Monday, August 11, 2008

Yo Mama So Fat.... Wait, the Other Way Around

[The Korean's note: Our new associate editor's first post!]

Dear Korean,

I am a Korean American woman, second generation. I don't mean to be stereotypical, or contribute a rude individual characteristic on a culture. But I have noticed something about 1st generation Korean women, especially ones that are a little older. They have no problem telling you or your children, that you/they are fat. Even if by "white American" standards, you or your children are not. This is especially true if you or your children are female. This is the behavior of many 1st Generation Korean women I've met, all a little older, at least 50 and up. My Korean drycleaner will look at my daughter and ask me, "Why is she so fat?" Then she'll look right at my daughter and directly ask, "Why are you so fat?" leading to tears of course. Same with the Korean waitress - ironically serving us Kalbee, as well as Korean churchgoers. You name it, they say it.

I find this strange because these same women grew up starving. They literally had no food growing up, so wouldn't being a little plump be a good thing? But clearly, they are not being complimentary, when they t
ell you "hey you, lose some weight!" and you barely even know who they are. In America, you might expect this name calling behavior from kids on the school play lot. But you would not expect it from a grown woman. Why is this?

Not Fat Fatty

Dear Not Fat Fatty,

First of all, Nuna would like to tell you something incredibly hurtful and offensive to you (and by calling myself Nuna, also give you honourary dangly bits):


Nuna has obviously never seen you, met you in real life, and never knew of your kindheartedness, the fact that you graduated from an Ivy League university, or that your favourite pastime is volunteering at a local abandoned pet shelter.

So why does Nuna call you fat? It's because Nuna knows it rankles you. Heck, Nuna knows that if Nuna can't reach for any other insults, picking on the other person's appearance always does the trick. You're fat, your breath stinks, snaggletooth, monkey ears...Also, Nuna is going to tell you this: if you think insulting someone the first time you see them is something people left at the playground... pull the other one, it's got bells on.

Calling someone fat out of the blue is not just the work of Korean mothers. It is the work of all insecure individuals everywhere in the world.

When a person calls another person fat, what they are essentially doing is the human equivalent of beating their chests, ruffling their feathers, arching their back and hissing - showing animosity towards you to assert their rightful social rank of being higher than you, because they fell intimidated by you. In short, they're expecting you to act submissive, then run to the corner and cry. This is also why Korean mothers won't dare call a man they're fat - they're afraid of being pwned.

Which comes to the other point: why do they feel intimidated by a bit of meat on the bones and uh, not the impending asphyxiation of the world due to halitosis?

It's because Korean women, even this current generation, grew up in a country where photos are stuck on CVs, men won't get into the same elevator as a purportedly overweight woman, and clothing and shoe sizes are very restrictive. Nuna could never buy a bra in Korea because all the C cups were maternity bras. Being "fat" is simply unacceptable: to start off with, you would literally be unable to buy clothes that even looked mildly attractive. Most clothing lines only carry 1 "plus size" product, and you either take it or leave it.

[The Korean's note: Below is a picture of a fat Korean woman. Read this post for some context.]

You know how Miss USA always says "world peace" when asked for their aspirations? Miss Koreas used to say "현모양처" -lit. "Wise Mother, Submissive Wife". It is jokingly said that every caring Korean Mother "fixes up" her daughter's face when she finishes junior high (national minimum mandatory level of education, though most finish at least senior high), and that even parents don't recognise a daughter's face if she forgets to "put it on" in the morning.

Heck, Nuna remembers, aaaages ago in Dong-A Ilbo, an opinion columnist who wrote about the "obesity epidemic" that was hitting women (back in 1995, no less!) and recounted his story of a girl he thought was pleasantly chubby, but the deluded wench kept on stuffing her face thinking he'd love her no matter what her weight, and then pleaded with him to take her back saying she'd lose all her weight. His final words on the subject? That he felt that he was scammed, and although he felt sympathetic to the woman, there was no way he was going to forgive her if it happened again. Nuna wishes that particular asswipe fell victim to a Nigerian scam later on, just so he knows what being scammed feels like, the mysogynist smear of smegma he is.

