[Q&A] Are Korean men aggressive?

Are Korean guys aggressive towards womenAre Korean men more aggressive and violent compared to Western men? Do Korean men beat their wives? This is the latest concern one of our readers is having.



Are Korean men aggressive

Lily asked:

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. :)


Domestic abuse in South Korea

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 :)


Further reading:

31 thoughts on “[Q&A] Are Korean men aggressive?

  1. I’ve spent half of my youth abroad, the other half in Korea. The question itself is subjective and open interpretation. For instance, is pointng a gun at your wife more aggressive? In my opinion, it’s difficult to generalize based on anecdotal evidence even if there have been several stories printed in the news in Korea or abroad. Some of the most “submissive” persons I met were Westerners.

    • The regard for human life is indeed lesser in Korean culture, whether you like to hear this or not. It applies to the far east. The Korean war saw barbarities inflicted upon your own, safe, kinfolk, non-enemy Koreans, by South Korean soldiers. On a mere very paranoid whim alone, with no justification whatsoever, S. Korean troops cared not an eyelid flutter as they inflicted torture on the civilian populace of their very own people ! I saw the evidence. Inflicted by their own troops of all people, that they should have protected by. But the civilian population in too many cases were brutalized by their own troops in S. Korea. With this in mind then, I would have no hard time being convinced of abusive Korean husbands beating their wives. I know, I know, we’d rather not hear this. But it’s time for Buddhahood to actually get to grips and further try to civilize your husbands. Koreans mercilessly kill dogs to eat. Man’s best friend gets eaten too in this ‘wonderful’ bargain.

      • Thinking that man’s best friend is a dog in all cultures… That kind of absolutism/generalization is indeed dangerous. Judging other cultures in the framwork of one’s own. Regard for human life? The crusades? Women’s rights in the Middle East?

        • You are absolutely right.

          And it takes only a bit of objectivity to see how ridiculous it is too have such attitude towards dogs, while being completely fine with the mistreatment of, let’s say pigs. Sadly, when we are brought up with everyone around us doing the exactly same way, it is very easy to think that is not just the only way but also the only right way.

          I am truly lucky how much being in a relationship with a man from another culture has opened my eyes.

        • And, you know what’s funny – Europeans actually WOULD eat dogs… it used to be VERY common in Switzerland, back when it was still really poor and not a financial hotspot yet… and, guess what: right in the heart of Europe, they still eat dogs AND cats: http://www.thelocal.ch/20121227/dogs-still-eaten-in-switzerland
          and even everyone’s favorite source of info shows it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog_meat#Europe
          so please, think before you post, dear anonymous poster… and remember that koreans are equally surprised to hear that indeed birds like swans and pidgeons are kept and killed in Europe, as those also constitute very delicious meals…as does deer, something they don’t really consume in East Asia, either… so please, a tad more respect towards others wouldn’t hurt’cha :P
          oegukeen, I’m also a European girl dating a lovely Korean man…. and I must say, I had exactly the same reaction, when he first told me about his middle school fights :D guess, boys are just boys sometimes :P and although my boyfriend appears to be a bit more hotblodded than yours, I would also sign that he would never hurt more than a mosquito nowadays… unless maybe someone was mean to me-I think he’d definately race to my defense then :P

  2. Hey (*⌒∇⌒*)ノ ~ first of all your new design is hilarious, I love the details *great work*

    Secondly, to answer the question or more like to give my two cents to this topic ~ basically I don’t believe in stereotypes, I mostly judge a person by observing their behavior or judging comments coming from that person, with this wrote I mean, I also don’t believe that Korean guys/husbands beat their wives, surely there may be some, but so do guys/husbands from every other culture on this planet…
    But, I would like to know what you think about this… for me, this is mind-boggling…. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/21/christian-domestic-discipline-spanking-jesus-marriage_n_3479646.html

    • Thank you~~~! I’m really glad you like it ^^

      I like that you said people should be judged by their behavior and comments.

      As far as the article goes… I hope that is a joke. Although I know it’s not…
      I think the psychologist said it well: “No fool in his right mind would buy this as a legitimate way to have a relationship.” But it goes to show that every culture has its share of deviants.

  3. Everyone here seems to address stereotypes but they don’t really address the actual question. There is plenty of information available about S.Korean culture available to get a general idea about gender attitudes in S.Korea. If not there are several blog sites devoted to S.Korean gender issues. http://thegrandnarrative.com/ and http://researchprojectkorea.wordpress.com/ and http://koreangendercafe.blogspot.kr/ Recently the World Economic Forum Gender Gap ranking for South Korea was 108. In case anyone thinks I’m bashing Korea, the U.S. ranked 67.

