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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?!!


July 7, 2012

Can Love Become Money? - Episodes 1-7 - Korean drama review

Yun Jung Hoon bites an award to test whether it is pure goldNow that Can Love Become Money? is available on DramaFever with English subtitles, I succumbed to the temptation to find out what it’s all about. Yes, I know I said in my un-review that I was happy to be free from the distraction of ridiculous plot twists. Perhaps I exaggerated a little.

Yun Jung grins evilyBut not about the plot twists – they are every bit as ridiculous as anticipated. Yeon Jung Hoon is deliciously slappable. Comic gifts that were merely hinted at in Vampire Prosecutor (mostly in scenes with Lee Won Jong), are given full rein in Can Love Become Money? His stock of sneers, pouts, glares, and evil grins is bottomless. We love to hate him.

However, there’s more serious subtext to this “romantic comedy” than I expected. We’re starting to see that even the characters we like are deceiving others for their own ends. A particularly nasty character brings this to our attention at the end of Episode 7. Despicable as he is, we have to concede the point. While the motivating backstories of unsympathetic characters unfold, sympathetic characters bare their claws, and it becomes harder to tell the difference.

A big initial turn-off was the implied rape and total physical subjugation of Uhm Ji Won early in the series. It’s supposed to explain her choices for the rest of the plot, but nothing so heavy-handed was necessary. Yoon Da Ran isn’t overly fastidious about ethical considerations. I’m seeing a lot of near and implied rape in Korean drama lately (two Vampire Prosecutor episodes, Love Rain hotel scene, etc.). In Can Love Become Money?, the perpetrators subsequently become comic characters, while Da Ran seems more traumatized when her underwear shows than she was by a group sexual assault. That’s troubling. People who write rape into plots should talk to some actual rape survivors first.

Yun Jung Hoon pretends to read a magazine while Uhm Ji Won chats interestedly with his blind date
However, women also fight back in Can Love Become Money? In Episode 4, Ma In Tak is mercilessly dressed down by the friend of a woman he has humiliated. Her no-holds-barred psychological profile of him is a revelation to Yoon Da Ran – who does her own venting later.
Uhm Ji Won takes a mallet to Yun Jung Hoon's windshield
The casting of 31-year old Wang Bit Na as an aging has-been actress is a puzzlement. Yoon Da Ran’s catty put-down of Hong Mi Mi (translated as “expired goods” in fan subs) was toned down to “she’s not so great” in Drama Fever’s subtitles. Was this because it was mean, or because Uhm Ji Won is actually the older actress (34)?? Hong Mi Mi is all over the place: seductive, whiny, confident, desolate, compassionate, calculating. I can’t figure out who she is.

As for Jo Yeon Woo, at first Kim Sun Woo seemed refreshingly likable. He gets a little ugly with Wang Bit Na, however, and what’s on his hidden agenda, anyway? In Episode 7, things with Wang Bit Na take an unexpected turn, and one wonders whether it can possibly end well.

Uhm Ji Won stares sadly after Yeon Jung Hoon through the bars of a gateSince I’ve seen a number of later episodes without subtitles already, I have some idea of what’s ahead. Transformations, for sure – a recurring theme in Korean drama. Sometimes it’s genderized, with love changing men to better human beings, while it changes women to better packaged ones (ala Love Rain). However, this time I think we are in store for personality changes all around. Do I even believe people can change that much? I’m not sure. But I love to watch the timid become brave, the selfish discover the suffering of others, and the crusty crack open to reveal a gooey center. Hmm, I think it’s lunchtime.

Also with Yeon Jeong Hun:

More Can Love Become Money? reviews
Vampire Prosecutor (Season 1) reviews