For Korean women, their entire person is judged on how much they like bending over backwards and paddled in the bare ass by The Man. It's all about what kind of husband you get, what kind of men you will attract, what will men think of you.

And here you are, Ms Fatty McFat Fat, boldly barging in with her natural Rubenesque Fertility Goddess figure and no makeup to be seen, demanding that everyone view her as a Person (or possibly Womyn) to be judged on her political views (in a country where wives are often browbeaten - brow optional - to vote the same guy the husband votes), education level and socio-economic status (i.e. being able to buy all that USDA prime and drink all that milk to get those mighty C cups).

How DARE you spit in their faces and tell them all they have looked up to and worked for in their lives is a LIE?

Nuna notes that in our mothers' times, girls used to fight by grabbing on to each other's hair and pulling their scalp as hard as they could. The first person to cry, of course, loses, and other girls used to keep bobbing down to check which girl's face teared up first. Think of it as that: You cry, you lose. Your choice is either to sit there and get your hair pulled out more till you cry, or you pull THEIR hair so hard they cry first.

So! Nuna would like to impart on those of us larger than life women (Nuna herself is an intimidating 172cm and 70kgs) that the best way is to insult them back: Nuna's favourite is *fake looud sneeze* "Oh I'm sorry, I'm allergic to cheap makeup brands." or "Yeah, I know I'm fat, and earn twice as much as your kids ever will 'cos they're crap at school" to perfect strangers, and to the people you're sure to meet again? "Oh Aunty, you're soooooo oooooooold with your quaint, ooooooold views. Who needs a man except to open jars and take out the garbage in this day and age?"

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at


  1. I've also noticed that my Korean-Korean relatives and friends are very attentive to (and brutally honest about) my weight. "Oh you gained a few pounds since I last saw you, right?" "Oh, you lost weight - your face looks skinnier!" I've gotten used to it. Go ahead, tell me I'm fat. Sticks and stones. ;)

  2. But Nunah, these people, even if you insult them back, they'll still look down on you for not being bone skinny thin. Reminds me of a Chris Rock routine when he say something to the effect that one legged paraplegic white folks would still have doubts about trading places with him even tho he's powerful and rich.

    Was funny as all hell but very true how that works.

  3. Or, maybe it's that Americans/Australians are fairly unusual in the world for their obesity epidemic, to the point of serious health problems.

    You go to Asia, and both the men and women are so much more fit and healthy (with commensurately greater lifespans). The women are beautiful, but the fact that the men are thinner, too, seems to run counter to your thesis.

    Instead of attributing their "insults" to maliciousness, it may be worthwhile to consider the possibility this is a cultural difference, and that maybe what they say is actually true.


  5. Oh don't worry Feisty. Us Americans, we'll be back into shape in no time as soon as gas hits 6 ,7 dollars/ gallon like it is in Korea. Wouldn't put too much stock in any notions of inherent ability of the Koreans to stay fit. You know, when gas is that high and driving is tantamount to perpetual rubbernecking, it really pays --in more ways than one -- to take mass transit.

  6. Yes, Korean ajumas are way too direct when it comes to telling you about your weight (the Chinese do it too). Especially if they think those three girls from the picture are overweight -- those three are perfect! Not too thin and just right!
    But having said that, I think Americans let a little too much go when it comes to matters of the waiste line. No, it doesnt make you a bad person if you are overwight,and you shoulnt be judged for it. But does it make you unhealthy? Yes. Does it make you extremely prone to diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, stress, depression and just about every other ailment? Absolutely.

    In our PC-on-steroids society, we Americans tread a little too lightly around overweight people. I was once overweight. I did lose 20 pounds, and part of it was bacause Asians I knew told me I needed to lose weight. In retrospect I appreciate it.

    Now I have more energy and just feel 100 percent better.

    Americans, on the other hand, think its a sign of weakness if you dont want to down a bacon cheeseburger with four beers.

    And about what Nuna alluded to, that you should love someone for who they are and not want to dump them if they gain weight. That's an extent.

    The last time I had a non-FOB Asian girlfriend was about 7 years ago. There's a reason for that: too many American girls are extremely unhealthy and feel its ok to let themselves go when they get in a relationship. "I have a boyfriend now, why should I look good?" goes the thinking. Asian women, even when they gain a little weight, still have a sense of self control with their appetite (usually).

