We Don’t All Have A Korean Fetish!

If I were to count the amount of times I have had someone tell me that I have a Korean fetish I would need a room built of whiteboards and a limitless supply of markers. There just seems to be something that gets to people right away as soon as I say that I have an interest in Korean culture. Automatically I can sense the thoughts that are so obviously going around in their heads, the thoughts I have become so used to hearing, ‘She must like Korea because of the men’. From my experience in this world if you happen to appreciate a culture that you do not ‘belong’ to it can be easily perceived by others that you are either treating that culture as a joke or have developed an unhealthy obsession with the people from said country. Countless times I have been stopped in both Korean restaurants and at K-pop club nights and asked why I have such a keen interest in being surrounded by Korean people. Is it their appearance? No. Their style? Not likely (no offence). No it’s simply the fact that:

A) I happen to like Korean food. I mean, who doesn’t love spicy meat and a wide variety of vegetables with their meal? (…apart from vegetarians/vegans.)

B) It is more likely that I will get to hear music that I actually like at nights designed specifically around the genre of music I listen to and,

C) I am allowed to go wherever I like!

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Not even Kang Gary could distract me from this!

Sometimes in restaurants I actually find myself sitting back and wondering if people expect me to jump up from my chair mid-mouthful and go up to the nearest table seating a Korean man, screaming at full volume “Future husband! Let’s get to baby making!”. But why would I? I don’t walk into food establishments or clubs looking for a husband, I’m 23. I have plenty of time for that. And even if I were younger why do people get to presume that this is how I would act? I just want some food and a drink with friends and I’m good.

I have never truly understood, or gotten along with, those people I have met that find it so easy to judge every Korean person they come across in the same way. From those people I have seen point out Koreans in the street and make statements like ‘her body is gorgeous, but you know she’s had surgery’ to those who will make presumptions simply on the way a guy looks ‘you know he has to be Korean, his face is perfect!’, every little judgemental statement hits a nerve with me. I like to think that I’m the type of person that would judge my next date or partner on a lot more than his ethnicity and face. Although, sometimes I’m not entirely surprised by the misjudgement some make towards people with a love of Korean culture. When I look online at some of the people who claim to love and enjoy it in all its forms and then spend most of their time planning out marriages to Hallyu stars and writing fanfics or shipping members of idol groups together, it does often displease me.

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What people think I do…

I don’t want to be lumped together with the people who post online about only ever wanting to marry a Korean man because they are the perfect man, thereby pushing false idealisations onto them. My fascination with the culture very clearly differs from that. But then this brings up another issue: the word fascination. Is it incorrect to say that you have a fascination with another’s culture?  What some would perceive as flattery, others could just as easily call offensive. When I use the word fascination I speak of the things that have made me come to love Korean culture as a whole: the music, the culture, the food, the language, and of how I am fascinated by these things and wish to discover as much as I possibly can about them. Although what others sometimes get from this is the perception that I see the culture as something that can be mocked. I don’t. Never have and never will. I simply have a passion for a culture that is not my own. But what is wrong with this? I have simply fallen in love with the culture and not the men who I am supposedly besotted with.

It’s this passion for Korea that has led to so many wonderful opportunities that have allowed me to meet some of my closest friends. The culture, the people, everything about the country has become such a big part of my life! If it were not for my love of Korea I would never have met Lizzie, my co-founder of Beyond Hallyu, and felt that I was really able to finally express my knowledge of Korea and look at it in a more in-depth way. We work hard to ensure that we look at Korea in the most open way we can, aiming to learn as much about the culture and people as possible. But we are not alone with this open passion for it, as we know and have met many like-minded individuals who feel the same way we do. Some of these people have spent hours, as we do, looking at the country from an outsider’s perspective and shared their views and their loves with others in the hope of reaching out to more people. Others spend time studying the language in-depth, both alone and with groups, and taken the time to travel around the country to gain a more in-depth experience of it. We don’t take the culture lightly and we put our whole into teaching others about the things that have made us feel so strongly about a country we are not from.

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Some of the many things Korea has to offer. Much more than the ‘ideals’ of some.

The one thing I don’t do, and I know none of my fellow Korea loving friends do, is claim to know more about the country than a Korean person. That is impossible. Let’s just be serious for a second. Yes I love the culture, yes I do know a bit more than the average person about Korea but do I know everything? Of course not! I simply know as much as I have been able to learn and take it over this past decade and a bit. And this is exactly why I could never take Korea lightly. I may love it but I will never entirely understand it. I can travel around the country as often as I please but I will never truly know every little thing about it. But while I sit here and attempt to show others that not every person who likes Korea wants to date (or marry) a Korean and that we don’t all tokenise the culture, we must bear in mind that everyone is different. Whilst my love is truly just towards Korea’s culture, others (as I have mentioned before) will simply wish to continue to seek out the ideal they believe exists only in the land of oppas and false dreams of the ‘ideal’ happiness. In the end isn’t this all just human nature?

