Adolescence and migration: Struggling to fit in

by Tomoka Adachi

Currently in global society, there is a comparatively broad definition referring to people who leave their home country and immigrate overseas as global citizens. An increasing number of transnational migrants have been challenging such concepts of the nation-state (Ohno,S 2008). The term immigration is not unfamiliar at all and has even been highlighted in recent years as more issues have been discovered.

Immigrants can be broadly categorized by generation, based on the period of time in their lives that they moved to the host country. In the more precise language of social-science research, the term second generation is usually reserved for those children of immigrants who are born in the host society, while the children who arrived at a young age and thus receive part or all of their schooling in the new society are called the 1.5 generation, a term invented by the sociologist Rubén Rumbaut (Alba & Waters 2011).

Adolescence is one of the most significant steps in the formation of self-identity. There are  outcomes internally and externally for children who migrate at a younger age. In the first place,  immigrant children have to get used to the new environment in the receiving countries, while apart from other close family members, peers and friends in the home country. Homesickness may appear in numerous forms as the result of the diversity of language usage, diet, customs, school system, and citizens from different ethnic groups. All those features certainly depend on the culture and social similarity and differences between the receiving country and home country.

Nevertheless, the efforts immigrant children should take is because they are disadvantaged under many conditions. They are considering who they are and what they tend to be, whether to change or not in the receiving countries as heavily affected by the relation to their surroundings. While at the same time still requires the recognition from people around. Youth immigration demanded changes to the social identity and culture identity in the social and culture environment. The youth may cope with the psychological pressure produced by such dissonance by seeking to reduce conflict and to assimilate (literally, to become similar) within the relevant social context (Rumbaut 1994). However, the invisible pressure which forced assimilation may lead in another direction, in a  reaction of refusing to fit in. For the 1.5 generation, the possibility of segmented assimilation happens in most cases.

In addition, when it comes to 1.5 generation regarding to assimilation, children more or less have the concept of certain social and culture value of their home country, so that it becomes  more of a challenge to define self-identity in the receiving countries. The border and notion of national identity in relation to citizenship belongings blurs.

Furthermore, the reality is that the mass of society tends to offer limited options to classify immigrants. Categories by questioning whether to belong to one culture or not, to socially belong to our culture or outside of our culture. Hence, the lack of social recognition for those who culturally maintained in the middle, such as the 1.5 generation, led those people to fill in the gap and to struggle to connect their self-identity to nation-state citizenship in order fit in the current social position.

References

Alba, R & Waters, MC. (2011) “The Next Generation: Immigrant Youth in a Comparative Perspective Dimensions of Second-generation Incorporation. New York: NYU Press.

Ohno, S. (2008) “Transnational Citizenship and Deterritorialized Identity: The meaning of Nikkei Diasporas’ Shuttling between the Philippines and Japan.Asian Studies 44(1):1-22.

Rumbaut, RG. (1994) The Crucible within: Ethnic Identity, Self-Esteem, and Segmented Assimilation among Children of Immigrants. International Migration Review 28(4):748-794.

Citizenship and migration: Questions of identity and belonging

English: Coat of arms of the Philippines

English: Coat of arms of the Philippines (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Mayumi Futagami

As I read the article “Citizenship and immigration: multiculturalism, assimilation, and challenges to the Nation-State,” I am reminded of my own family’s multi-cultural experiences with Japanese culture and Filipino culture. The book says that “immigration challenges and reaffirms identity” (Bloemraad, 2008) I also think that is true, because immigration makes you know and acknowledge a new environment in which you will be found out anew. These new things will change your knowing about the culture that you used to know.

Citizenship is important to have a legal status of “belonging to a country”. I know that we should belong to a country to group ourselves. However I have this kind of doubt for those people who have double blood lineage of other countries. Do we really need to be divided? How can we answer questions such as: What is your nationality?

In a situation in which you are born in the Philippines, your mother is Filipino, and your father has Japanese nationality, because of visa problems these parents have to apply for you to have Japanese citizenship because that citizenship makes it easier to go abroad. They think of your future. For instance my sister is “half” Japanese and Filipino. When you ask her what her identity or nationality is, at home she will proudly say “I am both Japanese and Filipino”, however when you asked her outside (e.g. supermarket, malls, schools) here in Japan, asking “Are you Filipino?, she will say “urusai” means “shut up”.