    As I said, the last non-Asian girlfirend I had (so very long ago) gained about 60 pounds in 2 years because she thought I wouldnt care if she shamlessly ate like a trucker, stuffing herself with burgers and milkshakes at almost every meal and priding herself in not doing a lick of excercise. She had no self control with her appetite and expected me to put up with it. Why? Because Oprah said so. But is that attractive?

    It wasnt so much the weight, but the problem was that it was affecting our relationship -- she had no energy to go out (besides going out to eat, of course) and just wanted to watch bad TV shows with a coke and a bag of chips. Being pretty outdoorsy, I found this stifling. All that TV and bad food was making me very unhappy. When I tried to talk to her about it, she would just hit me with that "if you loved me you woldnt care" BS.

    But what kind of quality of life is that, staying indoors all the time and watching bad TV????? My grandfather was more active than me. Long story short, I went to Korea, dated FOB Asians exclusively. They were active, outdoorsy, fun! and healthy, if perhaps a little too thin, admittedly. But that can be fixed with a little sam gyup sal and a little more muscle from hitting the gym.

    So yes, Korean ajumas are too judgemental about weight, especially toward women who dont look like chopsticks and have those glorious curves (again, those three wonderful girls in the pic).
    But American women really need to start taking some pride in their appearance, just as most women in most other countries in the world do.
    And as a side note, yes, too many American dudes are lazy slobs. They need to tuck in their shirts, cut down on the beer and get off their asses once in a while. I was once one of them, but my quality of life is 100 times better now.

  7. Oh wow, 6 comments already!

    Just keep smiling. If you're taller and/or smarter than them, an occasional friendly reminder that there's no surgery for height or brains ought to do the trick.

    There is no culture in which picking out physical flaws and/or criticising a person is welcomed. If you're in Korea and there are Koreans telling you that you are fat, they are being rude, they just probably think they can get away with it because you don't know the rules.

    On the subject of Australians being fat - Australians on average are plumper, but they are also MUCH taller, and the weight issue is more of an even shift up the bell curve rather than an epidemic of grossly obese people. Even the people who are quite fat in my opinion have well-toned skin and can move about freely without any problems.

    jw you:

    Funnily enough, the only Koreans that ever dared to tell me I was fat were often ill-educated, gossipy people who then on to talk about how their daughter snagged a rich, handsome guy.


    It's sad that you state that on the one hand, being fat should not be equated with being a bad person, then go on to deride a former girlfriend of two years about how she was a lazy slob with awful table manners and did nothing but watch bad tv shows all day.

    It sounds like you're saying you're more compatible with Asian girls because they are thinner and do the things you liek them to do, and not because of compatible personalities or shared common interests.

    I wonder what your girlfriend will say if she ever reads your post.

  8. The Korean more or less agrees with our venerable associate editor. But he thinks there is an element of care and concern in the manner in which Korean mothers/ajummas call Korean young women fat. Basically they live in a sexist society, and to survive in a sexist society girls had better be thin and pretty.

    The problem as the Korean sees it is that the standard of beauty in Korea currently is completely out of whack. In other words, the thinness/prettiness required to survive in that sexist society has reached a completely unhealthy/unrealistic height. Try clicking on the link explaining the picture of the ladies (one of whom is Kim Hye-soo, in 1990s). They are described as "super fat". That is insane.

  9. I've recently moved to the midwest from the east coast and have been very startled by how overweight the Asian American girls are here. They are just as fat as the white women, perhaps even fatter on average.

    I’m definitely going to ask for a transfer back east. In general, the fatter a population is, the greater the social gains are for the women who stay thin. These thin women become highly sought after…which also increases their expectations for guys. In short, it’s just a lot more work here.

    In general, I find non-thin women unattractive both physically and mentally. You might not be able to change how smart you are, but you definitely have control over what you eat and how much you exercise. People who exercise and eat healthy have respect for themselves and act intelligently….which is very attractive. Um…and obviously thin people are better looking than overweight people…so, since everyone knows this…the people who are out of shape have an inferior character.

  10. I never heard my wife complaining about this issue in her dealings with the ajumma folk. Granted that she's thin even for Korean standards, if this was really an issue, some of her friends would have commented with her and ultimately I'd have heard about it.

