Monday, 25 August 2008

Something I DIDN'T like about living in Downtown Seoul:

Walking home from work and seeing THIS every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night (it also happened, even more, on Saturdays and Sundays).


Brian said...

Then of course once they get into the nightclubs they're dragged by thte bikkis to whichever table of guys has requested female companionship.

This isn't a country where passersby yet feel driven to interfere in things.

A nice production. I just wanted to recommend shutting off comments to the youtube video, since anything related to Asia usually brings out race-baiting and in-fighting among Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, etc.

Roboseyo said...

Ooh. Thanks for the heads up on that, Brian.

Andy M said...

Since I don't live in Seoul (or any other city in Korea), it was interesting to see this. Thanks for the eye-opening.

By the way, I added your blog to my blogroll. hope that's cool.

Anonymous said...

Why aren't the targeted women blowing their whistles, yelling, or calling the police on their cell phones?

It looks like a boyfriend-girlfriend squabble from what I've seen in this country so far. None of the women even seemed to be asking fo help.

However, maybe selling mace to women and school children might be a good business venture here. Then, of course, they'll be the ones carted of to jail for defending themselves against such scum.

John from Daejeon

Caryn & Dan said...

Come on ladies, clock 'em in the head with your purse and then kick them in the nuts. Thats what Caryn would do.

Survivors_Guilt said...

Hey I got pointed here by a girl who ran into you at a starcraft game. I took a quick look then did a double take. That's insane! All I have to say is I'm glad I'm not in Korea. Why don't the police do anything about it? Why can't the women sue for sexual harassment?

elrohil said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
elrohil said...

Hi Roboseyo,

Thanks for the response to my response to your video over at ChubbO Chubbington. My commentary wasn't motivated so much by how the Bikkis' behaviour looks to foreigners, in part because I wasn't sure I was in a position to understand their actions and the lady's reactions. Certainly my immediate feeling was alarm. But to take a more measured response I wanted to know more about a couple of other issues.

The first was whether or not the particular grasping action filmed here could be distinguished from the general aim of the Bikkis to bring ladies into clubs, especially if the grasp is conceived as a form of (intrusive) body language which is used (commonly?) in Korea. But I agree that the issue of familiarity, which you raised, is too important to make that distinction.

The other, related uncertainty, as I saw it, concerned the distinction between convincing and coercion. Looks like sometimes the Bikkis coerce by any normal definition, but perhaps sometimes they don't. More interesting is the fact that both Korean women’s' groups and your female students don't take it to be particularly objectionable or even find it a peculiar compliment. Maybe they are in some kind of denial.

From my perspective, these reactions are still very counter-intuitive. I'm uncomfortable with moral relativism, but endorse cultural particularity. I'm still not sure how to square all of those issues, but the case certainly makes me think. Thanks again.

Roboseyo said...

Caryn: that's exactly what I've always wanted to see. Can't one of them just grab a New York woman once, while I'm watching, and get a knee to the groin or an eyeful of pepper? If I saw that, just once, I'd laugh every time I saw them, instead of getting pissed off.

John: I also wish those women reacted more harshly. The fact they tolerate as much as they do. . . is an issue that bears a closer look than I'm able to give at all (not having the academic credentials to back up my initial impressions), and certainly closer than I could offer on a comment board.

Elrohil: as I said before, there are rules of engagement the bikkis seem to follow, and I think it IS largely dependent on the woman's responses. . . I think people DO find it objectionable, but I also think feminism in this country hasn't arrived yet at a place where something could be done about it, and given enough teeth to deter these guys.

Survivor's guilt: thanks for coming. Am still working on my post about the SC2GG community and the competition I saw. Keep checking. I WOULD love to see that lawsuit come to pass. . . but see previous comment about feminism in Korea not having much clout.

survivors_guilt said...

Yeah I can see how no one really seems like they'd really want to go down that road and fight for their rights not to be harassed like that. Then again, I don't know Korean Government that well. I didn't see any police. Do they ignore it if they see it or do they just make themselves scarce when it's happening?

Scott said...

Hey, these women are just training for what's coming after marriage. Who knows, they may even meet their future hubbies at one of these clubs!

Foreigner Joy said...


I have to say I am not really sympathetic to these women or their situation.

I think in large part that we are trained in America to think about social issues like this from a feminist perspective. And tend to lean in that direction instead of the objective or cultural.

I see this over and over again, that why are women in other parts of the world subjecting theirselves to sexism?

It is as if we westerners think we hold the power and golden answer to all women's troubles in the world without first considering just what it is we are witnessing and disregarding the history and culture.

Again I see this as kind of a feminist manifest watching these bikkis is like watching savages and we westerners must swoop in and be heros to the women.

I feel we shouldn't just jump to the conclusion that feminism hasn't arrived in this country. For one think that this women who is being targeted is walking the streets freely and dressed nicely. Perhaps in a country where women have less power she would be dressed more conservatively.

I am just saying that perhaps feminism is in this country just not being shown in the shapes and sizes that we recognize. Simply due to that it is a different culture taking on the globalized idea of feminism.

A point I want to leave with is one about safety. I am a woman and I understand that I can be targeted by men for any reason, one of which is rape.

I come from San Francisco, where I feared walking the streets at night. And ever since I have come here I feel safe walking alone at night in the streets here. I am saying that feminism is good and all but it still doesn't mean that the world has been cured of bad men.

