South Korea’s ‘Netflix effect’: Why Western women are heading there in search of love

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(CNN) — There was one thing puzzling in regards to the younger Western ladies staying on the youth hostels in Seoul, thought researcher Min Joo Lee.

In contrast to their Asian counterparts, who she noticed squeezing in as many sights and retailers as doable throughout their stays within the South Korean capital, these ladies — largely of their early 20s — appeared uninterested within the standard vacationer trails.

As a substitute, for many of their days they’d stay inside their hostel, sleeping or watching Korean TV reveals — venturing out solely after darkish.

They’d come to the eye of Lee, who researches Korea’s gender and race politics as a postdoctoral fellow at Indiana College Bloomington, as a result of she was on the town to search out out what affect the rising worldwide profile of Korean popular culture was having on tourism.

After visiting eight hostels and interviewing 123 ladies, largely from North America and Europe, Lee got here to the conclusion that many had been drawn to the nation by what she calls “the Netflix impact.”

Hit Korean tv reveals like “Crash Touchdown on You” and “Goblin,” have been promoting greater than males with stunning faces and chiseled our bodies like their stars Hyun Bin and Gong Yoo. They have been providing a glimpse right into a world the place males have been romantic and affected person, an antithesis to what the ladies noticed because the sex-obsessed relationship tradition of their dwelling nations.

South Korean actor Gong Yoo on October 30, 2019 in Seoul.

South Korean actor Gong Yoo on October 30, 2019 in Seoul.

Han Myung-Gu/WireImage/Getty Pictures

The attraction of Korean males

The ladies Lee interviewed have been fascinated with Korean males who have been portrayed on TV as being in contact with their feelings and keen to embrace their “effeminate sides,” Lee stated.

They thought of Korean males cultured and romantic whereas complaining that males of their dwelling nations typically uncared for their appearances and had one-track minds.

Grace Thornton, a 25-year-old gardener from the UK, traveled to Seoul in 2021 after watching Ok-drama “Crash Touchdown on You” on Netflix.

She was struck by how males within the present didn’t jeer at or catcall ladies on the road, as occurs in her dwelling nation.

In her eyes, Korean males are “gents, well mannered, charming, romantic, fairytale-like, chivalrous, respectful.” She stated it additionally helps that Korean males gown properly and groom themselves.

“(English males as compared) are half drunk, holding a beer, holding a useless fish,” she stated — a reference to what she stated was the prevalence of fishing footage in British male relationship app profiles.

And the attraction will not be solely in regards to the males.

As Thornton places it: “In England, I am quite common wanting and sound the identical as everybody else. In Korea, I am completely different, thrilling and international. Folks take note of me. I felt particular.”

‘Worldwide {couples}’ {and professional} boyfriends

The recognition of Korean tv reveals with international audiences has coincided with a gradual enhance within the variety of ladies vacationers to South Korea.

In 2005, 2.3 million ladies visited the nation — in comparison with 2.9 million males, in line with authorities information. By 2019 — the final 12 months earlier than the coronavirus performed havoc with tourism — almost 10 million ladies visited the nation, in comparison with simply 6.7 million males.

On the similar time, there was an explosion in social media content material centered on {couples} that includes Korean males with ladies from overseas.

On YouTube, the hashtag “#Gukjecouple” (“#worldwide couple”) has change into a style overlaying 2,500 channels and 34,000 movies, the preferred of which function a Korean man with an American or European associate. Generally these movies function {couples} pranking one another, taking part in on cultural variations, and generally they merely painting the {couples} going about their on a regular basis lives.

Among the many proponents of the style is Heo Jin-woo, a Korean YouTuber based mostly in Seoul who as soon as ran a channel dedicated to movies during which he pretends to be the viewer’s boyfriend.

The movies featured him appearing as if he have been on a video name with a lover, asking viewers how their day went or inviting them to dinner on the new Italian restaurant on the town. He would converse in sleepy, mushy tones with a slight Korean accent and pepper his speech with occasional Korean phrases.

In keeping with Heo, the channel amassed 14,000 followers, largely international ladies of their 20s who have been concerned about Korean tradition, however he shut it down after assembly his girlfriend Harriet, who’s from the UK.

The 'Jin and Hattie' show.

The ‘Jin and Hattie’ present.

