Sexuality in South Korea

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Sexuality in South Korea has been influenced by culture, religion, and westernization. Viewpoints in contemporary society can be viewed as a conflict between the traditional, conservative older generation and the more liberal and 'modern' generation. Due to this conflict, several issues in Korea, including sexual education, homosexuality, and sexual behavior are highly contested.

Contents

Historical perspective

A modern enactment of the traditional pyebaek ceremony, which is usually held after the wedding ceremony Korean wedding-Honrye-Pyebaek-02.jpg
A modern enactment of the traditional pyebaek ceremony, which is usually held after the wedding ceremony

Traditional roles of women

Women have been marginalized throughout Korean history. [1] [2] Women could not participate in the main social system and were discriminated against on the basis of: their roles in marriage, fertility, lack of rights in divorce proceedings, and set roles in society. [1]

Historically, Korean society was patriarchal, especially due to Confucianism. [3] The position of a woman depended on the position of a male member of her family. Only the women of the ruling class could enjoy the same privileges of the men in the same class. Although men were allowed to have multiple wives, women were expected to have chastity and were compelled to remain unmarried if their husbands have died. The aforementioned societal norms began to be enforced during the Joseon Dynasty. For instance, chastity of widows were enforced by forbidding the sons and grandsons of remarried women from taking the Gwageo [?]. However, women were entitled to inherit property. [1]

In the family, women were expected to take care of the family finances. Women from lower class had jobs such as mudang, or shamans; folk healer; kisaeng. Female shamans outnumbered male shamans, and women were usually only examined by women folk healers. Women were excluded from schools until 1886, when Ewha Hakdang was established. [1]

Marriage system

During the Goryeo Dynasty (918–1392), monogamy was supported while divorce and remarriage were common. [1] However, the aristocracy in this period practiced polygamy, and a man was legally allowed to have up to four wives. [4] During the Joseon Dynasty (1392–1897), monogamy was established as the official policy. [1] However, elites were legally allowed to maintain concubines; however, children birthed with concubines were declared illegitimate since the early 15th century, and were banned from gwageo since 1471. [4] During this period, women's remarriage was prohibited from 1447 to 1897. Marriage with those with both the same surname and family origin was forbidden, and is still forbidden today. [1] [note 1]

During this time, early marriages were common. Early marriages were often arranged and can be traced back to the Three Kingdoms of Korea period (57 AD-668). Children about 10 years old could be presented to another family; this was done for both boys and girls. In the Joseon dynasty, the legal age for marriage was 15 for boys and 14 for girls. When a child assumed responsibility for the child's family, the child could marry at the age of 12. The society commonly believed that a higher age for marriage was associated with inappropriate sexual activity. This custom continued unto the 20th century. [1]

Religion

Religion in South Korea - 2005 [5]

   Irreligion (46.5%)
   Buddhism (22.8%)
   Protestantism (18.3%)
   Catholicism (10.9%)
  Other religions (1.7%)

The traditional concepts of sexuality in Korea have been influenced by: Confucianism, Buddhism, Neo-Confucianism, Catholicism, and Protestantism. [1]

Confucianism became important in the 7th century. [6] During the Goryeo Dynasty, Confucianism served as the practical and philosophical structure of the state, and was the official ideology during the Joseon Dynasty. [7] Neo-Confucianism became prominent in the 15th century. [8] In Confucianism, men were considered to be positive (yang) and women negative (yin). As yang was considered more dominant than yin, men were considered to be comparably omnipotent, justifying male dominance and discrimination against female. Furthermore, sex was considered a duty to the family, rather than an act of pleasure. Although only three percent of the population has Confucianism as a belief system today, it remains the basis for sexual ethics and criminal law. [1]

Buddhism was introduced during the Three Kingdoms period. [9] It was the official religion during the Goryeo Dynasty, but lost influence during the Joseon Dynasty. [7] Buddhism was used to instruct people to give up all desires, including those related to sex, and sexual activities were forbidden in many sects. [1]

Catholicism was introduced at the end of the 17th century and began to become popular among the common people at the end of the 18th century. Though Catholicism was outlawed and banned, and the followers executed, it continued to have underground support. Protestantism was introduced on 1884. Both religions were involved in several intellectual movements, and promoted equal rights. [1]

Information about sex

Sexual education

In the Joseon Dynasty, unmarried men and women received a very limited form of sexual education. The education was focused on methods of becoming pregnant and consequent reproduction. Married couples received a calendar that stated information about the best days for fertility; this information was usually given only to the bride, although the groom sometimes received it. As producing children was considered a duty, families sometimes intervened. Prenatal care was considered important and was given even before conception. [1]

