5 Myths of the Korean Husband

Seoul, Korea: Musicians; Hallie & Jae-oo (정재우), Every Single DaySince 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.

New HomeThe 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.

Seaweed Soup: 미역국I’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.

UsThere 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.

White Sands Beach, Big Island, Hawaii, USAWork 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.

What’s in a stereotype? Sure, some of these stereotypes might hold true for some Korean husbands, but don’t go assuming. They can be said for husbands all over the place.Yeonnam-dong, Seoul, Korea: Gyeongui Line Forest Park, family picnic

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39 Responses

  1. Korean husbands are aggressive and abusive??? 4. Korean husbands cheat on their wives????? where did you get these facts? WOW. My Korean boyfriend is the most caring man I ever met. He carries my bags and even tries to tie my shoes to make it more comfortable for me (but yeah, I told him to stop that one haha).

    My boyfriend cleans probably more often than I do and cooked everyday when he was living abroad.

    Great post. Didn’t know Korean men had to face such hard stereotypes.

    • Hallie says:

      They are definitely not facts, which was the point of my post. I’ve heard these stereotypes again and again and like I said, they are stereotypes, but shouldn’t be believed to be facts or truths for every guy. Glad you found a guy that didn’t live up, er down, to the stereotypes listed.

      • no no, i understand that. i meant like, i never heard anybody say those bad things about korean guys. that was new to me. becaaauuuse my boyfriend is so awesome 🙂 you might want to check this out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7ZmWOs_6xI&list=UUsX_OTQRpY9_dd47qcp420Q

        • Hallie says:

          Now I see where you’re coming from. ^^ I’d say the stereotypes for Korean men come from Koreans, so unless you’re in Korea or surrounded by Koreans, you probably wouldn’t hear about the stereotypes. I had never heard any of these particular stereotypes about Korean men while I was living in the States. That’s why it’s always strange for me to get into these conversations with Koreans, because I don’t really get the stereotypes and didn’t grow up learning them. Hope you’re having fun in China. ^^

          • gotcha. weird that korean would talk so poorly about their men. i heard mostly positive things. very caring and handsome, and good fashion sense. haha

    • Kang Hye Won says:

      HI I’m korean 22woman. These caring things is “only before marrige”. If it turn to after marrige, korran men change to chracter. It is surprise but Korean men’s characteristic. So this article is fact! Typical korean men’s chracter! Before marrige, very caring for woman. But If married, it it end! “Now I’m king and live in comfort” In korean, men is power to let loose. So korean men trying to marrigr hardly.

      • Hallie says:

        They are just stereotypes which means they could be true for some men, but not all. I’ve been married for three years and my husband didn’t change after we got married.

      • minkim4568 says:

        Lol, as a Korean man at the age of 22, I disagree with you. Have you already been married to a Korean guy? How do you know, dude? I guess, a lot of Korean people quite often stereotype others or things.(this assumption comes from my own cultural background.) There are guys who keep their own ways even after their marriages, and there are guys who don’t.

        You can’t just say, “oh Korean guys suck. They will be likely to change their attitudes after marriage.” from your own perspective. That’s called generalization.

        By the way, your saying, “So Korean men are trying to marry hard.” is also generalization. Dude, do you how many guys actually choose to live single on Korea? Stop stereotyping. Such a bias of girls like you may be what makes some Korean men frustrate in seeking relationships, not what makes them trying to marry so hard.


        • Elie lee says:

          Yeah, your so true. My husband is a Korean and he never change from what he was before till now. Nothing has change. And he become more loving and caring husband to me and I love him so much. Yes, we do fight often but that reason is because he can’t understand my feelings to him Coz I want him to change into a better one. Korean guys are so in touch with their friends and colleagues and that is what I don’t like to him and that is the reason we’ve often fighting and also for his being independent. But I know his trying his best to suite my expectations to him. But over all my Korean husband is the best guy and husband for me. Its just Korean guys are hardworking, independent and loyal to their friends. And we foreign people misunderstood them. But that is their culture and we need to accept and respect that matter.

