Why girls can be boyish but boys can't be girlish - CNN
For his birthday this year, my 5-year-old son asked for a My Little Pony sweatshirt. He didn't know that it was categorized as girls' clothing, only that, like his beloved Rainbow Dash, it was polychromatic, glittery, winged and perfect.
He has spent his early years in Oakland, California, largely surrounded by adults who avoid use of the nouns "boys" and "girls" unless necessary. His world is blissfully, ignorantly gender-neutral.

In the fall, he'll be heading to elementary school, and I was thinking it might be time to explain to him that as natural as his love for this sweatshirt is, there are a lot of people who find a boy in a girl's sweatshirt unnatural and won't hesitate to let him know.
The hardest part of this conversation will be what, inevitably, will follow. He, a scrupulous monitor of fairness in matters large and small, will ask whether there are also things people think girls shouldn't wear. I, remorsefully, will have to tell him "no."
Gender progress: a one-way street
Though feminism has made great progress in stripping childhood of gender norms, the efforts have been awfully lopsided.
Today, there's not a single traditionally masculine thing a girl can do that would raise eyebrows. Join a sports team? Over half of them do it. Play with toy guns? Nerf makes a line just for them. Cut their hair short? Celebrities Katy Perry, Janelle Monae and Scarlett Johansson all have locks that measure under half a foot. Interested in STEM? On trend. Pretend they are superheroes? Last year's "Wonder Woman" is one of the highest-grossing superhero movies of all time.
Meanwhile, there's still not a single traditionally feminine thing a boy can do that wouldn't raise eyebrows. A boy who likes wearing jewelry or makeup, twirling in a tutu or caring for baby dolls is at best the subject of conversations conducted sotto voce. At worst: a bully's target.

The tomboy phenomenon is more than 400 years old and has gone from outsider to aspirational to anachronistic over the course of the 20th century; the tomgirl remains a nonstarter. Describe a boy with a phrase that includes the word "girl" in it, and you're likely to make his parents' spines quiver, including those of many of the feminist dads I know.
Parents are increasingly giving their daughters boy names like James and Finn; few among us would dare give our sons a girl name, because pity the boy named Jenn or Sofia. Girls fought and won the right to join the Boy Scouts; I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for boys to gain entry to the Girl Scouts.
All this might make you conclude that girls have it better. And in some ways, they do.
"Women have changed what it means to be a woman and embrace a much larger human canvas. Men are still painting on half the canvas," said Michael Kimmel, a professor of sociology and gender studies and author of "Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men."
"Now, it's perfectly permissible for girls to (enter) boyland, but heaven help the boy who wants to move to the other side."
But a closer look at this gender revolution among children reveals to what degree this whole enterprise has been tipped in favor of the masculine.

Barbie has been a member of the armed forces, a presidential candidate and an engineer; boys' dolls continue be, nearly exclusively, action figures conscripted to battle. Disney movies have featured a number of macho or strong and brave female characters, including "Pocahontas" (1995), "Mulan" (1998) and "Moana" (2016); meanwhile, the male characters continue to alternate between brute and naïf.
Girls get to flip through books like "Strong is the New Pretty," but no publication is telling boys that typically feminine traits like caring for others or, yes, taking an interest in beauty (which is often tsked tsked in boys) is the new strong.
Girls have been told that they can do anything, be anything, and they largely can, without judgment. However -- and here's the catch -- that's true only if they are physically strong and career-oriented and eschew most of the traditional trappings of femininity. In short, they will gain respect if they act like boys.
"It's about mobility. Girls who act like boys are moving up the social ladder. Boys who are acting like anything but masculine are moving down and risk losing their status," Kimmel said.
Expanding the definition of 'boyhood'
That there is no cultural infrastructure to support slightly feminine boys like mine only underscores this point. Where are the books, movies, toys and video games working to gently expand the notion of boyhood, quietly and uncontroversially permitting them to take pride in their love of pink glittery hearts, baby dolls or whatever else their budding hearts desire?
A bedazzled ninja turtle or a feature film about a peasant boy who falls hopelessly in love with princess would help all children feel more emboldened by their girlier proclivities.
Richard Gottlieb, founder and CEO of Global Toy Experts and publisher of Global Toy News, said the toy industry has experienced far more pressure to expand the definition of girls' toys than it has to expand the definition of boys' toys.
"Almost all the social demand has been on the girls' side," Gottlieb said.
But he's not without hope. In 2017, the toy industry did away with the categories of "boy toy" and "girl toy" in its Toy of the Year Awards, and there's been a small uptick in dolls marketed to boys.
"I think you are going to see more ('girl' toys marketed to boys or as gender-neutral), but it is going to come later," Gottlieb said. "Remember, you still have 20th-century leadership marketing to 21st-century young adults. As these young adults move their way up through the ladder, you are going to see more and more gender neutrality."
My search for boys toys and media geared at "feminine" boys has yielded very little. I found a handful books written for gender-nonconforming boys that do some of this work, but they aren't the right fit. My son freely and easily identifies as a boy. He doesn't need our help in his rejection of the label of "boy"; he needs the meaning of that label to expand.

I get it. Permitting, let alone encouraging, boys to be more girly is scary. We want our boys to keep being like boys because masculinity is still where the power lies. And we want our girls to be more like boys for the same reason. But while that method of seeking gender equality has worked, there are limits to how far it can get us.
In her recent book "Women and Power: A Manifesto," Mary Beard encourages readers to scrutinize our notions of power, particularly those inhospitable to behaviors and experiences traditionally associated with women. "If women are not perceived to be fully within the structures of power, surely it is power that we need to redefine rather than women?" she writes.
Widening the perimeters of boyhood would be a great place to begin this work of redefining power. It should, as others have suggested, help inoculate boys against the stoicism and aggression some of them experience in their teenage years.
Raewyn Connell, author of "Masculinities," said many teenage boys still feel as though they must avoid any signs of weakness or femininity. This, in turn, feeds homophobia, because gay men are associated with the parts of themselves that they feel they must suppress.
"With teenage boys, the search for respect and recognition often results in exaggerated displays of dominating masculinity: the football hero, the first guy in the peer group who smokes, the playground bully, etc.," Connell said. This is often accompanied by "a stark rejection of 'girl things.' "

Broadening boyhood will also help give legitimacy to women's work and interests, bringing things like beautification, compromise and caring for others into the official range of human endeavors that truly matter.
Recently, I came across a Twitter thread explaining the backstory to the Etsy-favorite quote "Well-behaved women seldom make history." We've long interpreted it as a call to arms for women to put down their babies, oven mitts or lipstick and start making some noise -- like a man. But it turns out the line was written with another agenda in mind.
Historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich included the sentence in a paper about women in colonial America, whose domestic existences had largely rendered them uninteresting to historians and therefore absent from history books. Ulrich wasn't telling women to act more like men; she was telling us to pay more attention, and imbue more importance, to a traditionally feminine existence. In other words, "well-behaved women seldom make history" ... because nobody thinks that what they are doing is worthwhile.

I bought my son the Rainbow Dash sweatshirt, and he wears it on a regular basis, on top of his equally adored superhero t-shirts and paired with his knee-worn pants. We never had a talk, but his breezy confidence in wearing this flamboyant hoodie suggests that he doesn't need one, at least not yet. For him, there is no inconsistency between boy and glittery rainbow, and this palpable certainty serves as an invitation for others to feel the same.
He also doesn't need my protection. He needs my support, a beaming mom waving from the sidelines as he seeks to make his version of well-behaved history, by way of glittery wings or whatever else he chooses to keep him afloat.

Elissa Strauss writes about the politics and culture of parenthood.
gender  gender-socialization  gender-roles  tomboys 
3 days ago
It’s Okay to Be a Fair-Weather Sports Fan - The Atlantic
One of the stronger arguments for unconditionally supporting even bad local teams is that doing so fosters a civic union that transcends class, politics, and other divisions, making small talk possible across otherwise unbridgeable divides. But this serves more aptly as an argument for the unifying power of sports than for any particular allegiance—many of my most entertaining sports conversations have been colorful exchanges with Red Sox fans. If anything, being a Yankees fan is a boon to sports banter; try getting somebody outside of Maryland to talk with you about the 2018 Baltimore Orioles.

Rather than fostering civic bonds, blind loyalty makes our cities worse. Millions of people pledging unconditional devotion to any business threatens to imbue it with monopoly power. This power is plainly corrupting.

America’s professional athletic leagues are essentially cartels. By prohibiting cities from having too many competing teams, they obligate fans to support local powerhouses owned by billionaires who use fans’ undying loyalty as emotional leverage for municipal extortion. Many of these owners make ludicrous financial demands of city and state governments. London, by contrast, has more than a dozen professional soccer clubs that move up and down through various leagues; as such, none are viewed as civically essential, and local governments tend not to subsidize their stadiums.
sports  masculinity  toxic-masculinity 
5 days ago
Naver and Daum: How Korea reads the news – The Dissolve
On December 4, 2017, The Atlantic presented an unusual article for the US web, introducing the Korean news industry. It described the relationship between the media industry and Naver, the leading portal site in Korea, and the tensions of recent years.

The piece did a good job presenting the digital media environment of Korea, a rare and unique set of circumstances when compared with the rest of the world. However, it lacked certain details on how the news services at Naver and Daum (its main competitor) actually function. I’d like to focus on these two portals, and introduce them in more depth.

A brief history

Naver started Naver News in May 2000, allowing its users to search the content of 15 news outlets. At launch, the service lacked any concept of news curation—an approach that is now standard among Korean portals, and referred to locally as ‘editing’. In this respect, Naver was behind Yahoo! Korea, the biggest portal at the time.

Then, however, Naver followed Yahoo! Korea’s model. It set up a news service team and started providing ‘edited’ news on the front page in September 2001. In December 2002, they recruited Choi Hwi-young, who had been heading Yahoo! Korea News.

In March 2003, another portal, Daum, launched a news service under the brand name Media Daum[1]. They immediately sourced content from 20 news outlets and provided it to users.[2]

The reason why I’ve droned on about the origins of the Naver and Daum news services is to help you see a picture of the contract relationship between Korean portals and news media. The news services on Korean portals are very different from, say, Google News. While that portal likewise provides search results and trending topics, Google does not pay out or receive money. Naver and Daum, on the other hand, purchase content from media companies and provide it to readers (after ‘editing’).

What Korean readers see (spoiler: everything)

Both Naver and Daum outsource articles from media companies in real time. The portals then store the articles on their databases and present all of them on their websites. So, when a reporter of Chosun Ilbo, the largest newspaper company in Korea, writes and posts and article, the same piece can be seen on ‘chosun.com’, ‘news.naver.com’ and ‘media.daum.net’.

This holds for every other newspaper and broadcasting company in contract. To paint a better picture, imagine this: being able to read almost every important news article in real time from USA Today, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox News Channel, USA Network, and AP News—all on one website, in one standardized layout. For free.

Portals vs Media

There are mainly two types of contracts between portals and media companies. The first is what we’ve seen above, through which a media company sells content to a portal, for use on the portal’s news service. The second type is for search results. When a media company and a portal agree to this, articles from the media company become searchable on the portal. So the agreements make it possible to read (type 1) or search (type 2) the articles on a portal. Partners on the first type of contract are called “in-link partners”; those on the second, “search partners”.

Of course, this rather peculiar set of relationships hasn’t been like this from the start. It has been reached through a long period of collaboration and arguments between Naver, Daum, Yahoo! Korea, other now-disappeared portals, and a number of key media companies.

Anyway, in around 2005 it became indisputable that portals were the primary channels for news consumption in Korea. People read news on portals and searched news on portals. When a media company launched, one of its first missions was to establish partnerships with portals; if it didn’t, people would never discover its content. Once any type of partnership was established, the media site traffic was expected to soar.

‘News abusing’ and the fight for quality

Tensions and conflicts ensued, between two groups: media companies, media academia, civic groups, politicians on one broad team, and portal operators on the other. We can find numerous articles illustrating the controversies, such as Portals Should Realize Their Social Responsibility in 2005, Politics Trying to Tame Portals in 2006, E-Power, Portals: Media Out of Control in 2007, and Algorithmic Recommendations” vs “Regulation Needed” Portal News Debate in 2017.

In September 2017, Korea Press Foundation released a meticulous research paper illustrating the conflicts surrounding portal news services.[3] The foundation posited six fronts on which media allies and portals fight: contract fees, innovation, advertorials, responsibility for the decline in journalism quality, ‘news abusing’, and the Committee for the Evaluation of News Partnership. I’ll focus here on the final three.

1) On the aspect of journalism quality, media companies argue that the domination of news distribution by portals has devastated the media environment and diminished journalism. They claim that, in luring news producers into clickbait wars for visitors and traffic, portals have caused a vicious cycle in which media companies fail to secure profits to invest in high quality content.

2) Following on from the quality matter, there arises the most peculiar and unique media problem of Korea: ‘news abusing’. Such abuse is defined as duplicating articles in order to increase their frequency in search results and, thereby, earn clicks.[4]

On December 5, 2015, an entertainment outlet alleged that a famous foreign chef in Korea had forged his qualifications. Two days later, it turned out that the report was not true and the outlet posted a correction article.

The story of a popular chef’s career forgery must have been attractive. From December 5 to 7, 231 articles were published containing almost identical structures and words. When a user searched for the chef’s name, they saw something like this:

Two arguments coexist. With the rapid changes in the advertising market and media environment, media companies are finding it difficult to generate revenue from traditional business models and are forced into “news abusing” in order to earn traffic. On the other hand, some observers point to how changes to portal news services have contributed to the problem of abuse. Indeed, many are calling for portals to be held responsible too.

3) After a decade of conflict and debate on the responsibility issues mentioned above and questions over the right of portals to manage partnerships, in 2015, Naver and Kakao (the operator of both Daum and the country’s single dominant messaging service, KakaoTalk) agreed to establish an independent committee, the Committee for the Evaluation of News Partnership. The Atlantic described it this way:

The committee has two key functions. The first is to evaluate which new outlets can supply news to portal sites. The second is to penalize news outlets that violate contract conditions, such as publishing sponsored or violent content, or clickbait.

Put another way : the committee decides not only which media companies can make contracts with portal sites, but also which should be expelled from portal news services or search results. The 30 committee members are appointed by 15 organizations such as the Korea Broadcasting Association, the Korea Newspaper Association, and the Korea Press Foundation.

However, as with oversight committees in any country, the existence of one does not guarantee all problems solved. This is why the Korea Press Foundation includes this committee on its list of six battle fronts. In its paper, the foundation details both the criticism over portals being allowed to delegate their responsibilities to another organization, and the doubts over the ability of a committee comprising direct stakeholders to make a fair evaluation that all media companies can accept.[5]

AI is here

Naver and Daum have maintained market dominance in spite of the controversies. And they have improved on quality with the help of technology superior to that of traditional media companies.

The services employ a variety of technologies, but all eyes are now on artificial intelligence. AI has the potential to decide both which articles to show and the sequence of those articles on the front page.

In this regard, Daum was the fast mover. In June 2015, the portal implemented RUBICS—Real-Time User Behavior Interactive Content Recommender System—on its front page. Kakao, the operator of Daum, briefly explained how it works on its official blog:

1) Cluster analysis 2) Redundancy/abusing Filtering 3) Articles against the service principles are excluded. After that, RUBICS automatically arranges the article on the front page.

Kakao revealed that RUBICS was built primarily on the Multi-Armed Bandit algorithm, and that they tweaked MAB to make it suitable for news recommendation.

Naver’s AI arrived in 2017. They named it AiRS, short for AI Recommender System, and based it on two principal technologies: CF (Collaborative Filtering, Cooperative Filter) and RNN (Recurrent Neuro Network). CF recommends certain types of content to readers with similar interests by analyzing content consumption patterns.

Two lawmakers recently held a debate to question the fairness of portal news services, with Naver and Kakao’s media representatives in attendance. Both representatives put AI forward as a solution to the fairness challenges. Remember the news article I mentioned that covered the tension between portals and news media companies?

“Algorithmic Recommendations” vs “Regulation Needed” Portal News Debate, 7 Dec 2017, Min Hye-jeong.

“Currently, 20% of articles on the front page are curated by [Naver editors],” said Yoo Bong-seok, Naver Media and Knowledge Information Leader. “Going forward, all curation will be done by … [more]
Korean-media  Korean-news  Korean-internet  Daum  Naver 
6 days ago
Gender bias in science textbooks – The Dissolve
2006: “Are you stupid?”

That was what his eyes seemed to say. I was struggling over a general physics question when a classmate asked me, “You don’t get this? Just think about a model car. It’s easy.” His words were laced with scorn. I was 19, a freshman in college. Throughout middle and high school, I was always one of the top students. I’d studied Physics II on my own in hopes of being a mechanical engineering major. His passing remark was a dagger to my heart.

That’s probably when I began to think “Boys have physics brains”, whatever that means. Starting around that time, when people asked me about the difficulties of studying mechanical engineering, I would reply, “It’s difficult to compete with boys. They have a knack for physics.”

The strange thing is that I was much more passionate about physics than my classmate and I had better grades. Yet for some reason I believed that I only did better because I worked hard. I never thought that I had the brains for it. But looking back, I realize that I did. Perhaps it would have been better if I’d played with model cars or toy blocks when I was younger. Or actually, if the questions in the textbooks had been about animals, which I liked, instead of cars, perhaps I would have enjoyed studying more. In the end, I left the field. Some say the people who don’t quit are the ones that find success. My classmate stayed on in the field, and he’s now thriving.

1994–2002: I loved playing with dolls, and I loved science experiments

I’ve liked science since my elementary school years. The yellow science experiment box was my particular favorite. Connecting wires and seeing a small light bulb come alive was so exciting. I enjoyed welding too and I carried the owl electric circuit everywhere, with its eyes that lit up. I still have vivid memories of battling with a friend over whether coffee grounds melted in water.

Now, this doesn’t mean that I was one of those science geeks. I had a full set of Encyclopedia of Science, which was popular then, but I only lifted their covers when I had homework to do. I wasn’t particularly interested in dinosaurs, space, or cars. And I never made a rubber band-powered glider like all the other kids during “science month” celebrations.

That was because science wasn’t the only thing I liked. There were so many other things I enjoyed. I was busy with dolls, French skipping, or playing house. When I was a little older, I got infatuated with origami, and enjoyed putting on makeup. I loved reading and sewing too.

I was one of those ‘girly girls’ and the reason I was able to maintain an interest in science was, come to think of it, my parents and my teachers. They told me that I had a brain for science because I was logical. Being logical isn’t only necessary for the natural sciences—it’s important for the social sciences and humanities too. But the compliments left me with an additional option to consider, an option that girls were rarely provided.

2004: “If you’re not going to medical school, then don’t major in science”

Things changed when I entered high school. I wanted to major in engineering and during guidance counseling sessions my teachers often told me to “think again”. Some made blatantly sexist remarks like “What would a girl like you do with engineering?”

I chose to study science regardless with the confident conviction to “go my own way”, only for another crisis to hit me in my senior year. I loved physics the most, had developed an interest in robots, and made up my mind to study mechanical engineering in college. But my school decided not to offer Physics II that year. The reason: not enough students. I attended a girls’ school, and only about ten out of over 100 science majors had signed up for the class, with the rest opting for Chemistry II and Biology II. My teacher forcibly advised us to choose either chemistry or biology, since it would be disadvantageous for the ten of us to compete for grades. In the end, I took biology and chemistry and studied Physics II on my own.

2017: 2006 all over again

So that’s how I had become a mechanical engineering major. Yet there I was, having to put up with someone asking if I was stupid. With a bit of exaggeration, I felt humiliated. I did go on to graduate school but I left with just a master’s degree because I was tormented by the thought that I wasn’t smart enough for a doctorate. Instead, I joined Donga Science as a journalist on the back of my major and my love of writing. And five years later, I had the most surprising experience.

Myth: Science textbooks are gender neutral

A work assignment required me to look through middle and high school science textbooks. I opened up the Sixth Curriculum middle school science textbook that was used from 2000 to 2002. Looking over the unit on physics, which I’d loved, I was reminiscing when something hit me. I hadn’t noticed it back in the day, but the textbook relied on just a handful of subject matters, repeated over and over.