The traditional lack of information and education concerning sexual issues is currently conflicting with Western viewpoints of sexuality, and can be seen through the increasing rates of teenage pregnancy and sexual abuse. In 1968, the Planned Parenthood Federation of Korea (PPFK) has started sexual education. Since 1982, counseling centers for adolescents have been provided in schools and industrial parks. However, public education concerning sexuality is inadequate. Sexual education solely focuses on physical development and gender roles such as menstruation, pregnancy, virginity, sexual activities, and Sexually transmitted diseases. In 1996, the Korea Research Institute for Culture and Sexuality was established to develop sexual education programs. [1]

Informal sources

Starting in the early 1990s, Interest in sexual education began to increase. Books, academic interests, and mass media focusing on sexuality began to increase. In 1998, the instructor of a public sexual educational program on television became popular. According to two Korean Research Institute on Sexuality and Culture studies done on 1996 and 1997, 37.1% of male students learned about sex from pornography, while 14% learned it from their peers; for female students, 37% received sexual education from peers while 25.7% received it from school. [1]

Sexual behavior

Autoeroticism

According to the Korean Research Institute of Sexuality, 70% of female high school students agreed that masturbation was natural, though only 15.2% of the surveyed students reported masturbating, and the biggest group felt guilty about doing so. In contrast, 49.9% of male high school students reported masturbating. For parents, 75.2% were positive about their own masturbation. The attitudes of the parents toward masturbation had a positive correlation with the attitude of the parents toward their children's masturbation. [1]

Pornography

Production of pornography is illegal, although amateur material known as Yadong exists. Consequently, Koreans mostly consume pornography from overseas, especially Japanese pornography, sometimes using proxy servers to evade Korean Internet censorship. [10] There are also adult videos filmed abroad with Korean actors, and recorded sex cams sessions. Popularity of K-pop resulted with flooding new porn genre Deepfake with manufactured adult videos with K-pop stars. [11]

In one study, 99.5% of male college students reported that they had been exposed to pornography (excluding participants who declined to answer the question), with 99.1% occasionally using it for masturbation. On average, participants masturbated to pornography 1-2 times a week. Women's pornography use was not investigated. [10]

Yaoi fiction and comics are consumed by a subgroup of women. [12] In 2005, there was a pornographic online magazine named Foxylove that catered mainly to Korean women and reportedly had over a hundred thousand subscribers. [12]

Circumcision

While the circumcision rates in Korea were extremely high (90% in age groups 17–19) as of 2002, [13] the rates have declined recently; the circumcision rate for males 14–29 is 75.8%, with the aforementioned group rate down to 74.4%. [14] It has been conjectured that the decline in the rate of circumcision was due to the increased availability of new information. [14]

Heterosexual relationships

Teenagers

In a survey given in 1997, 44.4% of female high school students reported that they had had heterosexual relationships and 7.5% of the entire group had had coital experiences. Of the group who had had coital experiences, 38.7% claimed to have been coerced and 32.3% attributed the reason to love. In a group of students who had not performed vaginal intercourse, about half the students were open to the idea of having sex and blamed their lack of experience on the lack of opportunities. However, 44.7% of students accepted light kissing and 31.6% accepted holding hands as permissible behavior in dating. The majority view was that virginity should be kept until marriage, with 88.1% of the group. For the survey of male students, 16.2% admitted to having had coital experiences, mostly with their girlfriends (74.7%). On the other hand, 65.7% of male high school students indicated a positive attitude towards premarital sexual activity, but only 7.5% had had previous sexual experiences. As a whole, the rate of students who had had sexual experiences increased in the late 20th century. [1]

Adults

A survey in 1991 indicated that, of surveyed adult males aged from 20 to 40, over 80% had had previous heterosexual relationships. Of the 80%, 44.7% reported their first sexual experience to have been with a prostitute. A study of married couples revealed that about half the people studied thought negatively about premarital relationships; in general, the female partners were more open to premarital and extramarital relationships. The double standard of relationships [note 2] was hypothesized to cause psychological and physical (especially sexual) stress for females. [1] Hymenorrhaphy, or hymen reconstruction surgery, is also popular in Korea, as the hymen is prized as the symbol for virginity. [15]

Homosexual relationships

Homosexuality is not outlawed in Korea, but it is also not expressly permitted. [16] On September 7, 2013, the first gay marriage in Korea took place. [17] However, the marriage was not legally binding; [18] the couple has vowed to legally challenge this in court. [16]

Sexual crimes

Sexual assault

Under the law, rape is punishable with a prison sentence from 7 years to life imprisonment. [19] The definition of rape includes adult males as victims, [20] [note 3] as well as marital rape. [21] As of 2009, the statute of limitations for sexual assault is six months. [19]

As of 2009, reports of sex crimes have been on the rise, especially those involving child victims. [22] In 2012, there were 77,000 reported cases of sexual assault. [23] In 2011, 22,034 rapes were reported. [19] A study in 1997 found that 45.5% of female high school students reported sexual harassment, mostly by their male friends. [1] These statistics are not considered an accurate representation of the true cases; a 2010 survey by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family concluded that only about 10 percent of all sexual assault cases were reported. [19]