          • Hallie says:

            I’m happy to hear that you choose to try and accept your husband the way he is. So many comments on this feed just put Korean husbands down. We can choose to try and understand and accept or be disgruntled about things.

      • Yi says:

        This is good example of those stereotypes are came from Korean women. I am Korean guy who marry for over 10 years with good relationship with my wife. I am very uncomfortable with your comments, matter of fact that you spreds hates against Korean males. How can you tell all over 20million korean guys act same? I am married Korean male and what you know about me and tell people Korean guy this Korean guy that? I have to deal with those types of stereotypes every day in life and many people told me that I am diffrent than Korean man they heard from Korean women. You need stop this, don’t disgrace own your kind.

  2. Ruth says:

    I was married to a Korean man and have 3 children to him. The first 4 stereotypes were definitely true and real for me and reasons to leave him. I am open-minded and understanding, and I was not soft and unwilling to negotiate terms for our life together, it was just that he was not willing to compromise anything to suit my expectations. I agree with you on
    number 5 that it is not by choice for them. They largely do want to, but have limited time, and they are tired and need to rest when they are home.

  3. Lexi says:

    Sorry for the sudden, slightly irrelevant comment from a perfect stranger, but I just stumbled across your blog. I’m an American woman married to a Korean guy (I like mine as well, by the way!), and we just moved to Seoul last month. I’ve been secretly hoping to find some other non-Korean wives, and I was wondering if there’s much of a community here.

    • Hallie says:

      There are different communities. You can check out ISKA – The Multicultural Family Network in Korea a group on Facebook to see if any other wives live near you. There are multicultural centers in every district too which offer classes and other ways to meet some of the other multicultural families in your area. I tend to meet most of my multicultural family friends through jobs because it’s just us and the gyopos that can get the F visa jobs. Hope this gives you a good place to start. ^^

  4. Mich says:

    Hi,i’m Michelle from GwangjuKr.Being married to a korean for 6 yrs., I can tell that all that is true. I’m a Filipina and from the day I lived here,it’s been so difficult on how to figure things out. Everyday is a different situation and I can say that I’m the only one who would adjust and understand things.I maybe used to it but still hoping for a miracle that somehow someday my husband will change~.~

    • Hallie says:

      Aw, stereotypes definitely come from somewhere. I’m sad to hear your husband lives up to these. While most people never change, I do hope your husband will go through a miracle someday.

  5. What an interesting post! I’ve heard of these biases and agree with the first two, but in my case it’s all because of #5 and our current situation (living with the in-laws). You see, we used to live in China. His workload was lighter back then and we didn’t have kids. He loves cooking and so we’d attend cooking classes together and he’d cook at home for friends. When we moved back to Korea his workload started increasing (and so did his number of kids). Right now he leaves for work between 7-8 and we’re lucky if he can get home by midnight. On the weekend he’s pooped and just wants to sleep the whole day. So in my case it’s not that he doesn’t doesn’t want to do housechores or cook, it’s just that since his mom is here to help me he feels that he should get some rest… if he can. I forgot to add that recently he’s been working weekends too. So yeah, he just doesn’t have the energy to also be working at home.

    • Hallie says:

      Yeah, I think while some of these things are cultural, some are really related to how much work people are expected to do here… Er, not how much but how many hours. I find many practices here very inefficient when I’ve worked for schools and companies and think if the mind set were switched from thinking longer hours meant better worker to more efficient worker meant better worker, everyone would be happier. Glad to hear not all of these play out for you though.

  6. evypark says:

    I just stumbled onto your blog and I’m really happy to have found it!
    There’s so many stereotypes (and also fetishization…) to go around when it comes to ‘Korean Husbands’ that for the longest time I didn’t like to read blogs on the subject. You say it perfectly: These stereotypes can hold true for nearly any country and culture.

