Wednesday, January 25, 2012

oh! NO~

I was a little surprised at the existence of Jeju Love Land on Korea's favourite holiday spot, Jeju Island - though the focus of this sculpture park and 'museum' is pretty much squarely on titillation (particularly penisillation) rather than anything too extreme. Despite their reserved manner, Koreans aren't compulsively puritanical, and this attraction isn't any more outrageous or corruptive to the young than the average British joke shop or seaside tat stall at Blackpool - until it dawns on you just how heterosexual the whole thing is. To a fault.

For a place so obsessed with cocks and presenting a softcore smorgasbord of sexual practices from around the world, the very notion of same-sex love or activities is glaringly omitted to the point of denial or ignorance here - as in pretty much all aspects of Korean life and culture. The light-hearted yet confusing and potentially offensive sign pictured above is practically the only admission that these sort of practices exist, and the caption doesn't seem particularly flattering. Though the inclusion of a heart confuses matters - are they admitting that romantic love accompanies this disgraceful act, or was it just a lazy choice for fig-leaf-style censorship?

(To avoid ambiguity, other signs depicting 'hilarious' sexual incidents all featured both a man and woman, the latter of which can be identified by being pink and having long hair like all women do).

See, there's another one

Being gay in South Korea at least seems to be easier than it used to be (from my experience as a straight non-Korean), but from my admittedly third-hand experience of speaking to Koreans and reading websites (when has the internet ever been untrustworthy?) the prevailing attitudes toward homosexuality still generally seem to be that it's unnatural and 'disgusting,' even among people in younger generations.

There are very few role models for gay Koreans to look up to in their own country - though amusingly and misleadingly, TV network OCN opted to advertise the BBC's Sherlock as a gay drama, so there must be a market for it (or maybe just for slash fiction). Official government policies towards gay rights that seem to consist of politicians shutting their eyes tightly, putting their hands over their ears and going 'hmmmmmmmm' at sufficient volume to block out the confusing questions don't do much to help Koreans who are discriminated against when looking for employment and dealing with other aspects of life.

In a country where military service is compulsory for men, gay people are not allowed to enlist and have been discharged. The government used to ban gay content websites too - I'm not just talking about porn, but community and information sites, as they were supposedly harmful to the children. You've seen what happened in those Western countries where they don't bother protecting children from the gays - people are free to accept their natural feelings all over the place.

Those perverted foreigners (I like how this represents 'Love - Greek' in general, without dwelling on the mythological context. Nope, this is how they all get off on Zakynthos)

Despite some of my 'hilarious' borderline racist jibes, I'm open-minded enough to accept, respect and enjoy many aspects of other cultures that might at first be surprising or in conflict with my own ideals. Would I really have spent so long in Asia if I found the West such an easy place to live? This includes recognising the overwhelming importance of family in Korea, which probably underlines much of this homophobia (in the genuinely phobic sense). Even as the world's population explodes to more unmanageable levels, the idea of a Korean son or daughter not continuing their family line seems to be literally unthinkable.

I do find it extremely difficult to be tolerant of intolerance though - arguments like 'he's just traditional' or 'he's from that generation' have never washed with me. Like no one's ever changed their attitudes in light of evidence and reason, or should be expected to behave decently. This post isn't only about Korea of course, but looking at this country that's changed so radically in the past 50 years - not only economically and politically, but even with social shifts like the move away from multi-generational households - it's not unreasonable to expect Korea to attempt to make changes to attitudes like this.

Despite the hilarious jibes of right-wing columnists in the UK, politically correct approaches have been of huge benefit to my country and others for improving people's attitudes (or at the very least, for reducing the risk of someone from a minority background hearing something that makes them feel uncomfortable - comedian Stewart Lee has several great bits about this). Korea could learn something from the tedious PC spoilsports. 'That generation' will die some time, but they won't always take the problems with them, especially when they do their best to instruct their children in the dubious importance of creating more progeny, conserving racial purity and other bollocks.

Speaking of bollocks

When meeting people from Asian countries (even the really nice ones), I've learned the hard way to keep my potentially challenging views on equality and basic human rights to myself, after a couple of bad experiences. Even within my own narrow family circle, there are several people I choose not to stay in touch with thanks to their uninspiring views on race and sexuality. How can I hold a conversation with someone I've lost all respect for? I don't tend to let things lie.

The Korean people are lovely (not all of them, obviously. That'd be weird - some are probably right dicks, they're only human), and I never feel like they have any overt prejudice or hostility to anyone visiting their country or people in other parts of the world - not even for their estranged kin north of the border.

This is mostly a matter of tradition restricting growth - that's right, for once I'm taking the high ground as someone who comes from a country that enjoys total personal freedom... well alright, where the shackles linking you permanently to the dystopian corporate machine are ever so slightly loosened to avoid more severe chafing. But If I'm planning to spend a long time in Korea and other parts of the world where this sort of inequality persists and is sometimes state-sanctioned (good luck getting an English teaching job if you're black and another candidate looks like a 'real' American), this will continue to present a nagging problem, even if it remains unspoken.

Spending seven years in an all-boy school, it's not like I've been shielded from casual homophobia and racism - back then, I was the guy who passed on the offensive jokes told by my dad, in the years before I realised that finding a joke funny for its sheer audacity and offensiveness value alone doesn't always justify the telling. By contrast, it seems that most Korean school kids simply aren't aware of the existence or concept of gay couples (lesbians in particular - I know a Korean who'd never heard of the concept until she met some lesbians at university in Japan), though for any brave kids who do come out prior to enrolling in a university with a recognised LGBT society, extreme prejudice and harassment are guaranteed. I'm not saying the East is alone in that regard, obviously.

This isn't like when I have a rant about people spitting in the street or throwing crisp packets onto the floor, which does come down to tolerance and accepting different cultural norms and fluctuating notions of morality over time. I haven't shaved for a month, which many Koreans would consider unhygienic. I eat the flesh of murdered animals on a daily basis, which is so obviously wrong and I'm completely unable to justify beyond the pathetic 'well, everybody does it' excuse that even makes 'he's from that generation' sound like a reasonable defence. I have no delusions about the infallibility of my own moral compass, which has clearly been left a little too close to a magnet.

Okay, okay, I appreciate that Jeju Love Land is a silly, cock-obsessed theme park that makes tour groups of drunk women laugh and probably shouldn't fuel a rant about homophobia in the East. But rest assured I'll write a similarly unprovoked, unreliable, third-hand account of what it's like being black, Indian or Chinese in Korea, next time I get wound up about something or other. Until then, enjoy the grassy tits and massive, spurting phalluses and leave your prejudice at the giant vulva/door.


  1. Amazing. I particularly like the picture of you riding a giant green cock with that lady. It makes me with that I was part of an all female drunken tour group giggling at the willies!

  2. If only there'd been one tiny diorama of two guys or women humping with smiles on their faces, I could have enjoyed this ridiculous place on a superficial level without getting a penis in my bonnet about it.

    I think a diorama like that would improve any museum, regardless of theme.

  3. love your site pictures! is the statue behind you riding a penus with a lady of boobs?

    1. I'm riding a penis with an ass behind me (well, two asses behind me if you count my own ass).