Anyways this video was very thought provoking and begs the need that we as foreigners need to better understand the role of women in Korean society. Including the brothels and business-su's where men go. And please don't think this is a modern aspect of society. Sex and women's roles have been around since the dawn of time.

ok ok ... ;)

roboseyo said...

thanks for the thoughtful comments, Joy. As I mentioned in a previous comment, the issue is stickier than I made it out to be in the video. Feminism does exist in Korea, but in some different forms than we recognize in the west: it seems almost like it's sneaking in the side door to me:

men create a beauty ideal, so some women (for example, hyori) exploit that beauty image to gain power over men (spice girls did something similar in the '90s: making sexiness an agent of power instead of a sign of oppression)

men hold most of the keys in Korea's power structure, but by sheer numbers, that MUST change: women are either matching or outperforming men in many of the major jobs' entrance exams: the bar exam, the top university admission, the civil service, and the school teacher exam all are almost exactly equal between male and female passes, and a few (schoolteaching for sure, and I think the bar exam, though I couldn't dig up the statistics to prove it) have female successful applicants actually outnumbering males!

It'll take a while for all those shifts to shake out into tangible change, but let's just say I think Korea's women ARE going to be the leaders if Korea manages to stay near the top of the pile for the NEXT fifty years, once the male hierarchy pulls its head out of its ass and realizes that Korea's women are one of the best educated and most capable demographics out there, and adjust the workplace in order to better accomodate them.

and yeah, if you look at the women's body language, and if you walk around Jongno and look closer, you'll see that the bikkis only lay it on thick on the women who seem tempted. . . there IS some kind of weird enabling thing going on . . . but it doesn't mean I have to like it, any more than I like other enabling situations.

Thanks for weighing in!

Foreigner Joy said...


hey thanks for the feedback. Sorry my response was kinda livid. Since I am still new here I am still kind of taking in my own observations.

Either way I do agree that women apply for more jobs and are a strong workforce. Considering that a lot of young men have to do their military service leaving the women to work.

So anyways~ I guess just thank you again for posting a topic that can bring up discussion on yer blog. :)

Roboseyo said...

Your response didn't come across as livid at all to me, Joy, but I'm always glad to have conversations about what I post. :)

in the words of Veronica Corningstone (see Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, speaking of feminism and sexism), "thanks for stopping by".

Sam said...

I dont like in Korea, nor have i been there, though i plan to visit as soon as i can, i love the culture,language,etc but this is something that worries me a lot ive read many things about the sexism,the rapes,discrimination and treatment of women in general.It worries me more because i have a very strong character(nice way of saying i dont crap from ppl) i know theres gonna be many times that because of cultural differences ill just suck it up, but if some dude anywhere be it here where i live(Puerto Rico, another sexist,macho latino country) or there, comes up and grabs me, i would punch him in the face after one warning to let me go, so i think the women are to blame to some extent for not doing anything for themselves also, if you want equality of the sex then act like it, learn to take care of yourself also, that's just what i think though..

kdufos said...

"ppikki (삐끼)", not "bikki".

Roboseyo said...

bbikki ppikki bikki pikki
potato poTAto
kangnam gangnam gungnam
tomato toMAto
jamsil chamsil chamshil jamshil
pusan busan
jeollado cheollado jullado chullado
jeolla province cheolla province julla province chulla province...

transliteration's a bitch, ain't it? I try not to be to ppicky about it, but thanks for visiting!

kdufos said...

transliteration's a bitch, ain't it?

It is if you do it adhoc and continue the mess they've made out of it.

But not if you use the "official romanization."

Roboseyo said...

unfortunately, that video has already been uploaded to Youtube and may have been deleted from my "projects" file on my home computer, so I won't be correcting IT... however,

thanks for the link, kdufos. Have a great day!

Chris in South Korea said...

Very nice production. I've seen the same thing happen in my neck of the woods (for right now, Bucheon-si; soon to be Gangnam) and it makes me want to say / do something. The last time I saw a 'gentleman' like this, the Korean girl I was with said the same thing Brian said (passersby don't involve themselves with people they don't know, and neither does she). Some poor Korean could have a heart attack on a subway and no one would get involved, start CPR, etc.). I suspect they may also fear what might happen if they WERE to fight back (punch, hit with a purse, kick in the crotch, etc.). You know how small most Korean women are, and I somehow doubt the cops are any less sexist or more understanding than the guy that would claim assault.

For the record, she also mentioned that she would be flattered to receive that kind of attention. She would turn down the request, but she inferred it was nice to be thought of as pretty by someone else... Perhaps there's some other things to be fixed before a more equal mindset can come to Korea.

BTW, have you had a chance to check me out? I'm at - like you, I blog about Korea, traveling, the occasional post about work, pictures, etc. etc...

danb said...

Why do many women react the way they do? I'm sure there are some cultural things that I haven't sorted out yet, of course, but to boil it down, many, many people in Korean society have a pretty low opinion of themselves / suffer from low self-respect/self-esteem / have an inferiority complex / pick your favorite pop psychology term for this phenomenon. I have not seen this bikki schtick first hand myself, but will have to look for it the next time I'm in one of those night club districts (not often). The fact that you said the bikkis are more persistent with those who seem tempted says to me they really are flattered by the treatment and don't see it for what it is (ie, interest in their bodies, not their beings -- but one cultural aspect to note, of course, is the emphasis here on appearances). This kind of behavior and interchange between the bikkis and the girls who don't simply refuse is similar to that between abuser and abused (physical or emotional), IMHO. Great video & discussion, thanks.