Sunday, September 30, 2007

Korea Is Not A Conservative Country

Okay, let's just end this one right here and now. Korea isn't a conservative country. They might be conservative when it comes to foreign males dating their women, but Korea is not a conservative country. This is particularly so considering the amount of foreign women imported into the country as "entertainers" or as mail-order brides.

This post from the Korea Beat blog had me dying laughing:

“Korea is a Conservative Country”

As The Grand Narrative suggests, I think we can file that one under fan death and kimchi cures SARS. This advertisement is inescapable if you spend any time browsing the online edition of the Sports Chosun, which surely has made for some interesting over-the-shoulder spousal conversations. Note that you’ll need a Korean citizen’s number to make it past the front page.

Basically, it's an advert for an online sex toy shop.

I'm from liberal California and wandered through a sex toy shop in Hollywood on a dare in high school. I'm so over it. However, Koreans seem not to be over it and feel they need to hide or lie about simply being human, curious and experimental just like any other country that allows it.

I've written about the superficial nature of Korea's "conservative" that causes it to freak out and ruin conferences and a sex trafficking scandal in the past but there are some recent things that have come up that make the hypocritical fakeness crystal clear.

Basically, you have people saying one thing and behind closed doors (or at your local train stations) they're doing something different. When you have most of the females of a country unable to pry themselves from mirrors, forgoing holiday fun and food to not gain weight and to get plastic surgery and balancing on too high heels even in the rain, it's not a conservative country. When you have prostitutes openly on display next to train stations, it's not a conservative country. These women are preening and ruining their feet or gait from balancing on stiletto heels because they get positive feedback for it. These prostitutes are there just to add flavor to the neighborhoods around the train stations. Someone is paying to keep these ladies in business.

Furthermore, I was really shocked to discover how many Koreans are shaking up. Now really, that's not a huge deal as it's very common where I'm from these days. But you can't claim to be a conservative society with pure maidens when Koreans are shaking up with a fair amount of frequency. I don't have any statistics, so I'm just going on the people I know and the stories I hear. I also know that some Koreans are turning to test marriages. That is, they go through the motions but they never officially file the papers. They file those later when the test period has passed and they can tolerate each other. If they can't tolerate each other, they move on as if it never happened. Conservative societies have much more strict social norms in place and don't allow things like this to happen.

Futhermore, as the following articles discuss, Korea hasn't been conservative for hundreds of years.

The first is an article on a porographic play written during the Chosun dynasty period. Here is a snippet from that article:
Chosun-Period Pornographic Play Discovered
"With an arrow put to the string, I have no choice but to shoot it." "How shameless you are! We're almost there. How can I stop it even if you ask me to? Damn this skirt of mine! Why is it here now?"

These are lines of dialogue from an explicit play dating back to the late Chosun Dynasty. Titled “Buksanggi”, it was discovered by Ahn Dae-hoe, a professor of Korean literature in classical Chinese at Sungkyunkwan University. On Saturday, Ahn will publish a paper on the play at a seminar sponsored by the Korean Classical Literature Association at Hanyang University.

The play is presumed to have been written either in 1780, the fourth year of the reign of King Jeongjo, or in 1840, the sixth year of the reign of King Heonjong. The author’s name is given as Donggo Eocho, a man presumed to have been a ruined aristocrat. At 124 pages long, it was written in the Chinese style then current as a story in dialogue. It is the second Chosun-period play, following "Dongsanggi" by Lee Ok.

The second article talks about how Koreans have expressed sexual desire through art. It also links the superficial conservative nature of Korea to Confucianism.

Erotic Art Reflects Conservative Korea's Passionate Side
Korean society is outwardly conservative about sex, mainly due to the Confucianism that has been the nation's governing philosophy for a long time. Yet underneath the stolid formality, there survives a more powerful desire for untrammeled sexual expression that has always found some form of expression in art. What Koreans really thought and felt of human beings, nature and life can be seen in the erotic art that has had a special place in society since ancient times. Remains from the ancient Shilla Kingdom, for instance, suggest that people at the time recognized sexual desire as a natural part of life, just like the ancient Greeks.

Anyway, Koreans aren't as conservative as they claim, so don't believe the hype.

Speaking of hype, I found this load of crap over at the Chosun Ilbo. It's from a couple of years back: What is it about Korean Women that Western Men Like? It's both positive and negative stereotype central.

