Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Wife as family and cheating that isn't cheating

I HAVE come to believe that Korean men tend -- generally, with exceptions, and the full acknowledgement that you, dear reader, are a perfect example of such an exception, and so can save your fingers for angry posts on other blogs -- to be quite conservative when it comes to their ideas of women and dating. Whether by nature or because they simply have to be, K-men, to this romance-less cynic's eyes, are relatively romantic. They give flowers often by Western standards. They wear clothes that match their girlfriend's. (Again I wonder how much coercion from the lovely ladies in their lives has to do with this.)

A greater number of men than would be found at home seem to stress the importance of a partner that would be a good mother to their children, and a welcome addition to their family. This idea of a wife as family can causes problems when it comes to the bedroom -- plainly, you don't have sex with your family, mother of your child or not. This is a big trend in Japan where upwards of 40 percent of married couples have reported having not had sex in the previous month. Hard stats on the situation here are hard to find, if they exist at all, but aspects of the culture and its reverence toward family, along with a huge and easily accessible prostitution industry, suggest that the situation here may not be all that dissimilar to Japan.

While out drinking soju with some Korean friends -- what better way is there to bond with Korean men? -- I had this view of your wife as family being confirmed to some degree. One of my sunbaes said that some men's tendency to see their wife as more of a sister than a sexual being leads them to seek sexual gratification elsewhere. Before that an American out with us and myself had been talking about the tacit acceptance of cheating here, and how some men don't consider it, well, cheating.

We put it to him: How can sleeping with someone who isn't your wife or girlfriend not be seen as cheating? My sunbae said cheating wasn't OK and that most Korean men felt the same way. But what about the room salons and escorts on business trips away, we asked? But that was different, he replied. There is no feeling or love involved, so it isn't the same as cheating. Indeed. But how well would that excuse hold up with a spouse or girlfriend?

Not as bad as you might think, according to 여자친구. She said that some women would put up with such an indiscretion once, were done to further their man's career (and I have heard plenty to suggest that bosses have been known to put serious pressure on male workers to accept paid-for sex). That is a level of patience and tolerance -- if those are even the correct words; others could be added -- that makes Marge Simpson look unreasonable for her placid reaction to her trials in marriage -- and a very lucky girl to boot.

And from the man's point of view? Well, what a way to get a bonus. 


  1. Yea uve had similar experiences. Hearing things from koreans guys and girls... it was unacceptable to me at first. Now however I can understand them. Your explanation was a good way of putting it.
    My korean teacher told me that he slept with a norebang girl and regretted it later. He hides it from his wife. Although hanging with his wife she seems to imply that she knows without it necessarily bothering her. My gir friends have all cheated and been cheated on in the past. And my ex korean girlfriends have no problems trying to have sex with me even though they know I have a gf.... korean attitudes towards relationship amd sex are soo different...for a culture that considera it taboo to talk about. They do it like rabbits.

  2. I'm a korean. you're right. korea is a tolerant community about men's cheating. They can sex with everyone after marrige. so that is a reasons why I don't marrige