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Love, Korean Style.
February 23, 2008 8:30 AM   Subscribe

Cheju Love Land (NSFW). A comment in a recent MeTa thread reminded me of this (ahem) expose. It's linked on stavros’ OutsideInKorea site [previously on MeFi].
posted by GrammarMoses (17 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Maybe a little NSFW would be nice.
posted by DenOfSizer at 9:03 AM on February 23, 2008


Dangit, you are so right. Sorry about that. Mods, please hope me!
posted by GrammarMoses at 9:27 AM on February 23, 2008


Er, stimulating post Grammar Moses. There's so little on the web about this place, you'd think there would be tons. You pricked my interest but had my google fu stumped until I found the other spellings of the place: Jeju Loveland. The official JejuLoveLand website. It's quite a new place, designed and built just a few years ago. More satisfying images.

Since I work with and for Koreans I was so curious about your links. To me it seems like a nightmare to have an arranged marriage and then have this as an open air sex education. But maybe not, could be fun.

(In a brief aside, there was a devastating fire last week that destroyed a 600 year old landmark in Seoul.)

Okay, here are some fun photos of Cheju's Love Land. A row of men with penis faucets. It's got this strange Magritte meets Hustler mag look with silly yucks. Amusing that the statues seem to be of Western faces and body types rather than Korean.

View of the place from the air.

Stavros' site is packed full of practical tips about working or living in Korea. Looking up Cheju Island it looks quite as heavenly as Hawaii. I like the pictures and info on Jo's Korean Adventures blog even more. Seeing how beautiful it is there, this job offer is tempting.

It seems like a transparent speculation that the ancient phallic statues on the island, the Dol hareubangs, were the Shamanistic fertility symbols that predated this contemporary plaster cast Disney wannabe pr0n version. The granddaddy dong images have something of an Oceanic art Moai look to them. Wonder if those Dol hareubang walked like the Moai?

Can you tell that your post sent me on some delightful web meanderings?
posted by nickyskye at 12:17 PM on February 23, 2008


Stavros' site is packed full of practical tips about working or living in Korea.

here's my tip - do neither. when i lived there, i made a 6 page point form list of all things korean. only 3 items were on the positive side of things.... and 2 were food.
posted by gman at 12:43 PM on February 23, 2008


nickyskye, that Spiegel article made me wince.

Given the park opened in 2004, it seems a stretch to tie the park to arranged marriage and open air sex education. 94% of Korean households have broadband access, which means that the Internet can handle the sex education part in the privacy of people's homes. As for arranged marriages, Koreans these days use that term to refer to marriages where they met their spouses through parents or relatives. Usually once the initial meeting is arranged, they can choose to continue meeting on their own, or move on to the next candidate. Come to think of it, of late I have only heard that term used to refer to their own marriages by Koreans over 40.

Jeju Island is not the honeymoon or tourist destination it once was to Koreans. It's actually cheaper these days to go on a packaged tour to southeast Asian destinations such as Thailand or Vietnam than go to Jeju Island. In addition, younger Koreans living in urban areas consider it cheesetastic to honeymoon in Jeju - it's something one's parents or grandparents did.

And living and working in Korea is indeed difficult for foreigners. There are the usual language issues, but there are other obstacles faced in trying to open bank accounts, credit cards, obtaining housing, etc.
posted by needled at 1:49 PM on February 23, 2008


And living and working in Korea is indeed difficult for foreigners. There are the usual language issues, but there are other obstacles faced in trying to open bank accounts, credit cards, obtaining housing, etc.

yeah. and that whole part of confucianism and relationships. i was ready to kill at times.
posted by gman at 2:03 PM on February 23, 2008


Nickyskye, once again you have improved the quality of an FPP with your supplemental links and commentary. Thanks for the boost.
posted by GrammarMoses at 2:54 PM on February 23, 2008


only 3 items were on the positive side of things.... and 2 were food

i was ready to kill at times


gman, but tell me how you really feel? ;-) Having never lived in or visited Korea, I'm curious if you'd lived in or liked other parts of Asia?

younger Koreans living in urban areas consider it cheesetastic to honeymoon in Jeju

needled, that actually would draw me to Jeju Island, not Love Land, that it wasn't a tourist spot, or was only in vintage days. I imagine this sex theme park must be some sort of attempt to update the place, modernize the ancient fertility symbols. Thanks for the article about social challenges foreigners experience in Korea. Working for Koreans here in NYC for the last 6 + years has given me a good deal of understanding.
posted by nickyskye at 3:07 PM on February 23, 2008


This was fascinating. While Japan has its own share of fertility festivals and phallic monuments, I have yet to encounter anything of this magnitude. It completely contradicts the impression of the Koreans with and for whom I worked in California (where, yes, the arranged marriage and system of chaperoned dates was still going strong when I left...) who were ridiculously prudish despite the fact that we were running a photo lab with developing contracts for several fetish clubs and a local gay soft porn magazine.