    But since we're talking about old people, why do we have to be hypercritical when discussing people of our own race? Old people everywhere act kinda weird, why shouldn't Korean ajummas be allowed to be a little weird themselves? More than once I was warned by some white friends that their grandparents were old fashioned and if I heard an occasional racial slur here and there I should keep cool. I should understand them because they were old. I should keep cool because they were raised in different times. Well, that's what I try to do with Korean ajummas as well.

    I know Korean people tend to mind stuff that's not their business, especially old ajummas. But I also believe that one reason why they do it is the level of comfort they feel in dealing with other Koreans. So, in the same way Koreans will be more friendly with other Koreans, they will also be more intrusive, impertinent and say stuff like "you're fat".

    @kimchiguy: 60 pounds in 2 years is a lot. I can fully understand your point. Not only it can be the difference between cute and fugly but (well worse) is also a sign that she didn't care much about anything else other than eating and being lazy (unless of course if it was somehow disease related).

    Two more things:

    1) "I earn twice as much as your kids ever will" is a well worse thing to say and is also in accordance to the Korean ajumma way of thinking. You have to make a lot of money (be a doctor, be a lawyer) to be successfull in the same way a girl has to be thin to be pretty. I would suggest another response that's way funnier than yours: "I'm fat but I can work out and lose weight. You're ugly".

    2) I'm sorry but the girl in the picture is fat. Well, being generous, maybe not fat but at least chubby. And if ajummas are saying you're fat to your face, you probably are fat.

  11. Hey Nuna,

    Im not saying that ex GF put on a little extra padding. I'm saying she became morbidly obese in two years. Like so many American girls, she just had no respect for herself and her appearance. And I'm sure she'll never read this post. All too often, American women have zero interest in any culture but American pop culture. So she'd never be on a blog about Korea and Koreans. My wife, an FOB Chinese, agrees with this wholeheartedly.

  12. Question for Nuna:
    I sent this to The Korean but he's too busy to get to it until a bit later. So while I wait for his post, maybe you could take a swing at these two questions:

    1) Why do Korean women pay such close attention to their feet and pedicures? Actually I quite appreciate this. They do a spectacular job!! But you dont see quite the same level of interest or quality in pedicures in China or Taiwan or Japan as you do in Korea. And my wife always went to Korean pedicure salons when we lived in NYC. She refused to go anywhere else.
    Was there ever any kind of foot fetishism in dynastic Korea or is this something modern and attributable to Korean womens' ultra-competitiveness with each other? Or maybe its simply that Koreans always take off their shoes in the house so since feet are exposed a lot, it just makes sense for Korean fashionistas to decorate them...although most Asian cultures remove their shoes in the house and you dont see that level of dedication to painting toes, getting rid of dead skin on feet, etc...

    2) Why is Korean womens' skin so darned soft and silky????!!! Its not an Asian thing. I've had a lot of Asian girlfriends from various countries for many years. Japanese women, for example, actually often have somewhat coarse skin at times (comparatively I mean). Is it diet? Genetics? Good water supply? Or the fact that they go to the Jim jil bang a lot? I asked a (now ex) girlfriend once, and she just said something like "well, my mother has soft skin"). But there must be more to it.

  13. ahahaha! I think I'm going to have to link this! Thanks unni?

  14. ksoje:

    1)Insults are never fun if you have to explain them: e.g. one of Nuna's friends sneered "So, what's the price of meat nowadays?" at a cougar. Also, there are things in this world called makeup and plastic surgery, which are both known to cure ugly.

    2)Nuna is sorry but you have entitlement issues and you will die ronery on top of a mountain of magazines and used tissues. Maybe not a mountain, but at least a hill. And if Nuna is saying you have entitlement issues to your face, you probably have entitlement issues.


    Nuna had relationships with deeply flawed individuals (who hasn't?) and Nuna doesn't go around airing their flaws, nor does she proclaim she only dates (race) because they supposedly don't have that flaw. It's not because Nuna doesn't know what 60lbs roughly is in kg, but the fact that you imply there is a weight limit to justify backstabbing and insulting someone you spent two years of life with is headache inducing.