I feel that citizenship also matters through images. The rule of Japan that you could have a dual citizenship until age 22 is like just giving you time to think. It makes it really complicated for those young people for they are forced by the imagined tradition of the society. Citizenship makes the pressure of participation model in the society (ibid). When you say that your citizenship here in Japan is different, even if you have the lineage blood of Japanese you may feel a little shame. For as the transnational says about the image of your home country or maybe the home country of your mother or father, maybe both, does make differences good or bad. You may also think is true for the superiority of the country in which you live (e.g. comparing Japan and Philippines).

I don’t really feel ashamed of where I come from in social saying that I have Filipino and Japanese blood. However, it makes me feel sad and embarrassed when they compare those 2 countries in culture or tradition or daily lifestyles. It is because when they say something about it I feel like a little loss of which identity. I feel that why do we need to choose between 2 nations to find citizenship?

Sweden adopted dual citizenship in 2001 (ibid.). I envy this kind of policy in some points that when I am here in Japan I could say that “I am Japanese”, and if they say that “no you’re not”. I could say that, “even though I am Filipino I have Japanese citizenship.” As well as I go back to the Philippines I could also say the same thing because I already have the both culture that already compiled in my daily life.

Migrating for me here in Japan at first was a big challenge for even though I am Japanese in DNA, I felt at that time I am completely Filipino. However, as I migrate here and my father is Japanese I could find myself that I have the capacity or right to have the citizenship of Japan. I applied for it and did easily get it. I just feel it’s strange that we really need to have one kind of citizenship to define what kind of people we are. And some are forced, for there is what they called the “beautiful culture” of Japan and some “bad image” of the Philippines (in which people come to Japan to find jobs) which affects children.

Of course there are some exceptions of having the citizenship of the host country, e.g. Japan. Either you are born there, live there for long years, or marry a citizen there. This could happen to people who are old (come for work) or young people (come for education), etc. Taking Japan as a place where people migrate, there are many people do this and that they could find some loss of identity. Even though they are fully strangers in the host country, they feel that they somehow belong to it for they were able to adopt the culture and lifestyles.

A friend of mine in school here also feels that even though she is not really Japanese she could feel that she “culturally” and “traditionally” belongs to Japan. I don’t mean that it is citizenship that matters, I just mean that citizenship relates to identity. I see that citizenship is easy to answer when you never been out of the country. However as you try to move, taking the question where I belong is a really hard question, especially when you need to choose. I think it is not a matter of the society but also matters from your family decision of what to choose. I thought one reason was the importance of culture, or how advantageous it is to have that citizenship in the country or even overseas.

That is why I feel that citizenship matters in many aspects, where you belong, what you take important the most (culture or superiority), and more. In my point of view, citizenship is a hard thing to choose. However if I just think which is better for my future, Japan or the Philippines, maybe I certainly choose Japan as my citizenship for it will be easy for me to travel abroad.

English Education and Preservation of Ethnic Diversity in Singapore

English: National Institute of Education, Sing...

English: National Institute of Education, Singapore (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anonymous student post

Large numbers of Singapore’s population are immigrants. Since the country got its independence in 1965, there have always been new immigrants coming in from all over the world who become members of the community. As a result, it has become very ethnically and culturally diverse. Just looking at its population, according to CIA World Factbook, there are 74.2% Chinese, 13.3% Malay, 9.2% Indian, 3.3% other (2012 est.) Some scholars believe that this cultural diversity brought by immigrants is what has made Singapore so economically successful. (Yin, 2013)

Adjusting to this type of diverse environment, Singapore sets four different languages for its official use. So when I was there, I could see many public signs, written in those four when I was there. It was certainly a surprising experience for someone who has been lived in Japan, which only has Japanese as its official language.

Following this astonishment, a new question came up to my mind as a student who was studying in a university in Singapore; that is, how do the educational institutions deal with this diversity?

In this blog post, I would like to see the current language education system in Singapore and observe the outcomes.

