Sexism in Korean soaps

The latest rage online
The latest rage online

Soap operas are popular worldwide and many people watch Asian soaps online. Korean Soaps, or ‘K drama’ as it is popularly known as, was brought to the attention of worldwide audiences after the release of the soap ‘Boys over flowers’ in 2009.

The show was aired on the channel KBS2, at 21: 50, on Mondays. The show had a  25.4% nationwide rating.The show shot lead actor Lee Min Ho to stardom, turning him to one of the most popular Korean stars in the world. The drama was subtitled  in Spanish, German, English and many Asian languages. It’s the same story though- boy chases after girl, they finally get together, then the boy breaks up with her, to protect her – The typical cliche.

There are typical cliches that are repeated in Korean soaps, that never seem to grow old. In Korean Drama, the sexism is more palpable in terms of body language.

As body language is more noticeable than words, the sexism is more glaring. Here is a list of sexist cliches, that are noticeable in Korean soaps, and why you should avoid watching them :

  1. The unexpected back hug – The male character in K-drama believes that he can hug the woman he likes, whenever and wherever he pleases, without context or consent.                                                     This back hug is often timed after the female character’s rejection of the male protagonist. Even after the woman makes it clear that ‘it’s over’ the male leads actions, gives off the message that any woman’s decision can be altered with persuasion. Her consent seems the least important factor in such situations.
Still from the drama 'Mary Stayed out all Night'
Still from the drama ‘Mary Stayed out all Night’
Still from the drama 'Secret'
Still from the drama ‘Secret’

2. Wrist/arm grabbing -This act of male dominance asserts sexism yet again. It gives men the confidence to believe that women are their property and can be treated in any way they like. It will be a tough task to find a Korean soap that does  not feature this act at least twice in the entire series.

Lead actor Jang Geun Suk grabbing his girlfriend’s hand in the drama ‘You are beautiful’

3. Forceful sexual advances –  Koreans do not shy away from showing sex in their soaps. Sexual acts are mostly initiated by the man. At any given opportunity, the men lounge at the women. It portrays Korean men as rough sexual beings and not lovers. It re-emphasizes the argument that ‘no’ means ‘yes’ and men can take what they want.

The male actor stakes his claim' in the show 'Goong'.
The male actor stakes his claim’ in the show ‘Goong’.
Male protagonist making a sexual advance towards the female protagonist in 'Love Rain'.
Male protagonist making a sexual advance towards the female protagonist in ‘Love Rain’.

4. Resting on his shoulder – This scenario is symbolic. The woman needs to rely on the man to protect her and keep her safe. She ‘needs’ a shoulder to lean on, as she cannot rely on herself. The women in Korean soaps are often damsels in distress. This cliche is universal.

Woman resting on a man's shoulder in the drama 'Faith'
Woman resting on a man’s shoulder in the drama ‘Faith’

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