Farewell machismo, hello herbivore guys

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Farewell machismo, hello herbivore guys


Mr. Lee, at 31, has hit the typical marriage age for a Korean man, especially for a conglomerate employee like himself. But Lee doesn’t have any intention of tying the knot. He’s happy as he is living with his pet dog named Camus.

“My life is preoccupied with work,” Lee says, “and I just feel more comfortable when I’m with my dog. For the time being, I’m satisfied and don’t want to get married.”

Lee is one of an emerging type known as “herbivore men,” which was first coined in Japan, referring to guys who are kind of interested in themselves more than they are in girlfriends or fiancees, although they are not gay. Herbivores like hobbies usually associated with women, such as fussing over pets or exploring famous or obscure restaurants. They’re not sex-obsessed. Some of their friendships with women are purely platonic.

A survey conducted by the Hyundai Research Institute illustrates that a growing number of Korean men identify with that kind of life. It also shows that some Korean women are joining the opposite side, becoming “carnivore woman” - aggressive hunters of partners.

In the survey of 1,015 single men, and single and married women nationwide in July through August, 43 percent of the men said they have some traits attributed to herbivore man.

The institute said that number was surprisingly high given Korea’s traditional machismo. Among the men who said they’re not interested in dating or finding a girlfriend, 40.1 percent blamed heavy workloads, while 32.6 percent said they preferred to spend their money on themselves rather than on a date. The third most popular reason was a lack of money (16.8%), followed by a fear of responsibility in a relationship (10.5%).

The herbivore phenomenon was first described in 2006 by Japanese columnist Maki Fukasawa. According to a survey by Japanese matchmaking company Partner Agent, 71.5 percent of men surveyed consider themselves herbivorous. According to a 2011 Japanese government study, the number of unmarried men aged between 18-34 spiked 9.2 percent compared to 2006. Tellingly, 61 percent of them reported not having a girlfriend, and 45 percent said they weren’t desperate to find one.

In the Korean survey, 33.8 percent of women said they make the first move in a relationship and of those women, 59.5 percent cited a social atmosphere that increasingly allowed women to take the lead in relationships.

BY PARK EUN-JEE, LEE SANG-JAE [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]
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