Firstly, the Singaporean government heavily focuses on education as it contributes to economic development and unification of the people. They decided to offer basic education in two languages, one is English, other is their ethnic mother tongue languages from where their roots are from, such as Chinese, Malay or Tamil. The reason is that government believes educating people in English will be useful in the process of future economic development foreseeing the globalization; and other languages to preserve their cultural identities. (Nakamura, 2009)

This has worked out successfully for the first aspect. English has contributed Singapore becoming the hub of Southeast Asia. It also has become the symbol of nationwide unity that connects people with different cultures and enabled them to communicate with each other. Now they even created so-called “Singlish” (Singapore-English; mixture of English and languages of different ethnic groups exist in Singapore), which could also be considered as part of their national identity.

However, for the second aspect of preserving diverse cultures through learning non-English languages, is not functioning as it was expected. As a matter of fact, less people are using their ethnic mother tongues in Singapore as they no longer use them outside their communities. Because cultures could not be transmitted onto next generation without the languages, it has become a problem. This is also leading to the changes in individual’s identities. As their language ability for non-English languages declines, their identity as a member of each community declines, too. Thus, this is now seen as a challenge how to keep their languages and cultural diversity in this country (Nakamura, 2009).

In addition, there is an issue that social mobility in the society is somewhat depending on their English ability. I will further discuss this point in the later blog post.

In conclusion, through this outcome of bi(multi-)lingual language education in Singapore, we could observe the difficulty of uniting people with different cultural backgrounds under one national identity whilst preserving the cultural diversity. This type of phenomenon is what many nation states would be expecting to see in their countries as more and more international migration occurs in the world. How to protect the cultures and languages while adjusting to the flow of globalization is a difficult question to find a solution.

Reference

Nakamura, M. (2009). Shingaporu ni okeru kokumin togo. Kyoto: Horitsubunkasha.

Singapore. (2014, May 1). Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved May 25, 2014, from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/sn.html

Yin, D. (2013, June 6). Singapore Needs Immigrants, Says Jim Rogers. Forbes. Retrieved May 25, 2014, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidyin/2013/06/06/singapore-needs-immigrants-says-jim-rogers

 

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Skin Lightening in South Africa

by Yutaro Nishioka

The trend of skin lightening, especially among women, is getting increasingly common all over the world, including South Africa, where the major part of its population is black. According to a study from the University of Cape Town, as many as one in three African women use bleaching products to lighten their skin.

Skin lightening products often create serious medical complications; many patients suffer from diseases caused by a combination of use of lightening products and sunlight (africa.com).
The World Health Organization (WHO) has also mentioned the negative effects of some skin lightening products. Mercury, one of the common ingredients in lightening creams, is said to have harmful effects and could also lead to kidney damage, as well as other side effects such as “skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring, as well as a reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections” (africa.com).

Why is skin lightening becoming so common in South Africa despite its negative health effects? Professor Lynn Thomas, co-author of the book Shades of Difference: Why Skin Color Matters, mentions the history of South Africa being colonized by Europeans. The Europeans and South Africans were not treated equally, and there was the notion that light skin was somehow better, not much unlike Hitler’s idea that Jews were inferior. More recently, apartheid, the government policy of racial segregation against black Africans in South Africa, was renounced officially only in 1992.

The effects of the history of discrimination can still be seen in the current South African society. For example, Nomoto “Mahoza” Mnisi, a famous South African musician, is known for her extensive use of skin lightening products. She says, “I just want to be light skinned… I was tired of being ugly.” She is assuming that dark skin is “ugly” and light skin is not.

People that have heard of this news have reacted differently, but the majority of the comments on the internet do not seem to approve of her changed appearance: “she was so much prettier before; her husband must be blind”, “God created her black and she looked so pretty. She looks pretty now but she looked better before”, “She is insecure and that’s bad.”

As there is a difference between Mahoza’s view and that of her fans, it is questionable to say that the history of the colonization and discrimination is the sole cause of the contemporary trend of South Africans’ skin lightening, but it is probably one of the factors that have contributed to the trend.

Reference

“Not Happy Being Black?” – Posted by Africa.com Editorial Staff. http://www.africa.com/blog/not-happy-being-black/

Thomas, Lynn M. 2009. “Skin Lighteners in South Africa: Transnational Entanglements and Technologies of the Self.” Pp. 188-210 in Shades of Difference: Why Skin Color Matters, edited by E. N. Glenn. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

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But we’re speaking Japanese!