    I’ve been married to my husband for a year (after having lived together for two years in Korea and a long-distance relationship before that) and I’m really happy to have found your blog! 🙂

  7. Jenni Kim says:

    I’m very happy that you met a nice and caring husband. I also do not agree the stereotypes that all Korean men are violent, abusive, and cheaters; however, the stereotypes are true in most parts. Just because other cultures are the same – not even the same compared to OECD’s tho – it cannot justify the situation. It is quite understandable that Korean men don’t participate in house chores because Koreans work longest hours and the working culture is a crap. However, even jobless men were found to be spending much less time doing household chores, which means it is not only the matter of working hours.(http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2009/12/117_57707.html) It is also the matter of patriarchy and gender equality. The whole working culture in Korea is not also very unfriendly for women; they are expected to quit jobs and take care of children. Korean women who have job have to go to work and raise children almost by their own and they’re called selfish. Korean housewives are also selfish for being a gold digger and taking the husband’s money. Korean women who don’t have children are criticized for being selfish and unpatriotic.
    Realizing the situation is very important because there has never been a sustained movement to enhance gender inequality. Of course, NOT ALL Korean men are like that and they can be also the victims of patriarchy; nevertheles, it is quite obvious that there needs to be a change. Instead of ignoring all the stereotypes, I believe you and all people should be aware of how and why the stereotypes were created. That is my opinion 🙂

    • Hallie says:

      I agree with you. I could delve more into where the stereotypes evolved from but like you said it’s the patriarchal system which is still thriving in Korea and really around the world. Long working hours are just an excuse not to help in the home is my opinion on that matter. If my husband did work long hours, I would still expect him to help out at home in someway be it doing the dishes on the weekend or something. Also the job situation for women is pretty crap here. When I was pregnant and got jobs I didn’t tell them when they hired me, I would just show up because I was completely capable of working but I could tell each time (there were numerous because I’m a freelancer) the male bosses were not pleased and assumed I wouldn’t be able to be successful. I just told them I’d be fine and moved on and I know that since I’m a foreigner it was easier for me to do that but we all need to work together to push that issue. We can have a family and a job too and be happy and healthy and raise happy and healthy children. Guess we just need to shout that from the mountaintops haha. Thanks for the comment. ^^

    • David. L (이온유) says:

      “Korean women who don’t have children are criticized for being selfish and unpatriotic”


      What? Are you even living in South Korea? How could you possibly make this assumption when you are not even in marriage? You are a student in an university..o.O

      I can see why you are so passionate to make this kind of stereotypes and leave stigmatizing and defamatory comments against your own kind. but having a self-hate / anti-male sentiment doesn’t really help realize your feminism ideal or improve women rights. I’ve never heard any north american or british feminists insist their men are total shit even after they’ve got abused and harassed multiple times by them.

      “however, the stereotypes are true in most parts.”

      like, in what ways could you prove that is true in most parts?
      Your dad?

      All of these stereotypes and scarlet letters Korean women are creating, reminds me of something, something that a lot of women in western countries should endure, like, “women are not good at driving cars” “women are not good at parking cars” “women are not good at math” “women can’t do things on their own” bluh bluh bluh….

      Let’s ask a question about “why those stereotypes were created”, like you said. Of course there might be an example to fit those accusations you see but can we safely say “the stereotypes are true in most parts?” (like you said, again) Isn’t that what women-hating misogynists are reproducing to solidify their distorted image of women from a limited source and experience mostly?

      What you are talking about Korean men and the stereotype against them is the traditional views. Older people (ahjussi) may still have that mindset, but that view point is really getting outdated. You can’t just blindly say “most” (hey there, again) Korean men are violent, abusive, and cheaters by your dad and ex-lover. That is what haters would say to the people they hate, to make them dehumanized and marginalized. I hope you and your ruthless companions realize this one day and get out of that endless loophole filled with jealousy, obsession and saltiness. I really do.