From Jin and Hattie

As a substitute, the pair have created an “worldwide couple” channel titled “Jin and Hattie.”

It primarily consists of movies during which they “prank” one another based mostly on misunderstandings and variations of their cultures.

One video, titled “Making my Korean boyfriend jealous prank,” options Harriet sporting quick clothes in entrance of Heo, who asks her to decorate extra modestly.

“Remember to put on your couple ring,” he says earlier than Harriet lets him in on the joke and so they embrace. The feedback beneath the video — largely from English talking feminine followers — reward how respectful Heo is to his now spouse.

Since its launch in February 2020, the channel has gained 70,000 subscribers every month, in line with evaluation service Socialblade, and now has 1.7 million subscribers. Although the couple says the channel was by no means meant to be a enterprise, their channels on numerous platforms have greater than 3.5 million subscribers mixed.

Cash spinner

Hugh Gwon, a guide specializing in YouTube channel administration, is without doubt one of the unique creators of “worldwide couple” content material.

He stated creators like Heo and Harriet, who’ve greater than 1,000,000 subscribers, can earn between 30 to 50 million received ($23,000 to $38,000) for every sponsored video.

However the style’s value goes past the greenback indicators — it is usually about serving to {couples} modify to cultural variations.

Gwon and his Australian spouse Nichola run a weblog referred to as “My Korean Husband” that discusses intercultural marriage and displays how attitudes to such relationships are altering.

Nichola says the picture of Korean males has remodeled since she met her husband 10 years in the past in Sydney.

Again then, she grew used to listening to prejudiced feedback similar to friends saying that her husband was handsome “for an Asian.”

When she googled “Korean husband” after their engagement, most outcomes have been horror tales of Southeast Asian migrant wives married to abusive Korean males. At present, the search yields footage of Korean celebrities and her weblog, together with a Quora hyperlink to an nameless person asking how one can discover a Korean husband.

She says the very best “worldwide couple” channels promote cultural understanding, however warns some are solely promoting seems and fantasies.

The truth she says, is that ladies who’re critical about settling down with a Korean husband ought to acknowledge there can be cultural variations to regulate to, similar to residing in a society recognized for lengthy work hours and patriarchal gender norms.

“(At first) you are going to the Han River on picnics, and it is all fantastic and you are feeling such as you’re in a Ok-drama however then what is the actuality of truly having a household in Korea?” she stated.

‘A short lived pleasure’

Sadly, some ladies discover after their arrival that the boys they encounter aren’t as good as those portrayed on their screens.

Mina, a 20-year-old pupil from Morocco, stated Ok-pop and Korean TV reveals influenced her choice to return to the southern metropolis of Busan in 2021.

The lads she noticed on TV have been depicted as “respectful, good wanting, wealthy males who’re protecting of you,” she stated.

However throughout her nights out, she was groped in a bar and propositioned for intercourse from strangers on the road. She felt some Korean males tended to consider that international ladies are extra open to informal intercourse than native ladies.

“We’re non permanent pleasure,” she stated, including, “Males are males, people are alike all over the place.”

Since then she has misplaced her enjoyment of Korean TV reveals and not needs up to now Korean males.

Quandra Moore, a 27-year-old English trainer from Washington, got here to Seoul in 2017 and looked for a associate by way of relationship apps and in nightclubs. However she too was upset.

She encountered racist attitudes — being rejected by one who instructed her to “return to Africa” — and located many males appeared solely in intercourse.

In her expertise, Korean males handled international ladies otherwise. “Why cannot we go to dinner first? It is so crass. They know Korean ladies will not tolerate it,” she stated.

It is a level that Lee, the researcher, echoed, saying that some males felt they might deal with international ladies badly with impunity as a result of, as foreigners, they have been restricted to smaller social circles.

Nonetheless, such is the draw that even those that have dangerous experiences aren’t at all times postpone.

Some ladies who flew dwelling upset instructed Lee they felt it was their very own fault that they had not discovered their supreme man and would come again and take a look at more durable subsequent time.

“They clearly see that not all Korean males are (good), however they simply want an alternative choice to the disappointing relationship market again of their dwelling nations,” she stated.

“They cannot actually let go of it as a result of they hope that the perfect relationship relationships exist someplace on the planet,” she stated.

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