This funny video tackles the issue of how we often struggle when someone’s race doesn’t seem to match our expectations of how the person should act. People who might look Japanese don’t necessarily speak the language, while people who might look like gaijin (ahem, like me) can be quite fluent.

This video really resonates with me, as I just came back from presenting at a conference in Daegu, Korea, on migration in Asia. The conference had speakers from several Korean universities, and representatives from Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Japan. As the representative of Japan, I was the only non-native to represent a country—and the only non-Asian at the conference. And yet no one seemed surprised that the speaker from Japan was a white guy from the United States, who was talking about Peruvians in Japan. A sign of progress, perhaps.

Devoting myself to family and future

University of Queensland

University of Queensland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

Anonymous student post

My future plan is still vague, but I’m going to clarify it a little at a time. Concretely, I’m going to explain about job, my family, and my ibasho in the future.

First of all, I have a few jobs which I want to do in the future. For instance, in the future, I want to be an interpreter, especially interpreting from Japanese to English and from English to Japanese. I haven’t decided the workplace where I will translate, but to give you example, at a big corporation, in a diplomatic situation, at an international organization, and so on.

To make the dream true, I plan to go to the University of Queensland in Australia to study an interpretation next spring, as an exchange student. However, I need an IELTS score to get a right to be an exchange student, so I study hard for the IELTS.

Furthermore, I also want to be engaged in a job like saving children. There are a lot of children who suffer from hunger, diseases, and war. Some children don’t have their parents and houses. I desire to save these children, give them future hopes.

Secondly, I think family is a very important factor in planning my future. This is because family members exist to make other members comfortable, relaxed, and happy and help them when they are at a loss at what to do. Without family, I might not be able to lead a life. Therefore, I want to marry someone, and have a few children. Furthermore, I like children, so I will take a child-care leave at least for three months and I want to devote myself to my children with my wife in the future.

Followed by the family, I’m going to think about my ibasho. Ibasho means a place where you can feel like yourself, or to live in safety, comfort and dignity, where he or she is valued as a person full of history and experience (Ibasho-Creating Social Integrated and Sustainable Communities that Value Their Elders-, http://www.ibasho.org/web/). I agree with the concept of living in safety, comfort, and dignity. My home represents safety and comfort. If I come home, I have parents who wait for me at home. When I go home and stay in my room, I feel relaxed and relieved. Moreover, I have another ibasho, school. There are a lot of friends whom I can tell my real intensions and cooperate each other in difficult situation. Therefore, school makes me feel relaxed and comfortable.

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Ibasho as a lifeline to maintain our lives

Michael Ende - Momo

Michael Ende – Momo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

by Natsuki Shinmei

In this blog post, I would like to write about what I felt and thought through reading Allison’s book, and show what I hope for my future.

In Japanese society, we have a lot of inequality. Employment conditions are different between men and women. Different names are given to workers depending on their situation; sarari-man, furi-ta, NEETkasha ningen, and so on. The working style has changed from life-long jobs and a family-based model to a more flexible and unstable model. Because of fast-aging Japanese society, younger generations are not sure how much welfare pension insurance they will be able to receive.

Despite the fact that we are flowing in a precarious and unequal age, one thing which is equally given to everyone is “time”. Whether you are rich or poor, you have 24 hours each day. However, as I go on reading, I thought even “time” is eaten by someone in this society. For example, company men (kaisha ningen), who work too much and devote their personal time like evening, weekends, and leisure time to their company, seem to live their time less. In addition, according to Asahi newspaper (2014, April 28), Japanese female high school students spend 6.4 hours on average using a smart phone each day (this number is three times as much as that of seven years ago). They are facing its small screen for one-fourth of a day. I feel it is becoming true what happened in “Momo,” written by Michael Ende; the grey gentlemen steals the time of humans.