Here is a question from ‘Research 4’ on page 236 of Kyohaksa’s Middle School Grade 1 Science Textbook: “Let’s see how the weight of an astronaut changes if the astronaut in the picture is transported to a height equal to twice the radius of the earth (6,400 kilometers).” Next to that question is an explainer, illustrating the magnitude of the force using a rectangular block and a spring. ‘Question 10’ on page 29 of Middle School Grade 3 Science Textbook reads: “In order to drive a pile into the ground, a lump of metal weighing 500 kilograms was lifted 10 meters off the ground by a crane. How many joules of work did the crane perform? How much energy was gained compared to when the lump of metal was on the ground?” ‘Application Questions’ on page 30 ask: “A motor has a power of 2.5 horsepower. How many joules of work can it perform in a second?” and “It took 14 seconds for an elevator (500 kilograms) carrying five people (50 kilograms each) to rise 20 meters to the fifth floor. How many joules of work did this elevator perform? How many kilowatts of power were used?” ‘Research 5’ on page 40 says: “This picture shows how the braking distance changes depending on the speed of a car. Let’s find the relationship between the car’s braking distance and speed.” On the other hand, the chapter on ‘Atmosphere and Water Cycle’ in Kyohaksa’s Middle School Grade 2 Textbook contains examples from real life, such as boiling water or taking a bath.

I remembered having a fancier Seventh Curriculum science textbook in high school. Perhaps it was better than the middle school textbooks. I looked through the textbooks for Physics I and II used from 2003 to 2005. In the introduction to ‘Momentum and Energy’ on page 44 and 45 of Kumsung Publishing’s High School Physics I Textbook, published in 2003, sits a description of boys riding motorcycles and playing baseball. A question about a cannon appeared on page 44 of Kyohaksa’s High School Physics II.

I remembered then that when I was studying physics—dynamics in particular—I had to calculate the range of rockets and cannon balls all the time. I didn’t think it weird back then. But these are objects that the world defines as masculine. In other words, the example objects used to help students understand physics problems were gender biased.

We can see why science textbooks became gender-biased when we look back on the history of science. Internationally, during World War II and the Cold War of the 1960s, the sciences, particularly physics and chemistry, were developed in large part for military purposes. In South Korea, meanwhile, science and technology became more associated with industry, since the government made efforts to support light and heavy industry in pursuit of economic revival. (This trend has continued to the present day and makes it difficult for the Korean government to avoid claims that it only supports research projects that turn profits.)

When you think about it, there are plenty of examples we can use to explain power and energy. Everything in the world depends on power and energy. Fireworks, pets, fish in a pond, a baby in its dad’s arms… How about using those as examples? Robotics engineers who create soft robots analyze the movements of caterpillars and fish using kinetics every day.

Studying textbooks filled with military and industrial technologies led me to view physics as the study of cannons, rockets, robots, and cars—objects of traditional interest to men. I came to equate my desire to study robotics with a desire to be yet another woman pioneer in a man’s profession. This thought, too, stemmed from gender stereotypes.

Ostracism awaits students who deviate from society’s idea of masculinity

Perhaps because of these gender-biased textbooks, many students who deviated from society’s idea of masculinity—that is, those who were not interested in military or industrial technology—were unable to develop an interest in science. Only then did I began to understand people who considered me an anomaly for liking science (physics, in particular).

People tend to believe that science is gender-neutral and objective. This is particularly the case with physics and chemistry, the so-called ‘hard sciences’. Some people find it difficult to believe that science textbooks might contain gender bias. J, who makes textbooks and study guides for middle and high school students at a publishing house, told me: “That’s impossible. Textbook review standards include an advisory clause which states there should be no gender bias in textbooks.” And C, a professor of science education, told me, “I’ve worked on science textbooks, and the writers work hard to eliminate sexist elements.” However, as I described above, gender neutrality and objectivity in science textbooks are, from a feminist perspective, mere myth.

Gendered socialization happens… [more]
STEM  Korean-STEM  gender-roles  Korean-gender-roles  gender-socialization  Korean-gender-socialization 
6 days ago
The reason every book about Africa has the same cover—and it’s not pretty — Quartz
Last week, Africa Is a Country, a blog that documents and skewers Western misconceptions of Africa, ran a fascinating story about book design. It posted a collage of 36 covers of books that were either set in Africa or written by African writers. The texts of the books were as diverse as the geography they covered: Nigeria, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique. They were written in wildly divergent styles, by writers that included several Nobel Prize winners. Yet all of books’ covers featured an acacia tree, an orange sunset over the veld, or both.

“In short,” the post said, “the covers of most novels ‘about Africa’ seem to have been designed by someone whose principal idea of the continent comes from The Lion King.”

What makes the persistence of these tired and inaccurate images even worse is that we’re living in an era of brilliant book design (including this lovely, type-only cover for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah; her novel Half of a Yellow Sun begins the collage above). So why is it so hard for publishers of African authors to rise beyond cliché?

I asked Peter Mendelsund—who is an associate art director of Knopf, a gifted cover designer, and the author of a forthcoming book on the complex alliances between image and text—to help me understand how the publishing industry got to a place where these crude visual stereotypes are recycled ad nauseam. (Again and again, that acacia tree!)

He points first to “laziness, both individual or institutionalized.” Like most Americans, book designers tend not to know all that much about the rest of the world, and since they don’t always have the time to respond to a book on its own terms, they resort to visual clichés. Meanwhile, editors sometimes forget what made a manuscript unique to begin with. In the case of non-Western novels, they often fall back on framing it with “a vague, Orientalist sense of place,” Mendelsund says, and they’re enabled by risk-averse marketing departments.

“By the time the manuscript is ready to be produced, there’s a really strong temptation to follow a path that’s already been trod,” he says. “If someone goes out on a limb and tries something different, and the book doesn’t sell, you know who to blame: the guy who didn’t put the acacia tree on the cover.”

He adds that the underlying issue can be more pernicious: “Of course, there are the deeply ingrained problems of post-colonialist and Orientalist attitudes. We’re comfortable with this visual image of Africa because it’s safe. It presents ‘otherness’ in a way that’s easy to understand. That’s ironic, because what is fiction if not a way for you to stretch your empathetic muscles?”

That’s a reasonable diagnosis. But how to solve the underlying problem? Certain books are allowed to stand on their own; others—too often those by African, Muslim, or female authors—are assigned genre stereotypes. Mendelsund suggests that designers should start by initiating conversations with editors about what makes a book unique, so that they have something to respond to visually. And if that fails, and designers are pressured to use an offensive stereotype, Mendelsund says, “We can tell them that it’s racist, xenophobic, whatever.”

But change comes slowly. One day, Mendelsund predicts, there will be a best-selling novel by an African writer that happens to use a different visual aesthetic, and its success will introduce a new set of arbitrary images to represent Africa in Western eyes. “But right now, we’re in the age of the tree,” he says. “For that vast continent, in all its diversity, you get that one fucking tree.”
book-covers  Orientalism  Africa 
6 days ago
Korean anchorwoman with glasses sparks sensation
A female news presenter of one of the three major TV networks here appeared wearing glasses on air, sparking interest online.

Lim Hyeon-ju, who delivers the news on MBC’s morning news program “MBC News Today,” wore a pair of round-rimmed glasses on air Thursday.

While male news presenters in Korea have often been seen wearing glasses on air on major TV networks, including KBS, SBS and MBC, it is the first time for a female presenter to do so.

“Anchormen are free to wear glasses, but why not anchorwomen?” Lim later posed in an interview with Yonhap News Agency.

Lim said she chose to wear glasses not only to be free from wearing contact lenses, which tires her eyes, but also to send a message to Korean society.

There have been cases where women were compelled to wear contact lenses instead of glasses during work, while the same rule, often unspoken, did not apply to male workers. Several local movie theaters are notorious for not allowing female part-time workers to wear glasses on duty.

“I hope that people wouldn’t think that it is uncomfortable to watch a news presenter wearing glasses, just because that presenter is a woman,” Lim said.

Many online commentators applauded her move via news comments and Twitter after the news was aired.

By Cho Yun-myung (yunc39@heraldcorp.com)
glasses  Korean-double-standards 
6 days ago
G.O (ex-MBLAQ) discusses how entertainment companies scam idols, especially rookies – Asian Junkie
G.O, who is a former MBLAQ member and current streamer on AfreecaTV, recently talked about how entertainment companies in Korea will scam their idol groups.

“The rookies get scammed more because they don’t know how things work yet, so they’re easy targets. The older, more popular idols know better, so they don’t get tricked as much.”

“Say the agency sends a group for $10,000 for a performance. The agency will tell the idols they are going for $5,000. The agency keeps whatever it doesn’t pay off to the idols.”

“Let’s say an agency receives a request for its well-known idol to appear for $30,000. The agency will turn down that request and instead, suggest to send a rookie instead for half the price.”

“Once the rookie group performs, the agency will go as far to tell the idols that they didn’t receive any money for the performance because they were sent to promote themselves, not to make money. So it’s a loss for the rookie idol that works hard but doesn’t get paid and a loss for the more popular idol that can no longer book performances and doesn’t get paid. It’s only good for the agency who eats all the money.”

Definitely explains the situations where idols basically just seek financial clarity from their companies.
K-pop  Korean-entertainment-companies  Korean-idols  Korean-girl-groups  Korean-boy-bands 
6 days ago
Plastics continue to pile up
At a national level, the Environment Ministry said it will also set up measures to reduce relevant levels of waste. According to Statistics Korea, each person in Korea produced about 98.2 kilograms of waste in 2016, ranking it top in the world.
Korean-environment  Korean-packaging  Korean-recycling  Korean-consumption  Korean-consumerism 
13 days ago
Marriages and birth rate in South Korea fall to record lows, according to census statistics — Quartz
Many South Koreans are delaying marriage, or choosing not to tie the knot at all.

According to census statistics released today (March 21), the number of marriages recorded in 2017 fell 6.1% from the previous year to 264,500, the lowest level since record keeping began in 1970.

The falling number of marriages has been largely attributed to economic factors, including low pay, poor job security, and lack of affordable housing. One survey last year showed that the average cost of a wedding in Korea was about $40,000, compared with about $35,000 in the US.

As a result, those in Korea who do choose to get married are opting to downsize their ceremonies—for example by doing away with wedding planners and studio photoshoots, as well as the tradition of receiving and giving cash and expensive gifts between the bride and groom’s families.

But it’s also part of a growing trend of more young Koreans embracing a single lifestyle, particularly women, who make up the majority of single-person households in Korea, according to government statistics. Less than half of Korean women now believe that marriage is a must.

The latest data on marriage come just after the Korean government announced that the number of births last year hit an all-time low of 1.05 births per woman. Korea is also currently the world’s fastest-aging developed economy, with a population composed of more elderly people than young people.

The statistics office also said that the average age of Korean men getting married hit a record high of 32.9 years in 2017, while the average age of women getting married was at 30.2 years. In 2017, the average age at which Korean women had their first child was 31.6, the oldest in the world.
Korean-marriage  Korean-demographics  Korean-birthrate 
14 days ago
Hey, Baby? You’re fired, don’t come back. Maternity Harassment (MATAHARA) and The Working Woman in Japan : Japan Subculture Research Center
Working at one of Japan’s megabanks, a workplace notorious for old-fashioned male attitudes, it wasn’t uncommon for Mrs X to be told, “Don’t you dare get pregnant!” or “If you get pregnant, we won’t give you any work!” from her colleagues.*

It was then that she became pregnant from her long-term partner. Unmarried unsure of how her workplace would react, she consulted with one of her colleagues.”It was then that a manager from another department heard from chance. He got angry and said, ‘Quit messing around! I will never allow the pregnancy of someone who isn’t married. If what you’re saying is true, then I will not treat you like a human being!'” she told JSRC.

“Eventually I couldn’t stand the atmosphere and fear in the workplace and chose to abort (the child).”

The Peeling Face Of Womenomics

Japan faces a tough hurdle of an aging population coupled with a low birth rate. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office in 2013, pledging to solve the low birth rate and impending labor crisis, embraced a policy dubbed “womenomics,” and reviving the economy by raising the number of women in leadership positions to 30 percent by 2020. A pledge he has since backed away from.

It’s a hard task, considering that Japan’s business world is dominated by deep-rooted sexist attitudes that favor male workers over females and women, who are considered a bad investment due to the belief that they’ll quit when they marry and have children. Japan ranked 101 out of 142 assessed countries in 2015, according to a study released by the World Economic Forum.

And if a woman does become pregnant, while working, some are subjected to what the media has dubbed matahara (マタハラ).

According to Japanese Trade Union Confederation, matahara is an abbreviation of “maternity harassment.” The word refers to mental or physical harassment that some workingwomen go through when they announce to their colleagues that they’re pregnant or after they come back to the office from maternity leave. Some women come back to find themselves demoted or receiving a pay cut. In the worst-case scenario, some are even pressured to quit or fired. Harassment comes not only from men in the office but other women as well—sometimes out of irritation that their workload will increase, sometimes out of a kind of jealousy.

Prime Minister Abe’s former education advisor, Ayako Sono, infamous for publishing a column in a major Japanese newspaper advocating apartheid as part of immigration policy, said that “maternity leave is an unfair burden on Japanese companies” while still advising education policy.

Under the Equal Employment Opportunity Law, employers are required to pay consideration to pregnant women by offering them shorter work hours or flexible work schedules. They’re also banned from firing or demoting expectant mothers due to pregnancy and required to give them maternity leave. (Men are also technically allowed to take maternity leave as well to help in the first few weeks after a child is born.)

In practice, however, the law is hardly followed—and the local courts are hardly sympathetic. A physical therapist in Hiroshima was stripped of her job title and her managerial allowance following her second pregnancy—and her request for a “lighter workload”–in 2008. The woman, who had been working at the hospital since 1994 and was promoted to vice-director of her department in 2004 was told that there were no vice-director positions available when she came back. She sued her employer for violating Article 9.3 of the Equal Employment Opportunity Act and Article 10 of the unwieldy Act on the Welfare of Workers Who Take Care of Children or Other Family Members Including Child Care and Family Care Leave and gender discrimination.

The Hiroshima District Court and High Court rejected both of her claims on February 23 and July 19, 2012, with the District Court arguing that “the plaintiff never objected to the shift to a lighter workload.”

It took until October 2014 for the Supreme Court to strike down the decisions make in the lower courts. The Yomiuri Shimbun reported that the Supreme Court ordered the woman’s former employer to pay 1.75 million yen in damages. The court sent the case back down to the Hiroshima High Court, arguing that the proceedings regarding the necessity for a demotion were insufficient.

Maternity harassment sometimes extends outside of the workplace. The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has been producing pregnancy badges since 2006 that say “I have a baby in my stomach” for expectant mothers to wear on public transportation to let other passengers know that she is pregnant.

A large percentage of the Japanese male public is unaware about these badges. A government survey released last September revealed that over 60 percent of Japanese men had never heard about the badges, Jiji press reported.

In some instances the badges have instead become a source of trouble, even harassment for the women who wear them. One Mainichi Shimbun reporter who followed an expectant mother on her daily commute and found that even though her source stood in front on the priority seats—special seating on the train reserved for elderly, disabled, and pregnant passengers—other passengers rarely stood up to give up their seats.

Other expectant mothers wearing the badges have alleged on social media websites such as Twitter that they had experienced verbal and physical harassment from strangers such as being elbowed or knocked down.

One anonymous poster on an online forum wrote in regard to the pregnancy badges, “Do [these badges] mean ‘I want you to reward me because I’m pregnant’? I just think it’s strangely brazen.”

So Abe faces a tough task in changing business and societal attitudes towards women in order to solve the country’s labor shortage, especially when members of his very own party display the same chauvinistic attitudes that pressure women in the corporate world to leave their careers.

The policy has failed horribly. Of the record five female ministers appointed to Abe’s second cabinet to set an example, two resigned in the same day due to misuse of campaign funds. Two other female ministers came under fire for links to extreme Nazi groups.

Deputy Prime Minister—and Shinzo Abe’s second-in-command and a likely candidate for being the next Prime Minister—Taro Aso said at a speech in December of 2014 in Sapporo, “There are many people who are creating the image that (increasing numbers of) elderly people is bad, but more problematic is people who don’t give birth.”

The Abe government even abolished the babysitting discount ticket system, the Sankei Shimbun reported. The tickets, which were distributed to 3, 000 people through 1, 300 companies, allowed working women to place their sick children, who are unable to attend a daycare when ill, with babysitters for a discounted price.

On March 31st 2015 the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare decided to consider the termination of a female worker’s employment within one year after the end of her maternity leave as “illegal” and issue warnings to companies who violate this law.

“In regard to companies that violate the law, we will provide administrative guidance to rectify the situation by advising them, then guiding them, and then making recommendations. If they do not follow our recommendations, we will publish their company name,” said Hitomi Komorizono, an official from the Equal Employment Opportunity Policy Division of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.

However, the move still has victims doubting that it will change the situation.

“I don’t think that just because this notice came out the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, that things will improve,” says Sayaka Osakabe, a former victim of maternity harassment who founded an online network for other victims called Matahara.net.

“However, because of this notice, I think that it will be easier for female workers to raise their voices.”

During a session of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, when Ayaka Shiomura was giving a speech on women’s issues, members from the Liberal Democratic Party section of the room yelled out jeers telling her to “hurry up and get married” and “why can’t you have babies?”

It’s a tough spot for Japanese women. On one side of the spectrum they’re being punished in the workplace for giving birth to children. On the other side they’re being told to breed. Either way, simply existing as a woman in Japan seems to be considered an inconvenience. The lack of affordable day care is another problem altogether.

Is it any wonder the number of women giving birth declines?

* Previously published on September 16, 2016.
Japanese-workplace-culture  Japanese-birthrate  Japanese-pregnancy 
14 days ago
A new perspective-INSIDE Korea JoongAng Daily
A Korean expat in the United States told me that even though she pledged not to have more children in Seoul, she is now pregnant with her second child in the United States. Three other families in the neighborhood are also having children. I thought of the neighbors in the television drama Reply 1988. That year, the total fertility rate was 1.6.

Why did this family change their mind? First of all, the husband was coming home early, as company outings are rare and there are not many bars in the area. As the father stays home longer, he is more involved in the household. According to an OECD survey, the average American men spends 2 hours and 30 minutes doing housework a day, far longer than Korean men’s 45 minutes. Thanks to the physical distance, the couple isn’t forced to fulfill the expected roles of a daughter and son-in-law. Thanks to company housing, the family has one less thing to worry about. Educational expenses are minimal.

There is a version of this utopia in Korea. The city of Sejong has had the top birth rate for three consecutive years. Last year’s fertility rate was 1.67, close to the OECD average. Stable jobs of civil servants, relatively affordable housing prices and close proximity between workplace and home contributes to the quality of life. Once I had a dinner meeting in Sejong, and a civil servant went home to give dinner to his children and returned 30 minutes later. I thought it was a great place to raise children.

Young people would choose to have children in this kind of environment. But it is nearly impossible to create and takes time. The government’s budget and policies are limited in bringing changes. When the government announced this year’s budget, a large sum was allocated to boosting the fertility rate. But large budgets have failed to increase the fertility rate — last year’s was the lowest in history.

Austrian demographer Wolfgang Lutz argues that when the fertility rate falls below 1.5 and stays there, it is hard to bounce back. The population reduction leads to a decrease in fertile women, and the ideal number of children goes down. When young people feel that expected income in the future is not up to their desired spending, they are likely to have fewer children. This is exactly the situation that Korea is in.

Now, we need a new perspective on human resources. Rather than obsessing over the fertility rate, we should consider policies responding to the decrease in production of population and aging, such as automation, AI and robot technologies, as Japan has done. Government policies so far have focused on having and raising children. But many young people ask why they need to have children. They think better job prospects, less traffic, less pollution and lower housing prices would be nicer.

I also want the fertility rate to go up, but objective indicators say otherwise. Young people who don’t know why they need to have children deserve an answer as much as those who ask for support to have children.

JoongAng Ilbo, March 29, Page 34

The author is a deputy editor of JoongAng Sunday.

Korean-marriage  Korean-birthrate  Korean-childbirth  Korean-workplace-culture 
14 days ago
8 out of 10 elementary schoolers receive private education: data
Eight out of 10 primary school students received private education and other extracurricular activities in the past decade, with a majority of their parents feeling the pinch of high education costs, data showed Monday.

According to the data compiled by Statistics Korea, 80 percent of the country's elementary school students received supplementary education services in Korean, English, mathematics, sports and arts curricula between 2007 and 2016.

The rate has been on a decline since 2007, when the comparable figure was 88.8 percent.

In 2016, 63.8 percent of the middle school students were involved in private education, down from 74.6 percent in 2007, with the number falling to 52.4 percent from 55 percent among high school students over the cited period, the data showed.

The monthly spending on private education by elementary school students reached 241,000 won ($228) over the cited period, with figures being 275,000 won and 262,000 won for those in middle school and for high school, respectively, the latest data showed.

South Korean parents are known for their enthusiasm about education, with private education spending staying significantly high, though its growth has been slowing in recent years.

Monthly expenditures on private education here reached an all-time high last year amid a steady drop in the number of students.

Average spending on private education per month stood at 271,000 won per child in 2017, up 5.9 percent, or 15,000 won, from a year earlier, earlier data showed.