    Nuna is wondering what kind of a guy sits watching his girlfriend develop a food addiction for two years in morbid fascination and decide that it's because she's stupid, and thinks it's all right to bitch aboout her because she'll never read it.
    Then you tell Nuna that one of your OTHER exes got asked which moisturiser she uses for her skin, and that's been such a burning question you'd fire an email off to our Editor-In-Chief about it.

    Nuna isn't telling you any more, because you're just going to tell your wife to do x so she can now have skin as soft as one of your other exes and "oh did you know, your skin is inferor but out of the deepest respect and graciousness I never told you"?

    Nuna also suspects that you're saying stuff like Korean women have soft skin in some deranged attempt at being nice. Why aren't the headache tablets kicking in already.

    As for pedicures, it has traditionally been the proper thing to wear socks indoors, and there are separate summer and winter socks. Someone's skill in an area could easily be attributed to the fact that their visa and livelihood depends/ed on it, and very little to do with whatever racial stereotyping that is going on regarding Koreans and nail parlours.

  15. @nuna:

    1) You failed to understand the criticism here. I was trying to point out that your reply to "You're fat" comes from the same frame of mind that generated the first insult.

    2) Entitlement issues? Did you just hear that expression in psychology class and was dying to use it somewhere? Please explain what in my comment shows my entitlement issues.
    Maybe I was a little sarcastic on my comment but I sensed in your post something that I strongly dislike. Koreans who live abroad sometimes try so hard to fit in their new country that they reject their own culture. They end up being so judgemental and overcritical when talking about their own race maybe in an effort to prove to themselves that they're better.
    Another thing, you didn't say it to my face. You did it by typing. You have semantics issues. Though, since I didn't say it to your face, it may not be true.

  16. Nuna,

    You fail to see the social significant here: obesity is porbably the #1 problem in the USA. And this is one of the reasons why an ever rising number of American men are going for foreign women.
    On the skin thing: every man in Asia knows that Korean women are famous for their beautiful skin. Thats why Japanese and Taiwanese businessmen love to go on business trips to Korea. So they can play with soft-skinned girls at the nore bang or room salon. So no, that wasnt my attempt at being nice.
    By the way, my FOB Chinese wife also has lovely skin, because she goes to the jim jil bang in Koreatown and uses Korean skin product. So its not just men who notice.
    I get the feeling you have not been to Korea for a very long time. Otherwise you would know these things.

  17. Nuna,

    You fail to see the social significant here: obesity is porbably the #1 problem in the USA. And this is one of the reasons why an ever rising number of American men are going for foreign women.
    On the skin thing: every man in Asia knows that Korean women are famous for their beautiful skin. Thats why Japanese and Taiwanese businessmen love to go on business trips to Korea. So they can play with soft-skinned girls at the nore bang or room salon. So no, that wasnt my attempt at being nice.
    By the way, my FOB Chinese wife also has lovely skin, because she goes to the jim jil bang in Koreatown and uses Korean skin product. So its not just men who notice.
    I get the feeling you have not been to Korea for a very long time. Otherwise you would know these things.

  18. ksoje:

    1) Again, Nuna simply believes it is simply no fun to sit there and take it, nor is it any fun to hurl insults that the other party has no ability to grasp.

    2) It's sad that once again, Nuna has to explain her insults. You are quick to demand how Nuna is qualified to discuss your entitlement issues, but believe that nobody should object to ajummas calling people fat because they clearly have qualifications and credentials to back up their statements. Which comes to the other point, what qualifies YOU to say they're fat? Ajummas?

    The ajumma is so despised by all Koreans, that merely calling someone ajumma is considered to be an insult, and Nuna is by no means alone or out of touch with her Korean identity when she sneers at or criticises the ajumma. The person who asked the question had her children insulted by strangers, which is an absolute no-no in Korean culture.

    Projecting your own insecurities regarding your cultural identity to Nuna isn't going to get you anywhere, because your responses only highlight your ignorance of Korean social norms.


    Obesity is the biggest issue in ALL developed countries. it still doesn't entitle you to say horrible things about her.

    There are lots of relationships that just happen to be interracial, and relationships should NEVER be some pissing contest about who can get the thinnest, most submissive mail-order bride.