When I think about myself, I can say that I am living my time. I am studying what I want to, and I have friends and family, whom I feel comfortable being with. Therefore, I feel it can be said that having your time is often related to being at ibasho. Abe (2011) says that ibasho is a lifeline (inochi-zuna) to maintain people’s lives, and people who you trust in are there. When you imagine your ibasho, you should come up with several places or spaces. You may imagine your family, school, working place, your room or favorite café. Abe (2011) indicates this shows that you have various kinds of “you”, and “you” differ depending on ibasho. He also says that you are consisted of multifaceted “you” and supported by ibasho, maintaining your life in relationship with other people.

In conclusion, I want to make person-to-person relationships with people I have met and I will meet, and cherish my ibasho as a space I can be myself. Though precarious facts are shown in Allison’s book and some of them may happen to me,

ibasho would be my lifeline to survive this age.

References

Abe. M. (2011). Ibasho no shakaigaku [Sociology of Ibasho]. Japan. Nihon Keizai shinbun press.

Allison. A. (2013) Precarious Japan. Duke University Press.

Tenohira no sumaho [Smart phone on the palm] (2014.April 28). Asahi newspaper.

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Finding my ibasho at work, without becoming a kaisha-ningen

JaPan kaNto

JaPan kaNto (Photo credit: ~Alia~)

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

by Ayaka Sasaki

My future plan is to become a hotel employee after graduating from Ritsumeikan. To realize my future plan, I am working at a hotel as a part- time job. When I refer to my future plan, many people say that job in hotel is beautiful and sophisticated, but it is not. I know that it is not so beautiful and rather unsophisticated. Because, even though I work part–time, I feel  the precariousness that Anne Allison describes in her book. However, I only work at the hotel, so I can’t refer to other jobs.

For example, I felt that some male employee, especially those who became a manager or a chief of the department, are divorced. There are a lot of reasons, but I felt that some got divorced because they were kaisha-ningen (company person). The harder they work, the further the distance from the family becomes.

In addition, the system of the job in hotel depends too much on the non-regular employees, as part-time workers or dispatch workers. The reason why I feel so is that there are a lot of affairs which can’t be dealt by the regular workers. In Allison’s book, furita are referred as a symbol of the non-regular employee and precariousness.

However, I realize that I am in an ibasho by belonging to the organization, a hotel, as Allison wrote, even though I am a part–time worker. I work as often as regular workers, so regular workers or managers frequently say that I am a big help to their affairs. They approved, so I felt that I am in ibasho and my ibasho is the hotel. The feeling or impression of approval brings the feeling of ibasho.

Therefore, the wages are not so high, and the affairs are not so easy or light, but many non-regular workers work at the hotel because they can feel ibasho.

Moreover, I guess that workers who divorced have become kaisha-ningen because they can feel that they are in ibasho—where they are approved by the company.

Finally, I think that the situation doesn’t change in the future, and the feeling of ibasho relies on belonging to the organization, group and company. Then also it rely on the approval by others. However, in ibasho, I’m not content with the environment, and don’t want to bury my personality. Therefore, I have a plan after becoming a hotel employee—becoming a sommelier.

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Clear visions of a precarious future

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

by Takashi Nakai

In the first class, when the professor asked me what I want to be, I must have answered that I have no idea. However, as I joined in this class and discuss the contents with some classmates there, I think that I need to have a clear vision of my life, because as I read Anne Allison’s Precarious Japan, I learned a lot from the current precariousness of Japan.

I will start to think the expectations of my work. The author says that there are large numbers of irregular workers in Japan. They have a high risk of being cut off as regular workers. Also, today even if you can be a regular worker, many people might have an uncomfortable impression on their working conditions. One of this is that some workers are forced to work hard beyond their working time. It is not until I knew these facts that I would like to be a regular worker in the office and when I have to choose what kind of work I would do in the future, I should have no mistake of choosing the office.

According to this book, the author writes about the current relationships of Japan. I begin to think from this what I want to be about them. Today there are many cases that people meet the end of his or her own life. Especially, this situation may apply to the elderly who live alone because of the lack of the relationships around the community and their family. When I read or listen to these facts, I strongly hope to avoid the unknown dead. To do it, I might have to have a family of mine and have children and grandchildren. Add to this, I should have the good relationships of the community, for example: office, family, friends, neighborhood, and so on. In the various kinds of categories, I should have what the term “ibasho” expresses.