It marked the largest monthly total since 2007, when the government started to compile such data. (Yonhap)
Korean-education  Korean-hagwons 
14 days ago
Rookie girl group Girls' Alert appointed promotional ambassadors for Jongro police ~ Netizen Buzz

Article: Girl group Girls' Alert appointed as promotional ambassadors for Jongro police station

Source: Sports Donga via Naver

1. [+259, -3] Seems like the police station is promoting them instead of the other way around ㅋㅋㅋ they're so nugu

2. [+166, -2] Nugu..?

3. [+154, -3] Ugh, must be frustrating to be them. They probably want to be performing on TV and stuff but their agency stuck them with a stupid 'public welfare' concept so they're always running around events at welfare agencies and police stations... sigh

4. [+97, -1] They're just hiring anyone lately

5. [+85, -6] Their faces and bodies look like anyone off the streets

6. [+17, -1] ????? Are you sure they didn't pay the police to get this gig? This is my first time hearing about them ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ They look so average, although I'm sure they'll glam up in about 2-3 years

7. [+15, -2] Who are they?

8. [+13, -1] Nugu?

9. [+10, -1] "Girls Alert" ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ

10. [+9, -0] What kind of name is Girls' Alert?
Korean-celebrity  Korean-celebrites  Korean-endorsements  Korean-police 
14 days ago
South Korea's Online Piracy Paradise
South Korea has an online piracy problem. Multiple internet sites offer bootleg movies, music, software and more for bargain-basement prices, seemingly unpoliced by authorities.

A 2017 report on copyright protection published by Korea Copyright Protection Agency (KCOPA) found that losses across the music, film, broadcasting, publishing, and game industries from piracy amounted to around 2.4 trillion won ($2.2 billion) in 2016.

According to the UK’s Intellectual Property Office, South Korea spends nearly £12.7 million ($18 million) a year enforcing copyright law, one of the highest figures of any country in the world. But much of this effort appears to be in vain.

A substantial part of South Korea’s online piracy takes place via “webhards” (web hard drives), a unique type of local file sharing site notable for their veneer of legitimacy, their easy access and their charging of money for providing other people’s stolen content.

Webhards are officially classified as “Special Online Service Providers”; as of February 2018, a total of 65 of them were registered with the Ministry of Science and ICT.

Visiting a webhard is like walking into a giant black market of intellectual property. Everything is for sale, and nearly nothing is licensed—especially video content, pornography and software.

Webhard services are highly streamlined. Users can create an account and pay roughly 10 dollars to buy enough points to download anywhere between 200 and 600 gigabytes’ worth of content. Some have limited partnerships with major media outlets, while others allow users to log in through accounts on social media accounts like Kakaotalk.

The KCOPA report estimated that webhards accounted for 15.6 percent of online piracy in 2016, with approximately 334 million files trafficked. When it came to films, webhards had a 22.9 percent share of piracy traffic.

Park Mi-kyeong of the Ministry of Culture, Sport, and Tourism told Korea Exposé, “Platform providers are in a position to most effectively protect copyright, so they are required to take indirect responsibility.”

Indirect responsibility is legally defined as “technological measures, etc. that block illegal forwarding of the relevant work, etc. upon request from the holder of rights.” It is not specified how proactive each platform must be in monitoring illegal content.

KCOPA found that webhard companies often enabled the circulation of new, high-demand films by failing to implement technical upgrades to prevent piracy.

Pirate files on webhards often have impenetrable names like “초i고호r질ㅡBLACK 펜ㅅㅓ,” a blend of Korean and Roman words and characters designed to avoid detection.

Korea Exposé reached out to seven major webhard services, all of which declined to comment.
Korean-internet  Korean-downloading  Korean-piracy 
14 days ago
What It’s Like to Be a Really Beautiful Woman
Self/Reflection is a week of stories on the Cut about how we feel, versus how we look. Here, a woman in her late 50s tells Alexa Tsoulis-Reay how being beautiful affected her life, and how she feels about her looks today.

Around eighth grade people started to tell me I was pretty. I was tall and willowy. I had a great figure and I never weighed more than 120 pounds throughout my 20s. I started modeling in high school and had waist length dark brown hair and brown eyes. When I do the whole makeup, eyelashes, high heels, gown look I am very intimidating.

My looks definitely opened doors for me. I worked in PR and as a news producer, writer, reporter, and talk-show host. I did acting in daytime soaps, TV commercials, and theater. I never interviewed for a job I didn’t get. I had a good degree from a good college, sure, but I think all things being equal I’d get the job above other candidates because of the way I look.

One of the worst things about being beautiful is that other women absolutely despise you. Women have made me cry my whole life. When I try to make friends with a woman, I feel like I’m a guy trying to woo her. Women don’t trust me. They don’t want me around their husbands. I’m often excluded from parties, with no explanation. I imagine their thought process goes something like this: “What does it matter if I hurt her feelings. She has her looks and that’s more than I have. Life has already played favorites …” It’s kind of like being born rich, people don’t believe that you feel the same pain. It’s a bias that people can’t shake.

Throughout my life, competitive, attractive, wealthy, entitled women really hated me. At my first job after college, my female colleagues conspired against me. They planted bottles of half-drunk booze on my desk so that it looked like I was drinking on the job. Two women were obsessed with me. They told my boss lies to get me fired. I talked to some of my superiors about it and they put it to me straight: Look, it’s pure unmitigated jealousy. They really do hate you because of the way you look.

I was once engaged to a man who ended it after his sister-in-law spread gossip about me to his family. They threatened to cut his inheritance if he stayed with me, so he left. That broke my heart. I think her feeling was: I am the princess of this family, that woman must be eliminated. Later, after I married another man, I went through hell with my sister-in-law. She still doesn’t invite me on family vacations, she’s blocked me on Facebook.

That resistance other woman have towards being my friend is definitely one of the pitfalls of being attractive.When I was younger I was so desperate for friends, I’d take anyone.

Men were more loyal friends, but my boyfriends would always say: That’s because they want to get laid. So I’d think: Women dump on me. Men just want to have sex with me. Who am I? My closest friend was a gay man, he wasn’t jealous and he didn’t want to get laid. That might have been my only pure friendship.

I never had any trouble getting guys, but I got bored easily and moved on. I should have taken the good ones more seriously. I can see now that they would have been good husbands, fathers, and providers but I’d just drift away on to the next and stop returning their calls.

So I look back over my life and think, What did my looks do for me? They got me a few jobs, and a lot of boyfriends … but what else? I didn’t get married until I was 35 because I didn’t want the merry-go-round to end. One day I realized well if you want to have a kid, you better do it now. Of course all those great guys I didn’t take seriously when I was in my 20s were gone.

My husband was the last decent man standing. He had a bit of a drinking issue, which he’s overcome. There was a time when things were bad and I considered leaving him but I had no idea how to even go about finding someone new because I never, ever, had to pursue a man. I knew I couldn’t cope with that kind of rejection.

These days, since I have aged, when I don’t wear makeup and I gain a bit of weight (which happens often) I pass as normal. As far as men, and anyone under 40 is concerned, I am invisible. They do not see me. I could walk across the street naked — it’s that bad.

Here’s the really sad part. It doesn’t matter how beautiful you were in your youth; when you age you become invisible. You could still look fabulous but … who cares? Nobody is looking. Even my young-adult sons ignore me. The irony is that now that I am older I am a much better person. I went through some suffering in my 40s — raised two kids, dealt with an alcoholic husband, watched my parents get sick and pass away — and I really grew. But as far as the world is concerned? I’ve lost all my value.
beauty  mating-strategies  female-sexuality  female-mating-strategies  slut-shaming 
14 days ago
Bad Air Days in Seoul – BLARB
Then again, it would: many of the OECD’s surveys have repeatedly ranked the country low enough to get official Korea — an anxious entity in the best of times — wondering whether the organization has assumed the mission of actively shaming it. And over the past few decades, the judgment of the rest of the world has taken on intense importance here, with one of the most forceful early pushes to pre-emptively placate it coming before the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul. Though last Monday marked a new record particulate-matter high since the current measurement system went into effect in 2015, it was by most accounts worse in the mid-1980s, when the government realized that its grimy air could spell a public-relations disaster and moved to relocate as much industry as possible out of the Seoul metropolitan area.
OECD  cultural-cringe  Korean-cultural-cringe  Korean-pollution 
14 days ago
Why The 'Mike Pence Rule' Is Particularly Dangerous In Korea | HuffPost
A measure that involves avoiding contact with women as a way to buffer oneself against allegations of abuse has traversed the globe from the U.S. and found its way to South Korea. And apparently, we’re back to 14th-century Chosun Dynasty standards.

Searches and posts about the “Mike Pence rule” spread across social platforms and within Korean search portal Naver News last week, with internet users pointing to it as a “countermeasure” to avoid being called out by the Me Too movement.

The concept of the “Mike Pence rule,” covered by the Korea Times and other outlets, was a term coined from an interview last year with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, in which he said that he never eats alone with women other than his wife to avoid accusations of sexual harassment.

In Korea, this measure comes with its own brand of reproach. Avoiding one-on-one time with women in a country that already has the largest gender wage gap among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development nations actually impedes progress.

South Korea ranks 118th of 144 in terms of gender equality, and women earn 63 percent of what men earn. To be sure, Korea is a deeply patriarchal society, where men and elders maintain authority and domination, so this power imbalance is entrenched.

And now, accusations of wrongdoing against famous politics, lawyers and authors have led to a countermovement to Me Too in Korea. Bank teller Park Won-ji provided an example of the “Pence rule” to the Chosun Ilbo, a major South Korean newspaper, saying that her boss has decided to communicate with his female staff members through text messages rather than in-person.

“I feel like I’ve become a criminal in the office. I have done nothing wrong, but men are leaving me out of their gatherings and sometimes treat me as if I am invisible,” Park told the news outlet.

There is, of course, a countermeasure to the countermeasure, with many in Korea pointing to arguments that invalidate the “rule,” such as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg speaking out about how it would be a huge roadblock for equality. She offered the reminder that there is still an imbalance in creating fairness for women since there are far more male executives on a given staff than female.

But beyond those workplace dynamics, the presumption of sexual harassment in every interaction characterizes both men and women as lacking agency and also discounts structural issues that impede gender equality. Korean society ― or any society ― won’t prosper this way.

When the ideas behind the “Mike Pence rule” began circulating in the U.S., anecdotes included a male surgeon saying he no longer greets a colleague with a hug, detailed in The Washington Post, and issues with canceling one-on-one meetings on work trips.

The Post points out not only does the Pence rule abdicate men of responsibility and cast woman as untrustworthy narrators, it also implies men are motivated strictly by sex. As the Post points out:

“Instituting rules that create de facto segregation by gender is a tacit admission that men are inherently unable to control themselves around women. If we follow the logic to its natural end, the inevitable conclusion is that the only line separating a co-worker and a harassment suit is convenience.”

Emma Gray, writing for HuffPost, points out men are certainly better than that.

In the wake of the allegations of misconduct against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, Gray also noted that workplace mobility is undeniably related to forming the right relationships and establishing proper allies.

In Korea, where longstanding traditions can create boys’ club workplaces, and where bonding is often carried out in the form of drinking after hours, women don’t need another obstacle.

As Gray pointed out, if men decide to limit their interactions with women, women are the ones left to pick up the pieces of the ensuing disrepute: “Let’s put the onus for professional behavior where it belongs ― on the male power-brokers ― rather than punishing the women who have to deal with their predatory behavior.”
Korean-Me-too  Pence-rule  Korean-workplaces  Korean-partriarchy  Korean-workplace-culture 
14 days ago
S. Korean women's #MeToo crusade - SHINE
Byeon Ye-jin, a 17-year-old student who calls herself a teenage feminist, said the #MeToo movement gave her courage to talk about being groped by an acquaintance when a child.

“I could not tell my parents. I didn’t have a place to seek help. I couldn’t even name the case. But with the #MeToo movement, I felt that I should have courage to speak out instead of enduring and ignoring the pain I suffered,” she told a group of women on International Women’s Day.

Calls from rape victims to the Korea Women’s Hot Line, a civic group that helps victims of rape or domestic violence, jumped 24 percent in the month since Seo went public in a TV interview.

Those who go to court, though, face a legal system heavily influenced by male-centered views.

A report released in January by an association of civic centers that battles sexual violence cites examples of a prosecutor, who told a sexual violence victim that many women say no when they mean yes. There was also a judge who dismissed a rape charge because the victim did not seek help from her father in the next room and drank tea with the defendant, a relative, after the attack. The victim was worried about her father’s illness and felt ashamed to tell her family on the day of her sister’s wedding. The dismissal was later overturned, and the defendant convicted.

South Korean law defines the lack of consent based on how much the victim resisted, the degree of threats and force.

The onus of proving threats or force is on victims, who have to demonstrate how they resisted.

“There are court cases where unclear rejection by victims was seen as giving consent,” said attorney Wee Eun-jin.

“Some court cases say a victim gave consent because she was seen smiling while entering a hotel or she paid the hotel charge. Sometimes unless the victims suffer serious injuries, they are not seen as resisting sexual advances.”

Legal experts and activists say the legal definition lacks an understanding that most sexual violence happens not between strangers but between people who already know each other, in workplaces or schools and often with those in hierarchical positions.

Kim Ji-eun, the secretary who accused the former governor of repeated rapes, said in a live TV interview she did her best to express her objection to Ahn, someone that she usually never dared to say no to: “I don’t say no during work, so when I showed hesitancy and said it’s difficult, it was the utmost defense I could play.”

Ahn denied the allegations, also including a rape complaint by another woman, saying that he thought the relationships were consensual.
Korean-rape  Korean-sexual-assault  Korean-consent 
14 days ago
When feminism is a dirty word — CRYSTAL TAI
"I'm not a feminist but..."

I still remember the times in high school and university in the early to mid-2000's, most people, including my girlfriends, would unfailingly say this every time the topic of feminism came up. And it wasn't just us.

Until a few years ago, most prominent women and female celebrities in mainstream media still demurred at any mention of feminism, often choosing to say that while they did not identify with the movement, they were all for the empowerment of women (sexual and otherwise).

There were -- and are still, plenty of negative connotations associated with the term. A 2007 story in Dissent Magazine highlights the issue:

“The most glaring problem has to do with feminism’s public image—which has turned off many a would-be activist and seems to be the main reason that third-wave feminism has not yet come into its own. Put simply, feminism—for my generation—is not cool. Not only is it considered passé, but—even worse—it is something our mothers did. Media and popular culture have narrowed the definition of “feminist” to the embodiment of what young, straight women in an image-conscious, homophobic culture are most afraid to be called... Bitch. This is followed by “Fat. Ugly. Dyke. Man Hater. Bra burner. Hairy. Butch. Loud. Militant. Radical. Angry.”... Because feminism has become a movement criticized for its image, not its tenets, and because the majority of Americans believe in gender equality yet criticize feminists, the result is the “I’m not a feminist, but . . . ” generation—one that believes in gender equality but is embarrassed by the label.”

— "I'm not a feminist but..." by Jessica Shinsheimer

But over the past decade since the quote above has been published, the movement has transcended many of these stereotypes and is now in the mainstream in North America. Over the past few years especially, the movement has become much less stigmatized as bloodthirsty, man-hating or vengeful.

In my own circles, I've seen a tangible shift in perceptions of feminism, as people around me began to identify with it. Simply put, most of us now agree that feminism means giving the same rights to men and women.

I personally began identifying as a feminist when I was in grade 11 after taking a philosophy 101 class. It was a wonderful, mind-broadening experience where we - a bunch of suburban Canadian kids, were introduced to texts like The Female Eunuch, and The Artist Lifts The Veil (incidentally and somewhat ironically, also the same year I had a brief fixation with Ayn Rand novels).

But it's easy to take my generation's acceptance of feminism and support of the 3rd/4th wave for granted when in other parts of the world, the concept is only beginning to take seed.

These days, I've watched as South Korea's own #MeToo movement has begun to unravel; as women and allies are protesting against sexual violence and gender inequality in a nation where patriarchal values and social hierarchies still dictate social norms and institutions. In spite of the censorship and victim shaming, we are also seeing landmark moments in regions like China, Japan and even Hong Kong, as more women (and men) have begun to speak up about issues of sexual violence, objectification and unfair treatment in the workplace.

However, a major observation I've made is that the movement is utterly divorced from any #MeToo movements in Asia. Feminism is considered a dirty word, a negative term that few women -- even women's studies professors in South Korea(!) dare to associate with. It also makes me wonder whether the Metoo campaigns here have been so effective due to the lack of mention and association with the untouchable F-word.

At a cafe in Seoul this week, I met a woman who had stickers on her laptop that said "Feminist", "Girl Power" and "Girls can do anything".

While last year's Dior t-shirts were a major fashion trend in Asia, I definitely think the feminist context was lost in translation. The stickers on this laptop however, were the first time I had seen anyone openly professing feminist views outside of Pride Day.

So of course I had to ask about it.

"Well, actually I'm not sure if I identify as a feminist yet," She said to me. "The meaning of feminism in Korea has't been agreed upon. People think it means you're angry and that you hate men because some women [associated with Korean feminism on sites like Megalia] say they hate men."

"My mom tells me not to leave the house with these stickers on my laptop," she added. "She worries it'll cause trouble with the older generations if they see it."

Last week, my partner and I went out for dinner with an acquaintance in her late 40's. Near the end of the conversation, all of us slightly buzzed while talking about feminism and equality, she said something I couldn't understand. I asked my boyfriend what she said. "I'll tell you later," he said smiling through his teeth and nodding. Later he explained: "You wouldn't have liked what she told you, she basically said that women ought to get behind their men and support them no matter what, and that it's better that men make more money in the end."

It's difficult for me to argue against such views when someone has lived their whole life immersed in this kind of reality. Especially with regards to the post-war tumult and dictatorships she grew up in, an era before market capitalism and the welcoming of global influences in South Korea. I also imagine no one wants to question their own past and choices.

Still, I wonder when feminism, or the concept of such a movement will come to embody a more positive thing in Asia. It is a complex issue because facets of western values, modernity and femininity are associated not only with colonialism, but also notions of promiscuousness, whether in connection with the emergence of local sex tourism industries or the inception and spread of immoral "loose" values of bygone eras (hippie culture, rocknroll).

Two weeks ago at Seoul Fashion Week, I covered a show where a major designer debut her latest collection with models in tshirts that said "#metoo", "#withyou" (another term that's been trending with metoo), "#speak" and "#trust". I sat on the front row across from a long line of well-to-do, corporate VIP-looking ajusshis in suits, some of whom looked rather uncomfortable as the show continued for a good 10-15 minutes. It was fascinating to see how the local public dealt with the movement when confronted so literally and directly by these slogans.

Personally, I am weary but also hopeful that such a gesture is about more than the commodification of a movement. And at the same time, if it helps propel #metoo and the emergence of a new culture-specific modern Korean or Asian feminism into the mainstream dialogue, then perhaps it is enough.
Korean-feminism  Me-too  Korean-Me-too 
14 days ago
China Refuses Licenses to New Korean Online Games - The Chosun Ilbo (English Edition): Daily News from Korea - Business > Business
China has refused to authorize the sale of any Korean online games over the past year as part of an unofficial boycott of Korean goods and services. During the same period, the Korean government licensed 111 Chinese online games.

According to industry insiders on Thursday, China authorized the sale of 412 foreign online games from March 2017 until April of this year, but not a single Korean game was among them.

Late last month, Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi met with President Moon Jae-in and pledged to end the boycott, but Beijing has yet to follow through. In contrast, Chinese online games continue to flourish in Korea. According to IGAWorks, which analyzes sales of mobile apps, 136 Chinese online games were sold via Google Play Korea last year, compared to 114 in 2016.


April 06, 2018 12:23

China has refused to authorize the sale of any Korean online games over the past year as part of an unofficial boycott of Korean goods and services. During the same period, the Korean government licensed 111 Chinese online games.

According to industry insiders on Thursday, China authorized the sale of 412 foreign online games from March 2017 until April of this year, but not a single Korean game was among them.

Late last month, Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi met with President Moon Jae-in and pledged to end the boycott, but Beijing has yet to follow through. In contrast, Chinese online games continue to flourish in Korea. According to IGAWorks, which analyzes sales of mobile apps, 136 Chinese online games were sold via Google Play Korea last year, compared to 114 in 2016.

Industry watchers believe Chinese game developers generated sales of around W200 billion in Korea last year, up by around W80 billion from a year ealier (US$1=W1,061).

Korean game developers fear that the trade balance in the industry may tip in favor of China. Over the last decade, China has become the biggest market for Korean online games, but now they appear to be at the risk of losing the glory.

According to the Korea Creative Content Agency, exports of Korean online games to China amounted to around W1 trillion in 2016 led by Nexon's "Dungeon and Fighter" and Smilegate's "CrossFire."

But those games have been around for almost 10 years. If their popularity in China declines, developers stand to lose vast amounts of money unless their new games become available there too. Kang Kyoung-seok at KCCA said, "Currently no new Korean games can enter the Chinese market, so sales are expected to remain weak for now."