    • Those blogs do talk about gender issues but they are not research institutions. They reflect opinions of individuals, not statistical situation of South Korea.

      Furthermore, person asking this questions didn’t ask it as a part of her thesis or something like that, but as an advice for real life situations, where it does boil down to stereotypes.

      As I clearly stated, I did not find any factual data that were to my satisfaction. You supplied World Economic Forums. ranking, then let me supply UN’s Gender Inequality Index where Korea is, as of 2011, ranked 11th and United States 47th. Now what?

      • Don’t ask questions that supposedly concern Korean women and – in some cases – their abusive spouses.  I’ll give a reply.  Like it or not, you got a reply.  Don’t complain because you don’t like my reply.!  You asked, I answered, like it or not = democracy.

  4. I was somehow waiting for an article about this topic… I like a Korean friend and even if violence is all over the world, my relatives have been specific that Koreans have a tendency to be violent towards their partners, so they’ve told me to stop liking him. I treat him as a close friend and I’ve never heard him talk about beating people up except when we talked about how it’s not safe to travel alone at night. He said if he gets threatened, he’s ready to beat up anyone…. scary but anybody can say that and not be as aggressive when the situation comes up…. so I think he’s not part of that stereotype, but how can we be sure, right? hahaha how can I bring it up like how Kimchi Man mentioned about his “fight” during middle school? so that I could have a clue if he could potentially be violent…. thanks

    • Well, I can’t conclude if your friend is aggressive or not, but I CAN conclude your relatives are prejudiced.

      What your friend was talking about is self-defense, not aggression.

      Only way to see if someone is aggressive would be to push them over the edge, but I really think that is a bad move, for million reasons.

      But ask yourself this, would you be testing your friend if he wasn’t Korean?

      • i totally agree about my relatives being prejudiced, i mean, racism isn’t new to anyone…. and i’ve told them that they shouldn’t actually just connote the violence to Koreans since the whole world has their own domestic violence issues.

        true! anybody could be aggressive given a situation that requires it.

        and yeah, pushing him over the edge won’t do anything good.

        as a friend, I think I shouldn’t even be thinking about testing him if I trusted him enough.

        thanks for this!

          • and I’m glad I found this website haha! :)

            thanks so much for all the advice. I’m not even dating a Korean (yet) but I guess liking a Korean guy is one thing we share in common…. I just dont have the guts to confess to him yet, especially since I’m scared of being rejected… i guess i just need more patience, if i don’t gather enough courage to do what you did to get Kimchi Man :)

            • sweetie, he’ll show you in time and then you won’t have to get him, but he’ll get you… and if he doesn’t, then clearly he’s missing out, not you <3 just stay in touch and real nice and cute with him :)

            • aww! thanks for this… :) i dont really know if “we” have a chance but i’m pretty sure that he’s comfortable spending time with me… we talk about anything and he shares a lot about what he thinks and even tells me about plans or what he wants to happen in the future (random stuff like how he wants to be the best dad, having kids, sending them to good schools, or honeymoon preferences) and he also doesn’t mind sharing (food, popcorn, or drinks) with me…i just hope i dont get sister/friend-zoned…. lol still hoping for the best! :D thanks again!!

  5. Ohh.. I spent whole night reading your articles & replies. It’s 5:10 am in Pakistan. But I’m glad that I found your blog. It’s really informative. I enjoyed your detailed & concerning replies. Like a lot of other girls, Kpop made me interested in Korea at first. My interest grown with the time so I wanted to know more about Korea. Your blog answered a lot of my questions. Thank you :-) furthermore, I’ve finished my High School & now I want to study in a Korean University. But I heard that Korean people hate Muslims. :-( I am afraid of being hated by Classfellows. thats why can’t decide should I go there or not. Please ask your Kimchi man does he really hate muslims? P

    • Hi Ayesha,

      Not all Korean men hate Muslims, however I believe most Korean’s that believe in a religion are Christian (Catholic and Protestant). Christian churches were one of the only ways that people could communicate during the Japanese occupation and became a huge part of Korean society. In terms of Korean men finding a Pakistani women attractive, that will depend on the men. I myself have dated an Indian woman when I was attending university and found that many of our values were similar and fell in love with curry. :3

      • Thank you for your reply Kang. Well, all I want to study in Korea and Learning Korean Make up. :-) so hate of few people is okay as long as I can stay there & achieve my dreams peacefully.