  8. Jenni Kim says:

    *enhance gender equality

    It is totally understandable that you get annoyed by such stereotypes because your husband is not. But I think it’s not right to conclude that all stereotypes are absolutely false and other Korean men are like your husband. That is the another generalization.

    • Hallie says:

      I didn’t conclude that these stereotypes are false. I concluded that they are stereotypes so we can’t assume they are true for all Korean husbands.

  9. Jenni Kim says:

    Thanks for your comment and I hope you have good days in Seoul! 😀

  10. David. L (이온유) says:

    I like how our lovely young Korean women (who didn’t even marry) are trying to prove and re-produce those old-fashioned, stigmatizing and defamatory stereotypes against their own men with a cultural bias, outdated and unverifiable information, while a non-Korean woman with a Korean husband is defending them with a objective approach, plausible explanation and actual experience.

    The truth is, the vast majority of young generation here can never marry a woman or will be get kicked off so fast if you fit any of those things.

    • Hallie says:

      While I am defending my own husband from the stereotypes, I can’t begin to defend all men here or anywhere. Though the women that have previously commented may not be married yet, we have to remember that they are still a part of the Korean culture and are likely pulling from their own experience watching their parents and other family members as well as possibly other friends that have married. Korean dramas also don’t help the situation in many ways continuing these stereotypes in Korea and abroad. While the stereotypes certainly cannot speak to all Korean men, no generation just turns over and up and changes completely. I’ve met a 20 year old here that told me women shouldn’t be working because then men can’t pay attention and they just gossip anyway… and he was talking to me. I also know some couples where the husband does expect his wife to uphold some of the traditional values that Korean culture entails however, the vast majority of the couples I know and am friendly with are very different than the stereotypes I’ve mentioned here. I also think some Korean women enforce the very same stereotypes they complain of. I know wives that complain of the housework yet they have never asked their husbands to help nor will they. (I’ve asked why they didn’t just have a conversation about this, but they say there’s no point.) Korea is changing and the culture is changing dramatically but there will always be people that do stand up to these stereotypes just as there will be those that break them down.

  11. I am not young anymore, and have an old Korean friend who told me about these 5 points above. They are not untrue.

    • Vagabonds says:

      Ma’am it says you attended high school in 1963 in your facebook profile you are definitely old…not sure about your friend but I suppose you guys are in the same age bracket (born in 1940’s~1960’s) so her husband probably would fit in the old-fashioned stereotype, simply because he must be old enough (whose age is 50~70) to spend most of his life in an under-developed country. South Korea was mostly an agriculture society until 1970’s.

      It is a completely different story to younger generations thou (whose age are 10~29) because they spend their entire life in a society where men are asked to do what was considered as “women’s job” in an old-fashioned society and those things are depicted as an “basic manner to be a husband” in mass media.

      Of course old people simply won’t disappear so the stereotype will remain for a while because they are still Korean husbands too “in definition” but personally I never felt or thought they are “our kind of men” in my life. Never. (I’m at 20’s) There are just too much, huge generation gap between young and old people…Still there might be some exceptions like “liberal old people” and “conservative young people (esp in country-side who has a farmer dad) ” but it won’t change the fact our country is rapidly changing esp among younger generations.

  12. geanina says:

    Hi guys so nice to find this blog it is very helpful.
    I’m a missionary in uk and i go back in my home country in Romania were i grew up in a Presbyterian church with missionaries from South Korea -pastor and his wife are Koreans . In the church we have a mixed couple Romanian(wife)-Korean(husband).
    They opened their own restaurant -Seoul restaurant- and thy hired a Korean chef.
    Now on Christmas holiday i just went back to share some of the activities that are involved in my ministry with international students. My culture is very much family oriented because and because of my age they tees me whether or not i found my other half.. eventually this mixed couple had the brilliant idea to invite me for New Years eve at the restaurant where they set up my introduction to this Korean chef who is 38 years old(apparently in the Korean culture is quite urgent for him to marry…) so fare so good i ended up at the restaurant and his boss just took from my arm to present me … after it i just realized that all the ladies that new me and the others around they were coming to flatter me. As many flatters I would get from OTHERS as better – i felt i was recommended for a job!!! -FIRST STEP