Currently, there is a prevalent traditional belief that rape is a man's mistake that should be forgiven, especially for victims who had been drunk or wearing revealing clothes. [24] The Miryang gang rape incident in 2004 provoked controversy due to victim blaming and other mistreatment by police officials. This mistreatment ultimately led to a 2008 judgment against the police by the Supreme Court of South Korea. [25] There are rape crisis centers available, run by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family and the Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center. [19]

Sex trafficking

South Korean and foreign women and girls have been victims of sex trafficking in South Korea. [26] [27] [28] They are raped and physically and psychologically harmed in brothels, businesses, homes, hotels, and other locations throughout the country. [29] [30] [31] [32] [33] [34] [35]

Prostitution

Prostitution in South Korea is illegal, [36] but according to The Korea Women's Development Institute, the sex trade in Korea was estimated to amount to 14 trillion South Korean won ($13 billion) in 2007, roughly 1.6 percent of the nation's gross domestic product. [37] [38]

Adultery

From 1953 to 2015, adultery was punishable by up to two years in prison for both the adulterer and their partner. In February 2015, the Constitutional Court of Korea overturned the law. [39]

See also

Notes

  1. In this case, having the same surname does not simply refer to a same last name, but rather the implicit background of the name; for instance, the same last name 'Kim' may be classified as either Gwangju or Eusung
  2. The double standard of the growing liberal attitudes toward relationships and the prizing of the female virginity is more complicated due to traditional and social pressure
  3. Previously, the definition of rape excluded men.

Related Research Articles

Human sexual activity Human behaviour that is sexually motivated

Human sexual activity, human sexual practice or human sexual behaviour is the manner in which humans experience and express their sexuality. People engage in a variety of sexual acts, ranging from activities done alone to acts with another person in varying patterns of frequency, for a wide variety of reasons. Sexual activity usually results in sexual arousal and physiological changes in the aroused person, some of which are pronounced while others are more subtle. Sexual activity may also include conduct and activities which are intended to arouse the sexual interest of another or enhance the sex life of another, such as strategies to find or attract partners, or personal interactions between individuals. Sexual activity may follow sexual arousal.

Sexual intercourse Copulation for reproduction or sexual pleasure, or other penetrative sex acts for sexual pleasure.

Sexual intercourse is sexual activity typically involving the insertion and thrusting of the penis into the vagina for sexual pleasure, reproduction, or both. This is also known as vaginal intercourse or vaginal sex. Other forms of penetrative sexual intercourse include anal sex, oral sex, fingering, and penetration by use of a dildo. These activities involve physical intimacy between two or more individuals and are usually used among humans solely for physical or emotional pleasure and can contribute to human bonding.

Sexual revolution 20th-century American social movement

The sexual revolution, also known as a time of sexual liberation, was a social movement that challenged traditional codes of behavior related to sexuality and interpersonal relationships throughout the United States and subsequently, the wider world, from the 1960s to the 1980s. Sexual liberation included increased acceptance of sex outside of traditional heterosexual, monogamous relationships. The normalization of contraception and the pill, public nudity, pornography, premarital sex, homosexuality, masturbation, alternative forms of sexuality, and the legalization of abortion all followed.

Virginity State of a person who has never engaged in sexual intercourse

Virginity is the state of a person who has never engaged in sexual intercourse. There are cultural and religious traditions that place special value and significance on this state, predominantly towards unmarried females, associated with notions of personal purity, honor and worth.

Sexual slavery Slavery with the intention of using the slaves for sex

Sexual slavery and sexual exploitation is attaching the right of ownership over one or more people with the intent of coercing or otherwise forcing them to engage in sexual activities. This includes forced labor, reducing a person to a servile status and sex trafficking persons, such as the sexual trafficking of children.

Sex-positive feminism is a movement that began in the early 1980s centering on the idea that sexual freedom is an essential component of women's freedom. Some feminists became involved in the sex-positive feminist movement in response to efforts by anti-pornography feminists to put pornography at the center of a feminist explanation of women's oppression.