  6. Hi, I’m a Korean guy and I have never hit a female. I was in a long term relationship where the person I was with used to throw things at me and hit me, I would simply walk away. These violent outbursts were not for serious arguments such as me cheating on her, but were from silly arguments (i.e. pausing a movie and watching a show while she went to make popcorn, apparently I was being disrespectful because it showed I didn’t want to watch the movie with her. -_-). The most aggressive I would be is raise my voice. The stereotypes that Korean men are more aggressive is simply not true.

  7. Hey Oegukeen! Thanks so much for answering my question – I’ve been looking forward to it ever since it got picked and what you’ve said has been extremely helpful. I’m so glad you talked about handling stereotypes because this whole post really opened my eyes a bit more. It’s good to know it’s not all as some say it is – I’m definitely not going to let stereotypes get in the way of something beautiful, but I’ll also stay careful as well as I would with anyone else. Thank you again! :D

  8. I would be very interested to know more about gender gap. I recently had a weird experience with a korean guy I met online. Long story short: we both live in U.S. we chatted during 3 months trough kakaotalk , few conversations over the phone because his English wasn’t good although he was in the final stage of an ESL program. This guy is 40 years plus like myself, single parent with 2 kids. Apparently his ex-wife abandoned them to go back to Korea.
    I moved to his city after 3 months…some other personal circumstances made the move easier, I have close friends here and got a new job.
    Two days after we met he asked me to watch his kids while he was attending a work meeting, the request repeated again the fourth day when I took the kids out for 6 hours: movies, lunch…book reading, etc. For a professional woman with no kids like myself…I did a good job, but things may be difficult with kids specially when you don’t know them and you are new to a city, trying to drive to places using a GPS navigator while trying to avoid normal fighting between a 6 and 8 years old siblings…ohh I forgot to mention…I am hispanic…and thank God the kids are fluent in English.
    Like many women in western culture I just mentioned to this guy (my “boyfriend” by then) that the kids gave a little bit of hard time and that I ended up tired but happy of having entertained them and of being able to solve any issue that arouse during my “babysitting” work… and guess what? he felt offended and said his kids are his pride and that I “hurt” his pride just by saying that I was stressed out, he broke up with me in one day after 3 months of sweet words, promises and plans…so, I wander…was sharing my feelings a “mistake” I made?
    I obviously do not regret of my comments, I was respectful and I thought he would feel proud of me, considering I am not a mother, I was new to the city and I was willing to help him out with the kids. Now I wander why his ex wife left forever…
    This experience has created doubts about my perceptions of koreans. How open may a korean guy be to a western woman behavior? are they considerate an empathetic to women? do they expect a woman to be submissive and stay silent no matter what? …those are just reflections I am making. I am a mature woman, loving, sweet and hard working…if koreans are not open to share feelings and to listen to a woman or at least to give it a try…then maybe I should not put my eyes on another korean.

    • So you had a bad experience with one weirdo, and went right from “This Korean guy” to “(All) Korean guys”. But that’s hardly fair or rational — you wouldn’t think it’s right if some Korean woman had a bad experience with one Hispanic guy and afterwards concluded all Hispanic people must be mean and nasty, would you?

  9. The linked article states that the man who beat his wife is 52 years old. That was the old days. Korea has changed so much since then. (Just compare pictures of Korea 30yrs ago and now) We used to think (and some still do) that beating children is okay to help mould them into nice kids but the trend is now moving towards the notion that such use of violence is considered child abuse. Violence is taken much more seriously now and beating one’s wife is NEVER the norm in Korea.

  10. Korea has much lower rate of violence than most countries in the world. I feel much safer in South Korea than even in Europe.
    United States, latin America. middle east and Africa has too much violence. Too many guns everywhere.