    ...Nuna couldn't care less if Korean prostitutes are admired for their texture or tightness. Until 2004, prostitution was a tax-paying full time job listed under 'entertainment'. Are you surprised professionals in this field invest in their bodies? The same applies to those who invest in their looks to marry. Where's the surprise?

    Exposure to uv rays and heat are known to be the biggest causes for skin deterioriation. Koreans go to saunas because a) they are brought up to like heat and b) because they have nothing else to do. If they like thinking it helps the skin, they probably also believe in fan death and cat meat curing arthritis and rhematism. Even Nuna's grandmother doesn't believe in those things!

    Africans have the smoothest, most youthful skin throughout their lives, because their skin is most resistant to uv and heat damage. Perhaps you should get out and see the world more, instead of insisting Nuna must not have been to Korea in a long time, or insinuates that Nuna is somehow less of a Korean... for not believing in saunas? For not going around feeling up other women? For not asking inane questions that state some sort of racial/cultural secret might be behind some superficial quality?

    Nuna couldn't care less why either of you believe winning an internet argument will somehow justify your beliefs in real life. Couldn't you two just become drinking buddies, and not contribute to Nuna's ever-growing painkiller bills?

    If either of you really think you have a case to argue, then fire off a question to our Editor-In-Chief and maybe Nuna might do another article about it. Geez.

  19. @nuna,

    first, nobody's got a gun to your head. you can stop replying at any time. but it kinda defeats the purpose of a blog, isn't it? i thought you wanted your opinion to be read and discussed and not accepted as the gospel.

    second, since we started this you already insulted me a lot, saying that I have entitlement issues and that i'm insecure about my cultural identity. you pass judgement on somebody you don't know after reading a couple of comments. you must be an ajumma.

    let me explain this to you: when you complain against ajummas calling you fat is the same thing as when expats complain about being rushed on the subway, for instance. it's a cultural thing. korean ajummas think they can saystuff like that and i don't actually believe they mean it as an insult.

  20. Nuna,

    Get out and see the world more????? ok, now you've gone to far. Since my line of work requires a lot of travel, here's my list of addresses over the last decade:
    - one year in Europe
    - one year in East Africa
    - 1 and 1/2 years in Korea
    - 3 years in Japan
    - 4 months in Cambodia
    - a year at an ivy league grad program (upon my return to the US after living overseas for so long)
    - Currently on the East Coast

    Where have you spent the last decade? Koreatown in NYC talking with other Korean Americans about how much better you guys think you are than FOB Koreans?
    Whereas The Korean could probably give me historical evidence as to whether I am wrong or right on these issues, you havnt done that yet. I'm just going to wait for him to get back to me on my questions.

    On African skin types. First, when you say "African" where do you mean exactly? West Africa? East Africa? Central Africa?
    And I would say in general that no, Africans dont have good skin, mainly because most of them on that continent are malnurished. Sixteen-year-old kids there look much older than their age, at least where I lived. And also Africans in cities will tend to have better general health than rural Africans, because they have more access to medicine and healthy drinking water, as well as slightly more sanitary conditions.

    Look, EVERYONE in Asia knows Korean women have good skin. Let it go. And what's this about Korean women having nothing else to do but to go to the jim jil bang? Sounds like a little hostility toward women of your parents' country.

  21. @nuna
    ....I would venture to say going to a jim jil bang in Korea is just habit. It's literally like taking a shower (except you're taking a bath). I haven't been to Korea in awhile (hopefully this doesn't invalidate everything I say) but from what I hear from the people around me that visit/live in Korea, many Koreans bathe almost 3x a week in place of a shower. So I wouldn't say Korean women in general just have so much extra time they just bathe...

    Speaking from personal experience, however, I would definitely say there ARE benefits to a jim jil bang (which plays a bit into the "Korean skin" issue). I can't go scientific but I noticed my skin DRAMATICALLY improves after a quick visit to a jim jil bang and the sweat room. My blackheads are gone, my acne goes down, and my skin glows after a quick scrub. This is from somebody whose gone to a jim jil bang only 3x in her life. Imagine the results if you went 3x a WEEK.

