Hey! I’ll start off by saying your blog is extremely helpful and comforting so thank you! :)
I actually have a question about violence, specifically violence towards women. I don’t want to sound stereotypical or insulting so I’ll try my best to word it as best I can.
I’ve heard that Korea is ‘socially’ stuck in the 1950′s sort of setting where people are still very conservative during dating and although a little more open about relationships then in Japan are nowhere near the ‘standards’ of Europe or other Western countries.
I’ve also heard that because of this some men are still quite dominant and maybe TOO dominant (not my words and I wouldn’t want them to be!), and that women are still seen as the weaker sex. Apparently Korean men are great boyfriends and bad husbands.
When I think of this it just paints a picture in my head of a man losing his temper because his wife won’t make him a cuppa! I know the younger generation aren’t quite so conservative all the time so is there actually still violence amongst men and women and is it more prominent? More common than other countries?
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. :)
Thank you for your question :)
To answer whether Korean men are generally more violent towards their girlfriends and wives than men of other countries I would rather rely on some scientific research which looked at large enough sample of the countries’ population, rather than my own personal experience which is undoubtedly rather limited.
I have not been able to find any such data with which I would be satisfied enough to present it here. I did include some articles at the bottom, which do report some figures but seem to whisk them out of thin air. And after all, such statistics rely heavily on victims actually being able to speak up and report the abuse which again comes down to how tolerated and accepted physical aggression is within a society.
So I have no other choice but to fall back on my personal experience. Although I seriously doubt it will help anyone predict what kind of Korean men they will come across.
I would never say that my Korean boyfriend’s approach to relationship is not up to the European standards! With my unusual height, enthusiasm for my career and complete disinterest in household chores, I would be a difficult woman to date for a conservative man. I can say without a doubt that he’s more enlightened than many Europeans I know.
You mentioned this might change when we get married, but I seriously doubt that. Ater all we have been in a relationship for more than three years, and we had lived together for half that time, so I think I know him well enough.
As far as the stereotype about violence in South Korea… When I first met Kimchi Man, I came across it too. I observed in the movies that smacking someone on the head in Korea seemed to be not such a big deal; children at that time were still subjected to corporal punishment in schools (luckily not any more); and I came across articles that said it is quite normal and even expected in South Korea to beat your wife.
I brushed it off. I wasn’t the person to fall for the hype and buy into stereotypes.
Or so I thought.
It was back when we weren’t in relationship yet, that Kimchi Man mentioned he had gotten in a fight as middle schooler and that his hand got hurt. Up until that point, I thought he was the most gentle and caring man I have ever come across. Admittedly, he was just a guy I was talking to online and I’ve never met him in person, but I’m rather good at judging character, and he came off as a person who was timid and gentle, rather than assertive and aggressive.
Now, I absolutely hate violence and I always despised that type of guys who solved their problems with fists. So, after what he said, it started nagging at me.
More and more.
Everything I read about Korean aggressiveness came crashing down on me. I constructed the whole story in my head where Kimchi Man savagely beat up this kid from his class. I could clearly see in my mind’s eye Kimchi Man’s fist getting smashed against the boy’s face.
Well, that was it. I was never going to talk to him again! I don’t need people like that in my life. And I firmly decided to ignore him.
But my resolution didn’t last long. It was just that, this image went against everything I observed about Kimchi Man. In the end, I at least decided to give him a chance to explain. Since he was on the other side of the world, I didn’t see how it could harm me in any way.
And boy am I glad I did!
So, the real story was that he got in a (verbal) fight with this boy from his class who then thought it was a good idea to grab Kimchi Man’s head and smash it against the desk. Kimchi Man wrestled him to the ground, and then…
Let him go.
And that was it. Yes, his hand did get hurt in the process, but that occurred nowhere near the other kid’s body. He never hurt him, or anyone else.
But the real moral of the story is that stereotypes come creeping up on you when you least expect it. If I haven’t read all those horror stories about Korean men I would have assumed it was a harmless teenager brawl and not jump to conclusion that it was some savage beating. I almost lost the chance to be with the greatest man I have met so far due to stereotypes.
Three years later, I have less doubt than ever that Kimchi Man wouldn’t hurt a fly (although I can’t say the same for mosquitoes).
And that is the real danger of stereotypes. No one really goes around believing that ALL Korean men are aggressive and beat women. But people have these ideas in the back of their minds and subconsciously just wait for them to be confirmed.
But there is one more, even more sinister way stereotypes can influence us.
And the dangerous thing is that it might actually make you miss the warning signs of something going horribly wrong because you excuse other person’s behavior with culture. “Nah, he’s not really aggressive, that’s just his culture, that’s just the way Koreans are.”
No, it is not, and no they are not. So if someone treats you even with remote signs of aggression, get away before it’s too late, and don’t even stop to think if they’re Korean or not.
If there is one thing I hope you take away from this answer it is this: don’t ever let anyone who’s never met your friend or boyfriend or husband tell you what he is like. Not even me :)
- UNICEF report on domestic violence against women and girls [pdf]
- False reporting of spouse abuse in South Korea
- Is domestic violence taken seriously in Korea