In today’s edition of OhmyNews.com, Michael Hurt (from “Scribblings of the Metropolitician“) contributed an excellent piece (titled “‘Korean Beauty’ Wins International Competition Only To Be Cast Aside By Korea”) on Mini Han (한민희), who won the 2010 Miss Internaional Queen pageant. He uses the pageant to raise awareness about the still widely held attitude of prejudice and fear regarding non-heteronormative sexual identity in Korea.
Some might say more Korean celebrities have been “coming out” of the proverbial closet in the recent years. Publicly visible figures such as Hong Suk Chun (홍석천) and Harisu (하리수) are important in that they bring human faces to what is generally decried in abstraction as a radical social taboo — even a mental disease. Yet their token presence should not be understood as a sign of that the society has become meaningfully tolerant. For example, Hurt claims that Harisu, by being more rigorously feminine than most women, serves to reinforce existing gender constructions and does not call into question deeply ingrained attitudes about gender and identity.
Hurt calls out the Korean media for its opportunistic celebration of achievement by Koreans in golf, football, ice skating (or for that matter, business, politics, art, scholarship — anything that should bring Koreans national pride). He singles out the national hysteria over half-Korean Hines Ward, who was named the MVP of Super Bowl XL. But rather than merely criticize the hypocrisy of this kind of idolization, Hurt emphasizes how this provided a productive moment for race relations in Korea — a rare opportunity for the marginalized (in this case, mixed children of American G.I.’s) to share their experiences at the national level, to reapappropriate the media’s disingenuous opportunism and push the spectacle towards a socially progressive moment of dialogue and reflection. Continue reading