Of course, the Korean women never handled those accounts, that was for the men...or me.

The vast majority of the people I have met that have actually lived and worked in Korea end up in Japan as refugees of a sort. They have little or nothing good to say about the experience, are grateful for the relatively decent treatment and higher wages they make, here, and generally stay here longer than the time they had spent in Korea...some of them have even become "lifers", like myself. I've visited 4 or 5 times (never Jeju, though) but having never lived there myself, I can only base my impressions on slightly Americanized Korean communities and the secondhand complaints of my friends.

While a visit to LoveLand might be a whimsical way to spend a weekend, I think I'll be continuing to live where I do.
posted by squasha at 5:54 PM on February 23, 2008


>here's my tip - do neither. when i lived there, i made a 6 page point form list of all things korean. only 3 items were on the positive side of things.... and 2 were food.

>>The vast majority of the people I have met that have actually lived and worked in Korea end up in Japan as refugees of a sort. They have little or nothing good to say about the experience

Yeah, those are pretty much typical things I hear from the mostly-young people who come to Korea to make a buck and more often than not leave disenchanted -- the kind of thing that keeps me well away from most other foreign residents here, I admit, because I simply can't stomach the incessant whining and complaining. Not that there aren't some good reasons for them to complain -- the state of the private education industry is shockingly bad, and people who come to Korea expecting to be treated with unearned respect, as teachers, and end being up treated like dirt; well, they are everywhere. I've talked about all this at length, here and elsewhere.

I've lived in a lot of different places around the world over the years. After a decade here in Korea, I find that there is much to like and also much to be annoyed at, but I find that that is true pretty much anywhere I've been. If I hadn't had a job that I really like and lived in a place I also really like for the last 5 years, I'd probably be back in Australia or Canada or somewhere else entirely by now, I admit.

It completely contradicts the impression of the Koreans [...] who were ridiculously prudish

Like many other folks, the way that most Korean people behave and talk in public and in private are very different things. In the case of Koreans, it is a more dramatic contrast than I've seen anywhere before. An unfortunate consequence of this is a more deeply-ingrained, unremarked-upon and flourishing illicit sex trade in Korea than I've ever seen anywhere else (the extent of which, like the dog-meat restaurants that were hidden during the Olympics but are still everywhere, it is preferred that outsiders not see). But yeah, this Loveland park thing is a bizarre outlier, laughed-at and -about in the Korean media, and pretty much nobody I know (Korean or otherwise) would be caught dead setting foot there.

In addition, younger Koreans living in urban areas consider it cheesetastic to honeymoon in Jeju - it's something one's parents or grandparents did.

You must know different people than I do -- I've never heard anyone talk that way. Probably 90% of the people I know who've gotten married in the last 10 years have gone to Ch/Jeju-do for their honeymoons.

What is cheesy, though, and most Koreans I know agree (if they're under 50) is the proliferation of shitty theme-park stuff like the one in the post here. Cheju is a beautiful place -- easily the most beautiful place in Korea, in my opinion, although Kangwon-do is nice too -- and every year there are more of these misguided, greedy, bewilderingly ugly tourist traps springing up there. It's a shame. I've long considered retiring there if it doesn't get too shitted up in the next decade or two.

I imagine this sex theme park must be some sort of attempt to update the place, modernize the ancient fertility symbols.

That is the usual generous and kindly reading of things that I expect from you, nicky, but it's more along the lines of some eccentric businessman trying to cash in on a misperception of what foreign people (and Koreans) are actually interested in. The tourist industry in Korea, outside of Seoul, particularly in terms of non-domestic travel, is astonishingly primitive and xeno-clueless, even by Korean standards.

