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[LETTERS TO THE EDITOR]Sexual metaphors in Breen column not appreciated

Mar 25,2003
As I was finishing up my 30-minute workout Thursday night, I read the first paragraph of Michael Breen’s column, “Time to stop doing and just be,” in which he states that one of the reasons foreign men come to love Korea so much is that, “like a good woman,” Korea is a country that invites you to tell it what to do.
Oooh! thought I. This should be good! And I carefully saved the article to scrutinize later. Well, Mr. Breen is no dummy. His next paragraph acknowledged that the comment might possibly provoke a nasty e-mail, so he asked us to consider this: Like most wives, Korea tends to ignore advice she is given. Which means that pretending to listen is a seductive process, a cunning ploy to keep us engaged. Well, Mrs. Breen, my congratulations and condolences.
Strangely, this column’s eventual point was that Korea’s problem attracting foreign tourists lies in Koreans’ inability to relax. But this out-of-left field conclusion is not reached without the ridiculous stereotyping seen above, as well as the bizarre comparison of Korea’s “drab” architecture with that of Poland and Israel. This piece of knowledge is at least attributed to “well-traveled folk.”
Since 1999, I have explored extensively much of Europe, Brazil, Argentina, parts of Asia and Israel. I question where the similarities are between Israel and Korea. Israel has Jerusalem and Korea has Gyeongju, both of which are quite enthralling if being ancient is your quest. If you are referring to regular architecture, then perhaps Korea’s choice to go modern had something to do with the tremendous American influence of the past 50 years. As far as Israel is concerned, it has been a country for only 55 years and has had far more important things to worry about than being aesthetically appealing to foreigners.
Before concluding anything about Korea, the evidence in the body of Mr. Breen’s column should at least in some way lead to a conclusion. If Koreans really don’t know how to relax, and maybe they don’t -- I don’t see how your sexist metaphors and personal stories about massage in Indonesia offer any real advice.
In fact, dare I suggest that it’s articles such as yours, Mr. Breen, that have forced and conditioned us dazzling temptresses to smile prettily and feign attention in the first place.


by Melanie Preston


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