I will make the conclusion about the expectations of mine. After graduating from this university, I may well enter the office and continue to work for long years of my life without the special reasons. On the other hand, needless to say, it is difficult for me to get some job which I am eager to, due to the recession of this society. After all, I think it is essential for me to make many kinds of experiences.

Flower Men of Korea

by Lilia Yamakawa

“Beauty” and what one considers beautiful depend a lot on a person’s own culture and ethnicity. On the streets of Korea, it is not unusual to find Flower Men (FMs), called “kkotminam” (“flower handsome men”). You will know them by their pretty and “soft masculinity” and by their attention to the way they look. They are willing to spend a lot of time and money on their appearance and lifestyle. They may use make-up and other beauty products, pluck their eyebrows, manicure their nails, gel and style their hair, get facials, get massages, and even have cosmetic surgery. They are also associated with soft speech and traits such as gently caring for their families. They are seen as being pure and innocent, and they are very polite. In this report, I will examine some of the reasons to explain the Flower Man boom.

First, the boom is part of the larger global phenomenon of the “metrosexual” male, which has spread throughout both the East and the West. The metrosexual man is one who takes care of his physical appearance through means that were once considered feminine. The FM is just one example of this wide global trend. The East Asian metrosexual trend is so prominent that Time magazine did a cover story on it in 2005. Ling Liu wrote in this article:

A few years ago it may have been considered sissy for a guy to be fussy about his clothing and appearance. Real men demanded the world accept them on their own uncouth, unkempt terms. But in Asia nowadays, the definition of masculinity is undergoing a makeover – and narcissism is in, thanks to economic growth, higher disposable incomes, shifting gender roles, and fashion and cosmetics industries eager to expand their customer bases. No longer content to be the drabber sex, Asian males are preening like peacocks, perming, plucking and powering themselves to perfection in an effort to make themselves more attractive to their bosses, their peers and, of course, to women.

Although the boom is worldwide, it seems that Korean Flower Men have taken it to a further extreme than men of any other ethnic group and nationality. In 2013, South Korean men spent roughly $900 million on skincare. This was almost one-fourth of sales worldwide for men’s skin care. There are many salons and spas just for men that offer hair, facials, massages, and other procedures. Plastic surgery is also common, and there are also a number of clinics that cater solely to men. In 2013, Korean Air began training male staff to use beauty products (Fujita 2005).

The FM phenomenon itself began in the 1990s, around the time the Korean government began to allow more pop culture from Japan to come into the country (in 1998). Many manga and anime, which were previously hard to find, could now be bought and read in public. Young male actors and singers, especially in the boy bands, began to look like Japanese and Korean manga and anime characters, especially those in “girls’ comics” or “shojo manga” where the ideal image of a male is “bishonen” or “beautiful boy.” The flow of media between Korea and Japan also included tv dramas, cinema, and advertising (Sun 2010). The “yaoi” type of manga, which became very popular in Korea, is also said to be a big influence on the FM trend. The men in these manga often look like elves or fairies, and they are soft, sweet, and sensitive.

Up to the 1990’s the popular image of male beauty in Korea was a rather macho-type man. Since then, the soft male type has become much more popular. Two groups of FBs best exemplify the phenomenon today. One is the Korean boy band DBSK of idols. The other is the Korean tv drama called “Boys Over Flowers.” It was based on the Japanese manga and anime called “Hana yori dango” and was broadcast in Korea in 2009. It is a typical shojo Cinderella story of a poor high school girl who is befriended by the four richest, most handsome boys in the school, the F4. It became super popular in Korea, and later, in many other Asian countries including Japan. With “Boys Over Flowers”, the male image of the “kkotminam” became even more popular in Korea. More and more males aspired to look soft and gentle and pretty. Men’s fashion came to include pinks and floral prints, and cute “boyish” hairstyles with long bangs became the rage (Lee 2010).

Advertising has played an important role in spreading the FM image. Cosmetics companies have been very eager to sell cosmetics to this whole new group of buyers. Large areas of department stores are now devoted to men’s beauty care. Famous idols and actors, including members of both the DBSK and the F4, are used to advertise men’s beauty products. More and more men in Korea aspire to look like these idols.

The Korean economy is very strong now. This makes it possible for many Korean men to spend their money on personal beauty. With the economic power they become more confident, and more men want to look good even if it costs them.

