Sex educator tours army bases on values driveOver the past two years, Bae Jeong-won has traveled the country, teaching sex education classes to 20,000 soldiers. She has ventured up to Baengnyeong island, near North Korea, and to a remote army base in the mountains of Gangwon province for this purpose.
The director of the Harmonious Sex and Culture Center, Ms. Bae, 44, is a specialist in a field with few competitors.
“During a sex education session in the military, soldiers sit back with their arms crossed as if they don’t know why they have to listen to this,” Ms. Bae said. “But as the lecture proceeds, they sit up and their eyes become focused.”
“Quite a few men tend to have sexual encounters just before joining the army or while they’re on leave from the army,” Ms. Bae said. “That is why sex education for soldiers is important.”
What type of information on sex does she give to soldiers who live on walled-in bases, disconnected from the outside world and containing only men?
“When I ask soldiers to name the male reproductive organ, they get all embarrassed, calling it ‘it,’ ‘thing,’ ‘tool,’ ‘bottom,’ ‘hard-shelled mussel.’ That’s because words related to sex organs are often slang or curse words.”
When speaking about sex using such terms, sex appears vulgar or something to hide, she says. But Ms. Bae thinks it is more about personality and culture.
“Men are interested in enhancing their sexual pleasure, but for women, whether or not they love the person they have sex with is more important,” Ms. Bae said.
In Korean society, she said, husbands and wives have different attitudes toward sex. After an argument, a husband may try to have sex as a gesture of reconciliation, she said, because men have less-developed verbal skills and try to resolve problems physically. In contrast, women are ready for sex only after solving problems through conversation. This is one of several conclusions she reached after years of counseling.
After spelling out the psychological and physiological differences between men and women as well as contraception methods, she is bombarded by questions from soldiers.
Ms. Bae became interested in teaching soldiers sex education after eight years of experience in the counseling field. As the director of the Naeil Women’s Center for Youth and the Harmonious Sex and Culture Center, she has delivered lectures both online and in person to 200,000 people.
After college, she joined the public relations department at Yonsei Severance Hospital in western Seoul, where she learned about human dynamics. Last year, Ms. Bae published a book on relationships titled “Cheerful Men and Pleasant Women.”
“Sex ed tends to teach women to be passive,” Ms. Bae said. “I realized that until men’s attitudes toward sex are changed, it is difficult for a balanced culture of sexuality to take root in Korea.”
So Ms. Bae took aim at the military, where she believed male concepts of sex are formed. She started knocking on the Ministry of National Defense’s door two years ago, offering free sex education lessons.
As word began to spread, demand for her lectures grew. Does Ms. Bae get anything in exchange? Only a small travel stipend, she said with a smile.
“The ministry recognized the necessity for sex education. It has even begun programs to train sex education lecturers,” Ms. Bae said.
“People have often said to me, ‘What do you know about soldiers?’ It’s tough work for women,” Ms. Bae said. “I get tense whenever I start lecturing because many people still have an improper attitude toward sex.”
by Moon Kyung-ran