Korean Sociological Image #47: East End Girls, meet West End Boys
Yes, it had to happen eventually! A big round of applause to Nextour (넥스투어) for producing the very first Korean commercial to feature a Korean woman literally dreaming of having a romantic and/or sexual relationship with a Western man, and with no suggestion that there will be anything but happiness once she succeeds.
New readers shaking your heads in disbelief however, then by all means prove me wrong by finding earlier examples. But before engaging on what I think will ultimately be a long and fruitless search, please consider reading other posts in the “interracial relationships” category, especially here, here, here, here, here, and here. And please also ponder the following quote from Hyun-Mee Kim in her chapter “Feminization of the 2002 World Cup and Women’s Fandom” in Feminist Cultural Politics in Korea, ed. by Jung-Hwa Oh, 2005, pp. 228-243 below on the then unprecedented public attention by Korean women on the bodies of the Korean players in the summer, and which gives a big clue as to why it has taken 8 years(!) for such an essentially innocuous commercial to emerge:
…if Korean women’s enthusiasm had mostly been directed at handsome Western soccer players, such as England’s Beckham or Owen, Portugal’s Figu, Italy’s Toti or Spain’s Morientes, the situation would have been drastically different. That they zealously applauded Hiddinck, a Dutch male and the director of the Korean team, seemingly too much of a “father” for them to desire sexual union with, and the familiar handsome guys of Ahn Jeong-hwan, Kim Nam-il, and Song Jong-Guk, must have been the chief reason for positive response the Korean women fans got from the rest of the society.
The attitude of the Korean media that looks down on Japanese women for expressing their love for Beckham and treats them as “ppansun-i”s [빤순이, or condescending slang for crazed girl fans - James], clearly shows what line the Korean women should dare not cross. This World Cup, which ended up as a worshiping of the 23 [Korean players], delineates the limitations as Korean women rose up as the subjects of their own sexual desires. This is a society in which there is still a strong belief in the sexual union of the full bloods: for the women to collectively root for Ronaldo or Morientes, there is too much at stake. It is so much easier to shout out that they want the “yellow bodies” of our own race rather than “white and black bodies”. Hence, the happy union of women’s sexual desires and new patriotism in the 2002 World Cup. (p. 239)
Naturally one commercial doesn’t mean a sexual and racial revolution of course (note that all the Western men were Caucasian), but it is a start, and certainly provides a welcome contrast to the general persecution of foreign males in the Korea media in recent years, as most recently demonstrated by the fact that Anti English Spectrum’s Lee Eun-ung was uncritically allowed to present his repulsive views on foreign males on a national radio show for instance. Indeed, the lack of netizen reaction to the commercial so far hopefully demonstrates that things may have actually improved a little since 2002, and provides a healthy reminder that, just like in other countries, the Korean media is probably not a very accurate guide to public opinion in the first place.
Meanwhile, see here for the male version, albeit a slightly seedy one (caressing a sandcastle woman anyone?), and young readers see here also if you didn’t understand the “East End Girls” reference!^^
(For all posts in the Korean Sociological Images series, see here)