One staffer at a Korean game developer said, "Korean companies can't afford to complain to China for fear of retaliation, and Korean government officials have failed to listen to our difficulties, let alone address the issue."

An official at the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism here said, "We protested several times to China, but they simply deny things."
THAAD  Hallyu  Korean-wave  Korean-computer-games 
14 days ago
S. Korea Ranks Almost Bottom of Child Welfare Spending Among OECD | Be Korea-savvy
South Korea was nearly at the bottom of child and family welfare rankings among other major economies, a government report showed Thursday.

In 2017, South Korea spent 1.1 percent of its gross domestic product on child and welfare costs, including maternity leave, according to the report by the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

That placed Asia’s fourth-largest economy 31st among the 35 member states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the ministry said.

The comparable data for OECD members, however, was for 2013, officials said.

The OECD average came to 2.2 percent, the report said. The United States, Turkey and Mexico came after South Korea.

South Korea’s spending on child and family welfare has gradually increased since 2010, growing at an average annual rate of 6.9 percent.
Korean-welfare  Korean-social-welfare  Korean-children 
15 days ago
The Lonely American Man | Hidden Brain : NPR
When Paul Kugelman was a kid, he had no shortage of friends. But as he grew older and entered middle age, his social world narrowed.

"It was a very lonely time. I did go to work and I did have interactions at work, and I cherished those," he says. "But you know, at the end of the day it was just me."

Kugelman's story isn't unusual: researchers say it can be difficult for men to hold on to friendships as they age. And the problem may begin in adolescence.

New York University psychology professor Niobe Way, who has spent decades interviewing adolescent boys, points to the cultural messages boys get early on.

"These are human beings with unbelievable emotional and social capacity. And we as a culture just completely try to zip it out of them," she says.

This week on Hidden Brain, we look at what happens when half the population gets the message that needing others is a sign of weakness and that being vulnerable is unmanly.


This episode refers to the Harvard Study of Adult Development, Niobe Way's book, Deep Secrets, and research on suicide rates and social interaction.

The Hidden Brain radio show is hosted by Shankar Vedantam and produced by Parth Shah, Jennifer Schmidt, Rhaina Cohen, and Matthew Schwartz. Our supervising producer is Tara Boyle. You can also follow us on Twitter @hiddenbrain.
4 weeks ago
Foreign Media in Korea: Arbiters of Truth, Players in Their Own Right | KOREA EXPOSÉ
On the evening of Mar. 18 the British Broadcasting Corporation’s Seoul correspondent Laura Bicker sent out a tweet that reverberated through South Korean cyberspace.

Bicker was referring to the fact that her Mar. 9 article, titled “Trump and North Korea talks: The political gamble of the 21st Century,” had been distorted by big conservative South Korean dailies Chosun Ilbo and Donga Ilbo.

She had written: “South Korean leader Moon Jae-in is either a diplomatic genius or a communist set on destroying his country…depending on who you speak to.”

Although the original Chosun and Donga Ilbo articles have since become difficult to find, according to related South Korean news reports, the two papers (meaning their reporters or editors or both) chose to ignore the fact that Bicker wasn’t directly appraising Moon but simply citing opinions of others:

“The BBC said that President Moon [Jae-in] would be either a ‘diplomatic genius’ or a ‘communist that destroys the country.’” (Chosun Ilbo, Mar. 12)

“The BBC…evaluated President Moon Jae-in as ‘either a diplomatic genius or a communist that destroys his country.’” (Donga Ilbo, Mar. 17)

This might seem like a tempest in a teacup at best, but Bicker’s takedown of Chosun and Donga for making it sound like she was engaging in direct criticism of the South Korean leader went viral. From the South Korean press — mainly those on the left side of the political spectrum — numerous condemnations of the two newspapers were issued for misrepresenting her article. (In case it isn’t apparent, Chosun and Donga are ideologically opposed to the current center-left government.)

Bicker had every right to touch on a longstanding evil in the South Korean media: using foreign media reporting to advance one’s own political agendas, even if it means mistranslating or taking things out of context. By making it seem as though influential foreign papers or broadcasters are criticizing or praising the South Korean government, domestic outlets try to create the impression that their own ideologically biased assessments of the country’s affairs are indeed valid.

Read: “Ethics Be Damned: South Korean Media Fails”

But well-intentioned or not, Bicker’s tweet also served to illustrate the kind of power the BBC brand — and big foreign media in general for that matter — commands in the country. Had Chosun or Donga misappropriated an article from a lesser known foreign outlet, or that of another domestic media entity, and provoked the author of that article into protesting, there would have been no such ripple effect as that which Bicker caused. By virtue of her employment, she enjoys authority, the kind of which domestic media craves for their own purposes, and she certainly didn’t hesitate to exercise it in creating what one might call a teachable moment, to the detriment of two South Korean conservative media juggernauts.

(Seeing an advantage, even the presidential Blue House stepped into the fray and made a Facebook video solely to highlight Bicker’s tweet .)

I am often struck by the attention foreign media receive in South Korea as Bicker demonstrated with her tweet. On news tickers that run at the bottom of the TV screens on buses, it’s not uncommon to see Korea-related headlines from oesin — foreign media — as if they themselves are deserving of reporting.

What goes unmentioned is whether this kind of treatment of foreign media is actually warranted.

Bicker’s article “Trump and North Korea talks” is well-written and balanced, bringing in perspectives from both supporters and opponents of Moon. I won’t quibble over the fact that no one in the article is actually quoted as calling the president a communist, despite the sub-headline that suggests some are. (I won’t because I see such people at rallies in downtown Seoul almost every weekend, holding up banners that call Moon a North Korea sympathizer. I won’t even though she says in her tweet that she “quotes a right wing historian saying that” and there is no such source anywhere in the piece.)

But in terms of insights, there is nothing in the article that merits secondary reporting in Korean. And there is no reason she should offer anything along that line. After all, Bicker is writing for an English-speaking international audience that lacks knowledge of the region. She must abide by a different standard of substantiveness than what is required of local media.

And yet her article (and subsequent tweet) generated traction here, as do many foreign media articles about Korea, because what matters is as much who ran it as what was being said.

A few years ago, while Park Geun-hye was still president, Kim Moo-sung, then-leader of the conservative Saenuri Party (now called Liberty Korea), made a remark that explained the perception of foreign media as held by some South Koreans, as a tool for propaganda. Though the original tweet is no longer available, Reuters reporter James Pearson who was at the scene quoted Kim as telling foreign journalists, “The world sees South Korea through your eyes. The more the good news reported by you, the better the image of our country and the higher the national status. […] We wish that the story you write about our country delivers not just the news but also your affection for South Korea to the outside world.”

Read: “South Korea’s Real Culture of Shame”

Lest it be unclear, it isn’t just conservatives who seek to use foreign media to project a particular idea of South Korea before an audience, whether international or domestic.

In the heyday of the Park presidency, some of what I wrote was picked up by a Korean site called Newspro, which translates foreign-language news articles into Korean for online distribution and clearly had an anti-Park agenda. I didn’t always care for their work because they would run the translations with sensational headlines that stressed aspects of my writing to serve their political aim, to the point of obscuring or distorting my real intentions.

Since Moon took power, the Blue House has introduced a regular feature on its Facebook page, called “11:50 AM: Live from the Blue House.” As part of that feature, the presidential press secretaries routinely allot time to discussing favorable foreign media coverage of the presidency, called “Today’s oesin.”

And when Monocle, a “global lifestyle magazine” as described by the Blue House, conducted an interview with Moon and his wife Kim Jung-sook last month, the presidential office dedicated three separate Facebook posts to it — a cringe-inducing decision I couldn’t understand for the simple reason that this was… Monocle, a publication better known for building a readership among upwardly mobile men of a certain age than seriously discussing global politics.

But it is less what Monocle actually is than the fact that a “global” magazine interviewed Moon that matters for consumption by his own political base in South Korea.

(To be fair, a correspondent with a U.S.-based newspaper told me four years ago that the Park Geun-hye administration was desperate to do an interview with a notable foreign paper while in office. Most apparently declined the interview offer because her officials demanded that only pre-approved questions be asked.)

Many replies to Bicker’s tweet seem to suggest that foreign media enjoy a great deal of trust from South Koreans, unlike local outlets and journalists who are getting shredded as giregi — trashy tabloid journalists — in the thread. Some even offered to “apologise on behalf of the Korean public” for what Chosun and Donga had done to her. (A study also shows just how little trust South Koreans have in domestic news sources.)

But therein lies the contradiction: Even as foreign journalists are deemed to be arbiters of truth, their work is used selectively, sometimes even deceivingly, by different sides in South Korean society.

Whether they like it or not, foreign media, too, are pieces in the game of South Korean politics due to their perceived credibility and ability to rally opinions. With such power one can only hope there also comes a sense of responsibility.

Editor’s note: The conclusion of this essay was revised at noon, Mar. 22, to improve clarity. The following was excised as a result:

“I have enormous respect for the journalistic standards enforced at many foreign outlets, and for consummate professionals like Bicker who work for them. Yet I am reminded of one foreign reporter with a big international media organization who was based in Seoul until quite recently. He was famous for frequently strolling from his home in central Seoul to demonstration sites nearby and mixing just the right amount of humor in his critical tweets about government actions against protesters during the Park presidency.

He certainly gained a healthy South Korean following out of those tweets.

It’s a slippery slope, from credibility to popularity.”
4 weeks ago
South Korean lonely death phenomenon chiefly affecting middle-aged people : National : News : The Hankyoreh
With one of the world’s highest rates of elderly poverty and an explosive increase in the number of single elderly households, one might conclude that dying alone is a problem chiefly for elderly South Koreans in their sixties and over. But statistics show the shadow of lonely death looming more heavily over middle-aged people in their forties and fifties than those over 60. It is a phenomenon unique to South Korea – precedents are difficult to find even in Japan, which was first to deal with the “lonely death” issue.

“The Japanese are astonished to learn that lonely death in South Korea is mostly a phenomenon among people in their forties and fifties,” said Song In-ju, a researcher at the Seoul Welfare Foundation studying lonely deaths in South Korea. Lonely deaths are not often seen among middle-aged people in Japan, where the concept of lifelong employment still holds strong. With South Korea’s low retirement age and a continued failure to revise its welfare system, middle-aged people enter a high risk group for lonely death upon early retirement.

“Retired South Korean men are prone to social isolation, believing they have lost their value with the loss of their economic strength,” Song said.

A brief on employment trends published in Mar. 2017 by the Korea Employment Information Service (KEIS) put South Korean males’ average age of retirement from their main employment at 51.6 years as of 2016. The early age leads to a high proportion of lonely deaths among those in their fifties.

According to a study on lonely deaths in Seoul and support measures published by the Seoul Welfare Foundation in Dec. 2016, people in their fifties accounted for 58 of 162 confirmed lonely death cases in 2013. At 35.8%, they represented the largest proportion by age group, followed by people aged 40–49 (34 cases, 21%) and 60–69 (32 cases, 20%).

People aged 50–59 also accounted for 524 out of 2,181 suspected lonely death cases, outnumbering people aged 70–79 by six percentage points. With males accounting for an overwhelming majority of victims – 84.57% of the 162 confirmed cases – the phenomenon appears to be a crisis particularly for men in their fifties. The nonprofit private group Good Naneum (goodnanum.or.kr), which provides assistance with funerals for basic livelihood security recipients and people without family or friends, supported funeral procedures for 84 men in their fifties last year, representing the largest segment out of its 288 cases.

A different situation than Japan

The situation is quite different from the experience of Japan, which was first to contend with the lonely death phenomenon. There, lonely deaths occur mostly among retired senior citizens aged 65 and over. In the ten years between 1999 and 2008, the number of lonely death cases in Japan nearly tripled from 207 to 613. Cases involving seniors 65 and older more than quadrupled over the same period from 94 to 426 – indicating that the rise in lonely deaths has been particularly prominent among senior citizens.

Civic groups providing assistance with lonely death cases are also troubled over the isolation and vulnerability seen among South Korean men in their fifties. Good Naneum, which assists with funerals and disposing of the personal effects of victims, joined forces with Mapo Hope Sharing (mapohope.org) in a relationship-building campaign targeting residents over and under 65. But all three of the selected men in their fifties refused relationships. “I’m not at the stage where I need help,” said one. “Why should I do that?” asked another.

“People 65 and over are relatively easy to reach, but men in their fifties are different,” a staff member of Good Naneum said. “They react as though getting help would injure their pride. They’re so used to the patriarchal system and organizational culture, and they don’t seem accustomed to supporting or communicating with each other.”

Antidepressant prescriptions and alcohol bottles are a common sight

All deaths are individual events, but they also have a social side. As president of Hardworks (hardworks.kr), a cleaning company specializing in lonely death cases, Kim Wan encounters the things left behind when people die alone.

“You often see antidepressant prescriptions and alcohol bottles at the scenes of these deaths,” he said.

“When you’re cleaning places where someone in their fifties or younger died, it’s common to find résumés,” he added.

Kim also recalled traveling to Geoje Island around two or three times a month last summer.

“I think it had to do with the shipbuilding industry recession,” he said.

Sungkyunkwan University sociology professor Koo Jeong-woo described the years from 50 to 59 as “the gateway to elderly poverty.”

“Exposure to poverty after retirements results in scenarios of death due to alcohol dependency and disease,” he said.

Koo also observed that economic conflict “breeds family disintegration and lonely deaths.”

“Lonely deaths stand alongside suicides as social deaths that need to be examined seriously,” he said.

Sangmyung University family and welfare studies professor Hong Yeong-jun explained, “Involuntary isolation is a characteristic of a person’s fifties.”

“Regions need to be taking more notice, but they are not seen as the traditional welfare beneficiary segment, so they end up more isolated,” he said.

Hong went on to call for a more finely-honed approach to support policies for people in their fifties.

“When you’re dealing with visits by the government or private organizations, it raises privacy issues and concerns about being labelled,” he said. “Some people may perceive it as an attack, thinking, ‘I’m not going to die, yet society treats me like I’m about to.’”

“There needs to be a careful approach so that it doesn’t feel like the group is encroaching on the individual,” he suggested.

By Jang Su-kyung, staff reporter
lonely-death  Korean-lonely-death  Korean-demographics  Korean-welfare 
4 weeks ago
Adolescent Employees in South Korea Vulnerable to Unfair Workplace Practices | Be Korea-savvy
Nearly half of young part-time workers in South Korea are subject to unfair practices in the workplace, including unpaid wages and uncertain working conditions.

An investigation into the retail industry launched by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family has revealed that 104 out of 232 businesses surveyed employing minors were in breach of labor laws, the ministry said on Friday.

Among the 211 violations, employment contracts that lacked detail in terms of working hours and breaks accounted for over half, including cases where no contract had been signed in the first place between employers and adolescent workers.

Some of the employers did not inform workers of the minimum wage, while others didn’t provide sexual harassment prevention training.

In more severe cases, minors did not receive wages or were underpaid, with some of them having to work without a break or days off.

Nearly 4 in 10 supermarkets and convenience stores surveyed were found to be involved in unfair workplace practices against minors, which made the sector the worst to work in.

Minors who wish to report unpaid wages, underpayment or sexual harassment are encouraged call the gender equality ministry’s young worker protection support center at 02-6677-1429, or send a text to #138.

M.H.Lee (mhlee@koreabizwire.com)
Korean-part-time-jobs  Korean-law  Korean-jobs 
5 weeks ago
Lack of income preventing “kangaroo tribe” members from moving out of parents’ houses : National : News : The Hankyoreh
Statistics show 45.6% of unmarried South Koreans in their thirties living at a house owned by their parents, with over half of them choosing to do so due to lack of income. The numbers indicate that one in every four unmarried South Koreans in their thirties is a member of the so-called “kangaroo tribe” living at their parent’s home. The “kangaroo tribe” consists of unmarried thirty-something living with their parents for economic reasons.

The findings were included in a 2018 report on the “financial lives of ordinary people” published on Mar. 12 by Shinhan Bank. The reports have been released annually since 2016, with e-mail surveys sent to nationwide financial consumers aged 20–64 to identify various correlations between economic activity and lifestyle patterns.

Members of the “kangaroo tribe” accounted for 408 of the 1,636 unmarried respondents aged 30–39, or 24.9%. As reasons for living with their parents, the respondents cited cost-cutting (39.2%), shortage of independent funds (33.4%), and the burden of housing costs (27.4%). A comparison with independent unmarried households from the same age group in terms of economic life showed women and low earners to account for a large percentage of the kangaroo tribe. The kangaroos had an average monthly income of 2.34 million won (US$2,200), or 200,000 won (US$188) less than the 2.54 million won (US$2,388) average for independent households from the same age group.

But those in the kangaroo tribe also showed a higher rate of consumption at 50.4% to the independent households’ 46.4%, with lower rates of saving and surplus funds. Among the kangaroo tribe members, 23.3% received economic support and 69.3% non-economic support from their parents. In contrast, just 12.6% of independent households from the same age group received economic support, while 31.6% received non-economic support.

Prior to 2006, people aged 30–39 represented the largest percentage of those starting businesses at 43.1%. Since 2015, however, they have been overtaken by people aged 20–29 at 34.4%. People aged 50–59 accounted for just 5.2% of those starting small businesses before 2006. The percentage rose to 19.6% for 2012–2014 before falling again to 13.4% since 2015.

Initial start-up funds averaged 92.18 million won (US$86,650), the study showed. Of this amount, 55.4 million won (US$52,080), or 60.1%, was provided by the individual starting a business, while 36.78 million won (US$34,570), or 39.9%, came in the form of assistance from a family member or a loan from a financial institution.

Independent business owners had an average monthly income of 3.19 million won (US$3,000), which was more than the 2.75 million won (US$2,590) average for small business employees but less than the 3.98 million won (US$3,740) average for large business employees.

By Jung Se-ra, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]
Korean-demographics  Korean-single-households  Korean-parents  Korean-kangaroo-tribe 
5 weeks ago
Letters: Why Does Gender Equality Mean Fewer Women in STEM? - The Atlantic
I am a student at New York University and I am responding to your article “The More Gender Equality, the Fewer Women in STEM,” by Olga Khazan. While this article brought up many relevant points concerning the Psychological Science study and the low rate of participation of U.S. women in stem, there were multiple key points that it touched on only briefly or completely omitted.

Having grown up with a mother who works in a STEM-related sector of the government, I have learned that the culture surrounding these occupations is infamously a “men’s club.” My mother prided herself on her persuasive negotiating abilities and doggedness. As I got older, I witnessed situations where my mother’s male colleagues—in lower positions than her—were prioritized. I realized that part of her job included being persistent and putting in extra effort just to be recognized among her male colleagues.

Your article touched on the fact that women are statistically not worse at STEM subjects than men, so there must be something else in “liberal societies that’s nudging women away.”

Sadly, you fail to elaborate on what this could be. I would like to suggest one nudging influence given the hostile nature of my mother’s work environment: the male-dominated workforce in stem is unwelcoming and enervating. Working in such an environment requires a draining level of energy just to be heard and respected—it is understandable why STEM positions would be viewed unfavorably by women who have a choice.

Rhiannon Thomas
New York, N.Y.

I am an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania, in the chemistry department. I am also a woman from one of the countries very low on the [World Economic Forum] gender gap index (Iran, 0.583, 70% women STEM graduates). I strongly believe that the voices of people like me, who have experienced living and pursuing STEM fields in these countries as well as Western countries such as the United States, are missing from the article.

The article and the published paper it refers to use a Western viewpoint on the possible origins of the gender-gap “paradox.” In this way, they miss key reasons why these countries do better at gender equality when it comes to STEM education, and thus why we in the United States don’t have better gender equality. The analysis in the paper fails to see the agency and humanity of the women who pursue STEM fields in other countries low on the gender gap index. It is important to look into the origins of these differences due to things that these countries are doing right in promoting STEM careers. The assumption that women in these countries’ being stripped of their choices is a cause of the correlation shown in the study is fundamentally flawed.

Zahra Fakhraai
Philadelphia, Pa.
5 weeks ago
Mother of All Mothers - The Atlantic
The question of where Europe ends and Asia begins has troubled many people over the years, but here's a rule of thumb: if someone can pose as an expert on the country in question without knowledge of the relevant language, it's part of Asia.
Bruce-Cumings  Brian-Myers  Korean-history  Korean-war 
5 weeks ago
The complex culture and history behind 'K-beauty'- Nikkei Asian Review
The South Korean infatuation with beauty is inextricably linked with the national fascination with celebrity (it is much more extreme here than in Japan or in Europe, for example). South Koreans want to look like their favourite stars. For many fashion brands, such as Seoul eyewear label Gentle Monster, success comes only after their products are seen on famous people. South Koreans seek to emulate their idols' flawless faces via cosmetic products (or surgery) and attractive celebrities are referred to as wanpan stars -- which roughly translates to "sellouts" -- due to their ability to single-handedly drive brand sales (for example, actress Gianna Jun's look in the 2014 TV soap My Love From Another Star was apparently responsible for Saint Laurent's lip tints selling out across South Korea and China). "K-beauty," as the industry is dubbed, is valued at 12.4bn euros ($15.2bn) and owes much of its scale to K-pop and Korean Hallyu Wave, a term for Korean pop culture.

