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June 9, 2016

Language & Alcohol-Blaming Contribute to Rape in Korea

A photo from the back of a woman with long black hair looking out over the sea on a cloudy dayRape in Korea has become a headline topic recently, though this has received little attention in the American press. In late May, a teacher in a remote island village was eating alone at a restaurant. Fathers of her students pressured her into joining them (culturally impossible to refuse), and drinking with them (which she repeatedly but unsuccessfully attempted to decline). When she was too drunk to leave the restaurant on her own, they drove her home and gang-raped her.

Although women are not particularly respected in Korea, teachers are, so there was public outcry over this. Furthermore, this teacher was much younger than the rapists (which made it even more culturally impossible for her to avoid them), who conspired after the fact to destroy evidence. The Ministry of Education was called upon to better protect teachers.

The Ministry’s initial response was to float a policy of not sending female teachers to remote areas. Since 75% of Korean teachers are women, that isn’t practical. More to the point, as Yang Lee Hyun-kyung of the Korean Women’s Association United put it:

How can not sending women to so-called dangerous places be the answer to preventing such crimes against women? What the government is supposed to do is to make a safe environment for women and minorities in society.

Anywhere in Korea can be a “dangerous place” for women and girls. For example, Gyeonggi province. In March, a 14-year-old boy lured a 12-year-old schoolmate to a cheap room where he fed her alcohol, and, along with 5 of his friends, gang-raped her.

And then there was Airdre Mattner, an Australian tourist, whose drink was drugged while she was on a pub crawl in Seoul last year. A group of men then abducted her from her group, took her by taxi to a cheap hotel, and raped her. When police finally acted under international pressure, they only prosecuted her rapists for “sexual harassment,” because “she was unconscious and therefore cannot prove she didn’t consent.” Excuse me??!!! Unconsciousness isn’t proof enough?!!


November 3, 2014

KDrama Word of the Day: Soju

An uncapped bottle of soju with a full shot glass beside it소주 or soju is a clear Korean liquor which appears almost as often in Korean drama as 사랑 (and often in connection with it). Traditional soju is made from grain (rice, barley, or wheat), but it can also be made from other starches such as potatoes or yams.

It is pretty much flavorless (pictured is my first bottle of soju, which was maple flavored, but only faintly), and very similar to vodka. This bottle was about 20% alcohol (or 40 proof in U.S. terms). In Korea, that’s about average, but the alcohol content can be as high as 45%.

Korea has the highest hard liquor consumption rate in the world (which will not surprise drama lovers), 97% of it soju, which is very cheap and widely available.

Since drinking together is promoted in many contexts, including among conspiring power-brokers (also seen in KDrama), there is a drinking etiquette about who pours for whom, who drinks first, etc. In KDrama, you may have noticed a younger person turning away from an older person while drinking. Not doing this may indicate closeness, or intentional rudeness.

Further Reading:

Drinking in Korea (

South Koreans drink twice as much liquor as Russians and more than four times as much as Americans (Check out this infographic on Quartz)

Soju: the most popular booze in the world (The Guardian)

South Korean Police Tire of Abuse by Drinkers (New York Times)

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