The idealisation of Korean men
Since I started my degree in Korean Studies and moved to Korea, I have noticed that foreign women are idealising Korean men. From students of Korean to English teachers and people just casually interested in Korean popular culture, they have all created this perception of Korean men being the perfect man, boyfriend and husband.
K-pop idols either belong to the cutesy “I want to be your super cute boyfriend and buy you puppies and cupcakes” group, the “I am so amazingly funny and lovely that you can look past my slightly less than stellar looks” group or the “I want to protect you against all other men with my chocolate abs, bulging biceps and mean, manly stare” group. Now I will admit that I haven’t watched more than a few episodes of a Korean drama but I have noticed a few staple stereotypes: handsome but petulant son of a chaebol family; beautiful but sensitive and shy son of a chaebol family; and the good-looking normal guy who lacks in confidence but is still going to fight for the love of the pretty female lead. I believe that it is because of these media representations that Korean men have started to be the must-have “thing” for foreign females in Korea.
Now, I sound very cynical but I am generalising based on people who I have met, read or heard about in Korea and also things that I have seen on the internet. I know foreign girls, indeed they are friends of mine, who feel at home in Korea; they want to live here for the rest of their lives so of course they would want to be with a Korean man. They want to be with someone of the culture and lifestyle in which they are comfortable and identify with. This is just natural; they have not been influenced by the media representations of men, they are purely acting upon a natural instinct.
I have also met and heard of girls who just want a “hot Korean boyfriend” just like An example of this is a Facebook status on a university page which went along the lines of “How can I get an asian boyfriend? They’re really hot”. To say that I wasn’t impressed by this and the answers to the question is an understatement. I will admit that I too have thought this and as a student of Korean I often get told “if you want to improve your Korean then you need to have a Korean boyfriend”. Before I had lived in Korea for a few months, I was guilty of wanting to date a Korean just to improve my Korean and, in a way, fit in with the foreign female stereotype here. However, I soon realised that my way of thinking was appalling; no one should date a person just to improve their language ability of to fit in with societal expectations.
What I really want to say with this piece is that Korean men are just like men of any other race or nationality. They come in many shapes, sizes and personalities: cute and shy; handsome and athletic; hot and arrogant; hot and humble; pretentious but intriguingly interesting hipster; less than average looking with an amazing personality; rocker, fiercely intelligent; fat, skinny, average, ripped… I could go on. The media representation of these perfect men is to get Korean and foreign girls alike to daydream about their ‘perfect prince'; but ultimately it is to market these men in a way which will make them the most money. So next time you think “oh I want a Korean boyfriend…” please think again about your reasons. If it’s because you know a Korean guy who has an incredible personality or you genuinely feel at home and comfortable with Korean culture then fantastic. However, if it’s because you want to improve your Korean, think that your romance will be like that out of a drama or you just simply “want a hot Korean boyfriend” then rethink your ideas. These men are ordinary humans after all.
This is part of a series of posts about dating and relationships.