Photo Credit: The Korean Herald
Min Joo Lee is a gender and race politics researcher in Korea. Lee is currently pursuing a postdoctoral fellowship at Indiana University Bloomington, where she hopes to help understand the rise of Korean pop culture and its impact on tourism.
Initially, Lee noticed that many Western women stayed indoors and expended the bulk of their time there, as opposed to other women of different origins who are very interested in taking tours around South Korea. However, Lee stated that these women’s Asian counterparts maximize their time roaming the cities and corners of South Korea, if only to experience the scenic areas that South Korea has to offer.
Lee claims that most Western women in South Korea stay in their hotels and watch Korean TV shows. They only venture out at night. Lee was enthralled by the behavior, so she interviewed several of the women to find out why they acted the way they did.
Lee concluded that these women came to South Korea because of the “Netflix effect” after facing 123 women living in 8 different hostels, the large percentage of whom were North Americans and Europeans.
The Netflix Effect is global
South Korean dramas have grown in popularity over the years. The country’s entertainment industry has reached a global audience. Many South Korean celebrities and productions have gained recognition in the United States, earning nominations and awards for their performances, films, and music. The influence of Korean pop culture has grown even stronger as streaming giants gained access to dramas such as “Crash Landing on You” and “Goblin.”
According to Lee, these dramas have sold more than South Korean men with beautiful faces or stunning bodies. The country has been portrayed in dramas as a place where romantic, patient, and soft men live. The characteristics of men in South Korea, as regarded in many South Korean dramas, are diametrically opposed to the sex-driven dating culture of the West.
Because these shows are available to Europeans and Americans through Netflix, Lee has dubbed this phenomenon the “Netflix effect.”
South Korean men’s defining traits
When Lee interviewed the women, the majority of them expressed an interest in the characteristics of South Korean men. According to the interviewees, men in South Korea express their feelings and are willing to ’embrace their effeminate sides.’ These are characteristics that are not often found in Western men.
Grace Thornton, a 25-year-old gardener from the United Kingdom, went to Seoul last year after finishing the K-drama “Crash Landing on You” on Netflix. She noticed that men did not catcall her on the street when she first arrived in Seoul. In her home country, however, men would have jeered at her if she walked past them.
Thornton went on to say that South Korean men are “gentlemen, polite, charming, romantic, fairytale-like, chivalrous, and respectful,” and that she is astonished by how they dress.
“In England, I’m very common looking and sound the same as everyone else. In Korea, I’m different, exciting and foreign. People pay attention to me. I felt special.”
The good and the bad in South Korea
While many women admire South Korean men, some have realized that every country has both good and bad men.
Mina, a Moroccan student, stated that the South Korean men depicted in the dramas were “respectful, good-looking, rich men who are protective of you,” but that was not the case when she visited Busan in 2021.
“We are a temporary pleasure. Men are men; humans are alike everywhere,” she observed. Mina recalled being molested in a bar and sexually harassed by men on the street when she went out.
Lee added, “They clearly see that not all Korean men are (perfect), but they just need an alternative to the disappointing dating market back in their home countries.”
“They can’t really let go of it because they hope that the ideal dating relationships exist somewhere in the world.”
Opinions expressed by CEO Weekly contributors are their own.