Monday, October 16, 2006

Personal Space in Korea

When I first arrived in Korea, I was a little confused about the way people--especially students acted toward one another. The students are very touchy with one another. Girls often hold hands and walk arm in arm. Guys always seem to be hanging on each other, will also walk arm in arm, and I've seen a few holding hands. The biggest shock came this weekend in Pusan when I saw three Korean soldiers walking down the sidewalk with two of them holding hands. All the students seem to sit very close to each other all the time--often their legs are overlapping and almost always are touching. This behavior would be easily misinterpreted in America.

At the same time, homosexuality is almost unheard of in Korea--I'm sure its here, its just not public at all. I am far from understanding the disconnect between what in America would be perceived as homosexual behavior with the lack of open homosexuality in Korea. I wonder what was considered normal behavior among platonic friends before homosexuality became open and more accepted by society. When did people stop holding hands for fear they might be considered a "couple?"

I'm not sure if the differences between personal space and tocuhing are a result of the West's views on homosexuality or if the two are unrelated. However, I do know that it takes some getting used to for this Westerner in the East.

1 comment:

  1. i think you MUST read michael foucault, the amazing french thinker, if you want an answer to question on western sexuality. he himself was gay...and he was brilliant. he attempted a study into the history of sexuality that was published toward the end of his life on how certain understandings of sexuality grew to become normative and others not. very interesting stuff.


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