Japanese vs Korean Movie

20.07.2021 in Comparative Essays
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Femininity is a set of attributes, roles, and behaviors that are associated with women or girls. Since femininity comprises the factors, such as gender roles and characteristics, one can define that it is a socially constructed issue but results from both biological and socially defined factors. Modern definitions of femininity have evolved to include individual choices of women. The recent decade has witnessed significant changes, and modifications in femininity concepts, especially women empowerment, continue to gain popularity in the entire world. On the other hand, gender does not relate to biological attributes; it refers to social and cultural differences. One considers that gender has a range of characteristics differentiating femininity and masculinity. Different world cultures appreciate specific gender roles that distinguish males and females. Finally, masculinity refers to qualities that are ascribed to men. Some of these traits include strength and boldness among others. This essay intends to examine aspects of culture based on Korean and Japanese movies and determine their specific influence on the daily activities of the respective population. In addition, it will compare and contrast the autonomous stereotypes, displayed through exaggerated and overemphasized characters, which influence society.

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The Culture of Japan and Korea

It is important to note that similarly to China, both Japan and Korea faced great influence of Confucian teachings and ideals. According to this school of thought, there was a lot of emphasis on family. Men were the ones portrayed as the head of the household while women were dependent on their male counterparts. Some of the societal expectations concerning women were their obligation to get married, oversee household chores, and produce offspring. In both Korea and Japan, the parent often arranged marriages and women did not have right to express their opinion[footnoteRef:1]. Those women who failed to fulfill some of their responsibilities, such as inability to give birth to a child, were returned to their families. In one article documenting ancient Japanese culture, the author states that during the Tokugawa Shogunate, women did not legally exist[footnoteRef:2]. The interpretation of this statement is that they did not own property and were subordinate to men. Over time, some of these Confucian ideals have shifted. Some of the first laws empowering women were enacted in the year 1946, and they sought to redefine Japanese family relations[footnoteRef:3]. According to these laws, women were allowed to claim inheritance, own property and divorce freely. In Korea, changes were facilitated following the entry of Western Christian Missionaries. They educated women, and in the year 1948, they achieved constitutional rights which gave them equal opportunities to public life and pursue education. Although modern Japanese and Korean women continue to enjoy some of these benefits, it is evident that they are still forced to conform to traditional beliefs. For example, there are a lot of stereotypes and biased opinions regarding gender roles indicating how women should behave with their male counterparts. [1: Kelsey, Leuzinger, “Japanese, Korean, Chinese. What’s the Difference?” Japanese, Korean, Chinese…What’s the Difference?” GalijinPot, last modified November 7, 2014, accessed March 16, 2017, p. 1, https://blog.gaijinpot.com/japanese-korean-chinese/] [2: Craig Timothy, Japan Pop! Inside the World of Japanese Popular Culture (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2002), 3. ] [3: Japan Info. “Japanese Dramas VS Korean Dramas,” last modified November 21, 2016, accessed March 18, 2017, 3, http://jpninfo.com/13167]

How masculinity and gender differences are represented in Japanese and Korean films

This paper will analyze masculinity and gender depicted in two Korean films “My Sassy Girl“ and “Beauty Inside.” It will also review the Japanese films, “I Just Wanna Hug” and “The Girl in the Sun.” Both films provide a clear description of these two cultures. The suggested Japanese and Korean movies portray the culture of each country based on their daily activities. The movies will help one understand the amount of progress that has been made in ensuring equality and justice in families and relationships as well as existing social and cultural challenges.

Korean films

A critical review of the Korean film “My Sassy Girl” reveals some challenges that women face when dating. The first scene that immediately catches one’s attention in relation to the topic occurs when Charlie Bellow decides to play a game, in which he and his friend will sleep with any woman they see sitting in the park. In addition, the general representation of women in the film shows them as aggressive, drunk, and miserable people in their relationships. The film exhibits male chauvinism as men are equally portrayed as the dominant sex and have more rights as compared to their wives and girlfriends. Even when a man makes terrible life decisions with consequences, women are blamed for their choice[footnoteRef:4]. The film entails social and cultural issues, such as gender, sex and love, and the role of women in relationships. On the other hand, Beauty inside seeks to depict an inner character of Japanese women. The woman, who is the main character in this case, has to behave like a different person depending on the situation. The film also reveals some of the challenges faced by both men and women as they interact with each other on a daily basis. [4: Craig Timothy, Japan Pop! Inside the World of Japanese Popular Culture (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2002), 5]