    Also, I would venture to say Korean women are known for having nice skin, not particularly because of genetic superiority, but simply b/c of the attention Korean women pay their skin. Skin is literally the highest symbol of beauty in Korea (a bit like how beautiful, clear blue eyes or a curvaceous hourglass body are considered 'key points' of beauty in other countries). You can have the straightest nose, biggest eyes, and fittest body, but have a pock-marked acne ridden skin and none of that would amount to much. Not to mention skin, in Korea, is not only used as an indicator of beauty but of health. So it's unsurprising to know Korean cosmetic companies are highly focused on delivering the best skin care products possible (cuz that's what sells the most and among all ages). Also, Korean make up is generally geared towards producing "bare" make up - the kind that makes you look like you are wearing nothing. Combine this with Korea's infamous aversion to sun and it's not surprising to see most Korean women end up having fairly nice skin or at least appear that they do. Good skin, if not flawless, is attainable for just about any women, the difference is only a few care to work for it.

    Actual topic: Ahjummas just occupy an odd place in society... Impolite is a byword when speaking with them. I confess I am not sure why it is this way but I think it's simply a cultural mindset in the sense, that ahjummas are given the liberty to speak whatever is on their minds (nicely putting it). This often ends up in a loss of manners but at the same time almost frees these older women from the restrictions that they suffered in their youth.

    I think this is the after-effects of Korea's economic spurt within only 50 or so years. Women's rights are barely gaining foothold in Korea right now - imagine the state of women's rights in Korea 50 years ago. These women were taught to fulfill the traditional societal image: quiet, demure, soft-spoken, gentle etc. Also these women grew up in a harsh, poor Korea where you had to fight just to survive and hold your family together. Now, 50 years later, these 40+ year old women are finding themselves in a society where saying what you want (to a degree) is very much allowed. Perhaps they're overindulging themselves in this the fear that they are not being heard/paid attention even now.

    This may not be the whole truth but I do think that's a bit of it. I truly believe the ahjummas of the next generation will not be 'as' infamously pushy and out of line. While some people may think growing up with the freedom to do/say what you want would make people more outspoken, I think generally, such freedoms actually mellow people out. When you're used to having your voice heard, you won't shout into people's ears.

    Once ahjummas don't feel the need to raise their voice to be heard or to shove their way into a line to get what they want....they won't (as much) ^^

  22. this doesn't have anything to do with the actual topic at hand but @ kimchiguy

    can you please stop reminding us that you have a "FOB chinese wife"? every time you mention her you have to include that she's 1. a FOB and 2. that she's asian. it's like you tout her like some sort of entrance ticket to this asian blog..

  23. aaaand people who are obsessed with korea, korean people, korean showering habits and have amassed a ridiculous and completely useless store of information about korea to the point that they can adopt this sort of attitude to an actual korean:
    "I get the feeling you have not been to Korea for a very long time. Otherwise you would know these things."

    IS a major pet peeve of mine.. just for the record

  24. Nuna,

    You rock. Glad to see you on the blog.

  25. To Cyp:
    THANK YOU! you have answered my question quite well. I was also wondering if you knew whether the jim jil bang is an entirely modern thing or whether it was around during any of the dynasties? And also was it used by average joe Koreans or just the dynasties? And when did it start becoming popular? Could you point me in the right direction on this?

  26. cyp:

    "jim jil bang" has existed for about 8 years now, public baths for about 40 years. The reason you received benefits from the sauna is probably simply because you sweated and exfoliated, which brought out the sebum and dirt from your skin.

    On the other hand, Nuna's skin is used to a practically desert climate, so Nuna doesn't even sweat in most saunas, and just sits there incredibly bored out of her mind.

    Also, perhaps you should have timed yourself when going to a public bath/sauna deal: it's very common for people to stay 2 hours just at the baths, and a further 2 at the saunas. With inflation being what it is, most Koreans can't afford to knock 4+ hours off their lives three times a week, and have normal baths and showers like everyone else. They go to public baths maybe once a fortnight in reality.

    If you really wanted proof about whether saunas improve your skin: you should have just looked at the ajummas. They have nothing else to do all day (they don't even have to pack lunch for their kids now that cafeterias are common), so they laze around napping at the saunas until the kids come home. Their skins quickly become quite leathery.