People judge others based on the characteristics they assume to be primarily based around the people they are or the interests they have, and it’s unlikely this is something that will ever change. However maybe there’s a chance that the more mainstream the appeal Korea suddenly has, the less focus there will be on those who idealise and more on the people who have learnt to live and love Korea, warts and all.

 

Have you had a similar experience? Leave us a comment below.

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Sasha

Co-founder and Editor at Beyond Hallyu
Lover of Korean hip-hop and indie music...and Unicorns.
  • http://orion21.blogspot.com/ Orion

    Just to add to this, even having a preference in looks or enjoying certain hot celebrities does not automatically mean you have a fetish or a one-track mind. We all drool over one celebrity or other and Korean celebrities (not every Korean man) are mostly good looking, but a) that does not mean we are all somehow obsessed with the general idea of them and b) it does not mean that is our focus.

    I enjoy Korean cinema, Korean television, Korean food and certain aspects of culture and tradition. I also acknowledge their technology and contribution to the global economy. But the minute a hot guy comes up or, God forbid, you joke about the “hotties”, some will decide to scrap all of those interests and assume that is all you care and talk about.

    But it is human nature. We love judging, but we don’t have the time and interest to know everyone better before doing so. The difference is, a decent person will acknowledge that and refrain from judging an individual they have no interest in, while an unfair person will pass quick judgement thinking they have enough information for it to be accurate.

    As long as appreciation of Asian entertainment is riddled with a majority of fangirls and fanboys (or rather kyaagirls and kyaaboys) and as long as it does not allow and welcome more types of audiences and become mainstream, this will happen. All we can do is ignore those who are happy with ignoring us. Assuming you know a person based on your limited knowledge of them is ignoring at its most offending form, when it comes to aquaintances.

  • http://www.ai-no-storia.com/ Tanya Tonéva Iliéva

    It is not really surprising that people who appreciate Korean culture are immediately defined as kpop fanatics. In fact most people I met in my country who claimed they loved Korea were some crazy kpop obsessed fans. On the other hand every time I mentioned I do find their culture and history fascinating I was being asked which are my favorite kpop artists… Same with Japan. Every time I mentioned I studied Japanese and I still want to study it and that I read some books about Japanese history and mitology I was being asked if I like anime. But that is what happens when a whole country becomes a synonym of just one cultural aspect. This pisses me off so much I avoid mentioning to strangers about that part of my interests because most people would immediately assume I am a crazy fangirl.
    I also find the female asian beauties gorgeous but in fact I don’t really consider their men in general as extremely attractive.

  • paramount

    i agree with this 99%…only because, i like korea for everything you stated but i would also like to date a korean. it’s not as if i /exclusively/ date koreans or i have any type of romantic notions about them being ideal men, but i feel like this implies a little that liking the culture & wanting to date and/or marry a korean are mutually exclusive. in the past, i’d been ashamed about my ‘preference’ for this very reason – i didn’t want to be lumped in with the girls who ARE targeting this specific group of people as “perfect guys.”
    i am also aware that i seem to be in the minority. it’s interesting to see this type of fetishization with the gender roles switched (since men with “yellow fever” is more often discussed) but it’s also extremely upsetting because it seems to go unnoticed DUE to the fact that it is (mostly) females doing it.

    but i’m happy to know that there are definitely others like us 😀 in my experience, many asian people understand & respect my interest in the culture after awhile; recognizing that it’s not all about k-pop or dramas. i can’t say the same for many of my non-asian friends though…

    • Alexa Hope

      Paramount, I get where you are coming from. I’ve been living in Korea for the past few months, and yes, there are douches and jerks here too. Like any culture with PEOPLE, there are egos and ignorance. However, my Korean guy friends actually are quite different, and the culture encourages personality and action that are incredibly rare in corn central, bring your tractor to school day, Illinois. My husband doesn’t have to be Korean, but the ratio of men who have attractive personalities here compared to the ones I know in the states? It’s incredibly obvious where my preference lies.

  • GeraYvonAnde

    Veggies don’t eat the meat, but all that gochujang is more sexy than any man, be it korean or any other nationality/ethnicity. Although I think we could argue that it has opened our minds up more to dating Eastern Asian people it doesn’t make it a fettish~ I’m open to anyone really but I think the interest in Korean and Eastern Asian cultures has just opened up the possibilities to a rainbow of dating <3 a beautiful multicultural rainbow…

  • kpopalypse

    I like their pop music and their food and that’s really about it. I don’t care about Korean culture and in fact I would have a really hard time living there because of the huge cultural differences. If it was some other country besides Korea making all this amazing forward-thinking futuristic pop music, I’d listen to that instead and call myself “madagascarpopalypse” or whatever the country was.

  • Ben88

    If you like Korean culture (or any culture), you shouldn’t have to defend it. If someone is aggressively questioning you, then you should ask the person, why they aren’t even willing to try it? Put them on the defensive.

