Friday, April 29, 2011

New Korean Dating Site a Big Hit

A new Korean dating site has proved to be a big hit after offering a service which bridges the gap between two of the most popular activities among males in Korea, dating women and beating them. Describing itself as 'Part Romance, Part Fight Club', the new site - which asked not to be named because it markets itself slightly differently to women - allows them to meet up for blind dates with the possibility of returning home blind afterward.

Some women's groups have reacted angrily to the launch of the new site, but its owner was unapologetic "My girlfriends never seemed to mind a little casual physical violence, that's what makes people like me real men." But he is also angry that the media has run stories on specific acts of violence that his members have engaged in. "The first rule of violence against women," he told us, "is that nobody talks about violence against women."

Not all the violence is physical. In a possible sign that Korea is becoming a more progressive society, a 2009 survey revealed that only 25% of 800 women said they had been sexually assaulted or raped by their date, with 61% instead suffering verbal violence such as threats to kill, and 80% only what is classed as stalking or 'emotional violence', such as the monitoring of their emails, blogs, mobile phones and private schedules.

One member of the site, who claims to be 35 years old and gave his name as 'Lee', explained how he regularly followed his girlfriends around and went through their trash to look for evidence that they were seeing other men, but he rejected the idea that this was emotional violence or stalking. "It's not stalking, it's following. There's no law against that."

Like many men engaging in the time-honored Confucian tradition of treating women like second class citizens, 'Lee' is confused by the mixed messages society is sending out. "I was beaten by my parents, I was beaten by my teachers in school, I was bullied and hazed at university by my seniors, and then I was regularly beaten and tortured by my commanding officers during my military service. And through it all we were raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and k-drama gods, and k-pop stars. But we won't. So now I've been through all that for nothing why can't I just relieve some of the stress by beating a woman in return without it being seen as wrong?"

Lee points out that aside from the culture of violence that was beaten into him during his youth, school textbooks also provided the academic justification for sexual violence against women, who are portrayed as being blamed for it according to a report by the Ministry of Gender Inequality and Family Affairs that was quietly released over the last Christmas holiday period. It is believed the textbooks, which tell women that sexual violence is natural for men and women are responsible for it, help to perpetuate an acceptance of rape and other gender-based abuse which they will in turn pass on to their children.

Despite often being accused of fostering a culture of violence to support national homogeneity and defense, the government has said it wants to tackle the issue of sexual violence against women with the creation of a 'Scarlet Letters' database, in which victims have to tell their stories in order to receive assistance and compensation. A government source, who is also a member of the controversial dating site, said that he thought that the Scarlet Letters were going to be a big hit, because "they are full of good ideas and really get my adrenalin pumping. Then you go out and beat a woman, and it makes you feel alive."

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