as that of the evil stepmother or the fact that 95% of killers are males respectively for instance. So when research in 2004 found that women with hourglass body shapes are 30% more likely to become pregnant than others, it was no great surprise that men worldwide have always tended to find this body type the most attractive.

But even congenitally blind men too?

Yes, it’s true, and while critics have frequently pointed out the sexist and/or (ironically) culturally-based assumptions to many of evolutionary psychologists’ conclusions, this latest news definitely buttresses the “nature” rather than the “nurture” side of the debate:

…Notwithstanding the significant scientific evidence in support for the ubiquitous male preference for the hourglass figure [a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.68 to 0.72], social constructivists doggedly hang on to the position that our preferences are due to arbitrary socialization (e.g., advertising teaches men to prefer a particular body type). Well, in today’s post, I discuss a new study that yet again kills the apparently immortal socialization dragon!

In a recent paper published in Evolution and Human Behavior, Johan C. Karremans, Willem, E. Frankenhuis, and Sander Arons explored men’s WHR preferences with one twist: the men in question were congenitally blind! Needless to say, this largely removes the possibility that these men were taught via media images to prefer a particular female body type. You might wonder how one would go about eliciting such preferences from blind men…via touch of course! The researchers had two mannequins dressed in exactly the same way but who varied in terms of their WHR (0.70 or 0.84)…

Read the details at Homo Consumericus, and the typically acerbic comments section there is also interesting. Meanwhile, on the same day I read that I happened to pick up the June 2010 edition (no.21) of cosmetic store Aritaum’s (아리따움; “Charm”) free advertorial magazine (as one does), and the contrast with the wholly photoshopped, physically impossible “X-line” body type being promoted in it couldn’t have been any greater:

( “Find your X-line”? Good luck! )

I’ve already discussed the X-line concept in an earlier post, almost literally tearing to shreds a Korea Times report – nay, also an advertorial – that uncritically reported on the “new body trend” in the process. But you may also be curious to read the advertising copy for the X-line slimming drink above however: what does persuade Korean women to buy such things?

아리따움 슬리머

울여름, 꿈에 그리는 비키니를 위한 당신의 다이어트 플랜은? 운동하기엔 많은 시간과 노력이 필요하고, 어디서 왔는지 모를 다이어트 방법은 믿을 수 가 없다. 그렇다면 올해도 무조건 굶는 것이 최고? 굶어서 빼는 다이어트는 단기간의 체중 감소는 느끼겠지만 얼굴 혈색을 나쁘게 하고 피부 탄력을 떨어뜨리며, 얼마 지나지 않아 요요 현상을 불러온다.

슬리머 DX는 간편하고 즐겹게 이용할 수 있는 슬리밍 제품으로 식약청으로부터 체지방 감소 기능을 인정 받아 믿고 섭취할 수 있다. 또한 휴대가 편한 앰플 형태라 언제, 어디서든 자신의 라이프스타일에 따라 쉽고 간편하게 다이어트가 가능하다. 아리따움 슬리머 DX라면 올 균형 있는 X라인으로 비키니를 입는 데 주저함은 없을 듯!

Edited slightly, to make it sound better in English:

Aritaum Slimmer

This summer, what is your diet plan for getting into your dream bikini? Exercising takes a lot of time and effort, and you can’t believe in diets if you don’t who came up with them. This year, is simply being hungry the best solution? If you diet this way, it is true that you will soon feel that you’ve lost some weight, but at the same time your complexion will become bad and your skin will lose its elasticity and bounce, almost inevitably resulting in a yo-yo effect as you crave foods again.

Slimmer DX is a simple, convenient, and enjoyable to use slimming product that you can take with the confidence that the Korean FDA has recognized and approved it as a slimming product. Also, it is portable and in a bottle that has more than enough for any occasion, ensuring you can easily use it to diet whenever and wherever you choose according to your lifestyle. This summer, you shouldn’t have any hesitation to use Aritaum Slimmer DX to wear a bikini that shows off your balanced X-line!

Sound familiar?

Diet advertisements in Korean magazinesappear to promote more passive dieting methods (e.g., diet pills,aroma therapy, diet crème, or diet drinks) than activedieting methods (e.g., exercise). Results further indicatedthat women may be misled to believe that dieting is simple,easy, quick, and effective without pain, if they consume theadvertised product. This study suggests that there is an urgentneed to establish government regulations or policies about dietproducts and their claims in Korea. Magazine publishers alsoneed to recognize their role in societal well-being and acceptsome responsibility for advertisements in their magazines.

Finally, a question for readers: I picked up the Aritaum magazine partially because I couldn’t tell if Lee Na-young’s (이나영) neck above in a bus-shelter advertisement near my apartment had been lengthened or not? She’s a tall woman; I honestly can’t tell. Meanwhile, the woman in the first picture is Shin Se-kyeong (신세경) for those that you that are curious (whom I’m well aware will also have been extensively photoshopped; in the original image, her legs appear to have been lengthened), but, alas, the identity of the ant-like figure with the X-line escapes me I’m afraid!^^