Point of view: The gender-neutral Korean

Edward Bell

There may be something in the kimchi. If you contributed one of the 2.5 billion views of Psy's Gangnam Style, you would be forgiven for believing that South Korea is an open land where gay frivolity rules. But in reality, it is a macho society where men and women have clearly defined roles. So why is Korean TV so obsessed with men in the kitchen, and how are South Korea's national power brands reacting?

Although there are large and obvious differences among the North Asian societies, there is a great unifier. Confucianism. The rules laid down by the Chinese philosopher decreed that national stability depended upon the authority of men over women as the fundamental building block of society. And unlike China, with its Civil War and ensuing Cultural Revolution, Korean society has not yet undergone any great upheaval. And this is why today, there is such a stark paradox in Korean daily life: fastest broadband, Gangnam-style humour, world's leading tech brands sitting aside the expectation that women should be demure, beautiful and cooking for their men.