Korean Education

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Sex and the University, Part 3: University Students’ Cohabitation Culture

( Live Together, 2007. Source )

Much to my regret later, I never properly met any Koreans in New Zealand before I first came here.

But by coincidence, a Korean woman replaced me in my last flat after I left. And as my ex-flatmates soon gleefully reported, she was the perfect flatmate, paying her share of the rent without ever actually spending so much as a single night there.

Glee rapidly turned to genuine concern though, as she completely disappeared a week after moving her stuff in, not answering her cell-phone at all for 2 weeks.

Alas, once she was back from her trip home(!), she explained she was actually living with her Korean boyfriend at his place. But, lest she be caught with him by her parents back in Korea somehow, she needed a separate address and home phone number, and a pretend bedroom just in case they made a surprise visit.

And once they were in the loop, then naturally that was fine with her flatmates, and she would end up spending less than, say, 4-5 hours a week there for the next 6 months.

( Source )

Of course, I’m sure she had good reasons for what she did. And even 10 years later, openly cohabiting is a big taboo in Korea, testament to which is the fact Korean portal sites like Naver require age verification for you to search for anything related to donggeo, “동거”, the Korean word for cohabitation, placing it on a par with pornography and so on.

Granted, along with pregnancy, couples are generally forgiven if they have already made arrangements to marry, or at least do so shortly after being discovered.  But as a Seoul-based friend who wrote his MA thesis on them frequently lamented, that means it can be near impossible just to find cohabiting couples, let alone ones willing to talk about their experiences with a researcher.

Still, that’s not to say that they don’t exist, and fortunately amorous Yonsei University couples at least don’t seem to need to go to quite such extremes to hide their living arrangements, as the third of four articles on the “Sex and the University” theme from the Yonsei Chunchu (연세춘추) campus newspaper explains. Not really giving any background on the subject though, if you haven’t already then I recommend reading this short introductory article I wrote for the Korea Times before starting here, and it also has a list of links to many other related posts for anyone further interested.

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Reading the Lolita Effect in Korea, Part 2: The role of K-pop and the Korean media in sexual socialization and the formation of body image

A simply surreal video making the rounds at the moment. As explained by Lisa at Sociological Images, it:

…beautifully illustrates the socialization of children into particular kinds of worship. With hand motions, body movements, and facial expressions, this child is doing a wonderful job learning the culturally-specific rules guiding the performance of devotion.

Which led to a great deal of discussion at that site, but I’ll confine myself here to echoing Jason’s comment that it simply reminds him of his son picking up his own behaviors such as sweeping, and that the young girl:

…certainly isn’t worshiping here, but is just mimicking her parents and the other people around her. I can guarantee she has no concept of a deity.

But what has all that got to do with K-pop, let alone Meenakshi Durham’s The Lolita Effect? Well, because after reading all that, it was very interesting comparing my daughters’ own reactions to KARA’s Lupin just half an hour later. First, those of 4 and half year-old Alice:

Then with her 2 and half year-old sister Elizabeth:

Granted, perhaps you had to be there…and in which case I probably would have removed my laundry from the floor first (sorry). But I didn’t notice it myself, because at the time I was simply transfixed. You see, along with dozens of other K-pop music videos, Alice and Elizabeth must have watched and “danced” to Lupin at least 20 times before that night. But that was the first time that Alice at least seemed to demonstrate that she not only remembered it, but actually knew it very well, and was performing repetitive actions that were recognizably part of the same dance…which she’d demand the chance to do 7 more times before going to bed.

Unfortunately for my paternal pride however, in hindsight she was neither simply copying the music video nor giving her own original interpretation of it: as confirmed by her teacher later, she’s preparing for a Christmas performance at her kindergarten soon, and – yes – she’ll be dancing to Lupin.

So what’s the big deal? After all, while I’m still translating the lyrics myself (or at least I was until my “study” got invaded), they seem harmless enough:

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Sex and the University: Part 2

( Sources: left, right )

With thanks to reader Marilyn for translating it, here is the second of four articles on that theme that were recently published in the Yonsei Chunchu (연세춘추) campus newspaper:

대학생들, 신중하게 즐겨라, 섹스 칼럼니스트 박소현 인터뷰

University students, enjoy cautiously! Interview with sex columnist Park So Hyun

현재 「일간스포츠」에 ‘처녀들의 수다’라는 칼럼을 연재하고 있는 박소현 칼럼니스트의 원래 직업은 방송작가다. 연애칼럼으로 시작해 자연스레 섹스에 관련된 칼럼을 쓰고 있다. 저서로는 『쉿! She it!』『남자가 도망쳤다』가 있다. 섹스에 대해 거리낌없이 글을 쓰지만 보수적인 집안에서 자라 지금도 필명으로 활동하고 있다. 박 칼럼니스트에게 대학생들의 연애와 섹스에 대해 물어봤다.