    Just own it, and say that it’s better for you personally. Their opinion doesn’t matter, because they’re so close-minded and insecure that they can’t consider trying something and are rejecting stuff beforehand.

    Have you ever watched a good Korean movie or drama? Have you tried Korean food, because if you tried Korean bbq, you’d realize what you are missing. And yes, you can drool over Korean guys just like any other guys, because you aren’t brainwashed by Hollywood.

  • Angela Parsons

    I was drawn into korean culture by kpop and have to admit have a few crushes and this has raised my standards for a boyfriend or husband (far into the future). But it is not just a mindless obsession with korean guys, I am more interested in the culture and the korean food is to die for just wish i could go to korea and try it.
    Also, I have to say the fanfics stuff has always weirded me out and the shipping etc…

  • Ting

    I don’t tell anyone I like Hallyu and just hint I’m into cheesy stuff then leave it alone. Last time I did I got weird faces (I’ll cite as cultural differences o.o) . I do kind of get iffy how people are all I’m into this culture but I don’t follow the trend I’m so cool e.g. Oh I don’t listen to the “mainstream” music but I like the history and traditions so I’m better than you. Not saying the OP is like that though by any means because I’m such a Korean foodie person myself haha but have my own Hallyu guilty pleasures. It’s just that snobby nature from other folk that are a bother.

  • whateverwha

    I mainly like their entertainment and reading about sociological aspects.

    Yes, being into Japanese, Korean and Chinese entertainment made me more open
    to dating Asian guys, but it’s not my goal and I don’t even care much about dating. A potential boyfriend being Korean or German or Brazilian matter little to me. I know bits of Korean culture, I’m far from being knowledgeable, but their culture is not what will bring me closer to them. I don’t have a fascination for their culture, I just would like a
    boyfriend whom I would connect mentally and relate to. His nationality or ethnicity is not what should define him to me. I would even say that him being too “Korean” (on some aspects) might hinder our connection, who knows, depends on the guy. That’s my individualistic point of view.

    I can’t even say that I would like a Korean boyfriend because I don’t know any Korean guy and dramas are not that reliable, and don’t give me a very interesting image of men in general. That and the family thing. So I don’t understand this obsession about Korean men.

  • luxrayvillage

    One thing I would like to point out is that, at least in America, the “fetishization” of European men is a lot more acceptable than that of other ethnicities. Someone wrote on a bathroom stall at my high school, “french guys are so hot”, and someone else responded “Germans too tho”. People who say “I love British guys” or “french accents are the best” are seen as a lot more normal than someone who finds Asian or Middle Eastern men attractive. Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, even though I’d venture to say European fetishizers are more common than those of other ethnicities, someone who expresses an interest in French or Spanish culture is very rarely questioned if they’re just interested for the men. However, people who express an interest in, say, Korean culture are assumed to be fetishizing that culture’s people. After revealing to a few people that I like korean music and am teaching myself the language (and developing crushes on two korean guys in succession) I became known throughout my school as the girl “obsessed with Koreans”.

    • Kasady

      this is very true. Being into white men (for example German) = standard, default, being into Korean men = fetish, no life, weirdo. But this train of thought is popular. If you’re going to Korea because you like the culture/country, be ready to be judged by YOUR OWN PEOPLE

  • zsc

    For those reading this late who still may be confused…

    When Korean people write about this kind of thing, a common theme is the way people express themselves about this topic can creep them out. Like saying “I’m in love with Korean culture” as if it is a monolith person, ignoring (or refusing to learn about) the variety and complexity of Korea, which sounds like (even to me tbh) “being Korean” is the only criteria someone would need to be your friend or SO–which is objectifying. It seems as if you treat Korean people as your accessories, and their country like an amusement park (no need to, since they have a great amusement park! lol).

    I can relate to that. I also use that kind of language as a red flag that would signal that someone is just trying to satisfy their black fetish with me.

    This is what I have read from Korean bloggers, so…*shrug*

  • Ilse Valkering

    I think a big reason why it’should right away seen as a fetish when you like a non-western country, is because that is the standard to everything. Thousands of non-white girls and woman have crushes on actors like Brad Pitt or artists like 1D and the same with so many guys who have crushes on white female artists. It’s seen as strange the moment you are crushing over a different, non-holywood beauty standard, and people will immediately see it as a fetish or an obsession.

    I’m just like the author, I’m juSt really interested in the culture and everything, and because if that I’m capable of seeing different types of beauty and what is handsome. I’m broadening my perception of what I find beautiful and attractive. This does not mean I only see myself with a Korean guy in the future, or only want a Koreanew boyfriend, it means that I also find non western men attractive, and this is really strange in the eyes of many people, because the mainstream beauty standard all over the world is the white Holywood celebrity.

    Of course this does not take away that you shouldn’t be delusional and think all Korean/ Asian guys are the perfect husband, boyfriend. Because that is a stereotype and harmful. But there is nothing wrong with finding people from different cultures attractive