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

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

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

Unlike their Asian counterparts, who she noticed squeezing in as many sights and retailers as doable throughout their stays in the South Korean capital, these women — principally in their early 20s — appeared uninterested in the standard vacationer trails.

Instead, for many of their days they might stay inside their hostel, sleeping or watching Korean TV exhibits — venturing out solely after darkish.

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

After visiting eight hostels and interviewing 123 women, principally 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 exhibits like “Crash Landing on You” and “Goblin,” had been promoting greater than males with stunning faces and chiseled our bodies like their stars Hyun Bin and Gong Yoo. They had been providing a glimpse right into a world the place males had been romantic and affected person, an antithesis to what the women noticed because the sex-obsessed courting tradition of their residence international locations.

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 Images

The enchantment of Korean males

The women Lee interviewed had been fascinated with Korean males who had been portrayed on TV as being in contact with their feelings and prepared to embrace their “effeminate sides,” Lee mentioned.

They thought of Korean males cultured and romantic whereas complaining that males in their residence international locations usually uncared for their appearances and had one-track minds.

Grace Thornton, a 25-year-old gardener from the United Kingdom, traveled to Seoul in 2021 after watching Okay-drama “Crash Landing on You” on Netflix.

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

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

“(English males in comparability) are half drunk, holding a beer, holding a useless fish,” she mentioned — a reference to what she mentioned was the prevalence of fishing photos in British male courting app profiles.

And the enchantment just isn’t completely in regards to the males.

As Thornton places it: “In England, I’m quite common wanting and sounding the identical as everybody else. In Korea, I’m completely different, thrilling and overseas. People take note of me. I felt particular.”

‘International {couples}’ {and professional} boyfriends

The recognition of Korean tv exhibits with international audiences has coincided with a gradual improve in the quantity of women vacationers to South Korea.

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

At the identical time, there has been an explosion in social media content material centered on {couples} that includes Korean males with women from overseas.

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

Among the 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 in which he pretends to be the viewer’s boyfriend.

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

According to Heo, the channel amassed 14,000 followers, principally overseas women in their 20s who had been in 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

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

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

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

“Don’t neglect 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 — principally 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 keeping with evaluation service Socialblade, and now has 1.7 million subscribers. Though 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.

Money spinner

Hugh Gwon, a guide specializing in YouTube channel administration, is one of the unique creators of “worldwide couple” content material.

He mentioned creators of {couples} channels who’ve greater than one million subscribers can earn between 30 to 50 million gained ($23,000 to $38,000) for every sponsored video.

But the style’s value goes past the greenback indicators — it’s also about serving to {couples} regulate 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 reworked since she met her husband 10 years in the past in Sydney.

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

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

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

The actuality she says, is that women who are severe about settling down with a Korean husband ought to acknowledge there will likely be cultural variations to regulate to, equivalent 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 great and you are feeling such as you’re in a Okay-drama however then what is the actuality of really having a household in Korea?” she mentioned.

‘A short lived pleasure’

Unfortunately, some women discover after their arrival that the lads they encounter are not as excellent as those portrayed on their screens.

Mina, a 20-year-old pupil from Morocco, mentioned Okay-pop and Korean TV exhibits influenced her determination to return to the southern metropolis of Busan in 2021.

The males she noticed on TV had been depicted as “respectful, good wanting, wealthy males who are protecting of you,” she mentioned.

But 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 overseas women are extra open to informal intercourse than native women.

“We are momentary pleasure,” she mentioned, including, “Men are males, people are alike all over the place.”

Since then she has misplaced her enjoyment of Korean TV exhibits and now not needs thus far Korean males.

Quandra Moore, a 27-year-old English trainer from Washington, got here to Seoul in 2017 and looked for a accomplice by way of courting apps and in nightclubs. But she too was disillusioned.

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

In her expertise, Korean males handled overseas women otherwise. “Why cannot we go to dinner first? It’s so crass. They know Korean women will not tolerate it,” she mentioned.

It’s some extent that Lee, the researcher, echoed, saying that some males felt they may deal with overseas women badly with impunity as a result of, as foreigners, they had been restricted to smaller social circles.

Still, such is the draw that even those that have dangerous experiences are not all the time postpone.

Some women who flew residence disillusioned informed Lee they felt it was their very own fault that they had not discovered their excellent man and would come again and check out more durable subsequent time.

“They clearly see that not all Korean males are (excellent), however they only want a substitute for the disappointing courting market again in their residence international locations,” she mentioned.

“They cannot actually let go of it as a result of they hope that the perfect courting relationships exist someplace in the world,” she mentioned.

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