...Yet the South Korean pursuit of beauty is about more than mimicking celebrities. Na Jinkyung, a professor of psychology who specialises in comparing eastern and western cultures, points to South Koreans' inherent collectivism as an underlying factor. "There is a widely accepted social standard in terms of beauty," says Na. "South Koreans will choose to alter themselves -- such as through surgery, which we call secondary control -- in order to fit with their environment. South Koreans derive self-worth from the acceptance of others, in contrast to the western focus on [creating one's own] self-esteem."
Korean-celebrity  Korean-beauty-ideals  Korean-body-image 
5 weeks ago
Men after #MeToo: ‘There’s a narrative that masculinity is fundamentally toxic' | World news | The Guardian
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but men are not exactly giving the best account of themselves at the moment. Every week brings another high-profile reminder of unhealthy masculinity, from Harvey Weinstein to Aziz Ansari to the former Oxfam boss Roland van Hauwermeiren. Clearly, something needs to shift. Like all the male friends I’ve spoken to recently, I’ve found the current reckoning disorienting at times, shaming at others, but mostly exciting, necessary and liberating. I’ve seen the overwhelmingly positive effect it’s had on many women in my life. But there are moments – say when I’m happily cooking with my son – when the dominant narrative of masculinity as toxic, entitled, corrupt, dysfunctional and so on seems a little limiting. If you’ve always found men such as Weinstein despicable and pathetic, it’s disorienting to find yourself in the same category as him by virtue of also having a penis. A couple of times, I’ve begun the sentence: “You know, not all men… ” only to recall that that in itself is seen as a dick move. And there are clearly dissonances in political, legal and psychological notions of gender that require careful unpicking: for example, the feminist notion that masculinity is in full control of itself and consciously uses sex to cement its power doesn’t quite tally with our understanding of the subconscious. Masculinity is very rarely under control and sexual abuse is often perpetrated by men who are threatened (often by other men), vulnerable, damaged, lashing out. Not that this insight can be expected to provide solace for their victims.

Perhaps all the moment requires is for men to shut up and listen, something many clearly find hard. But watching the hashtags accrue – #menaretrash, etc – it’s often hard to discern any positive role for men, beyond apologetic retweeters of feminist memes. And there’s a wider defensiveness around masculinity. The comedian Robert Webb titled his memoir How Not To Be A Boy: a negative inversion of Caitlin Moran’s celebratory How To Build A Girl. “If you want a vision of masculinity,” Webb writes, “imagine Dr Frankenstein being constantly bum-raped by his own monster while shouting, ‘I’m fine, everyone! I’m absolutely fine!’”

But as we know, men are not fine. Boys get worse grades than girls. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 35; men also report significantly lower life satisfaction than women. According to statistics compiled by the Men’s Health Forum, men make up 76% of all suicides, 95% of the prison population, 73% of adults who go missing and 87% of rough sleepers. A key part of this is men’s reluctance to seek help. Last year’s cross-party Jo Cox Commission described male loneliness as a “silent epidemic”: more than one in 10 say they are lonely but won’t usually admit it.
Me-too  masculinity  patriarchy 
5 weeks ago
[Photo] Life to get more comfortable for enlisted soldiers in the South Korean military : National : News : The Hankyoreh
Soldiers in the Korean military will be allowed to use cell phones in the barracks after finishing their work, and will no longer have to perform tasks such as clearing snow or cutting grass following reforms announced by the Ministry of National Defense. The changes were part of the, “2018-2022 Military Fundamental Strategic Welfare Plan” released by the Ministry on Mar. 8. Ministry officials said that the reason for the changes was so that the soldiers could devote themselves to carrying out military missions, such as combat preparation and training. Starting next year, the reforms will be implemented in 11 divisions in the GOP (General OutPost) area and will expand to all military bases by 2020. (provided by the Air Force)
Korean-military  Korean-conscription 
5 weeks ago
Quarter of Koreans OK with having kids out of wedlock: survey
More than a quarter of South Koreans are open to the idea of having children out of wedlock, a survey showed Wednesday.

About 26.2 percent of those surveyed said they are not adverse to the notion, according to the survey of 3,000 people conducted by the Korea Institute of Child Care and Education in November.

Those aged between 15 and 19 were the most favorably inclined with an approval rating reaching 44.9 percent.

Those in their 20s came in second at 34.7 percent, followed by those in their 30s at 32.1 percent.

The comparable figure for generally conservative people in their 60s was 14 percent.

Slightly over half (56.6 percent) of those questioned said they would prefer to get married, while 40.1 percent said they do not care whether they marry or not.

Of those surveyed, only 3.2 percent said they prefer not to get married.

By gender, 67.8 percent of males said they want to have a wife, while the number for females wishing to tie the knot stood at 45.1 percent.

The latest findings show that 38.8 percent of those aged between 15 and 19 and 49.9 percent of those in their 20s said they would prefer to get married.

The comparable figures were 60.3 percent for those in their 50s and 78.1 percent for those in their 60s.

On childbirth, 78.3 percent agreed to the idea that having children should come after marriage, while 19.2 percent said they prefer not having children at all.

About 46.8 percent of those who wanted children said psychological satisfaction is why they want to raise children.

About 44.2 percent cited happiness and family harmony as the reason to have children.

Only 3.7 percent said they want to have children to preserve their family lineage.

As for reasons not to have children, 26.4 percent said they were not confident that they will become good parents.

Other reasons for not having children were to maintain economic freedom (20.7 percent), live independent lives free of child-rearing (17.0 percent) and enjoy life as a couple (13.4 percent). (Yonhap)
Korean-pregnancy  Korean-marriage  Korean-sexuality 
5 weeks ago
[FEATURE] When seemingly devoted husbands turn out to be alleged sex criminals
Madonna-whore complex vs. personality disorder

Experts say the accused men are not atypical among Korea’s middle-aged men.

“I think they rather have that typical patriarchal way of thinking when it comes to categorizing women,” said Chung Hae-sook, a senior researcher at Korean Women’s Development Institute.

“For many middle-aged men in Korea, all women belong to two categories. One is those who are, or are going to be, dutiful wives and mothers. They are often described as almost sacred beings, the ever-sacrificing mothers. And the rest are those who can be sexually exploited, who are simply there to satisfy men’s sexual needs.”

She said that such ways of thinking are reflected in the parenting styles of many Koreans. “Many parents try to control the way their daughters dress, make sure they come home before it gets too dark,” Chung told The Korea Herald.

“At the same time, when a woman is sexually assaulted, they are very often blamed for what happened. They are blamed for drinking too much, or wearing something that’s inappropriate. Many fathers here try very hard so that their daughters don’t end up being ‘that’ girl. And obviously this is related to how they and their male colleagues treat women outside their family.”

Lee Sue-jung, a professor of criminological psychology at Kyonggi University, said that among the accused, former provincial Gov. An seems to have tendencies of histrionic personality disorder -- a condition characterized by a pattern of excessive attention-seeking behavior and a desperate need for approval.

“People with tendencies of this disorder tend to do well in politics, because they know what to do in order to grab attention from a lot of people. They also have good social skills, in spite of being manipulative,” Lee told The Korea Herald.

“An knew talking about feminism would gain him more supporters, but would turn to his other -- or real -- self when he is with people that he doesn’t need to please. People like him tend to be very egocentric and narcissistic behind closed doors. So it is unlikely that his family life has been stable nor functional, contrary to what he has been showing off all along. ”

Lee also agreed with researcher Chung that the way the accused men perceive and treat women is not unusual by Korean standards.

“Men in their 50s and 60s had fathers who were allowed to have mistresses,” she said.

“They grew up watching their fathers treating their wives and daughters as properties that needed to be protected, while treating women outside their kinship structures as non-humans. This perception is still shared by many men in Korean society, and it oppresses and exploits all women -- because one can be someone’s daughter and a victim of sexual misconduct at the same time.”

Wage-Gap, infidelity and more

Statistics back up Chung and Lee’s points.

A study in 2016 showed that more than half of married Korean men have had extramarital affairs at least once in their lives. Men in their 50s, on average, had had extramarital affairs with 12.5 women.

At the same time, the country has the widest gender wage gap -- 37 percent -- among the 36 member states of the OECD, and ranks in the lowest tiers in the international comparisons of overall gender equality.

Single motherhood is also still heavily stigmatized in South Korea.

This means many women are often forced to be financially dependent on their husbands, and unable to leave their husbands even in the case of infidelity of their spouses or domestic abuse.

According to a report by Korea Women’s Hot Line, only 8.5 percent of all domestic abuse cases get prosecuted in South Korea, while almost 40 percent of all criminal cases get indicted.

At the same time, the report showed, that 64.3 percent of all women who have been infected to STDs got it from their male spouses. Only 5 percent of the Korean men said they contracted STDs from their wives.

Lee Soo-yeon, a researcher at Korean Women’s Development Institute, said while infidelity is a personal choice, it is important to note that it is very likely that many middle-aged men in Korea genuinely cannot tell the difference between sex crimes and romantic -- and extramarital -- relationships.

“Many men in power don’t realize that it is very difficult for their subordinates to say no to them in a direct way,” she told The Korea Herald.

“For a lot of them, you are not rejected (for intercourse) unless the woman physically resists. They don’t understand the definition of non-consensual sex.”

For others, it may not be about the difference between sex crimes and adultery.

On Wednesday, former lawmaker Jeon Yeo-ok released a statement in which she said that there are “many other An Hee-jungs” in Yeouido, the district where the National Assembly is located.

“There are many men in Yeouido who have done things that are much worse than the allegation that has been made against An,” she wrote.

“Some of them may be preparing a line that says ‘It wasn’t a sex crime but a case of sex-trade.’”

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com)
ajosshi  ajosshis  gaejosshi  gaejosshis  Korean-women  Korean-sex-work  Korean-adultery  Korean-men  Korean-marriage  Korean-feminism  madonna-whore 
5 weeks ago
The Invisible Hands Behind South Korea's Errand Men | KOREA EXPOSÉ
In the middle of the night, Rumi is woken up by a noise outside. Dozens of ‘errand men’ in blue vests and white helmets start smashing the window of her fried chicken restaurant with metal pipes. In no time, they break inside and drag her out. She resists fiercely. Meanwhile, Rumi’s mother, furious, gets into a car and charges at the men but fails to hit them. As they yank her out of the vehicle, she hits her head on the ground and loses consciousness. She dies a few hours later.

Psychokinesis, a tragicomedy released on Jan. 31, depicts privately hired security guards using violence against ordinary citizens, and the normally-invisible hands directing the guards. The movie is based on Seoul’s infamous Yongsan Incident. In 2009, construction companies working on ‘redeveloping’ parts of the city’s Yongsan district hired private security firms to forcefully evict residents and shopkeepers. In a confrontation between residents, guards and police, the temporary structure where residents were holding a sit-in protest caught fire, killing six people.

In South Korea, privately hired security guards, called yongyeok (‘errand men’), have been commonly used to drive out residents and business tenants from areas marked for redevelopment. They raid protest sites without warning, frequently covering their faces with masks to hide their identities. Their frequent violence has prompted some to label them ‘outsourced gangsters.’

Yongyeok are also often seen at labor strikes. Compared to workers in Japan and Taiwan, those in South Korea have relied more heavily on strikes to express grievances at employers. In recent days, such protests by irregular workers have been on the rise.

Irregular workers — employees on fixed-term contracts, often with no job protection or union membership — have been forming unions of their own, which companies often refuse to recognize. In return, the workers have taken to holding sit-ins as a last resort.

For employers, yongyeok have become an easy solution to the problem of protesting workers. Hired men not only forcefully break strikes but provide temporary labor to make up for personnel shortages. Over the last two decades, large corporations like GM Korea, E-land and SK Hynix have all deployed yongyeok in response to strikes.

Perhaps the best-known example is that of Ssangyong Motors. In 2009, the company dismissed around 1,000 regular employees as part of its restructuring plan. Fired workers occupied a factory for 76 days in the city of Pyeongtaek, a 90-minute drive from Seoul, demanding reinstatement. Management locked the protesters inside and an army of yongyeok prevented outsiders from passing in food and water. NGOs and civic organizations heavily criticized the firm for violating workers’ human rights.

“They don’t treat us as human beings. They stamp on us and beat us with clubs,” a union member told In-depth 60 Minutes, a South Korean TV show that focuses on investigative journalism.

Companies can easily deflect blame by describing the strikes as illegal and justifying use of force by yongyeok as a form of self-defense. In some cases, yongyeok will even goad protesters into using violence.

“We provoke the protestors first. If they fight back after being beaten up, we take the video as evidence and pass it on to management,” an anonymous yongyeok told In-depth.

Government figures have often condoned the use of violence by yongyeok, who join forces with police to manage property disputes, trespass claims and labor strikes. Conservative administrations under Lee Myung-bak (2008-2013) and Park Geun-hye (2013-2017) regarded strikes as threats to business stability and took strong measures to subdue them. Under the Park administration, labor activists were routinely arrested and punished. Yongyeok were seen as a necessary partner of government in dealing with disobedient workers.

The use of yongyeok has become routine enough to spawn its own industry, with thousands of businesses. According to an exclusive by daily newspaper Kyunghyang, in 2009, two security companies that dispatched yongyeok to break protests staged against Ssangyong motors respectively earned 6.2 billion won ($5.8 million) and 2.1 billion ($1.9 million) won in less than six months. A simple search on Naver, South Korea’s largest search engine, yields multiple results about different yongyeok services.

Recently, the government has begun taking steps to curb aggressive yongyeok behavior. The Moon Jae-in administration that came to power last May assured the public that the government would not arbitrarily intervene in peaceful protests.

Moon, a human rights lawyer from the center-left Minjoo Party, appears more sympathetic towards labor rights than the past two presidents. He has increased the minimum wage by 16.4 percent, while maximum working hours are due to be reduced to 52 per week, from the current limit of 68.

The change in government has had other positive effects. Since Moon came to power, there has been more freedom of peaceful assembly. A general labor strike on Jun. 30, 2017 proceeded with no reported clashes; under the previous Park government, the leader of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, Han Sang-Gyun, was sentenced to three years in prison for illegal assembly following a series of rallies in 2016 that resulted in violent clashes with the police.

While this change is praiseworthy, it is not yet time to celebrate. On Nov. 15, 2017, around thirty yongyeok appeared at a strike site in the southeastern city of Changwon. Irregular workers of GM Korea had been holding a sit-in protest for two months to challenge their mass dismissal. GM Korea has been suffering from a drop in both home market sales and export revenue. The company is planning to shut down its factory in Gunsan, in the south-west of the country, and cut thousands of jobs in the long run; recently, almost 2,500 GM Korea workers applied for a redundancy package.

This was the first time yongyeok had emerged at a strike scene under the current government. On Jan. 10, they appeared once again, this time numbering an alarming 200, though they did not clash physically with GM workers. Although the current government appears to be pro-labor, it remains to be seen whether it can stop companies and police hiring yongyeok, or prevent the abuses so often associated with the errand men.

Yongyeok companies argue that they are legitimate businesses. But critics say many companies are connected to organize crime, and know full well that violence can be part of the job description. The South Korean government has yet to assume responsibility for providing a safer environment for citizens to protest against more powerful entities, be they companies, government or even landlords evicting tenants.

“This is not a fight we can win.” In Psychokinesis, Rumi’s father, Seok-heon, urges his daughter to give up protesting as a group of yongyeok marches in to evict Yongsan residents. Eventually, Seok-heon stops the yongyeok violence using psychokinesis, a skill he magically develops. It’s a surreal twist (spoiler alert) that ends in tragedy: When the head of the construction company threatens to kill Rumi, Seok-heon backs off. All residents get evicted and Seok-heon is sent to prison for possessing a ‘secret weapon’ from North Korea.

The movie is a cynical critique of South Korea: The human rights abuses aren’t just about the violent yongyeok, they’re caused by the shady connections between services and employers, and the lack of regulations that allows the violence — a reality for which even psychokinesis is no match.
Korean-democracy  Korean-police  용역깡패  yongyeok  Korean-gangsters  Korean-gangs 
6 weeks ago
Dozens of Children Killed in School Zone Traffic Accidents Every Year | Be Korea-savvy
A worrying number of South Korean children are falling victim to car accidents, prompting road authorities and schools to take safety precautions.

In Seoul alone, an average of 734 pedestrian accidents involving children have taken place each year over the last five years, prompting local police forces to ramp up efforts to crack down on illegal parking and speeding around hundreds of elementary schools across the country to ensure safety.

Over 11,000 traffic accidents took place with children as victims in 2016, leaving 71 dead and 14,215 injured, according to government data.

Also in 2016, 480 traffic accidents occurred in school zones, resulting in eight deaths and injuries to 510 children in areas that are ostensibly considered to be safe havens for young students.

Comparisons to other countries accentuate the gravity of the situation, as figures from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development show South Korea ranks near the bottom in terms of vehicular accidents involving pedestrians.

The number of children victims to deadly car accidents while walking in South Korea was 1.5 times higher than the OECD average, while the figure among seniors was nearly five times higher as of 2015.

Against this backdrop, the government announced plans last year to reduce deadly car accidents involving pedestrians by 42 percent by 2021, by increasing the number of CCTV cameras and imposing speed limits of 30 kilometers per hour in designated high-risk areas where harsher punishment will be served for unruly drivers.

Traffic Accidents Involving Children Rise in March

Children across the country are likely to face a higher risk of traffic accidents this month, according to new data from the Road Traffic Authority.

Data analysis released on Tuesday has revealed the number of car accidents involving children surges in March in line with the start of the new school year.

The figures show the number of car accidents involving children stood at 689 and 769 in January and February in 2016, growing to 869 the following month, with similar patterns observed in other years.

Children are involved in deadly car accidents while walking more likely than any other age group, as over half of the traffic deaths among children involved pedestrians.

Calls for Better Education and Stringent Rules

Experts say children sometimes display unexpected behavior when they feel like they are in danger, such as jumping to the left and right, stopping all of a sudden, or jaywalking, to avoid getting hit by a vehicle.

Road accident statistics back the claim as traffic accidents involving children often take place while children cross the road between cars, or get in and out of cars.

When broken down by age and gender, low grade elementary school students are more likely to be involved in car accidents than their older counterparts, as they adjust to new environments with a wider area of activity, while male students, who traditionally trail behind their female counterparts in concentration, are found to be more vulnerable to car accidents.

“Children in general like to run around and lack the ability to measure and predict driving speed and distances, leaving them more likely to fall victim to traffic accidents on the way to school or home, and in residential areas and roads and zebra crossings around private academies,” an official at the Road Traffic Authority said.

“Though improvements to road safety facilities as well as stricter regulations and punishment for drivers are necessary in order to prevent traffic accidents involving children, education on road safety from a young age both at home and at school is most important,” the official added.

Last year, lawmaker Hwang Yeong-cheol called on the government to implement better driving education to create a safe environment at high-risk areas for vulnerable pedestrians including children and seniors.

Ashley Song (ashley@koreabizwire.com)
Korean-children  Korean-accidents  Korean-cars  Korean-traffic 
6 weeks ago
Military to expand welfare services for troops
Korea's defense ministry on Thursday announced a package of measures to promote the welfare of the nation's military personnel, including gradual wage hikes for conscripts.

The five-year plan focuses on expanding welfare services for rank-and-file soldiers.

The Ministry of National Defense is required to update its welfare-related policy every five years under the Framework Act on Military Welfare.

It has decided to raise the monthly wages of soldiers with the rank of private, private first class, specialist and sergeant in mandatory service.

Sergeants will be paid 676,100 won ($633) per month in 2022, far more than the current 216,000 won, the ministry said.

The military will also employee civilians for base-related chores, such as weeding and snow removal, so that soldiers can concentrate on their missions.

The measure will be first introduced at 11 front-line Army divisions next year and expanded to entire units nationwide in 2020.

In a bid to enhance the quality of their barracks life, the troops will be allowed to use personal mobile phones after their daily duty.(Yonhap)
Korean-military  Korean-conscription 
6 weeks ago
Male doctors are disappearing from gynecology. Not everybody is thrilled about it
Dr. Reshma Jagsi, who studies gender issues in medicine at the University of Michigan, said a group of people with varied perspectives can better solve complex questions and make advances in a field. Men and women can offer important contributions to OB-GYN, she said.