Anyway, I've talked about all this stuff at length, too many times, here and elsewhere, and I'm just about talked out about it lately. But thanks for the link to one of my sites, even though I haven't posted anything to it in a very long time.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:56 PM on February 23, 2008


You must know different people than I do -- I've never heard anyone talk that way. Probably 90% of the people I know who've gotten married in the last 10 years have gone to Ch/Jeju-do for their honeymoons.

Yep, we probably know different people :) None of the people I know (and yes, this includes people outside of Seoul, gasp) who've gotten married in the last 10 years have gone to 제주도 for their honeymoon - they would have laughed at the suggestion. They perceive Jeju as an expensive tourist trap full of cheesy, ill-conceived tourist attractions such as this particular theme park.

I did some looking in Korean language-sites regarding Loveland and it appears there was some official funding for this project. There has been a lot of hand-wringing for some time regarding Jeju's lack of appeal as a tourist destination, for both domestic and foreign tourists. And Loveland appears to have been one result of this handwringing. Perhaps because it was for so long the travel destination for Koreans, the tourism industry in Jeju still seems to be struggling with the idea that it's not business as usual.
posted by needled at 5:18 AM on February 24, 2008


gman, but tell me how you really feel? ;-) Having never lived in or visited Korea, I'm curious if you'd lived in or liked other parts of Asia?

i've lived in both lao and thailand as well, but i only taught in korea. you can see some of my travels on the website link of my profile page. even with all the crap i've seen and my all-round jadedness , i DO love many parts of asia.

one day at my hogewon (english academy), i asked the students in each of my classes what they would do with one wish. virtually all the boys said they'd use it to be rich. all the girls..... well, they wanted to be men.

if i had to do it all over again in 2008 and i was given 3 choices of where i could be born - a) korea b) iraq c) afghanistan, 'a' would be my last choice.

kids in korea are not allowed to be kids. by the age of 5, many children begin attending hogewons to get ahead of the fierce competition for spots at a prestigious university. If their last name is not Park, Lee, or Kim, this goal is made even more difficult. within a couple years, some of the (economically) richer young koreans are in 10 or 11 of these after school academies (math, chinese, english, science, korean, music, art, marital arts, etc). they finish up at 10 pm only because the government enacted a law saying they couldn't study at schools later than that. they go home - eat dinner - do their homework - hit the hay around 1 and start all over at 7 am the next day. they do this until they hopefully get into a good university. i say this because i had countless students come to me crying about the 97% they got on an exam and how that was going to essentially fuck their chances at getting into seoul national university. i was like, "if i got 97% on any sort of test in high school, my parents would be frickin' over the moon". add to this whole mix, the fact that original thought is NOT welcome. memorization and regurgitation. robots. after university comes conscription. yay!

things only get better when they enter adulthood. the men will generally take a comparatively low salary job which requires a lot of overtime and plenty of after work drinking. i would often leave my academy with my girlfriend around 8 pm or so and on my 5 minute walk home, not only would we see several business men puking on the street, but my girlfriend would have to deal with all the lewd comments. you see, white/blond = eastern european prostitute in 'the land of the morning calm'. oh, and black = from africa....... no two ways about that. my korean friends loved my buddy, malcolm. they'd always giggle and tell him they liked black people... you know - michael jordan, wesley snipes...... but i digress, after they are done puking, these korean business men head over to any shop with two barber poles outside it. you see, their wives don't want them coming home reeking of booze and puke.... wanting sex, so banging a prostitute is widely accepted. now the thing is, a lot of these prostitutes are university students earning money to pay for school.

i could go on and on and on.
posted by gman at 7:23 AM on February 24, 2008


stavros - you ever wonder why the LAT/LON you put in on your profile page has "no other MetaFilter members nearby......"? ;-)
posted by gman at 7:36 AM on February 24, 2008


Oh, there are about a half dozen of us here in Korea at any given time, gman.

Yep, we probably know different people :)

Fair enough. It's a good sign that there are Korean folks who hate the cheesiness of so much of the 'touristic' stuff that's being built as much as I (or other foreign folk) do.

I did some looking in Korean language-sites regarding Loveland and it appears there was some official funding for this project.


I'm surprised, but not much. Some money changed hands, as it usually does, no doubt.

i could go on and on and on.