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  1. ExpatJane
    Once again the truth hurts so speak it. Yeah I never bought into that myth that Korea was a conservative society. I mean how can the govt ban one of Epik High's songs because it mentioned a sex related issue and yet have prositutes next to train stations. LOL
    I hear we want to keep South Korea pure, pure from what? Sin? Are they crazy Expat Jane. Its not happening. I believe (and this is just my opinion) that sex education should be taught in the classrooms so one doesnt have to read about young korean male students trying to solicit sex from older women in China(prostitutes) and one doesnt have to read about a young girl being gang-raped for over a year by six of her male classmates. I mean even in China they had their first pole dancing contest and the women were dropping it like it's hot and I am like okay so if its happening in CHina heck its happening everywhere(maybe not the pole dancing) but cheating and prostitutes is a fact of life,even in South Korea.

  2. Hehehehe...

    "...the women were dropping it like it's hot..."

    That made me laugh.

    Anyway, yeah, I think sex education would be great. You can't believe some of the conversations I've had. But the topic of sex education calls all the holy rollers out back home. I'm thinking something similar would happen here. Their obsession with keeping up appearances might make sex education be a very thorny topic.

    But seriously, from my perspective, it's their society, their hypocrisy, and their mess. I'm not really concerned about it. I see it. I think it's amusing but that's the extent of my caring about it.

  3. A few decades ago there was a Korean performance artist who dressed in the most bizarre get-ups and sported a large plastic penis which he wore strapped to his waist -- I'm not kidding. He toured the States, and weird outfit and all, he was a real breath of fresh air. I cannot remember his name and I wish I could... Does this ring a bell for you, Jane? I suspect it was way before your time, but his picture made it into quite a few newspapers, dildo and all, and the Americans who got a chance to meet him thought he was great stuff.

  4. Decades? Nope, I'm not going to remember that one.

    However, he probably wasn't well received here in Korea. I remember going to see Ahn Eunme perform last year and I heard she's got people in Koreawho don't like her because of how progressive she is. My friend told me she's spends most of her time in Germany (not sure if that's true). It's unfortunate how deep hypocrisy goes here.

  5. wow , well I was watching Love is Magic (or something like that) and when the guy at the beginning started to masturbate to korean porn, I realized that I believed the hype and my bubble was busted....Now that sex store pic man that hmmmmm well

    Hey what is hidden normally gets I think the whole country needs to join an out of the closet support group , get over it , get help if you need it and get a life.....

  6. Hehehe, well, I'm not saying all of Korea has gone buck-wild and are sexing all over the place. However, there is a lot more going on than they let on.

    The thing is it's the hypocrisy that irks me. Even folks back home will hide their dirty little bits. For some, that's a turn on ;)

  7. ^_^ I suppose everyone likes their secret fetishes to remain that way - secret.

    I feel like the use of sex toys will still take a bit of time to really "come out" on Korea. Even a lot of Americans are kind of twitchy about just flaunting the use of sex toys (at least it was the last time I checked :D) even though we're pretty proud of being open-minded about all things sexy -- nonetheless, I do see what you're saying about the hypocrisy.


    Sorry...I was writing a reply and then lost it.

    I get what you're saying about secret and, really, I don't expect people to run around talking about what make and model of whatever toys they might have hidden in their homes. They don't do that almost anywhere ;-)

    It's just to see an advert like that in on a mainstream website lets me know this is all about appearances.

    I mean I'd not see an advert like that back home on a mainstream website. Some people would have a heart attack seeing that. Now in a mag or weekly, maybe. I mean I lived in San Francisco which is known for how liberal it is about that stuff.

    It's just the hypocrisy that bothers me. The BS articles about how virtuous they are compared to the evil foreigners or the foreign countries when there is all sorts of stuff going on here.

  9. While South Korea is definitely a lot less sexually conservative than they'd like the rest of the world to think... There's something inherently conservative about encouraging women to starve themselves and to wear the mini-skirts, the girly clothes and the high heels. They ARE doing it because they get positive feedback... but when a country gives women positive feedback for how girly/feminine/thin they are as opposed to how intelligent/successful/independent they are, that's a hallmark of conservatism.

  10. Yes, you're right. When I was writing I knew that I was talking about sexual conservativsm.

    However, 'cause of the weird searches that lead people to this blog, I just didn't want to write that in the title of the post. Of course, omitting that really doesn't matter as web searches search the content too.

  11. I disgree with comments about sex education. (Respect your opinion though). If they're taugh this in schools S.Korea will turn into America (and otber western countries for that matter) where people have sex at a very young age. I find that not very good and the fact that they're conservative about this is good, it's keeping their teenagers from going over the board ike the US (my opinion, no offence)
    On the other hand, parents though should play some part in guiding their kid about this aspect of life. As awkward as that might be.

  12. You can disagree about sex education. That's fine as that wasn't my point in the post. That discussion came up in the comments. I think teen pregnancy has a lot of reasons.

    Take care.


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