    Second STEP
    We had a meal out along with the mixed couple(my friends).I was asked if i would like to know anything specific about him. I’v noticed from the start that it must come with the culture as his first drink was and alcohol drink while the rest of us chose a soft drink (job culture). Everything was discussed very open regarding relationships and marriage. It was between me and others this conversation rather between me and him.After the discussion took place i realized that we don’t really quite have the same purposes in life. The guy was very determined and he invited me to cook for me.

    i was invited by him to cook for me before i had to leave my country back to my ministry work in Uk. ( before this happening i had a meeting with my pastors wife
    (Korean) and sharing this with her she just mentioned the fact that -His heart is open for me…very cheese)
    I eventually went along thinking that is JUST a meal which for me it was but for him as an Asian man it was an other step foreword specially because i was introduce recommended bla bla…
    What shocked me was to find out more things about his life that i wasn’t even thinking it would be possible….I have noticed that he had lo’s of tattoos on the up-er side of the body and arms and i wanted to asked him what where the main reasons for it. He shared with me that between 19-23 his job was a street fighter in the mafia and he was the boss of it- as his dad ( a CEO architect back in Korea) thought him judo and taekwondo. After dropping the mafia hing he studied cooking and for nearly 10 years he worked everywhere in the world as a chef. He is quit aware of the fact that people dislike and are afraid of him because of his background… specially in Korea. So i’m just thinking whether marring a foreigner will wash this FACE background-it will restore some statues or is an option that will help him have a family as in Korea he is very much disliked and as he mentioned most of the girls will be very much materialistic…. wait for some of your feedback’s…specially if you know anythings about such topics related to Korean mafia.

  13. definitelyinlove says:

    Thank you for this wonderful post. It helps me think well. I want to share that recently I met a Korean guy online and he wants to court me. He is in Korea and we haven’t seen each other yet but he promised that he will visit my country to court me personally. I’m beginning to fall in love with him. He seems so sweet greetings in the morning, noon and before bed time and say ” I love you” every time. I have so many worries but this post helped me calm down. Thanks once again. I’m looking forward to meet him soon.
    More power to you.

    • Hallie says:

      I’m glad the post helped you but of course always be wary of people you meet online from Korea or anywhere. Stay safe and I hope you’ve met your match. ^^

  14. Cristina A. says:

    What’s important to keep in mind is that NOT every korean guy behaves like that but that they are some who are like that because of their culture and the way they were raised. Ofc these stereotypes can be true for every man regardless their origins but culture and education plays a HUGE role. They way your parents raised you, the way your parents lived together, your entourage, family etc have a HUGE influence in your values and morals and behavior. Ofc stereotypes are not all the time and always true but sometimes they ARE.

  15. Lass says:

    you know whats funny
    people are saying that Korean women are the ones spreading this kind of information and most of the ones saying that they agree with the stereotypes in the comments are the Korean women.


    • Hallie says:

      Yes, when I first wrote this I had women abroad that were dating Korean men abroad tell me they’d never heard these stereotypes. I told them they wouldn’t hear them unless they came to Korea because they are spread here. A lot of it is assumptions on gender roles in the household and lack of communication which is too bad. To me it seems it’s like, “which came first, the chicken or the egg”. Do people go into relationships assuming they have to play by some gender roles so they don’t communicate their needs or do they get into a relationship and someone says, “I will not do the cooking and cleaning.” I honestly don’t know. But I do know that in my relationship, it took me saying, “this is OUR house so WE will take care of it TOGETHER” and so it was. Also though, my husband would never eat Korean food or would eat bad Korean food if I was the only one cooking hahahah

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