Nearly 10 million women traveled to South Korea in 2019. The number of men was considerably lower at 6.7 million. This is according to figures from the South Korean Institute of Culture and Tourism. In 2005 those figures were much closer to each other. Then 2.3 million women and 2.9 million men visited the country. The reason for that famous increase could well be the entertainment industry.
Researcher Min Joo Lee of Indiana University Bloomington noticed a trend and described it in an article for CNN. She noted that South Korean women tried to visit as many attractions as possible during their visit to the capital Seoul, while their Western counterparts stayed in their hotel rooms all day and only went into the city at night.
After interviewing 123 women, Lee concluded that there was ‘the Netflix effect’. On the streaming service you can watch many K-dramas, Korean television series, today. For example, think of Crash landing on you, Goblin: the lonely and great god in Twenty-Five Twenty-One. Traditionally, those series not only show handsome men, but the men are also more patient and romantic than western women are used to. They are often also referred to as ‘men written by women’. This means that these are male characters that are written by a female writer and therefore often meet the ideal image of many women.
The women Lee interviewed were fascinated by the Korean men in the K-dramas who are “emotional” and embrace “their more feminine sides”. They regarded Korean men as civilized and romantic, while complaining that men in their own country often neglected their appearance and had a one-sided mind.
“I felt special”
And not only the men themselves are a reason why the women go to South Korea. “In England I look and sound just like everyone else. In Korea I am different, exciting and foreign. People pay attention to me. I felt special,” said 25-year-old Grace Thornton.
But many women returned from their trip to Korea disappointed. There they discovered that the men are not always as they are portrayed in the K-dramas. 20-year-old Mina from Morocco also went to Korea for the “respectful, beautiful and handsome men.” But on a night out, she was groped and received irreverent proposals from strangers on the street. She found that some Korean men tended to think that foreign women are more open to casual sex than local women. “We are temporary pleasure,” she said, adding, “Men are men, people are the same everywhere.”