“I really do believe that diversity improves the quality of care,” said Jagsi, who said gender isn’t a factor when it comes to picking her own OB-GYN.

Dr. Saketh Guntupalli, a gynecological oncologist at the University of Colorado, raised the stakes. “If you exclude 50% of people from anything, think about how much you’ve lost,” he said. “You might lose the next person who's going find a cure for cancer.”

These concerns appear to have given men pursuing OB-GYN an advantage. Medical school advisors told some that they wouldn’t need to apply to as many residency programs as women with equivalent test scores, male students said.

If deciding between an equally qualified male and female candidate for a residency class that otherwise would have only women, program directors may favor the man, said Dr. Todd Jenkins, an OB-GYN at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“We find our faculty, our residents work better when we have a little mix,” he said.
OB-GYN  gynocologists 
6 weeks ago
The Academic Mob and Its Fatal Toll - Quillette
By examining primate and other animal behavior, along with witchcraft accusations, the McCarthy era, and the mid-eighties hysteria that led daycare workers to be accused and convicted of impossible feats of child sexual abuse, Harper suggested that mobbing is a primal behavior that humans engage in whenever they have been encouraged by someone in a position of influence or power to view another member of a community as a threat to that community. Once that happens, patterned and predictable stages of abuse will follow, and these will not let up until the target has been eliminated from the group or so disempowered that their continued presence in the group has no significance.

“Ultimately, mobbing didn’t break me. It made me,” Harper said. “It taught me a great deal about myself and others and made me a far more patient and compassionate person. But it’s a cruelty and violence that is both unnecessary and far more damaging than I think even the attackers can imagine.”
celebrity  celebrities  SJWs  psychology 
6 weeks ago
Inside CL’s four-year struggle to make it big(ger) in America | The FADER
In November, K-pop’s self-proclaimed “baddest female” seemed to be at breaking point. The Korean pop phenomenon known as CL was a centerpiece guest on “Livin’ The Double Life,” a Seoul-based TV show that promises intimate insight into the lives of the country’s best-known personalities. Live interview elements were interspersed with pre-recorded segments that generally veered towards light, enjoyable fluff: CL bonding with L.A. teens over In-N-Out burgers, or adorably failing to master the “fireman spin” at a pole-dancing class. But in one particularly vulnerable part, when she talked about her four-year struggle to succeed in America, her eyes filled with tears. “I didn't even know that it was hard,” she said, her voice cracking. “Since [a K-pop artist crossing over] never happened before, there's no path I can follow. People want to help but they don't know how to help.”

Three years earlier, CL’s U.S. ascendance had seemed inevitable. In November 2014, she’d signed a management and label deal with Scooter Braun, who had masterminded the careers of Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande. (To this day, CL has dual management under Braun’s SB Projects and her Korean label, YG Entertainment.) Seoul-born, and raised in Japan and France, CL was was already regarded as one of Asia’s most captivating performers as the leader of Korea’s punkish all-women band, 2NE1. Thanks to global fans and her long-running affiliations with Western fashion designers like Jeremy Scott, that recognition had started to spread. In the immediate aftermath of her deal with Braun, CL moved to Los Angeles and made solid inroads in the States. She danced with Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande in a spontaneous-feeling viral video and linked up with Method Man. She toured with Diplo’s Mad Decent Block party. She got shout outs from Lorde, Charli XCX, and Grimes.

But since the release of her debut U.S. single, “Lifted,” in summer 2016, CL’s American dream has seemed to be on hiatus. Even though she says she’s recorded over 200 songs for her first English-language album, an initial stream of new music has dried to a trickle. CL continues to be in demand in Asia, and performed at the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. That was a big global look, but it exists in stark contrast to her lack of promotion in America. Her fans, who call themselves GZBs (gizibe is Korean for “bad bitch”), have taken to flooding Braun’s mentions with memes and irate messages that demand the release of her album.

In her Korean-language music, CL declared herself to be “bad,” but, in media-trained interviews, it was hard to see what that meant beyond a vague desire to be “mischievous, courageous, and strong.” Eleven years into her career, though, she did something truly rebellious. On December 31, 2017, CL uploaded 90 seconds of a dazzling new music video to her Instagram, for the previously unheard song “All In.” The post has since been deleted, but the clip teased CL’s best solo music to date, a squiffy electro banger powered by helium horns, with lyrics that lay out her terms for a relationship, sung with an assurance and a seductive flair. The video combines slick choreography and moody scenes in dark tunnels with guest star Vic Mensa. “Showing this little bit that I am able to may get me in trouble,” CL wrote. “But it’s worth the risk.”

“I kind of gave up on that video,” says Matthew Mazur, a New York-based stylist who worked on the clip and has collaborated with CL since summer 2016. “It was supposed to come out [in 2016], but it never did.” The costly shoot had been a grind, spread over three 16-hour days on an L.A. soundstage. The video’s director Dave Meyers, who has directed iconic hip-hop videos like “Get Ur Freak On” and “HUMBLE.,” was equally confused by the delay. “Most of the other artists I work with [release the video] literally the day I finish [it]” he says. “It was nice to see her leak it, but it’s actually a good time for me to call her and ask what’s going on. Like, ‘What the hell? You’re so fucking talented.’”

In the wake of the leak, CL went on a spree of favoriting comments underneath her “All In” post that criticized her Korean label YG. One fan wrote, “I’m sure [the leak] is because of @fromyg [YG’s president, Yang Hyun-suk]. I don’t understand why she signed with @scooterbraun if she won’t be allowed to release any song[s].”

YG Entertainment and Scooter Braun declined to comment for this story. A planned interview with CL was rescheduled multiple times and eventually nixed by YG.

In their heyday of 2009-2014, CL’s group 2NE1 had few rivals in global pop. The four-piece’s music, a post-Timbaland reimagining of futuristic synth-pop, came alive in performances that took the eccentricity in K-pop’s DNA to fiercer, weirder places — like when they smashed up their own platinum discs in the video for “I Am The Best,” or when CL rapped with a parrot on her shoulder. But if 2NE1 were ciphers for a fantasy of fearless living, they also seemed, in some ways, more relatable and “real” than their rivals. Songs like “Lonely,” or their soaring guitar-backed 2011 anthem “Ugly,” spoke directly to human insecurities, not unlike empowerment anthems by U.S. pop stars like P!nk and Kelly Clarkson. CL was also active behind the boards, and had writing credits on half the tracks from the band’s fantastic final album, 2014’s Crush. The album reached No. 61 on the Billboard 200, giving K-pop its highest-charting U.S. album at the time.

But throughout 2NE1’s peak years, CL sometimes spoke of a systemic culture at YG that cast a darker shadow over the band’s honest-feeling songs. It’s no secret, in a country that has been dubbed the world capital of plastic surgery, that many of Korea’s pop idols have undertaken cosmetic procedures. But CL said that that her label tried to coerce her to go under the knife against her will. “They told me to get plastic surgery before my debut, she told ELLE in 2013. “I stood up for myself and said ‘No, I'm not doing it.’” On a Korean television show in 2012, she said that YG Entertainment’s founder, Yang Hyun-suk, called 2NE1 “ugly” when they were rehearsing without makeup.

Looking back, it’s possible 2NE1 never spent enough time doing U.S. promotion to have a serious shot at crossing over. For Korean acts scoring No. 1 hits and lucrative endorsement campaigns back home, spending months grafting in the States is often simply not worth the “opportunity costs,” as one YG agent put it to The New Yorker in the fall of 2012, when discussing K-pop stars’ brand opportunities in Asia. But when Psy’s mammoth EDM hit “Gangnam Style” infiltrated the Western consciousness in the summer of 2012, YouTube views of his fellow Korean artists’ videos tripled. The power players of the American music industry couldn’t fail to notice the moneymaking possibilities of introducing east Asia’s banner acts to the Western mainstream.

While other label heads had previously been cautious about the potential challenges in translating K-pop to the U.S. public, Scooter Braun doubled down. Less than two months after the release of “Gangnam Style,” Braun signed Psy — like CL, a YG artist — to his management company and label, SB Projects. A video posted to Psy’s YouTube channel in September 2012 shows the artist taking shots of Soju with Braun in the Hollywood hills to celebrate. A year, and a few more shots later, CL followed suit.

Braun recruited Chicago-born Dan Suh, who’d previously worked closely with Psy, to be CL’s day-to-day manager. (Suh confirmed to The FADER that he no longer works with CL or Braun, but declined to comment further.) Throughout 2015, CL hunkered down in L.A. working on “some more American-leaning music,” says Jasper Goggins, president of Mad Decent. At the label, Goggins worked on CL’s first big U.S. feature, an EDM banger “Doctor Pepper,” where she shared credits with Diplo, OG Maco, and Riff Raff.

“No one was treating it as ‘this will be the [mainstream] next hit for her,’” says Goggins. “At first it was kind of a joke, but then we were like, ‘this is kind of awesome.’” With the pressure off, CL let loose, spitting flamboyant rhymes and confidently flexing at a debauched Las Vegas party in the video. Speaking over the phone in January, OG Maco remembers CL’s succinct explanation of the song’s meaning: “I’m the queen bitch, I’m the boss.”

“Doctor Pepper” was never meant to be a serious statement of of CL’s artistic intent, but singing lyrics about soda with Riff Raff felt slightly gimmicky all the same. With 2NE1, CL’s music had begun to incorporate zeitgeisty moments of cool restraint, but “Doctor Pepper” was a backwards slide into an EDM sound that, by 2015, felt stale. That year, CL entered the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time with a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it feature on PSY’s “Daddy” — a wise-cracking follow-up to “Gangnam Style” that currently has 300 million YouTube views.

That same year, CL put a fresher flip on hectic electronic pop with “Hello Bitches,” a buzz track that featured tough-talking raps in both English and Korean. At Asia’s premier music-centric awards show, the MAMAs, her stunning performance of the song included revving motorcycles and an all-women squad of dancers led by choreographer Parris Goebel. “I wish western award shows were like this,” wrote Lorde in a tweet, echoing a long-held sentiment shared by K-pop fans worldwide.

But “Hello Bitches” failed to chart, and CL’s announced collaborations with BloodPop, DJ Dahi, Diplo, Skrillex, and Bibi Bourelly never surfaced. That same year, she instagrammed a shot with Grimes in what looked like to be a studio of sorts, but nothing has come from that, either. OG Maco describes two “dope club … [more]
CL  2NE1  K-pop 
6 weeks ago
Birthrate Hits Another Record Low, Outstripping No. of Deaths - The Chosun Ilbo (English Edition): Daily News from Korea - National/Politics > National
The number of babies born in Korea fell below 400,000 for the first time last year. The total fertility rate -- the average number of children born to a woman aged between 15 and 49 over her lifetime -- fell to 1.05, according to figures released by Statistics Korea on Wednesday.

The rate is not only below the OECD average of 1.68 (as of 2015), but also those of Japan (1.46) and Singapore (1.24). Only Taiwan (0.89 as of 2010) and Hong Kong have lower total fertility rates.

Korea's total fertility rate dropped to 1.08 in 2005, but rebounded to 1.1 and 1.2 after the government announced a series of measures to boost childbirths. But as more and more people postpone marriage and married couples have fewer children, the rate started to fall again, dropping far below the point needed for Korea to keeps its current population level (2.1).

The problem has been accelerated by a decline in the number of childbearing women and the aging population. Only 357,700 babies were born in Korea last year, the first time the number has fallen below 400,000.

In contrast, the number of deaths last year (285,600) reached an all-time high. As a result, Korea saw a natural increase in population of only 72,000, which was also a record low. In December last year, the number of deaths outstripped the number of births, resulting in the first population decline for Korea on a monthly basis.

"Korea saw more than 500,000 births a year even during the Korean War, but it is unprecedented to see such a drastic decline in the number of births," said Cho Young-tae at Seoul National University. "Soaring unemployment among young Koreans and late marriages have resulted in a persistently low birthrate, so it is unlikely we will see the number of new births recover to above the 400,000 level."

A complex mixture of factors appears to affect the record-low birthrate, such as youth unemployment and an unfriendly working environment for pregnant women.

Lee Sang-lim at the Korea Institute for Health and Family Affairs cited a sharp decline in the number of marriages as the main culprit among many others. The number of childbirths among Korean women in their early 30s dropped to 97.7 babies per 100,000 last year, compared to 110.1 in 2016.

To make things worse, an increasing number of women are now choosing not to marry at all. The total number of marriages fell from 329,087 in 2011 to 264,600 last year. Also, as more and more couples get married later in their lives, the average age at which women have their first child rose to 31.6 last year, which is the highest in the world.

A researcher at Statistics Korea said, "If a woman has her first child when she is 32, it becomes difficult to have more than two children."

© This is copyrighted material owned by Digital Chosun Inc. No part of it may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission.
Korean-demographics  Korean-birthrate 
6 weeks ago
Chivalry is dying, but that's not a bad thing | Girl on the Net
If you could put one thing from the world into ‘Room 101’, banishing it forever from the planet, what would you choose and why? There’s plenty I’d be tempted to go for, I am a person who gets angry about a lot of things: plastic cups, pear cider (it’s NOT FUCKING CIDER), or men on Twitter explaining my own bra to me. And that’s before you even get started on the important bits like war, poverty, and every political ad that’s ever been shown on Facebook. But there’s one particular concept that seems ready to disappear: chivalry. Chivalry is on the way out, and I won’t be sorry to see it go.

I only mention Room 101 because in the most recent episode of the BBC show, Chris Kamara wanted to banish something fairly controversial: men who don’t stand up for women on the tube. And it got me thinking about our notion of ‘chivalry.’

Chris seems like a nice dude. He gets genuinely annoyed by situations in which people who don’t need to sit down end up sitting down, while those who might need a seat have to stand. And I am down with this. It’s polite to offer your seat to someone who may need it more than you: if they’re heavily pregnant, or using a walking stick, or just struggling with the rattling jolts of the Bakerloo line. Chris is a nice bloke. But that’s exactly the problem with ‘chivalry’ – it tricks nice blokes into thinking that sexism is a character strength.
What exactly is ‘chivalry’?

Ask your average person on the street, and they will probably tell you that ‘chivalry’ is about treating women with respect, via the medium of performing small gestures of politeness: opening doors, offering your seat, or walking on the outside of the pavement so that we don’t get our pretty dresses splashed in the wake of a passing omnibus. If you pushed harder, your average person might link chivalry to days of yore when knights would ride around the country saving maidens from terrifying fates, waving big swords around, and then writing tortured poetry in the language of courtly love.

In fact, that idea of chivalry is one that we’ve built over time, and it has very little to do with knights giving respect to women. As Dr Eleanor Janeger, of the blog ‘Going medieval’ explains:

“Basically then chivalry and the chivalric code has fuck all to do with women at all. It’s a bunch of rules about how to conduct yourself if you are a rich dude, with a horse, a lot of weapons, and time on your hands. Saying that you treat women well because of chivalry makes about as much sense as saying you treat them well because of the highway code. It’s just not a thing.”

Read the whole blog post, because it’s ace, and if you want to fall right down the ‘weird shit people used to believe about romance in medieval times’ you should also check out this post on courtly love. The long and the short of it is that our ideas around ‘courtly love’ are based on some fairly terrifying ideas about possession, ownership and deserving-a-shag-just-because-you-relentlessly-pursued-a-woman.
What’s wrong with chivalry?

So our modern understanding of chivalry is not only wrong, it also frames women as meek and fragile, while men are their valiant protectors. And in case you haven’t been paying attention, it turns out that not only are women NOT universally meek and fragile, men might not all be knights in shining armour either. I could bang on in this vein for ages: gender is not the simple binary that we thought it was; women don’t need to be patronised by strangers; often what looks like ‘chivalry’ is actually a come-on in disguise so unsurprisingly quite a few women are suspicious of it for this reason… etc.

But I won’t go too far down that rabbit hole: from a feminist perspective you’ll either already agree with me or be unlikely to be persuaded by anything I can say from this perspective. So let’s switch tack: let’s have a look at why chivalry sucks for men.
Men: abandon your ideas about chivalry

Chivalry makes nice dudes act like dickheads. It tells men that in order to be ‘nice’ to women, you must treat us like we are delicate flowers capable of being crushed at any minute. That’s fundamentally not a nice thing to believe, and it’s why I suspect that ‘opening doors’ and other little politenesses nevertheless cause a bit of cognitive dissonance for the men who do them. I have lost count of the number of times ‘chivalry’ (in this limited, non-medieval sense where it means ‘being polite to women’) has been raised as a potential counterpoint to feminist thinking.

“I thought I was meant to open doors for you, why do you now want to be equal? You can open your own door!”

This argument trips so easily off the tongue because… well, because it’s basically right: women don’t need extra help opening doors purely because of our gender. Because at the heart of this weird concept of chivalry there’s a fairly unequal idea: the idea that women are incapable of performing the same tasks that men are.

That doesn’t mean the men who do it are terrible people, but it does mean that our world would be better off if we let the concept quietly ride off on its warhorse into the sunset.
Chivalry does not equal niceness

There are millions of men who have grown up with the message that ‘chivalry’ is essentially the same as ‘basic human politeness’, so understandably when women like me tell them not to give us their seats on the tube, they’re puzzled and worried. Torn between wanting to be nice and not wanting to offend, they dither and panic like… well, like me when I want to stand up for an older guy but I’m worried he’ll be put out if he realises I thought he looked frail.

If you’ve been taught that something is polite, dropping the habit can be tricky. And it can be hurtful, if you think you’re doing something nice, to be told that actually what you’re doing is a bit patronising. That’s why I don’t reply to men offering me their seat with a scream of rage and a dressing-down: I usually just say ‘no thanks, I’m fine.’ There will be some women who reply by accepting the offer of a seat, and some of them will probably be hacked off that I’m even writing this post. Especially if they’re wearing heels and they’ve been standing up all day.

But by my reckoning, people in heels who’ve been standing up all day can still be offered seats on the tube, it’s just that now you can offer them your seat because they look knackered, rather than because they look feminine. It means that dudes who wear heels/have been on their feet all day/look knackered will get exactly the same treatment.

Offering seats to those who need them: good.

Assuming women will always fall into that category: not good.

You don’t need to stop opening doors, or saying a friendly ‘hello’, or RSVPing politely to dinner party invitations: you just need to drop the idea that these are things you should do on the basis of gender. Who doesn’t want to receive basic courtesy from people they meet? You can hold doors for men too, if they’re walking towards them. You can stand up for older guys on the tube. You can do all the nice things that you’d previously have done under the guise of ‘chivalry’, except that this time you’re doing them because you’re nice, not because you’re sexist.

The ‘S’ word is a bit controversial here purely because of the apparent ‘niceness’ of chivalry: those who practise this modern version of chivalry always do so because they think it’s a nice thing to do. They expect it to be gratefully received. And so when the response is ‘that’s sexist’ they feel hurt and defensive, because in their minds they were doing a good thing.

But you can be nice anyway. To everyone. Regardless of gender. If chivalry is dead, it doesn’t mean all the knights in shining armour are dead too, it just means they’ve been given a different brief: be nice to people because they need it, not because they’re women.
chivalry  feminism 
6 weeks ago
[Reportage] A sad, solitary ending for victims of lonely death : National : News : The Hankyoreh
On Jan. 19, a bell was tolling ceaselessly in the memorial area in front of Furnace No. 16 at the Seoul Municipal Crematorium and Cemetery. While the body was being cremated, thirty or so friends and relatives of the deceased kept crying. They shared their grief through hugs and caresses. After that, coffins rolled into Furnaces No. 17 and No. 18, and the green light blinked on, indicating that cremation had begun. Unlike the deceased in Furnace No. 16, these were cases of godoksa – a Korean word meaning the solitary death of someone who lives alone – and the bodies had been found several days after death. The emptiness of the memorial area in front of the furnaces suggested how lonely their lives had been. Despite their hardship, there was no one to remember them. They had been alone at the moment of death, and they remained alone until the moment their bodies disintegrated.

Furnace No. 17 contained the remains of Park Gi-ri, 64, whose body had been found on the fourth floor of a government-subsidized low-rise apartment in the Eunpyeong District of Seoul on Jan. 5. The medical examiner concluded that Park had already been dead for two weeks. He had been found on an electric floor pad, his limbs splayed out. A faded white T-shirt and gray thermal underwear covered his distended body. His bedding was black with fluid secreted from his decaying body. The reason his body had remained relatively intact was because the house was so cold. The gas bill for December delivered to his house at the end of January was only 15,092 won (US$14).

Park’s death was brought to light after two weeks by Lee Jeong-ha, 45, his next-door neighbor. Lee had said hi to Park one time after he moved there in 2017. She found it strange that rice provided by the government which was delivered at the end of Dec. 2017 remained in front of the door day after day, so she took a closer look at his house. She could see light streaming through the crack under the door, but the bills stacked up as the days went by. There had also been an odd smell in the hallway for several days. Lee reported the matter to her local government office.

