Why is South Korea still so backwards on gender equality?

Blog Posts

On March 10, 2017 when South Korea’s first and only woman president, Park Geun-hye, was impeached, the country cheered in unison. This was a major victory for the hundreds of thousands of citizens who had peacefully protested for her removal in office. For three long months, South Koreans took to the streets to voice their distaste for Park, who had been found at the center of a criminal conspiracy scandal in 2016. Finally, justice had been served, and many people watching around the world commented, “Now that’s how you do a protest.”

reuters.jpeg
Reuters

It wasn’t long, however, before the finger-pointing and, more specifically, gender-blaming started. Among the sentiments shared online and on television, the most common ones were:

“Of course she failed. She’s a woman.”
“This is why women can’t run a country.”
“We should have never elected a woman.”

Park’s election in 2012 was a symbolic milestone for women in Korea. I, like many Korean-Americans, followed this election closely. After Park was voted in, people expressed surprise, and even envy, at the fact that Korea had elected a woman for president ahead of the United States.

However, with Park’s impeachment came deafening chants of “women are unfit to lead,” most notably from men’s right activists across the country. I believe that Park’s impeachment was the right move. However, she should be judged for her actions, not for her status as a woman. If a male president had been impeached for the same reasons, no one would say “See, a man is unfit to lead.” Furthermore, I was shocked to learn that many of my fellow Korean-Americans voted for Trump this past election because a racist pig is still better than “a girl president,” which shows us how badly Korea still lags on gender equality.

The misogyny in South Korea is intense. Korea is still a conservative society that is deeply rooted in the Confucian concept of nam-jon-yeo-bi, which translates to “man is higher than woman.” As outdated as it sounds, this is still the accepted social norm for Korean women. Additionally, the gender wage gap in South Korea is the highest among OECD nations, women drop out of the workforce in huge numbers after having children, and the country dropped to 118th among 144 countries in terms of gender equality in 2017. And last but not least, according to the NY Times, South Korean men hold the record for doing the least amount of housework among the men in the world’s most developed countries. That is just embarrassing, plain and simple.

plastic surgery ad.jpg
An ad for jaw surgery

I hate to say it, but what do you expect from a country that emphasizes the idea that a woman’s greatest attribute is her physical beauty? South Korea is the plastic surgery capital of the world. One in five women in Seoul has had cosmetic surgery, and blepharoplasty, or double-eyelid surgery, is a common high school graduation gift for young women from their parents. Beauty privilege is real in Korea. In fact, it could be the deciding factor of whether or not you get a job. After all, some companies require headshots to be included with resumes when submitting job applications. In a country where good looks outrank talent, work ethic, and determination, it’s no surprise that women are often targets of objectification. You don’t have to look further than K-Pop celebrity culture to see this emphasized over and over again.

World Politics Review
World Politics Review

Luckily, change is coming, and it starts with this new generation of South Korean feminists. Although the older folks cluck their tongues and reprimand these men and women, telling them to step back in line, it’s only a matter of time before the country breaks through to the other side. On May 17, 2016, a young woman was stabbed to death in a bar restroom in Gangnam. The male suspect’s motive? Women have always ignored him and he was taking out his frustrations. This sparked huge protests across Seoul, with many women calling for an end to these types of sexist crimes.

More recently, the #MeToo movement has reached Korea. Celebrities (actors, musicians, entertainers), politicians, and writers are exposing and speaking out against their abusers. Of course, they’re met with lots of backlash and hatred (“They’re just overreacting”), but it’s a step in the right direction.

I feel extremely lucky and grateful to have been raised by my mother, one of the strongest women I know. My mom was raised by a single mother who ran her own business, which meant she was the sole provider of the family. As a result, my mom only knew that way of life, that women could run businesses and make their own money and didn’t have to depend on a man to survive. In this way, my mom grew to be independent in her own right and eventually moved to the United States to pursue graduate education. I come from a line of self-reliant and self-determined women, more importantly, Korean women, which is why both my sister and I continue to push our narratives out into the world every day to shed more light on this issue. And although South Korea still has a long ways to go to achieve greater gender equality, I’m hopeful that we’re on the eve of a major tide that will influence the future of many generations to come.

NYU Tisch Admission!

