5 Myths of the Korean Husband
Since dating and then getting married to my husband, who happens to be Korean, it’s been interesting to get into conversations in which people tell me the stereotypes of the Korean husband. Admittedly, the stereotype conversation usually comes from Korean men and women who seem to be sure that the stereotypes will hold true and ask me how I feel about cleaning and cooking everything or from Westerners with strange ideas about Asian men. It’s especially odd when Korean women who are married bring up this topic as I wouldn’t assume that their husbands are any certain way but they assume a lot about mine.
Some of these conversations happen innocently enough, a friend is about to get married and the “Korean men are good boyfriends, but bad husbands” saying is brought up to see what my thoughts are.
What are my thoughts? Easy, I have no idea how your husband will turn out. Good, bad or ugly, you’re about to make a promise though, so you should be ready to follow through.
Here are the top five stereotypes I’ve heard:
1. Korean men don’t do household chores.
The women should cook, clean, do the laundry and pretty much everything around the house. I actually don’t see how that is different from most cultures to be honest. That stereotype isn’t particular to Korean men. It’s a stereotype of men, who were historically outside hunting while the women were home tending to things. Does it hold true? It depends on the man. In my house, my husband does the laundry, I’ve pushed the wrong button too many times… okay, you caught me, I wasn’t really trying that hard to do it correctly. We wash the dishes together, I scrub while he rinses. On Sundays, we clean the house together; I dust, he runs the vacuum and then I follow behind him with a Swiffer. We discussed early on what our expectations were and as I thought a relationship should be equal in all ways, the household chores were split to follow suit.
2. Korean men don’t cook.
I’ve heard that this comes from the idea that since Korean children live with their parents late in life, they have their mothers cooking for them and don’t need to learn. I’d say that stereotype should then ring true for Korean women as well as they are just as likely to remain in their parents’ home. I have met more Korean women that have admitted they can’t cook a thing and know more Korean men that can cook well to believe this stereotype at all. We have two close couples for friends in which the wife doesn’t and can’t cook and the husbands make everything. In my house, I cook the western meals while he cooks the Korean meals. If I’m cooking then he is prepping, slicing and dicing and if he’s cooking, then I am slicing and dicing. I do have to say though that most of our close friends in Seoul are from Busan, as my husband is originally from there, and when they moved here, affectively moving out of their mothers’ homes, they had to learn to cook and feed themselves in order to survive. My husband and all of his Busan friends here in Seoul know how to cook and cook well, thankfully.
3. Korean husbands are aggressive and abusive.
There are men around the world that are aggressive and abusive. There are women that are aggressive and abusive as well. These people exist everywhere and if you end up in a relationship with someone that hits you or berates you and causes you emotional stress, leave and don’t look back. There are good men and women out there. Along the same lines as this, I’ve heard numerous times that Busan guys are particularly aggressive. Busan guys may be loud and raucous and speak with an amazing accent that can sound aggressive, but don’t believe everything you hear.
4. Korean husbands cheat on their wives.
When I heard this one, I sat my future husband down and asked him what he thought about this. I wanted to make sure we were on the same page with our mutual understanding that cheating was not for us. The way he put it, couples in Korea don’t all marry for love like we were about to. Some couples are set up by their parents, some couples are set up to maintain a certain status and some couples are set up so that someone can gain a certain status. These marriages come with some certain understandings on the parts of the wife and husband. They will even go as far as to make contracts sometimes outlining what is acceptable and what is not and often, as the marriage is due to status convenience over love, cheating happens. Though, I’d say it isn’t cheating anymore if both parties are aware and agree that it is acceptable for their relationship.
5. Korean husbands don’t help raise the children at all.
Work hours are long in Korea so, it’s no surprise that if the husband is working he may not be home until 11pm or later and then he is off to work again the next morning. Expectations of the Korean businessmen include not only finishing work during normal business hours, but also working after business hours and then drinking with your boss until the boss is ready to go home. I can’t say that this stereotype is completely false, but I don’t think it’s completely by choice either. If you want to move up in Korea, you have to drink your way there and that means getting in a lot of face time with the upper management or whomever you’re trying to impress, after hours. Maybe some fathers don’t want to raise their kids, but with the cost of schools and after school programs what they are, these fellas gotta make quite the paycheck to support all of the activities their kids need to do in order to move up in society.