In Jan. 2015, Park became a recipient of the government’s basic livelihood allowance. He was born in Gwangju, North Jeolla Province and spent his early years in an orphanage. After moving to Seoul, he was unable to find a decent job. He lived in a series of cheap boarding houses in back alleys. He had no friends with whom to share his lonely life, so alcohol took their place.

Though Park was eligible to move into government housing, he didn’t have the 500,000 won (US$460) housing deposit. In what turned out to be a blessing in disguise, that winter Park was hit by a car while drunkenly staggering down the street. He ended up in the hospital with an injured leg, and the settlement he received barely enabled him to get into government housing in Feb. 2017. It was probably the first decent residence he had moved into in his entire life. The 500,000 won (US$460) housing deposit – the only money left to him – later went to pay the cost of his funeral.

■ The grisly stench of a lonely death victim

Lonely deaths are remembered most often for their stench. On Jan. 17, seven members of the “cleaning welfare team” from the Seoul Eunpyeong District Rehabilitation Center paid a visit to Park’s house. Since 2015, Eunpyeong District has been outsourcing the disposal of the personal effects of those who die lonely deaths to the Seoul Eunpyeong Area Rehabilitation Center, an organization in the private sector.

The moment the door to Park’s home was opened, the smell of decay filled the air. Though I was wearing a mask, I didn’t make it past the shoe closet before I had to turn around and run back out. The stench made me retch. The only appliances in the house, which was between 15 and 20 square meters in area, was a small 237-liter fridge that had yellowed over the years, a washing machine, a 24-inch cathode ray tube television, a rice cooker and two electric fans. Park’s house was only about 150 meters away from mine, in the same alley. Lonely deaths aren’t very far away from us.

Dealing with Park’s estate mostly consisted of taking out the trash. The things that Park had used were put into large trash bags. The blankets that had touched his body were placed into a separate bag for waste, which would be sent to an incinerator. Including the recyclable goods; the cleanup produced fifteen 100-liter trash bags. The clothing, tableware and metal items were sorted out, and the computer desk (without a computer on it) was smashed with a sledgehammer. There were also four 10-liter bags of food garbage.

“We fumigated the place twice and aired it out for 10 days [before disposing of the deceased’s personal effects], but the smell remains. In the summer, the stench is so severe it makes your face sting,” said Kim Chang-won, 56, head of the cleaning welfare team at the Seoul Eunpyeong Area Rehabilitation Center. When the trash is put out in front of the building, neighbors even call the government office to complain about the smell.

Unlike Park, Lee Chang-gi, 57, was survived by family members, but he too left behind the stench of a lonely death. The youngest of nine siblings, Lee was discovered on Jan. 20, three or four days after dying. His six oldest siblings had already passed away, and Lee was survived by one sister and one brother. He was found by his sister, who got worried after she didn’t hear from him for several days. When she arrived, he was sitting on the floor, his body already stiff.

Next to him was a plastic bag filled with blood he had coughed up, along with a bowl of porridge a friend had brought Lee at his sister’s request, with the wrapping still on it. Lee’s hand was clutching an ID photo of his son, from whom he had been separated since he and his wife divorced over two decades ago. That was one of two photos that Lee’s sister had gotten for him after he said he missed his son. The other photo was hanging up next to his bed.

When the cleaning welfare team visited Lee’s house on Jan. 23 to dispose of his personal effects, the smell lingered in the semi-basement apartment. Since Lee had been found only a few days after his death, though, it was not unbearable. For two years, he had been renting the apartment for 250,000 won (US$190) a month and a deposit of 3 million won (US$230). Until that time, he had lived with his elderly mother and an older brother. That brother had also gotten divorced at a young age, just like Lee, and the shock had caused a psychological condition. After their mother died two years ago, Lee’s brother, who was childless, was admitted to a Catholic welfare center called Flower Neighborhood, but Lee was not allowed to enter because he had a son. Lee had not seen his son since the divorce.

An alcoholic, Lee was suffering from more than 10 other medical conditions, including hypertension. Toward the end, his health had been so poor that he could barely move. The only person who Lee saw was his older sister, who brought him food once every two weeks. Disregarding her family’s concerns, she had started working as a nanny a few months earlier to help Lee. Lee paid his rent with his basic livelihood allowance and money sent by his sister.

■ ”I ought to have bought him that gimbap”

A few days before Lee died, he called his sister and told her he was craving some gimbap (a Korean dish consisting of rice and vegetables rolled in dried seaweed). His sister could not afford to drop everything for a single roll of gimbap, so she asked a friend to buy one for Lee. But the friend bought a bowl of porridge instead, assuming that Lee’s digestive system could not handle the gimbap. “I ought to have bought him that gimbap,” Lee’s sister said, as she sobbed. She arranged a three-day funeral for Lee, to ensure that his final journey would not be lonely. On the first day of the funeral, the food that the funeral home had prepared for the visitors remained untouched.

Park had been found two weeks after his death, and two weeks after that, on Jan. 19, he was cremated alone. The van that brought Park’s corpse to the crematorium also carried the body of another person who had died alone. Without any family members to attend their cremation, they were promptly placed onto stretchers and slid into the furnaces, side by side.

The person in Furnace No. 18, next to Park, was Seo Hyeon-gyu, 52, whose body had apparently been found on Dec. 21, 2017. Seo did have surviving family members who lived elsewhere, but his parents, who were in difficult financial conditions, reportedly refused to handle the funeral arrangements. And so Seo was processed as another “death without connections.” Beyond glass with a sign that said, “A solemn space for the spirit of the departed,” Park and Seo departed on their final journey of death, as lonely as they had been in life.

During the hour and a half that it took for Park and Seo’s bodies to be reduced to ashes, a simple funeral service was held in Room No. 17 of the Seoul Municipal Crematorium and Cemetery. The funeral was attended by two reporters, a pastor to officiate the service, two employees with the Eunpyeong District Residential Welfare Center and three people from Good Nanum, a civic group that arranges funerals to erase the traces of lonely deaths.

“I’ve never seen as many people as there are today. Typically, there are just two to four people from Good Nanum. This is different from other funerals. No one cries at the funeral of those without connections,” said Lee Gyeong-dong, 42, who has been volunteering at such funerals every Saturday since last summer.

Even so, Park and Seo were relatively lucky. Those who die without any connections are generally cremated without any funeral at all. No time is set aside for mourning. For about three years, from 2015 to 2017, the city of Seoul had arranged for Good Nanum to provide funerals for the … [more]
Korean-elderly  Korean-demographics  Korean-death  Korean-funerals  Korean-lonely-death  Korean-godoksa 
6 weeks ago
Survey Suggests Workplace Harassment Common in S. Korea | Be Korea-savvy
Six out of ten South Koreans report having suffered from violence and verbal abuse at the hands of superiors or colleagues in the workplace in the past five years.

According to a study from the Korea Labor Institute conducted last August into the state of workplace harassment, 66.3 percent of the 2,500 participants (between ages of 20 – 50 at companies with 30 employees minimum) divulged that they had experienced harassment at least once in the previous five years.

Workplace harassment in the Korea Labor Institute’s study was defined as actions committed by individuals, organizations or groups with higher status relative to the victim that cross appropriate boundaries and inflict psychological and/or physical suffering.

Of the men surveyed, 68.2 percent revealed they had been direct recipients of workplace harassment, slightly more than the 64.3 percent of female respondents who said likewise.

The public utilities sector had the highest percentage of affirmative responses for the existence of workplace harassment at 80.5 percent.

Fewer high household income individuals said they had been the victims of workplace harassment. While 74 percent of those with an average household income of below 2 million won reported having been harassed, among participants with 7 million won in average household income, the proportion dropped to 59.9 percent.

When asked to name recent cases of harassment, acts that cause psychological distress – threats, character assassination and verbal abuse – were most common at 24.7 percent. Following were accounts of excessive demands for work and non-work matters and allegations of ostracism and neglect.

Among the respondents, 27.4 percent confessed to having been a perpetrator of workplace harassment, and 34.5 percent of this group said their place of employment had raised no concerns whatsoever with their behavior.

At 80.8 percent, the vast majority of respondents were indirectly affected by workplace harassment as witnesses of such occurrences or having heard about them secondhand.

Despite the undeniable presence of problematic working conditions, those targeted by bullies at work often had nowhere to turn for assistance, with 40.1 percent claiming that there was no workplace mechanism for them to report the harassment they had experienced.
Korean-workplace-culture  Korean-workplaces  Korean-sexual-harassment  Korean-hierarchy  Korean-Me-too 
6 weeks ago
Elementary School Textbooks Criticized for Subtle Job Discrimination | Be Korea-savvy
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRC) has criticized the creators of elementary school textbooks for subtle job discrimination.

Some of the content contained in the textbooks for lower grade elementary school students includes discriminatory descriptions of certain laborers, including firefighters, according to the NHRC on Monday.

The NHRC discovered during the investigation process last year that the autumn edition of the textbook for second graders used informal words like ‘ajumma’ and ‘ajeossi’ to describe firefighters, police officers, cafeteria staff and hair dressers, while doctors were addressed using honorifics.

The commission also took issue with children with multicultural backgrounds not taking main roles in the artwork used in the textbooks.

For instance, in the spring edition of the official textbook for second graders, a student from a multicultural household looks up with envy at an Asian-looking student who is learning taekwondo.

In most cases, characters with multicultural backgrounds take supporting roles, and often do not participate in dialogue, whereas presumably South Korean characters take leading roles.

When it comes to the representation of people with disabilities, the NHRC said that characters who are disabled in the textbooks were always described as objects of consideration, and not independent individuals, expressing concerns over stereotypes.

“The current textbooks reflect human rights efforts to tackle stereotypes surrounding gender roles and gender-based prejudice. However, instead of approaching the issue of members of socially marginalized groups from the charitable perspective, a new direction needs to be pursued to ensure their rights,” the NHRC said.

The NHRC is set to hold a meeting for publishers, education officials and writers involved in textbook development at the education center in Jung District in Seoul today, during which findings from the monitoring process last year will be made public.
Korean-education  Korean-multiculturalism  Korean-nationalism 
7 weeks ago
How South Korea Got Rid of Its Gun Problem | ké radar
In the aftermath of yet another mass shooting in the United States, international and domestic media have published articles touting South Korea as a model of gun regulation. But contrary to popular belief, freedom from gun violence is a relatively new development in the country.

It’s true that South Korea is a good place to visit these days if you’re trying to avoid guns. According to the Korean National Police Agency (KNPA), there were just five gun homicides in 2016, while the latest available figure for gun homicides per 100,000 people was 0.00 (statistically negligible), as compared to 3.7 in the United States.

This has not always been the case.

South Korea’s gun regulations came in the wake of three decades of gun violence. The country’s National Forensic Service writes of its work in the 1950s, “At this time, since firearms had not yet been collected after the end of the [Korean] war, civilian murders by gun occurred frequently, and analysis work associated with them was increasing.”

News articles from the 1950s and 60s often reported civilian gun violence throughout the country. One headline from Oct. 1965 reads “Armed Violence Increases Further in October.”

Articles in the 70s and 80s reported on gun-related accidents or violence within the military or police. In 1973, a soldier by the name of Lee Jae-su escaped his barracks and killed eight people while in pursuit of his ex-girlfriend. 1978 was the only year in the 70s without reported mass shootings or gun violence in South Korea.

Strict gun regulations and state-led gun confiscations in the 1970s soon led to a decrease in civilian gun violence, and by the 1990s the discourse on guns in South Korean media had shifted to ways to reform the trigger-happy police force.

Gun ownership in South Korea is regulated by the Act on the Safety Management of Guns, Swords, Explosives, etc, which requires that all private guns be stored at local police stations and that all owners receive and regularly renew gun permits.

These regulations have proved highly effective. In 2016, the KNPA revealed that crimes involving firearms and imitation firearms accounted for 5 out of 909 murders (0.55 percent), 5 out of 1,168 robberies (0.42 percent), and 62 out of 271,048 assaults (0.02 percent).

USA Today wrote on Feb. 19 that South Korea had “about 510,000 registered guns,” without providing a data source. Clinical psychologist Michael Anestis quoted the same number in his book Guns and Suicide: An American Epidemic, citing gunpolicy.org for providing this number, which in turn cites the Small Arms Survey report.

The survey states that approximately 300,000 guns are registered in South Korea, and that the remaining 210,000 is the estimated number of unregistered guns. These numbers are attributed to a Jan. 2007 article in the Korea Times. They are inaccurate and out-of-date.

The KNPA regulates and releases information on private guns every year. All firearms require a license to be owned privately, and permits are given by the Firearms and Explosives Safety Management System (FESM), a branch of the KNPA.

In 2007, the number of registered private guns in South Korea was approximately 265,000. In 2016, the number was 138,751. The number of private guns in South Korea has decreased annually since 2007 at rates of 3 to 11 percent. The largest decline came in air guns, which went from 153,517 in 2009 to 84,414 in 2016. This means there are about 27 guns per 10,000 people, which is meager compared to the United States’ 8,900 per 10,000.

Kim Young-dae of the KNPA told Korea Exposé, “All guns must be stored at the local police station, and all permits require extensive background checks… including documents to prove legitimate reasons for gun ownership, and physical and psychiatric assessments.”

Kim attributes the decline of guns in South Korea to these stringent regulations, while a report from the KNPA itself cites “diversifying interests” that have made seasonal hunting—a common use of air guns—increasingly unpopular.

Illegal guns are also not a major threat. In 2017, Korea Customs Service (KCS) released a report on firearms confiscated across major airports and ports from 2012 to 2016. 105 firearms and 954 imitation firearms had been confiscated in five years.

Kim Cheon-wan of the KCS told Korea Exposé that many people simply don’t realize they need a permit, and that the KCS returns their guns if they come back with one. If owners do not return with a license, KCS hands their confiscated weapons over the police for disposal.

South Korea was once reeling from the effects of a bloody civil war, an abundance of illicit guns, and discontented soldiers serving under a dictatorial regime which had an interest in limiting civilian gun ownership. Nowadays, the chances of encountering gun-related violence in the country are extremely low. Yet it is wrong to say that South Korea is completely free from gun violence. Mass shootings can still happen within the military, as they did in 2011 and 2015.
Korean-history  Korean-guns 
7 weeks ago
Korea's notorious libel law faces revision
By Jung Min-ho

Oprah Winfrey famously said, "Speaking your truth is the most powerful tool." But in Korea, you may end up in prison for using that tool.

Under Article 307 of the nation's criminal law, a person who defames another person by disclosing a fact to the public could face two years in prison or a fine of up to 5 million won ($4,700).

The libel law, which is different from that in most other developed countries, has proved to be a deterrent for victims of sexual crimes to join the #MeToo movement here.

But this may change. After President Moon Jae-in expressed support for the movement, the governing Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) said it would press ahead with revising that law so more victims can come forward without fear of prosecution.

Rep. Nam In-soon, head of the party's task force against gender violence, said Monday she would try her best to revise the law.

"Many victims often face prosecution for speaking their truth against perpetrators," she said. "We need a new law that can protect such people."

There have been reports that some victims of sexual crimes were prosecuted after revealing their stories on social media.

The law, which is designed to protect a person's right to his or her good name over another person's freedom of expression, has long been debated in Korea.

Unlike many other developed countries, including the U.S., where defamation cases are considered civil matters, Korea deals with them in criminal courts. What determines slander here is damage rather than whether the information is true.

Given that the law works more in favor of famous people in power, activists have criticized the government and the National Assembly for quietly disregarding the issue for a long time.

For some men of power, the law has been the most powerful tool against people who fight them with the truth.

If the National Assembly passes the DPK's bill, the effects are expected to reverberate far beyond the #MeToo movement.
Korean-law  Korean-libel  Korean-defamation 
7 weeks ago
Korea's Information Society: Korea leads the world: In reliance on social media for news
I've posted frequently over the years about the topics of news, the media environment, where and how people access news, and so forth. If you doubt this, check out these posts from a search for "news." My interest in these topics dates at least from the mid-1970s when I chose to focus for my doctoral dissertation on a study of U.S. network television coverage of international news. Little did I imagine at that time that I'd be living in Korea all these years, and continuously from late 1996 to the present.
Korea today possesses the most advanced broadband network infrastructure in the world. Consequently, it also serves as an important test bed for the world in terms of how citizens, corporations and other organizations react to the changed media environment (or ecosystem). As shown in the graphic (click for a full size version), a new study by the Pew Center documents these changes. Fully 80 percent of South Koreans get their news once or more a day from social media. 66 percent check online news more than one time a day. The graphic speaks for itself, but I recommend reading more from the Pew Center study.
Korean-news  Korean-media  Korean-journalism 
7 weeks ago
Beyond Pornhub: The sex rebels reclaiming adult film | Alphr
“Ovidie laments what I understand to be an emerging namelessness and facelessness in the mainstream industry,” Vogel tells me. “With so much free, disposable content, are we, on a conscious or subconscious level, learning that the people in porn are disposable bodies, part of a never-ending stream? And so we don’t need to care or even think about them as people?

“In namelessness and facelessness, it becomes easy to not care about labour conditions and intellectual property issues,” she adds. “In a tube-site environment, as a user, it’s so easy to stop thinking of the videos having any origin – no producers, directors [or] performers with histories and distinct identities beyond what you see being performed – and therefore, it’s easy not to care, and easy to lose sight of the basic humanity of sex. This is dangerous.”

At the core of this conceptualisation are keywords. ANAL. LESBIAN. ASIAN. THREESOME. These are the words that segment our desires, where performers and performances are indexed and presented to the user as a bumper catalogue. “I think among people who make porn, there’s a consensus that the proliferation of ‘free’ instant access porn on streaming sites has forced porn (and therefore performers) to become increasingly reduced to keywords and categories,” says Vex Ashley, head of porn outfit Four Chambers. “This means that anything that subverts stereotypes or keyword trends is lost in the expansive tube-site archives.”
pornography  sexual-objectication  gatekeepers 
7 weeks ago
金珍焐 - I was a military officer. I worked for a funeral management...
January 31 at 9:48pm ·

I was a military officer. I worked for a funeral management department in the Korean Army. My task was meeting families of the deceased who committed suicide and died from accidents (gunshot / car accident / explosion). One day, the military base where I worked for received the bone ashes of a female solider. She committed suicide due to repetitive sexual harassment, verbal abuse and physical abuse by her senior officer. The senior who committed this horrible crime was sentenced to just 2 years in prison.

I couldn't sleep all night on the day when her bone ashes was stored in my military base. I had been proud of serving my country, Korea, but the strong skepticism started suffocating me after I witnessed this case and met her family.
In my assumption,n my opinion, loneliness is the hardest thing to endure. The Korean military is very closed society and always demands 'obedience'. None of soldiers freely complain about irrational rules and aspects. The She probably knew that there wasn't a place where she could retell her story in the Korean military. My condolences.
A female prosecutor, 서지현, appeared on JTBC 뉴스룸 and gave a testimony regarding sexual harassment by a former senior Justice Ministry official. First of all, I'd like to give a big applause to her bravery. As a woman living in the current Korean society, it is difficult to speak about her experience of sexual harassment. I hope the truth will be disclosed and the offenders will be punished as severely as possible.
Female prosecutor
- http://www.asiaone.com/…/s-korean-female-prosecutor-opens-a…
- http://www.hani.co.kr/a…/society/society_general/700530.html
Korean-military  suicide  Korean-suicide  Korean-conscription  Korean-sexual-harassment  sexual-harassment 
7 weeks ago
Only in Korea - OinK
The Statistic of suicide rate in the Korean military.
Before 2008, none of soldiers who committed suicide was allowed to be recognized as victims. Instead, they were treated as 'weak and spiritless people'
Since 2008, the case for a suicide solider was recognized as a death for serving the country, soldiers who committed suicide due to repetitive assaults against can be situated in 대전현충원 the Daejeon National Cemetery. That is the official action of the government to officially regard them as victims.
Every year, around 100 soldiers died for some reasons. Most of them died from suicide. The military headquaters appease victims' families by saying 'Your son and daughter died for honor. We will send them to the 대전현충원 to commemorate their honor.' instead of revising the military systems to decrease the number of victims. Honor, it should not be the only abstract object that we can get for soldiers' death. The life is more precious than honor.

Korean-military  suicide  Korean-suicide  Korean-conscription 
7 weeks ago
Confronting Korea’s Censored Discourse on Comfort Women | The Diplomat

The Japanese government investigated during the 1990s and found no evidence that women from its former colonies (Korea, Taiwan) were forcibly recruited by the Imperial military. (It acknowledged that women from combatant countries, such as China and Indonesia, were illegally abducted by some soldiers and units.) In the award-winning books of professors Sarah Soh (San Francisco State) and Park Yu-ha (Sejong University), women initially offered various testimonies for working at comfort stations, such as supporting their families economically, escaping overbearing parents, or deception by brokers. Some women experienced abusive conditions at comfort stations, others more supportive.

