WATCH:Confucius still dictates Korea’s dating scene (sort of)


After 2,000 years, ancient Chinese philosopher Confucian still dictates dating life in Korea — well, sort of.

Despite massive change in Korea over the past several decades, Korean women still treat men with a higher level of respect, at least in public, than their Western counterparts.

While male-bashing has been fashionable in places like the United States for decades  (and increasingly there’s much documented evidence of men and boys falling far behind women in the United States, but that’s another issue), man hatred is not a thing in Korea.

That’s because Korea’s traditional Confucian values, in many ways, remain strong, and that entails a respect for men in public. It’s rare in Korea for a women to chew out a man in public, as happens at times in places like the United States.

Indeed, despite an outward modernity, such as tall, shiny buildings, Seoul’s spectacular metro system and the nation’s ability to host the 2018 Winter Olympics, Korea has held strong to the Confucian values that have guided life for nearly 1,000 years, and that has included male dominance.  This has led to a tendency toward respect and kind public treatment toward men, and an absence of the type of male-bashing that is common in public life in places such as the United States. Many foreign men often comment, privately, that this makes Korea a pleasant place to visit.

Confucianism began in ancient China, and eventually spread to Korea in the form of Neo Confucianism. That started to become influential in Korea during the Joseon Dynasty ((1392–1910) as Chinese thought and literature began to permeate, and began to replace Buddhism.

King Seongjong (1083–1094) was a major advocate of Confucianism, and set up the  Gukjagam, which was the top education institution of the Goryeo dynasty.  Neo-Confucianism emphasized ethics and the moral authority of the government. The Confucian tradition likely is the reason why bosses are rarely questioned in Korean companies, since the philosophy promotes respect for so-called authority.

But despite the Confucian tradition, younger Korean women, especially these days, are known for dominating their boyfriends in some ways, like requiring their boyfriends to be heavily involved in the relationship. Young women often make pet puppy dogs out of their boyfriends, forcing them to wear matching clothing with their girlfriends, and forcing them to spend nearly every moment of their free time with their girlfriends. Korean wives also often  dominate their husbands.

So while women are polite to men they don’t know well, and toward men in public places, they may be somewhat domineering toward the men close to them, although this does not often equate to disrespect, and is often done out of love.

Of course, Confucianism also manifests itself in many negative ways, such as the sheer male dominance in corporate Korea, as well as difficulty for single women to achieve financial success. It has also, in some ways, led to a massive prostitution industry, as unskilled and uneducated single women often have no other job options if they want to support their parents and children. As opposed to places like Thailand, where many sex workers don’t mind the job, as it allows them a much better include than living in poverty as a farmer, Korea’s prostitution industry is highly abusive. That’s mostly because of bad customers, as Korean men are known to scream at, threaten and cheat sex workers out of money.

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