[FOUNTAIN]Rising status of women and their ‘boy toys’Marriage began as a union of two persons of the opposite sex, but it also reflects the power structure between men and women.
In primitive society where the blunt laws of the jungle held sway, women were the targets of pillage. Marriage by capture was a practice engaged in by men going to war, and stealing women from other tribes was a means to enlarge their own tribes. The word bossam, long used in the language, refers to marriage by capture. As a result, marriage by capture led to marriages outside the clan, not within.
But in peaceful times, men had to trade or buy women with precious goods. In Buyeo, the Baekje kingdom’s capital, a groom would seek an understanding with the bride’s family and steal his bride at night. He would later pay them by sending a cow or a horse. It was the buying of a bride in a prearranged capture. Derilsawi in the Goguryeo kingdom was the purchase of a bride through the labor of the groom.
In contrast, the dowry, a certain amount of money a bride’s family gave to the groom’s family, was a sort of compensation in a society where women were considered inferior. But in the rice farming southern region of Korea, where female labor is needed, the generally accepted amount of dowry was relatively small.
In England, “boy toys” have become a symbol of a new marriage custom. This refers to an older woman who looks for a younger man. From the woman’s point of view, a boy toy is a cute, obedient husband or boyfriend. The 26-year-old rocker Chris Martin of the band Coldplay became a boy toy when he tied the knot with the American actress Gwyneth Paltrow last year. Madonna is married to a British filmmaker, Guy Ritchie, who is 10 years younger than she is. J.K. Rowling, the author of the best-selling Harry Potter series, married a man six years her junior after she became rich and famous because of her popular children’s books.
The boy toy represents the elevated status of women in society. Financially independent women and female celebrities seek them. Among women with careers, having a much younger boyfriend has became something to be proud of. Kim Bo-yeon, a 47-year-old actress, announced her wedding plans Wednesday. Her fiance is Jeon Jae-ryong, 39, starring in the same television drama. The union of a younger man and an older woman is no longer strange here.
by Oh Byung-sang
The writer is London correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.