They grope me and try to have sex all the time

They grope me and try to have sex all the time

Our chats often took place over a meal. Occasionally, I would interview them as we walked to and from clubs and bars – or even in the clubs and bars as the women attempted to meet guys. Some of these women were fluent in Korean, while others were able to communicate by mixing Korean and English. Many of them claimed to have learned Korean by consuming hours of Korean popular culture.

In pursuit of ‘soft’ masculinity

“Romantic,” “gentle,” “handsome,” “knights in shining armor” are just some of the terms that the tourists used to describe their idealized Korean man. It was a stark contrast to the men back in their home countries, whom they tended to describe as emotionally stunted and hypermasculine.

“I feel so safe around Korean men,” one Swedish woman told me. “Men back home are so [sexually] aggressive. I do not like that.”

A certain type of man does tend to appear in romantic K-dramas. They’re usually depicted as well-groomed, romantic and gentle – a type of masculinity that’s sometimes called “soft” masculinity. As Korean studies scholar Joanna Elfving-Hwang explains:

“… men in popular dramas and romantic comedies are portrayed as attentive, sensitive and ready to express their feelings if needs be. They are well-groomed and fashionably dressed, accessorised with the latest man-bag, and excessively concerned with their looks.”

Some of the tourists did, in fact, find their ideal partners, marrying and settling in South Korea. Their photos and stories circulated among some of the other tourists, giving them hope that they, too, might find and marry a Korean man.

Most of the tourists I interviewed and stayed in touch with left the country somewhat disappointed. Some did manage to have a short fling with a man; but in most cases, these relationships – exceedingly difficult to maintain at a long distance – fizzled out.

A Spanish woman I interviewed broke up with her Korean boyfriend shortly after returning to Spain. “You have given me nothing but pain,” she wrote in an Instagram post.

Other tourists left South Korea utterly dejected: The men they met weren’t anything like the K-drama actors they’d seen on TV.

Interestingly, regardless of whether they left the country only partially satisfied or demoralized, many little armenia kortingscode of the women I interviewed were steadfast about their desire to one day fall in love with a Korean man. They believed that they were simply unlucky this time around – that there still existed the possibility of meeting the perfect man during a future visit to South Korea.

The power of media to move

In 2020, after South Korean film director Bong Joon Ho won a Golden Globe for his film “Parasite,” he said, “Once you overcome the 1-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”

To me, these K-drama fans-turned-tourists – and their longing for Korean men – signify the power of media from other cultures to move viewers only emotionally, but also physically. Scholars have documented how some Japanese people take trips to the United Kingdom after watching British period dramas; other researchers have studied how anime has spurred American tourism to Japan.

With entertainment from other cultures increasingly accessible through streaming platforms, I expect this kind of media-inspired tourism to become still more common. Films and TV series set in other countries can pique a viewer’s curiosity about distant cultures, new sounds and exotic foods.

But as my research shows, they can also fuel fantasies about love and romance that don’t always have a happy ending.

To some of these tourists, the opportunity to date these men was a way to fulfill a fantasy. One German tourist told me that when she meets a Korean man, she feels as if she’s “living in [her] own Korean television drama.”

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