Blog Posts

29496335_10155474198293063_1149781029273618991_n.jpg

Two years after my unfortunate experience with NYU’s Dramatic Writing MFA, I received my official admission to Tisch. After another phone call from Terry Curtis Fox, I was told I was admitted to the program with a $30,000/year scholarship. What a journey this has been…

Writing is all about resiliency. As writers, we hear “no” 100 times more than “yes.” But it’s how you respond to the rejections that makes all the difference. Getting this email today helped me reflect back on that moment I found out I would not be moving to New York. Although I was in a dark place for a good month or so, I pulled the trigger and moved down to LA. And honestly, that was one of the best decisions of my life so far. I successfully completed the Professional Program in Screenwriting at UCLA, which proved to be a stepping stone to getting into the MFA program there. I met a ton of great people, some of whom are now very close friends of mine. And most importantly, I had the chance to write uninterrupted for one whole year, which has led to some pretty exciting opportunities.

This year, I got into three of the four MFA Screenwriting programs I applied to. Taking that year to really strengthen my body of work paid off, and I am extremely proud in knowing I was a much stronger applicant this time around. Although I am partial to staying in LA and attending UCLA again this fall, this acceptance to Tisch reminds me to never give up my dreams and work hard to achieve them.

“America’s Got Talent” Taping Experience

Blog Posts

IMG_6554

Season 13 of America’s Got Talent is taping around the country now and last night, Tim and I went to the one in Pasadena. Most important thing I learned? Don’t go if it’s pouring out cause you’ll spend most of the night standing outside in the rain, miserable and drenched.

I used to watch the show all the time back in college, so I realized there were many changes to it. First of all, when did Tyra Banks start hosting? On a related note, Tyra is my queen. She actually came out to push the Golden Buzzer for the very first act that came on stage, so it was a great start to the night.

We were seated pretty close to the judge’s table actually, which meant we got a front and center view of the stage. I can’t go into too much detail about what exactly the acts consisted of, but it was clear there are many talented people around the world…and many who are not. The judges’ buzzes are a LOT louder in person than on television, and I literally jumped out of my seat each time they were pressed.

The in-house entertainer was terrible. He only told jokes about relationships, was creepy and said “come to daddy” a lot, and danced like a dorky dad trying to embarrass his kids. He was giving out tickets to his stand-up show in April and yeah, I wouldn’t go to that even if it were free.

IMG_6553
Crew setting up

I wasn’t a huge fan of how many times the male judges interrupted Heidi and Mel B. And how many times they said the phrase, “What she meant was…” like they were professional translators of Woman. But the thing that got to me the most was when Mel B was giving some constructive criticism and Simon drowned her out by meowing into the microphone. Then when it was his turn to speak, he basically said the same thing she did and took credit for the idea. And when Mel B spoke out about it and told Simon that’s exactly what she just said, he stated, “But I said it classier,” which got major laughs from the audience. And how everyone started booing Mel B but cheering for Simon. Jesus, the microaggressions women deal with on a daily basis… But you know, other than that, the experience was great, right?

Final thoughts and observations:

  • Every crewmember looked like Ron Swanson
  • The first few rows are on camera quite a bit so they do rearrange you according to level of attractiveness (of course they would never say that outright)
  • Some acts got my heart rate up to 105 (yes, I checked)
  • They should make two women’s restrooms for every one male restroom
  • Maybe don’t say “come to daddy” to young women when you’re a 45 year old man
  • Simon gained a lot of weight
  • Celebrity culture is stupid
  • It’ll take a good 20 minutes to get out of the parking garage after the show, so prep accordingly (aka use the restroom before you leave the auditorium)

Would I go back? Only if it’s not on the one day a year it’s raining in Southern California.

My Experience at “The Price is Right” Taping

Blog Posts

IMG_6508.jpg

Today, Kevin and I spent the entire afternoon at CBS Studios to attend a taping of The Price is Right. It was a very fun but very long day. Ultimately, I would love to go back as I didn’t get picked as a contestant this time (gotta come home with that yacht!) so here are a couple of tips, notes, and general observations if you decide to go to or find yourself at a taping of the show.

  • Prep t-shirts in advance! We realized too late we needed to wear somewhat creative/graphic shirts to the show and had to priority ship them, which just in time arrived for the day. Plan in advance to save yourself the money and the stress.
  • Park at The Grove for peace of mind. We decided to make a day of it and got lunch there too. We did reach the daily maximum parking fee, but it was well worth not worrying about the car for 6-7 hours.
  • Try to get there early, even if you have Priority Tickets. Look for the line on Fairfax. We got to the studio a little past noon and made it into the first 100, which means we also got to enter the sound stage earlier. However, this doesn’t mean you necessarily get better seats. The staff brings your party down to where they want you to sit. I’m not sure if there’s any rhyme or reason to this though. We were lucky enough to be seated in the second row, right at the end, so there will be lots of Regina and Kevin on camera when this episode airs on May 7, 2018.
  • Be prepared to wait around for more than half the time you’re there. There are three holding areas (I think we spent approximately an hour in each place) before you’re escorted inside and upstairs to the studio. Personally, I think this is the time to get to know your fellow audience members. After all, some of them might be called to “come on down!” or maybe even win the Showcase! (We conversed with the man who won it during our show.)
  • It’s totally okay to freak out a little when you receive your coveted Price is Right name tag. You’ve earned it. Kinda.