    Saunas and the current incarnation of public baths were brought through "turkish style baths" during the Japanese occupation. Before then, men and women went to a nearby creek or river on a designated bath night, or heated water at home using the large rice pots and poured the water into a wooden bathtub.

    Koreans didn't have saunas (or at least, saunas that weren't attached to Japanese operated hotels and were actually available to the Korean public) until the 80s and even then, it was an auxiliary part of a bath with maybe 2 sauna rooms if you were lucky. The large saunas one sees weren't common until around 2000.

    Also, the idea of youthful skin and trying to combat the signs of aging is not unique to Korean culture. In fact, the most coveted products often are from foreign brands (either French or Japanese), which is a double whammy for the ajumma: after lazing around in the saunas all day while sending their kids away for 10+ hours, they deplete what little foreign capital Korea has by importing in all sorts of luxury items, half of which are from Japan or through Japan. It's enough to drive any conservative Korean crazy. Most Koreans won't translate their hatred for the ajumma to general mysogyny.

    I don't know why you state all Africans have bad skin because malnutritioned Africans have bad skin. Do you expect malnutritioned people to have good skin? Also, Koreans are known and identified amongst other Asians for their hairstyles, not their skin. It's the Japanese that are famous for their whitening products and skincare. Perhaps you're the one that should really get over this.

  27. Nuna,
    Finally, an intellegent answer from you. Now, another question, since you seem to be thinking with your head and not your anti-male (and possibly anti-white male) emotions: why do Korean women suffer from kong ju byoung so badly? You can of course find that in any country, but it seems particularly intense there. Why are Korean women so competitive about their looks?
    On Africa, try working there for a year and then we can talk. MOST Africans in southern, western and east Africa are quite malnurished. If you dont believe me go to the UN Web site and you'll find some good stats. But you dont even need stats. In my village, you could see it with your own eyes on a daily basis.

  28. kimchiguy,

    the Korean appreciates your participation, but you really have to ask questions to the email, not to the board. It is not fair for the people who submitted questions and waited for months.

  29. to The Korean:
    Why? Nuna and I were having fun! And between you and me, I think she's into me in some perverse way, hehehe...She's probably thinking about me right now, but dont tell her I said that, heheheh. And besides, I was quite amused by her rants.
    But wouldnt it be a lot more efficient for everyone just to post questions on the board and if The Korean wants to answer them, so be it. Otherwise, just let anyone answer it. And if someone says something idiotic, you can correct them.
    I like your answers better than anyone else's. But truth be told, it seems a little school marmish of you and just a tad dictatorial to insist that you are the sole authority here on all things Korean.
    Of course, if you had a PHD in Asian studies from Columbia or something, well, I might just sit back and wait. And if that's the case, please let me know and I'll shut my trap. (Being from the ivy league myself, I respect formal educational achivements).
    But I suspect you are self taught on the issues, which means some other participant here might potentially have the same level of knowledge as you.
    That's not to insult you or anything. Some of history's greatest men were self-taught, such as George Washington. And as I said, your knowledge seems pretty solid.
    But the Internet is an open source and a communal instrument. It's not meant to be like a Korean classroom, in which everyone sits back and soaks in the fountain of knowledge that is sun seng nim. In that situation no one thinks critically and knowledge only comes from one source.
    Of course, being a Western capitalist, I do understand that you founded the site and have certain rights. So Im kind of torn on this one......

  30. kimchiguy,

    The Korean started and runs Ask A Korean!, so he will do whatever he damn well pleases with it. If you want a message board where everyone responds, you can go hang out somewhere else.

  31. @ kimchiguy:
    Your style, opinions, and viewpoints indicates you to be useless in any debate or discussion beyond the creator of the topic. Your "wide experience" have thoroughly narrowed your views and seemingly handicapped your intelligence. Your observations on the African skin and their malnourishment producing bad skin would be equivalent to suggesting that your FOB wife is useless beyond taking care of the home (if she's from the "countryside") or she's a pratt as can be expected of an upbringing from a family who can afford to have a daughter. The only advice I can give to your attitude is that whatever you write here, you should go over it and change the direction of it roughly 160° and you'd actually sound as intelligent as you claim.


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