  11. In reality it is hard to say weather one culture is more aggressive or abusive than another. I was in an abusive relationship (both of us American). You don’t always see it coming. I knew him for about 5 years give or take. We dated for a while…During that time we have a few spats but all were verbal and nothing serious. After I married the man and had taken his last name I was no longer and individual, I was now property. I was cut off of family (unless he thought they would benefit the cause in anyway), I was no longer allowed to see my female friends or even talk to male friends that were like brothers too me in different states (moved after school). The people that I knew since childhood up to current friends made were no longer allowed to associate with me but I could associate with his family all I wanted too. In a sense I wish my caseworker had no told me to destroy photos of bruises on my body (some severe) and the destruction that he would do in our home and leave me to deal with it. One fight left me on the floor in the middle of my living room with glass everywhere around me (I’m not kidding or exaggerating). I have had full drinks thrown at me (glass), He has punched at me and Ive moved and hes put his fist through walls. I have had knives (for what reason, is unknown) hidden under the mattress of the bed, in the car, under the couch in the bathroom and around the living room. I have been pinned on the floor by him but that was a little easier to fight there even though I HATE being pinned in an argument especially with an abusive man. One of the last displayed of abuse that was actually seen was noted by my mother which is not a good thing because she can get mama bear syndrome especially involving her baby cub….I went up to where my mom worked (a public food and drink place) and I thought I had long enough sleeves on to cover my arm but apparently I didn’t. I had gotten a drink (this was 3 days to the letter before I threw him out and had him legally evicted from our apartment which was in MY name alone) and at the time I smoked so I had lit a cigarette and someone said something to me so I turned towards them and I failed to realize my arm had shown. I don’t know if my mom said it or if the person that I was talking to had an expression in which made my mom look. Naturally any parent would be upset with their daughter (and I was in my mid 20’s) because they didn’t speak up to their parent about any form of abuse. I knew better with my mom because she would have gone after him. I told her it was being taken care of and it was I was in the coarse or legal action and filing for divorce. The police were attempting to serve papers against him on my moms work address, home address as well as my residence (Protection order). I had a friend that was once a person of law in a facility near by (former prison guard), he had moved out of state closer to his parents when his mom had become ill. I had enlisted and commissioned his help with this because I knew he could connect me legally to the right people. My ex-husband got in trouble when he was 17 (I think he was 17, he may have been a little older) over something so stupid as armed robbery and he was still on parole and he had a warrant, we used this to our advantage. With that I was able to secure protection orders, file for divorce on grounds of extreme mental cruelty and domestic violence. I had so much content for the courts to use that it was against him that is wasn’t even funny and it was solid proof. I had the States Attorney involved and I was working with him directly. I had police officers that had witnessed threats and so much more. One of the officers working on my case knew my parents and he scolded me like I was one of his own and he read me off, my mom was present too. He was right and I knew he was, even if it was too late.When the legal separation was finalized and order of protection served he told me if it was the last thing he ever did he will kill me. He has even tried…I have had my ex try to set an apartment building on fire that I lived in, he has shot a hunting bow into the side of a house that went between 2 windows that if just a little better shot it could have actually got him. I had his mother arrested on Christmas eve for disorderly conduct. The whole family has stalked me. I could go on for hours but I’m really about done with it because I still have triggers and it’s been close to 20 years ago now. So to say that Korean men are definitely abusive or aggressive, you can’t unless you know first hand. If you have been abused you see the Red Flags instantly and you know to run like hell! But to meet a Korean man and resist an attraction because you have read that ALL Korean men are abusive you just can’t say that because while you gamble on the 50/50 aspect of it, it goes to show that ANY man can be abusive or aggressive. As for Korea being stuck in the 1950’s North Korea is a country that is more conservatively dominated in very retro life styles. They are limited on the knowledge they have about South Korea, Japan or any other country. They are far behind on fashion, they have a limited amount of hair styles for men and women that they can choose from. Sadly North Korea is a closed off society that is denied knowing what life is really like. South Korea is far different, they are not slighted on a bias belief system. They are together with fashion, for a lack of time and better description they pretty much mirror the rest of us in the freedoms of fashion, expression, music and many others. I am not in any way mocking or making fun of South Korea, I am actually very interested in South Korea, Seoul and a few other places. I have also realized in the past 20 years that I am attracted to South Korean men. As for submissiveness goes…Women can sometimes be more submissive in the western & Eastern states. This is not an insult to anyone it just means we tend to put up with more which allows men to get by with more than they should in some cases (but there are some that are so amazing that once married they flip that switch and you don’t know who this man is). Just know abuse signs and if your uncomfortable with the aggression (which most would be) then my suggestion would be to GET OUT NOW! I wouldn’t close my mind off to Korean men because you’ve read they are abusive, if you have a person with a PHD that can prove that the Korean Male Society Is In Fact Abusive with hard facts and numbers then by all means but as long as there is no scientific proof just keep your eyes open, watch for red flags and signs of aggression or abuse and act if you see signs of this behavior but lets not damn them all…There are good American me, Good Korean Men, Good English me…Irish, Belgium. German, Japanese, Chinese men and the list goes on and on but I am sure you get the point. Thats half of what is wrong with the world today is all these stupid stereotypes and labels. I hope this can shed some light that was missing from the corner on how random Abuse actually is.

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