Park So Hyun, whose column “Single Girls’ Talk” currently appears in ‘Ilgan Sports’, originally wrote for TV programs.  After starting with a dating column, she now naturally writes a column related to sex.  Shh! She it! and He Escaped are among her writings.  Though she writes openly about sex, she grew up in a conservative household and so even now uses a pen-name.   We asked Ms. Park about the love and sex lives of university students.

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Sex and the University: Part 1

( Source )

Well, sex and Yonsei University to be precise, with 4 articles on that theme being published in the latest Yonsei Chunchu (연세춘추) campus newspaper, providing valuable insights into modern Korean students’ sexual experience and attitudes.

Unfortunately for the authors though, Yonsei happens to be a notoriously Christian university. And so according to my anonymous informer, they were actually punished for them in some way.

Details are sketchy at the moment, but the main problem appears to have been a sex survey sent to all students, with the first article below discussing the results. Perhaps the board of trustees was shocked and embarrassed that 1 in 3 Yonsei students are quite happy having one-night stands or something?

연세인, 당신의 성의식은 어떤가요? 대학생 성의식은 개방으로 황새걸음, 사회적 인식은 아직도 뱁새걸음

Yonsei students, how is your awareness of sexual issues? While university students’ awareness is progressing by leaps and bounds, Korean society is still only making baby steps

가장 기본적이고 보편적인 욕구인 동시에 가장 은밀하기도 한 것, 바로 ‘성(性)’이다. 아직 성적인 이야기를 스스럼 없이 털어 놓을 수 없는 한국 사회에서 연세인들은 성에 대해 어떠한 생각을 갖고 있는지 「연세춘추」에서 알아봤다. 설문조사는 이메일을 통해 지난 9월 13일에서 10월 4일까지 약 3주간 진행됐으며 1천287명의 학생들이 이에 답했다.

Sex is the most basic, universal desire, but at the same time it’s also the most private one. And in a society in which people still feel unable to speak frankly and openly about sexual matters, how to find out Yonsei students’ thoughts on them? So, the Yonsei Chunchu conducted an email survey for 3 weeks between the 13th of September and the 4th of October, and received 1,287 replies from students.

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Pink Imperialism?

 

( Source )

Koreans have curious attitudes to pink clothing.

On the one hand, they are by no means considered feminine on adults, nor have they ever been historically. Indeed, far from rejecting the color, these days many young men positively embrace pink as a loud and easily visible sign of rebellion against the gruff, dull rural roots of their parents (most Koreans lived in villages until as recently as the late-1970s). As The Joshing Gnome puts it:

Many young guys who grew up in this world find that it’s just not them.  What recourse do they have but to declare loudly and pinkly to the world ‘I am not what my parents are.’  They’re showing people they’re young, they’re modern, they’re not dissolute drunken bums (and how would one know if not for their outfits?) and they’re urbane.  If my two choices of apparel are white pants, a pink shirt, and ‘wax’ in my hair or slippers, track pants, a motorcycle and a case of the soju rosies, then I have to say I would be right there with these preening young men foppin’ it up.

And I’ve made a similar argument for their wearing of “couple clothes”, such a visible sign of affection possibly being a stark rejection of the model of their own parents’ often arranged marriages. But I’m not so out of touch though, that I don’t realize that it could just as easily be because men will simply do anything to get laid, and if their partners want them both to look “cute” by wearing exactly the same pastels and pinks as them, then why not? After all, looking cute is a strong cultural prerogative in Korea, much like the equivalent in many Western countries is to be ‘Xtreme’ and too cool for school.

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Korean Sociological Image #43: ESL Students on Top?

( Source: Gusts of Popular Feeling. Reproduced with permission )

A recent advertisement for the Pagoda chain of language institutes noticed by Matt of Gusts of Popular Feeling, who notes that the attraction “is clearly for women to get close to, to have one on one communication with, and to have almost direct contact with the male foreign teacher.”

In any other context this would be unremarkable, but unfortunately the Korean media is notorious for presenting foreign male – Korean female relationships either negatively or not at all (although this is slowly improving). So this advertisement really stands out for the rare, quite literal closeness of the models in it, albeit not necessarily in a romantic sense.

In contrast, Japanese language institutes have already been advertising this way for a long time, as noted by Keiron Bailey in his 2006 journal article Marketing the eikaiwa wonderland: ideology, akogare, and gender alterity in English conversation school advertising in Japan. Two examples from that, both from 2002:

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