Islamic sexual jurisprudence

Islamic sexual jurisprudence is a part of family, marital, hygienical and criminal jurisprudence of Islam that concerns the Islamic laws of sexuality in Islam, as largely predicated on the Qur'an, the sayings of Muhammad (hadith) and the rulings of religious leaders' (fatwa) confining sexual activity to marital relationships between men and women. While most traditions discourage celibacy, all encourage strict chastity, modesty and privacy with regard to any relationships between genders, holding forth that their intimacy as perceived within Islam – encompassing a swath of life broader than sexual activity – is largely reserved for marriage. This sensitivity to gender difference, gender seclution and modesty outside of marriage can be seen in current prominent aspects of Islam, such as interpretations of Islamic dress and degrees of gender segregation.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to sexual ethics:

Adolescent sexuality

Adolescent sexuality is a stage of human development in which adolescents experience and explore sexual feelings. Interest in sexuality intensifies during the onset of puberty, and sexuality is often a vital aspect of teenagers' lives. Sexual interest may be expressed in a number of ways, such as flirting, kissing, masturbation, or having sex with a partner. Sexual interest among adolescents, as among adults, can vary greatly, and is influenced by cultural norms and mores, sex education, as well as comprehensive sexuality education provided, sexual orientation, and social controls such as age-of-consent laws.

Adolescent sexuality in the United States Issues related to sexuality of US adolescents

The sexuality of US adolescents includes their feelings, behaviors and development, and the place adolescent sexuality has in American society, including the response of the government, educators, parents, and other interested groups.

Feminist sexology is an offshoot of traditional studies of sexology that focuses on the intersectionality of sex and gender in relation to the sexual lives of women. Sexology has a basis in psychoanalysis, specifically Freudian theory, which played a big role in early sexology. This reactionary field of feminist sexology seeks to be inclusive of experiences of sexuality and break down the problematic ideas that have been expressed by sexology in the past. Feminist sexology shares many principles with the overarching field of sexology; in particular, it does not try to prescribe a certain path or "normality" for women's sexuality, but only observe and note the different and varied ways in which women express their sexuality. It is a young field, but one that is growing rapidly.

Masturbation Sexual stimulation of ones own genitals

Masturbation is the sexual stimulation of one's own genitals for sexual arousal or other sexual pleasure, usually to the point of orgasm. The stimulation may involve hands, fingers, everyday objects, sex toys such as vibrators, or combinations of these. Mutual masturbation is masturbation with a sexual partner, and may include manual stimulation of a partner's genitals, or be used as a form of non-penetrative sex.

Human sexuality covers a broad range of topics, including the physiological, psychological, social, cultural, political, philosophical, ethical, moral, theological, legal and spiritual or religious aspects of sex and human sexual behavior.

Sexual repression is a state in which a person is prevented from expressing their own sexuality. Sexual repression is often associated with feelings of guilt or shame, being associated with sexual impulses. What constitutes sexual repression is subjective and can vary greatly between cultures and moral systems.

Women in South Korea

Women in South Korea have experienced significant improvements for social changes in recent years, compared to previous times, when Confucianism was deeply imbued in the culture. In today's society, the economy of South Korea has tremendously improved due to urbanisation, industrialisation, military authoritarianism, democratic reform, and social liberalisation since the late 1960s. Thus, gender roles and gender identities eventually have been modified as a result to changing modernity. More than half of Korean women are employed and furthermore, more than 25% of married women are employed as full-time workers. In politics, although there are not as many female politicians as male politicians, the female politicians have recently begun to participate more actively than in the past. For instance, in the National Assembly, women occupy 20 of the 299 seats.

Sexuality in the Philippines encompasses sexual behavior, sexual practices, and sexual activities exhibited by men and women of the Philippines past and the present. It covers courtship strategies for attracting partners for physical and emotional intimacy, sexual contact, sexual reproduction, building a family, and other forms of individual interactions or interpersonal relationships, as set and dictated by their culture and tradition, religion, beliefs, values and moral convictions, psychology, foreign influences, and other related factors.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to human sexuality:

Feminist views on sexuality widely vary. Many feminists, particularly radical feminists, are highly critical of what they see as sexual objectification and sexual exploitation in the media and society. Radical feminists are often opposed to the sex industry, including opposition to prostitution and pornography. Other feminists define themselves as sex-positive feminists and believe that a wide variety of expressions of female sexuality can be empowering to women when they are freely chosen. Some feminists support efforts to reform the sex industry to become less sexist, such as the feminist pornography movement.

Women's sexuality in Francoist Spain was defined by the Church and by the State. The purpose in doing so was to have women serve the state exclusively through reproduction and guarding the morality of the state. Women's sexuality could only be understood through the prism of reproduction and motherhood. Defying this could have tremendous negative consequences for women, including being labeled a prostitute, being removed from her family home, being sent to a concentration camp, a Catholic run institution or to a prison. It was only after the death of Franco in 1975 that women in Spain were finally allowed to define their own sexuality. Understanding Francoist imposed definitions of female sexuality is critical to understanding modern Spanish female sexuality, especially as it relates to macho behavior and women's expected responses to it.

Sex trafficking in China is human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation and slavery that occurs in the People's Republic of China. China, the world's most populous country, has one of the highest rates of human trafficking, including sex trafficking, in the world. It is a country of origin, destination, and transit for sexually trafficked persons.

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