A major reason for the “kkonminam” craze is that men want to look good to be competitive in the job market. They want to have “the right face”, which looks youthful, lively, friendly, and upper-class. Job applicants must send in photographs with their applications. Many Koreans believe that a person’s character can be read in the face, and even that their looks are more important than their skills (Jeffreys 2007).

Historically, Korean is a country ruled by strong Confucian ideals, which emphasize taking care of and making both the mind and the body strong. It is said that one reason for the “hallyu” (“hanryu” or “Korean Wave”) throughout East Asia is that the men are good-looking but show “a lack of profanity and sex, as befitting Confucian morals” (Maliangkay 2010).

David Coad believes that sports figures, such as David Beckham have been important in popularizing the metrosexual and the FB trend. They stand for traditional masculinity in their sports skills, but they also take care of their personal appearance in ways that were once thought feminine. The long-haired Korean soccer player, Ahn Jung-Hwan became very popular at the 2002 World Cup. He is known not only for his soccer skills, but also for his looks and his actions that show a softer side of men. He kissed his wedding ring after winning a major game. Then, he went on to advertise men’s liquid foundation. Coad writes:

The immediately obvious hyper-masculine and generally assumed heterosexual status of most sportsmen has been vital in changing attitudes about exposing, eroticizing, and taking care of the male body. Without some of the most celebrated heterosexual athletes in the world endorsing and embodying different facets of metrosexuality it is uncertain if masculinity norms would have changed so rapidly in so many different cultures. Metrosexuality, in a way, is indebted to sportsmen for its very existence. (Coad 2008)

Some people believe the most important reason the FM phenomenon is spreading throughout Korea, but especially in urban areas, is that women like it.  Bae Yong-joon, who was so popular in the tv drama “Autumn Sonata”, is also well liked among somewhat older Korean women. His popularity is based on his character in the drama which was soft looking, passionate, sincere, and polite. James Turnbull, who writes for The Korea Times, has an interesting theory about the origins of the FM.

When focusing on men, it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that it is actually women’s changing tastes in them that drive changes in their fashions and grooming jabits, and accordingly it ultimately proves to be married Korean women in the late-1990s that are responsible for flower men’s origins. (Turnbull 2009)

Turnbull goes on to explain that during the “IMF Crisis” of 1997, many more women were laid off from their companies than men were because it was assumed that their husbands could support them. They had only recently gotten the legal right to not be fired upon marriage. Then they were encouraged by society to support “Korean’s hardworking men” to help get through the crisis. He says that many women, at this time, started to reject “the ideals of men as strong, provider types, and it is no coincidence that a sudden glut of movies appeared featuring romances between older women and younger men, and that this was when the first, identifiable, flower men began appearing in advertising too.” Korean women wanted men who were more interested in satisfying them than their companies (Turnbull 2009).

It is obvious that many females from mid-teens to their 30s also like the FM. They fill social media sites with comments about popular singers and actors. They use various interesting words to describe the men: pretty, sweet looking, a hootie, cute, looks like a pretty girl, etc. One blogger on Korean pop culture expresses what seem to be the views of many young women:

So why do flower boys act like women? There is only one answer to this. Because their fans love it. I guess there is something about a handsome man trying to act like a woman which makes them even more endearing. Somehow, there is an inexplicable and irresistible urge that makes women want to pinch flower boys’ cheeks every time they do their “cute acts”…flower boys are pretty to look at and they are cute and entertaining. But, why are they so popular? The ultimate reason, I believe, is that flower boys represent certain qualities of a man women look for – a man unafraid to explore his soft side…his emotional side and admit that he is vain after all. (Deen 2011)

About those pretty cheeks the women want to pinch, many times they might be pretty as a result of plastic surgery. The Korean Association for Plastic Surgeons estimated that in 2010 approximately 15% of Korean men had plastic surgery. The Korean Herald reported that 44% of male college students were considering plastic surgery (“Think plastic surgery” 2013).