The authors note the complicity of family and neighbors in mobilizing women into brothels, and argue that survivors should freely share their diverse experiences. However, activists pressure survivors to publicly conform to the dominant narrative of Japanese villains and innocent Koreans. For instance, Kim Hak-sun was the first Korean comfort woman to come out publicly and was the model for the San Francisco statue. In her original narrative (given to a representative of the activist Korean Council), Kim reported that her foster father took her and another girl to China, and that he worked as the manager of the local comfort station. In the 1993 published testimony, the Korean Council omitted any mention of her foster father managing the station. Similarly, the original testimony of Lee [Yi] Yong-su said that she and her friend together escaped from home. Later, in her activist role, Lee repeatedly declared that she was abducted by Japanese soldiers in the middle of the night.

The prevailing narrative of abductions is based on the oral testimonies of a small number of women (16 of 238 registered survivors in 1990s), associated with activist organizations (e.g., House of Sharing; Korean Council). A majority of living survivors (34 of 46) accepted the 2015 Japanese compensation, but the media only publicized the rejectionist minority (12). Moreover, the 61 women who accepted Japanese compensation two decades ago (the 1994 Asian Women’s Fund) were vilified as traitors and denied South Korean government subsidies. Park Yu-ha reports, “The late [survivor] Bae Chun-hee said she had not been taken by force, and that she wanted to forgive Japan but could not say so.”

South Korean media rarely discusses the well-documented finding that post-1945 South Korean governments also encouraged and supervised brothels for American soldiers or the allegation that South Korean troops patronized local women in Vietnam. No Korean publisher has translated Soh’s English-language book. A Seoul court partially censored Park’s Korean-language book and fined her 90 million won ($74,000) for defaming survivors; prosecutors requested a three-year prison sentence. A foreign (Korean-American) professor was sharply criticized for discussing the Soh book in his politics courses. The university investigated activist charges that he supported Japanese war crimes, and he was pressured to write a letter of apology.

The censored discourse reflects an underlying, authoritarian-nationalist perspective in which Koreans portray themselves as innocent victims and dissenting voices to the anti-Japanese narrative undermine South Korea’s moral power. An alternative, liberal-nationalist perspective would combine deep love of one’s country with thoughtful, nuanced analysis of a complex past. Censorship undermines the informed citizenry necessary for democratic politics and prudent policymaking. Critical, thoughtful public discourse that transcends simple victimhood narratives would serve both nations’ strategic interests and universal justice.

Joseph Yi is associate professor of political science at Hanyang University (Seoul).
Comfort-Women  USFK  Korean-sex-work  Korean-victimhood 
8 weeks ago
Population Mobility Slumped to Slowest Pace in 43 Yrs in 2017 | Be Korea-savvy
South Koreans changed residences from region to region at the lowest pace in 43 years last year due largely to a rise in housing prices and rapid aging, government data showed Tuesday.

The number of people who moved to other regions in the country dropped 3 percent on-year to 7.15 million throughout 2017, the lowest tally since 1976 when numbers reached 6.77 million, according to the data by Statistics Korea.

Of the total, 66.3 percent moved within their municipal and provincial boundaries, while 33.7 percent chose to cross such borders.

The population mobility rate — the number of those changing residence for every 100 people — fell 0.5 percentage point to a 46-year low of 14.0 percent last year.

Housing prices in Seoul rose sharply last year despite a series of measures to rein in surging prices, including tightened home mortgages.

The government’s tightened regulations on mortgage loans, a bid to reduce household debt, affected population mobility.

A net 42,000 people moved to the capital city of Seoul last year, while a net 17,000 people moved out of Gyeonggi Province, which surrounds the capital.
Korean-demographics  Korean-geography 
8 weeks ago
Why Hoop Petticoats Were Scandalous | JSTOR Daily
Lascivious. Ridiculous. Criminal. It’s not often that underwear sparks public scandal, but one of the more memorable ones took place thanks to a garment you might not associate with naughtiness: the hoop petticoat. Kimberly Chrisman tells why—and explains how the world became obsessed with what was under women’s skirts.

When the hoop petticoat made its debut in England at the beginning of the eighteenth century, it ushered in a new era in fashion. At the time, broadening international trade made more, lighter-weight fabrics available for fashion, and skirt sizes grew along with trade. The petticoats, which were shaped by whalebone, wire, wicker, and wood, held up the era’s expanding skirts, enabling the diameter of skirts to puff out to up to six feet. The broad petticoats were often outfitted with additional, balloon-like additions called pocket hoops and soon became popular throughout Europe.

Chrisman writes, “Wider skirts represented new freedoms for women of the era—freedoms that often crossed over into scandal. Simultaneously, it gave women better mobility and ventilation, which they would not soon surrender.”

Women might not want to give up their hoop petticoats, but they were punished for them in the court of public opinion. Men couldn’t figure out why women liked them, and satirized their size and supposed scandalous tendencies. They mocked women’s attempts to squeeze them into carriages and through doors, and complained about having to make way for women in wide skirts.

Soon, writes Chrisman, society found itself changing to accommodate the skirts. Chrisman documents changes in everything from carriage styles to tables, which began to sport railings to keep objects from being knocked over by women’s skirts. Soon less affluent women adopted knock-off hoops. As the hoop became a symbol of “lower-class (specifically, female lower-class) pretensions to gentility,” they created even more of a stir.

Hoops had sly sexual connotations, too. They were easily upset to reveal a woman’s naked form, lending a sense of titillation to fully-clothed affairs. The lightweight hoop petticoat, writes Chrisman, “was easily upset by the wind, falls, or sudden movements, so that underclothing and even bare flesh became scandalously visible.” In a time before drawers and panties, the petticoats “provided European men with their first glimpse of female legs, which had been closely shrouded in heavy petticoats for so many centuries.” Women soon learned to work these fears and hopes, tilting their hoops to show off their ankles and suggest what lay beneath. Even though hoops were large enough to keep men at a physical distance, they were novel enough to keep them guessing. “The wearer alone,” writes Chrisman, “determined whether the hoop acted as a barrier or an invitation.”

Ultimately, the hoop fell out of fashion, and today it seems as restrictive and passé as the corset. But for a brief moment, the controversial garment was as necessary as any modern-day fashion must.
fashion  fashion-history 
8 weeks ago
Lifting of Ban on Soldiers' Movements Causes Stir in Border Communities | Be Korea-savvy
The Ministry of National Defense’s recent announcement that it will lift restrictions on the movements of South Korean soldiers granted short term passes as well as abolish a rule requiring non-commissioned officer recruits to live on base for a designated period is causing a stir in communities near the South-North Korean border.

In South Korea’s military, troops given short term passes (permission to leave their military installation from morning to evening or stay a night out on the weekend) are not permitted to go beyond the boundaries of a designated administrative region.

As border communities have relied on spending by military personnel for their survival, fears are that the removal of the ban on traveling will result in soldiers abandoning regional areas and heading to urban centers like Seoul and Gyeonggi Province instead.

Besides the direct hit local businesses will suffer, others have made the point that troops traveling too far from their bases weakens the military’s combat capabilities, as the time it would take them to return should an emergency situation arise is greater.

The head of a merchant’s collective in Cheorwon County, located in northern Gangwon Province, said, “All you hear nowadays is that business is bad because of the poor economy, but if [the government] lifts the travel restrictions for short term passes then there won’t be any soldiers left in Cheorwon on the weekend.”

He added, “If the soldiers head down to Seoul or Gyeonggi, or if [their families] take them home for the night, there are also concerns that they won’t be able to make it back to their stations if something were to happen.”

Economic development in the majority of border communities is restricted as they are within government classified military operations areas, one reason for their dependence on soldiers’ spending.

An official from Yanggu County said, “In border communities, 70 to 80 percent of the local economy is reliant on expenditures from soldiers on short term passes, which is why the Ministry of National Defense’s decision is like a death blow [to the region].”

Though there have been periods of heightened inter-Korea tension in the past when short term passes were restricted, local governments are of the opinion that what will transpire going forward presents a bigger dilemma.

Unable to come up with any decisive measures for the time being, business and government alike remain troubled.
Korean-conscription  Korean-soldiers  Korean-military 
8 weeks ago
China, Captured: Zhang Hai’er Gazes at the Country’s ‘Bad Girls’
Zhang Hai’er is a man of many talents. The magazine photographer, photojournalist, and artist has photographed everyone from migrant laborers to Chinese crossdressers, via projects focusing on the country’s women and LGBTQ communities.

For years, Zhang shot behind the scenes at high-end fashion shows in Paris as a contract photographer for several magazines. But in China, most people recognize him from “Bad Girls,” a series of portraits of women taken in the 1980s and 1990s. The female subjects of his photos are in various degrees of undress, revealing their legs or cleavage in playful, sometimes flirtatious ways.

In 1988, Zhang was one of the earliest Chinese photographers to be presented at Les Rencontres d’Arles, a prestigious annual photography and art festival held in France that gave the world a chance to see the abovementioned women. “The reason his ‘Bad Girls’ portrait series stood out at Arles with such distinction is because most people at the time didn’t think that such [women] existed in China,” says Christian Caujolle, founder of the photo agency Agence Vu, and Zhang’s collaborator.

One way to understand Caujolle’s assessment is to look back on Zhang’s childhood and creative history. Born in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou in 1957, Zhang was sent to the countryside in 1974 for re-education during the Cultural Revolution. He took the college entrance exam when it was reinstated in 1977 and won a place at the Shanghai Theatre Academy to study stage design.

After graduating in 1982, he married his college classmate, Hu Yuanli; the couple is still together today. In 1985, he was admitted to the masters’ program in oil painting at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts. Around that time, he began taking photographs of his wife and the women around him, slowly settling on photography as a mode of self-expression.

To understand Zhang’s work, we must consider the monumental changes he experienced during the 1970s and ’80s, as China transitioned from the hyper-Maoist fervor of the Cultural Revolution to an era of reform and opening-up that kickstarted its unprecedented economic growth.

Throughout Mao Zedong’s rule over China from 1949 to his death in 1976, women were portrayed as tough and warrior-like. The government claimed to have liberated women from the yoke of Confucian patriarchy and encouraged them to join the workforce and participate in social affairs. Though female emancipation in early Communist China was not the transcendental experience it is often portrayed, most women were still being valued for their work, not their bodies, for the first time in Chinese history.

The mobilization of the female labor force, however, did not seek to liberate female identity or sexual desire. Women were still expected to be chaste, and their de-sexualization stifled them — and their male counterparts — from expressing themselves romantically and sexually.

In the 1980s, as China’s economic reforms began in earnest, the art world tended to depict women either as virtuous and virginal, or as resilient and maternal. Men, too, remained sexually restrained, peering timidly at these images of women and avoiding open discussions of sexual attraction. Zhang broke this taboo: His realistic portrayals of women’s bodies captured their emotional and physical reactions at particular moments, bringing the often hormone-ridden male gaze into the open for all to see.

Zhang’s photos were utterly groundbreaking at the time and kickstarted a trend of using photography to explore repressed sexuality. His works untethered sexual desire from shame; in doing so, he granted desire a greater degree of legitimacy.

There is tension in the air in each of Zhang’s photographs, as his subjects acknowledge and react to his presence in such traditionally intimate settings. While we might expect the crushing pressure of tradition to render Chinese women shy, modest, and demure, in Zhang’s works they stare boldly, sometimes even mischievously, back at the male gaze. They look dangerous; they misbehave. They are not chaste — at least, not in the traditional sense.

Zhang believes that good art must subvert and topple long-held ideas and push back against social restraints. But as gender politics has come to focus on the representation of women in art, photographers have sought to combat the male gaze in their visual works, decrying it as a reductive perspective that sees women as sex objects for straight male viewers. Zhang’s early work, once lauded for its frank portrayal of female sexuality, has now come under renewed scrutiny for filtering images of women through a masculine prism.

“All I’ve done is praise the indisputable beauty of the flesh and the goodness of sexuality,” Zhang tells Sixth Tone, saying his work is not a projection of male desire onto the women he shoots, but are collaborations between him and his subjects that allow both parties to express themselves.

Zhang claims to be a feminist at heart, but more than that, he says he is a staunch defender of sexual freedom. His feminism aligns with the controversial open letter penned by 100 French women and published in Le Monde, saying the #MeToo movement — in which women are encouraged to call out male abusers — has gone too far, and that society should safeguard the “freedom to seduce.”

Zhang has always worked with sexuality. Since snapping the abovementioned women in his early years, he has documented the Pride parade in France and people who identify as non-gender binary. Over 30 years, this naturally introverted photographer has wielded the camera both subjectively and objectively, both to express himself and to capture the faces that define an era.

Translator: Katherine Tse; editors: Ming Ye and Matthew Walsh.

(Header image: Ma Tao, Shanghai, 1998. Courtesy of Zhang Hai’er)
photographers  Chinese-photographers  Chinese-women  Chinese-sexuality  Chinese-history 
8 weeks ago
Falsettos offers an alternative to 'macho rock' | The Japan Times
If you’re playing in a group in Japan and your members all happen to be female, sooner or later you’re going to get slapped with the “girls’ band” tag. The term has been used willy-nilly to describe everything from the manufactured guitar-pop of late-’80s chart-toppers Princess Princess to the experimental rock of Nisennenmondai.

For long-running Tokyo quartet Falsettos, it’s an awkward fit. But what’s the alternative?

“I saw someone on Twitter describe us as a ‘moms’ band’,” says Miuko Nakao, the group’s guitarist, singer and lyricist.

“That makes me feel like apologizing!” says drummer Fumie (who, like bassist Ingel and keyboardist Yukiko, goes just by her first name). “I’m the only mother in the group, and I don’t think there’s anything remotely special about being a mom and playing in a band.”

Still, if the nomenclature is a bit iffy, Falsettos won’t deny that gender matters, if only a little.

“When you make music with only women, I think it creates a particular kind of atmosphere,” says Miuko. “When I introduce myself to people, I’ll often tell them I’m in an all-female band. I think it’s the quickest way to express that we’re doing something different from the usual macho rock.”

...“Some people take more of an interest if I tell them I play in a band with four women,” says Ingel. “You only ever get asked by people who don’t know about genres, though. They’re not going to understand ‘alternative’ or ‘post-punk.’ If I tell them it’s an all-female band, they’ll say, ‘Oh, like Princess Princess?'”
rock  Japanese-rock  Falsettos  girl-groups  Japanese-girl-groups 
8 weeks ago
Sexual Harassment in China – China Policy Institute: Analysis
Written by Quanbao Jiang.

Like their global counterparts, Chinese women face many forms of sexual harassment. However, it has not been paid sufficient attention in China. At the beginning of 2018, Ms. Luo Xixi, a former doctoral student at Beihang University and now residing in the United States, posted an article inspired by the #MeToo movement on WeChat accusing her former professor surnamed Chen of sexually harassing her and other students. As the post went viral, the problem of sexual harassment attracted enormous attention.

Sexual harassment is rampant in China. Several recent surveys indicate its prevalence. According to the online survey conducted jointly by Sina.com and For Him Magazine in 2015, 66 per cent of the men and 80 per cent of the women reported experiences of having been sexually harassed sexually harassed. In another report on Sexual Harassment on Chinese College Campuses issued in 2017, based on an online survey of 6592 students and recent graduates, 70 percent reported having been sexually harassed. Over 40 per cent of the cases took place in public areas on campus. Another online survey of 2002 working females conducted in 2016 by the Social Survey Center of China Youth Daily, indicates that 31.0 percent experienced sexual harassment. Due to the self-selective nature of these online surveys, the results may be biased and overstated, but they still indicate the seriousness of the sexual harassment problem in China.

Even though sexual harassment is prevalent, before the case of Ms. Luo Xixi, the issue of sexual harassment has largely been neglected in public discourse. There are deep-rooted reasons for this negligence. The first is traditional thinking about women in cases of sexual harassment. In China’s patriarchal system, women are expected to know their place, and to play the role of a good wife and good mother. Like the old Chinese idiom goes, “冶容诲淫”, literally meaning that “Seductive looks incite to wantonness”. It is often the victim woman who is “on trial”– it must be your own fault, to not be modest enough, or careful enough. The second is the lack of a sound legal system regarding sexual harassment. Currently there are two laws including ambiguous terms about sexual harassment towards women, Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Guarantee of the Rights and Interests of Women, and Special Provisions for Labour Protection of Female Workers. But they lack detailed terms or concrete measures. Lack of a specific law against sexual harassment, sexual harassment in the workplace is usually treated as a labour dispute.

For sexual harassment on university campuses, the Ministry of Education issued a regulation in 2014 prohibiting teacher’s sexual harassment of students. However, when filing a complaint to the police, the accuser has to provide solid evidence, which is onerous and often unlikely as most cases happen in private. The third reason is abuse of power without appropriate constraints. In the workplace, sexual harassment is often inflicted by superiors on their subordinates. Women tolerate harassment for fear being sacked if they expose the behaviour of their superiors. On campus, teachers and supervisors have substantial power over their students who are extremely vulnerable, as in the case of Ms. Luo Xixi. The combination of a ‘blame the victim’ mentality, the lack of institutional or legal recourse, and an imbalanced and gendered power structure without appropriate constraints, discourage reporting such cases.

As in the case reported by the China Youth Daily mentioned above, some colleagues thought she made a fuss. Her family didn’t support her either, regarding her experience as being too petty. A lawyer in Beijing said that since 2005 she has handled about 20 cases on sexual harassment allegations, most of these female accusers lost not only the lawsuit but also their husband or boyfriend in the process. “Stay safe” is the advice victims often receive, both from their families and from the official social media accounts of local police and government branches. The victims feel immense pressure not only from society at large, but also from their families and friends, when trying to report harassment. As a result, the majority of victims choose to keep silent.

Recently some activists initiated a movement to alert women of this phenomenon, as young women became more outspoken about sexual harassment. In 2012, some women from Shanghai declared “I can be sexy but you cannot harass me”. Currently inspired by Ms. Luo Xixi’s case, several other campus sexual harassment allegations have been posted on social media. This sparked the loud demand for women’s rights to be respected. Online petitions calling for more policies and mechanisms to prevent sexual harassment on campus have been filed by students and alumni at dozens of top colleges.

Responding to the allegation of Ms. Luo Xixi, and to the enormous online echoes, Baihang Unviersity launched a prompt investigation into the accusation and concluded that the accused Professor Chen had engaged in “sexual harassment behaviour” that seriously violated professional ethics and the school’s code of conduct. Consequently, Beihang University removed Chen from his teaching post and vice-president of the university’s graduate school, and revoked his credentials as a teacher and post-graduate supervisor. China’s Education Ministry on Sunday, the 14th of January 2018, revoked Chen’s status as a Yangtze River Scholar, a prestigious academic title for a university professor. The Ministry of Education said it will maintain a zero-tolerance approach to inappropriate behaviours that cross the ethical bottom line for teachers and violates students, and will also attempt to establish a long-term and effective system of sexual harassment prevention on higher-education campuses in China.

Compared to previous publicized sexual harassment cases that ended without any result, the handling of Ms. Luo Xixi’s allegation is a significant stride forward. It set a model of how to handle such accusations, and hopefully it will have a deterrent effect and discourage campus sexual harassment. As we applaud this timely response, should we be overly optimistic about sexual harassment prevention? In China, university campuses are always at the forefront, but it is difficult to extend this success to workplaces or public transportation. According to the survey by Sina.com and For Him Magazine in 2015, only 4 per cent of the women and 3 per cent of the men harassed had filed complaints with the police, with no data on the results. Accusers face a host of barriers when complaining in such cases and the police are often unmotivated to investigate their claims.

To establish a long-term and effective system for combating sexual harassment, China must first acknowledge the existence and prevalence of the phenomenon. Denying problems like this only makes it harder for victims to speak out or seek justice for what happened to them. Second, it is high time for China to attach importance to sexual harassment problem in the legal system, amend existing laws with more terms to address specifically sexual harassment, and increase punishment for assaulters. Third, China should add the responsibility of the employer in the workplace, and on campus as well. Once they are made stakeholders, employers will certainly be more involved in sexual harassment prevention.

Personally, I hope the current debate sparked by Ms. Luo’s allegation is not a short-lived movement, but leads to ideological and legal enhancements, to a long-term and effective system of gender equality. Only then can we make this society more transparent and harmonious.

Quanbao Jiang is professor in Demography at the Institute for Population and Development Studies at Xi’an Jiaotong University. His research interests include gender discrimination, fertility behaviour and policy in China. His recent publications can be found here. Image credit: CC by duncan c/Flickr
Chinese-Me-too  Chinese-sexual-harassment  Korean-sexual-harassment  Korean-Me-too  Korean-hierarchy  Chinese-hierarchy 
8 weeks ago
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