So could we all, gman. I could extend and expand on that, at book length, if I were inclined. You have no idea how many times I've heard that same kind of litany -- even repeated a few choice parts myself, over the years, when I'm in an unforgiving mood -- from foreign residents here over the years. Much (if not all) of what you say it true, too.

Like I said, though, I could go on at similar (or greater) length about the things that annoy and disappoint me about Canadian society (where I'm from, decades ago). Or about Australia, the 'western' country where I've spent the most time in the last 20 years. Despite the fact that I love them both. I am serious here, not just being rhetorical. People everywhere drive me bugshit with rage, far too often.

On one hand it's a shame that you have the same sort of strongly negative feelings about Korea that so many young people who have come here to make a buck do. There's a good reason for that -- it's not an easy place for expatriates, particularly ones fresh off the boat.

On the other hand, even as there's much that's alien and just plain bad, there's also much to love about the place and the people and the language and culture, and time and a token effort at seeing through the facades that you talk about reveal a bottomless wealth of (fascinating to me) contradictions. Korean people can be so straitlaced in public but so lusty and free in private, so neo-Confucian authority-bound but so quick to protest against injustices, so vocal about education's importance and so slipshod in actually ensuring quality, so xenophobic yet so welcoming and hospitable once you slip through the outer walls, so dogmatic about history but so obsessed with the future, so money-hungry but so generous.... it goes on and on, just as gman suggested that his litany of What's Wrong With Korea could do.

So yeah, no offense, but if you hated it here, and couldn't find your personal key to the lock to open up some doors into a deeper understanding of the place, that's a shame, but it's better that you left. There are far too many expats who hate the place but stay here anyway (and some days, yes, I'm even one of them, but we all have bad days), and I really wish they wouldn't sometimes.

All that having been said, there is an element of me defending to myself my own decisions to spend so much time here, to come back after my last very lucrative stint in Australia, for example, I suppose I have to admit. But I really do believe that this is one of the most interesting places in the world, and the profound ways it's transformed itself since 1996, when I first got here, is only the beginning.

I wonder what would have happened if I Korea hadn't become such a large part of my life sometimes. But it has, and I quite like the life I've got, so it's all good.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:42 PM on February 24, 2008


Continuing the derail of this thread, I live and work in Korea and am quote content to be here. Echoing Stavros, it's just like anywhere with some things that are wonderful and things that are awful.

Yes, there are many practical difficulties, the culture is different and sometimes baffling, it can be hard to deal with some everyday activities without speaking Korean... but it's a foreign country. Try arriving in an English-speaking country with five words of the language and no credit record and attempt to visit a hospital, arrange a credit card or rent a flat. (link from needled's comment above)

I often wonder about the amount of hate it gets from many expats and I think it's down to a perfect storm of mostly unsuitable foreigners (young graduates, interested only in the money, never had to work 9-5 before, self-important, unused to dealing with other cultures etc.) and a particularly tricky country (hard to penetrate, alien without being exotic, self-important, go-it-alone, lots of bad employers, culturally different, uncomfortable with criticism etc.)

It's certainly not a holiday-friendly place that everyone will love (unlike e.g. Thailand/Japan) and it's impossible to overestimate the importance of finding a reliable employer, but I find it an endlessly fascinating and very easy place to live.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 5:55 PM on February 24, 2008


virtually all places i've lived eventually turned to shit on me. korea was just that much shittier and the stink set on quicker.
posted by gman at 6:09 PM on February 24, 2008


it's impossible to overestimate the importance of finding a reliable employer

Quoted for truth. It's probably the single most important key to having a good life here, and probably the most difficult, for old hands as well as new arrivals. The hakwon (학원, variously romanized, think small, private 'school', usually a floor or two in an office building, for which there is no real equivalent in North America, and of which there are literally dozens on any city block, sometimes focussed on language, sometimes on middle school or high school subjects, sometimes for adults, mostly for kids) are a nightmare, for the most part. I was lucky during my first couple of years here back in the 90's to work at a good one, teaching university students and adults, with a good boss, or I might not have come back. Even the university I taught at for a few years after that was.... suboptimal in many ways.

One of the reasons I've been happy here for the last five years or so is that I managed to get a job at one of the big multinationals, where I work with and teach adults, and am treated as a professional and colleague, rather than just a replaceable language-dispensing cog.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:23 PM on February 24, 2008


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