In an excellent article on cosmetic surgery in Korea, Ruth Holliday and Jo Hwang point out that plastic surgery is popular and accepted in Korean society. The former president of Korea, among many other famous people have had work done on their faces. They write that “the body emerges as a site for negotiating and reinforcing national identity.” After1945, Koreans wanted to look more western in order to look very different from the Japanese colonizers. Later, they wanted to embrace their Koreanness by consulting with fortune tellers of physiognomy to find out what is their particular auspicious face. Surgeons and physiognomists often work together in the clinics. A survey found that 7 of 10 Koreans approve of plastic surgery, and even more say they would do it if they had the money. The government supports plastic surgery tourism, does not control the industry strictly, and even approves of it through the insurance program in many cases. With plastic surgery accepted so widely in Korea, it is not surprising that men are commonly having surgery on their eyelids to make them look bigger, on their noses to make them more pointed, and on their jaws to make them look less angular. Liposuction to suck out fat is also popular among men. (Holliday & Hwang n.d.)

The Flower Man as a positive male image partly has its origins in the worldwide metrosexual trend and in Japanese manga and anime. It is, however, uniquely Korean. It was made popular by the “soft masculinity” of pop idols and actors in dramas. It has been promoted by advertising of cosmetic firms who want to open up and make money in the new market of male beauty aids. This happened just at a time when the Korean economy was relatively strong. The Korean job market is very competitive, and appearance is important. Nonsexual boys fit in with traditional Confucian ideals. Sportsmen have shown that a man can be traditionally masculine and traditionally feminine at the same time. Some women want men to be a mixture of male and female, more androgynous, and not masculine Rambo types. Finally, striving for ideal beauty (and the range of what is considered “beauty” seems to be quite narrow in Korea) and using means such as plastic surgery to get it has been a part of the Korean culture for a long time. Procedures such as cosmetic surgery are readily accepted by the general public.

South Korea is a country with a military draft. All men must serve in the military for at least one year. Some men said they started using face creams as soldiers because they wanted protection in the sunshine. It is even possible to buy a set of camouflage face paint, healthier for the skin than the usual, to wear during military service. (Ling 2012) This shows that the traditionally male identity and the newer Flower Man identity are blending well in Korean society.

References

  1. Coad, David. (2008). The metrosexual: Gender, sexuality and sport . (p. 196). Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
  2. Deen, Catherine. (2011, November 30). Understanding the lure of ‘flower boys’. Retrieved from https://ph.omg.yahoo.com/blogs/okpop/understanding-lure-flower-boys-050944369.html
  3. Fujita, Akiko. (2005, October 28). South Korean men cosmetics-crazed. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/2013/05/south-korean-men-cosmetics-crazed/
  4. Holiday, Ruth, & Jo Hwang. (n.d.). Gender, globalization and aesthetic surgery in south korea. Retrieved from https://www.academia.edu/726850/Gender_Globalization_and_Cosmetic_Surgey_in_South_Korea 
  5. Jeffreys, Daniel. (2007, April 28). Koreans go under the knife in a cut-throat race for jobs. Retrieved from https://www.google.co.jp/webhp?hl=en&tab ww&gws_rd=cr&ei
  6. Lee, H. (2010). Men, be beautiful for spring, summer. Retrieved from http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/…/199_39427.html
  7. Liu, Ling. (2005, October 28). Asia’s metrosexuals: Mirror, mirror…. Retrieved from http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2005-10/28/content_488529.html
  8. Maliangkay, Roald. (2010). The effeminacy of male beauty in korea. Retrieved from http://www.iias.nl/sites/default/files/IIAS_NL55_0607.pdf
  9. Sun, J. (2010). Pan-east asian soft masculinitity: Reading boys over flowers, coffee prince and shinhwa fan fiction. Retrieved from http://books.publishing.monash.edu/aps/bookworm/view/Complicated Currents/122/xhtml/frontmatter1.html
  10. Think plastic surgery is only popular with girls in Korea? Take a look at the guys – See more at: http://yourhealth.asiaone.com/content/think-plastic-surgery-only-popular-girls-korea-take-look-guys/page/0/1#sthash.FsaKcvCZ.dpuf
  11. Turnbull, James. (2009). Flower men: the hot topic of 2009. Retrieved from http://thegrandnarrative.com/2009.04/03/flower-men-the-hot-topic-of-2009/
  12. Williamson, Lucy. (2012, December 3). South korean men get the make-up habit. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20522028