    IMG_6505.JPG

  • You’ll be interviewed in groups of 25. Stan, the producer, will ask you what you do and converse with you a little to get a feel for your personality.
  • Drink water and use the bathroom while you can. Once you get inside, you will not get any breaks to leave the studio.
  • There are snacks, food, and beverages sold while you wait in line, but they are overpriced and it’s cash only, so prep accordingly.
  • It’s cold in the studio, so maybe bring a jacket. Probably my only regret of the day because I was freezing in my short sleeve shirt. However, once we started clapping and cheering, the cold went away.
  • Which brings me to: you will be clapping, cheering, standing, jumping, whooping, hollering, smiling, screaming, high-fiving A LOT. By the time we were done with the taping (approximately 1.5 hours), my hands were red and raw. You gotta keep your energy level and enthusiasm up the entire time because you will be on camera at some point in the show.
  • It should go without saying, but find out how the show works before you go to it. It was painfully obvious that some contestants had never watched the show in their lives and it made for lots of awkwardness. At least watch a couple of episodes on YouTube.
  • If you’re called up, you’ll probably be in a daze.
  • The studio is a lot smaller than it looks on TV, George Gray looks fantastic in person, and Drew Carey likes to talk to people during commercial breaks.
  • The stage manager is the real star of the show. Major hats off to all crew, including all the CBS pages who had to manage huge quantities of people.

    IMG_6512.jpg

  • Maybe hold off on buying the souvenir photos. When we got home, we discovered they posted them all online on their Facebook page…
  • All in all, enjoy yourself during your time there. And definitely keep your name tag afterward!

Rest in Peace, John Sweet

Blog Posts

John Sweet wore cowboy boots to class and everyone teased him for it because who wears cowboy boots in Los Angeles? But he was from the south, and a real Southern gentleman at that, and I feel lucky to have had him as a teacher for one quarter.

A week and a half ago, through our program’s Facebook page, we found out that John had passed away during the holidays, right before the New Year. No further details are known at this time, but we know he was with family.

I debated writing this up for a while because to be completely honest, I didn’t feel justified in doing so. Others were closer to him, have known him longer and to a greater extent, and are feeling more pain than I am. They’ve been lucky enough to call themselves his colleagues or had the opportunity to take multiple classes with him. But the more I think about it, the fact that I’m heartbroken too is enough justification for me. At the very least, I needed to do this for myself. Writing is my catharsis, and anyone who knows me will agree.

Our Tuesday night classes, although long, were fun. I can’t stress that enough. John liked to keep the room loose, laughing, and supportive, and it helped that he had a witty sense of humor. In those ten weeks, I wrote a script about a pregnant nun, which he tentatively titled “Sister Naughty Ignatius.”

Writing a script is hard. Writing a script in ten weeks is even harder. Halfway through the quarter, I realized I had no idea where my story was going and freaked out. I was stuck between two genres and couldn’t move past the first twenty pages. John spent almost an hour before class with me, listening to my struggles with the character and her motivations and guiding me back to shore. The next morning, he followed up with me to check in on how I was feeling. Without a doubt, he was the reason I was able to complete that script in ten weeks, and the commitment to his students is what I’ll remember most about him.

Email from John.png
John’s follow-up email

John was extremely personable too, and I think anyone who has met him can agree. After we submitted our final scripts, he and I jumped on a call over the summer to discuss notes for my upcoming rewrites, but we spent the majority of the time talking about his trip to Vietnam in the coming weeks and the potential layover in Korea. We reminisced about the class for a bit, surprised at how quickly it zoomed by. He briefly touched on his experience visiting San Francisco because I was back at home in the Bay Area by then.

I think what this all comes down to is John’s keen ability to touch each and every student he has taught. Anyone who goes into teaching does it because they love the level of interaction and influence that is involved, and I definitely saw that firsthand with John. I came out of his class a stronger, more confident writer than before, which speaks volumes about him as a teacher. I’m just shattered that I won’t be able to share future successes with him.

Two nights ago, John showed up in my dream. In it, he had grown a mustache, so I was naturally making fun of him for it. He was laughing a lot, happy, in a good mood. I know it was just a dream, but I hope this means he’s in a good place now and that he’s making others laugh and smile wherever he is.

Rest in peace, John Sweet.

IMG_1182.JPG

Follow Regina

Follow Blog

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Archives

%d bloggers like this: