Masculinity In South Korea

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The fluid concept of masculinity is shaped by historical events and regional cultural practices. Thus at any given point in time, a country will have its own forms and adaptations of masculinity. The qualities (not always restricted to men) are shown on the surface through fashion, hairstyles and facial features, but are largely dependent on attitudes and behaviors that are the social norm for the gender. They constantly change as a culture adapts and major events such as a war will change the expected roles for both men and women. Understanding transnational influences in this area is not simple because masculinity is affected by the images of other nations. South Korea has a strong example of hybrid masculinity, combining traditional and…show more content…
Local influences for this new image include a combination of the Confucian seonbi, Korean military, economic crisis, and job competition. Remnants of past Confucian traits of masculinity may have carried into the Postmodern identity, just as many other traits have slid into the crannies Korean culture today. In the Joseon Dynasty that lasted until 1910, there was a distinct class system with the Yangban elite. The entitled men who did not pass the exam or chose not to take this government position became scholars. These scholars (seonbi), valued education and a strong inner will. They were praised for this independent lifestyle. Intellect was placed above physcial strength and therefore seonbi had a softer exterior image. This introduced an effeminate image for men, but with diligence and strength at the core, a key characteristic in the allure of this postmodern man. Even still, Korea remained a heavily patriarchal society with the men being the strong providers for the household. It was also under constant military pressure. Repeatedly being the victim created a mentality of haan, a resentment tinged with hope for the future. After the Japanese and then U.S. occupation in the early stage of modernization, there was a need to reaffirm the masculinity that had been “broken” by war. Needing to rebuild and create a place for itself in society, “longing for a male hero became integrated in the production of a new symbol of Korea” (Kim 10). Hard masculinity was desirable here. It seems counterintuitive that a soft image emerged from this. But the military life is another way to see things. It is very ordered and soldiers are taught to repress their emotions. There is an underlying mentality that has carried over since the war days. Even though the war between the North and South ended in 1953, the military still
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