Young Korean men who tend to flab or prefer reading books to grunting at the gym are in for an uphill struggle if they want to attract a girl. At least the young women who responded to a straw poll by the Chosun Ilbo say that a man’s body is an important aspect when they pick a date.
The Chosun Ilbo asked 163 twenty-something women living in Seoul, and 123 of them responded that they consider a man’s body when they start to date. In a part-for-part breakdown, 71 said the most attractive part of a man are shoulders, back and chest. Next came forearms (21) and bottom (15), with the face a poor fourth with 11. Most described their ideal types as graduates of the modeling world like Daniel Henney with 35 votes, Joo Ji-hoon with 27 and Cho In-sung with 15.
Their obsession is clearly reflected in TV commercials. In one ad for a washing machine, Kim Joo-hyuk puts on a startlingly white dress shirt and starts a mambo dance while a woman steals glances from a distance. In an ad for a cell phone, Gang Dong-won’s firm waist and buttocks are exposed through the lens of a camera. Lee Hong-rok, a campaign director of Oricom, says as women’s desire for men’s bodies becomes more open, "the commercialization of men’s sexuality will become a more common tool of encouraging consumption."
Where does this openness come from? Of the respondents, 78 blamed the mass media, including TV sitcoms like "Sex and the City", movies and cartoons. Min Ga-young, a women’s studies expert, says there has been a change in gender roles. "To women in the past, who had to earn financial and social resources from men — their husbands — sex was an important resource. But for today’s young women, who are able to access financial resources on their own, sex is an object of desire, consumption, and play." Sung Young-shin, a professor of psychology at Korea University, goes further, saying we are seeing part of a "collective retaliation" against patriarchal culture, which regarded women’s bodies as the plaything of men.