Japanese films

As was the case with Korean movies, the Japanese ones also depict femininity, masculinity, and gender differences. It is clear to a certain extent that men are still regarded as the stronger group and women are expected to be subordinate regardless of the circumstance[footnoteRef:5]. “I just wanna hug” features a woman who was left half-paralyzed and brain-damaged following an accident. In the film, love erupts between a woman and his regular driver, and they decide to enter into a relationship. There are some violent episodes in the film that are characterized by abuse and exchange of insults. The film incorporates issues, such as inability to give birth to a child and how women struggle to meet their carriage obligation in marriages. The film “The Girl in the Sun” is a romantic movie about Kosuke and Mao who fell in love during their Junior High School days and later parted due to circumstances. However, ten years later, they meet and their love rekindles. The main twist in the film is when Mao leaves Kosuke after an incident, and he later reveals the secret that she was hiding from him. [5: Chua, Beng Huat, and Koichi Iwabuchi, eds. East Asian Pop Culture: Analysing the Korean Wave, (Hong Kong University Press, 2008), 6. ]

Roles of women in Japan and Korea traditionally 

Case Study #1: Japan

Although women in Japan were recognized to have equal rights to their male counterparts, the unchanged economic condition resulted in inequality as they continued to be dependent on their husbands. Even in the two films, woman’s role is still limited to domestic duties. There is a socialized famine behavior in both Japan and Korea. Concerning the issue of behavior, women are expected to be modest, compliant and courteous. Modesty, in this case, means silence in action and entertaining guests, preparing and serving tea[footnoteRef:6]. Those who do not conform to this standard of living receive a lot of criticism. In the films “I just wanna hug” and “The Girl in the Sun,” these behavioral expectations manifest themselves when female characters try to be polite and modest as they interact with their future spouse. It is evident from the film that the majority of parents educated the girls and women to believe that love and peace can only be attained in relationships when one of the spouses is submissive and satisfies the needs and requests of the partner. This feministic behavior is also greatly shaped by societal expectations. [6: Kelsey, Leuzinger, “Japanese, Korean, Chinese. What’s the Difference?” Japanese, Korean, Chinese…What’s the Difference?” GalijinPot, last modified November 7, 2014, accessed March 16, 2017, p. 3, https://blog.gaijinpot.com/japanese-korean-chinese/]

Case Study #1: Korea

In traditional Korean society, women’s role was also confined to the home[footnoteRef:7]. In several conversations, women at a young age we’re taught the virtue of subordination and endurance. This was aimed at preparing them for their future role as mothers and wives. It means that women were less involved in societal matters than men being mainly concentrated on household matters. However, the situation has changed over time and women have started engaging in several political and economic practices. Moreover, the two Korean films “My Sassy Girl “and “Beauty inside” reveal exaggerated and overemphasized characters, which influence rather than are impacted by society. For example, in “My Sassy Girl “, Gyeon-Woo falls in love with a pretty girl in college. However, as the relationship progress, he discovers her specific nature, and according to him, she does not exhibit the ideals that are required to be a good wife. She is angry and always demands from Gyeon-Woo to please her even if he has to act strangely in public places. The film effectively portrays contemporary Korean women as aggressive. The movie contradicts with the social fabrication of Korean lifestyle because it seeks to affirm that women’s aggression is acceptable[footnoteRef:8]. From an individual’s perspective, many problems encountered in this film occur due to the differences in ideology and changing stage of Korean culture. The main female character in the film seems to neglect some of the traditional roles that women were expected to handle. Therefore, their mail counterpart does not accept such behavior and describes her as arrogant and “wreck.” A similar scenario is depicted in the film “Beauty Inside”, where women are expected to comply with some of these traditional roles, such as taking care of their homes, children, and husband, despite their physical disability. Those who go do not follow these provisions are criticized and ridiculed. [7: Andrew Jackson, and Colette Balmain, Korean Screen Cultures: Interrogating Cinema, TV, Music and Online Games (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2016), 5. ] [8: Xiying Wang, Petula, Ho, SY, “My Sassy Girl a Qualitative Study of Women’s Aggression in Dating Relationships in Beijing,” J Interpers Violence, 22, no. 5 (2007): 6. ]

Case Study #2: Japan

The reproductive function of women traditionally defined gender roles. One of the main duties of a woman was to produce offspring for her husband. In addition, it was also her responsibility to participate in child-rearing and other domestic activities. According to one study, an average Japanese man spends about 30 minutes executing housework on a daily basis[footnoteRef:9]. This suggests that women were obliged to complete a large bulk of the work. This is in line with traditional expectations, whereby it was expected that women are full-time parents. The films I just wanna hug” and “The Girl in the Sun” effectively depict this stereotyping because one of the female characters in “I just wanna hug” is trying to meet this kind of obligation in marriage. It is justifiable that the viewers who watch the film and do not observe any controversy with this issue still conform to traditional beliefs and ideologies where childlessness was mainly considered as a woman’s problem. However, advancements in modern medical practices have affirmed that absence of children in marriages can also be caused by the man; thus, women should not share the blame alone[footnoteRef:10]. Some of these ideologies and expectations contradict the expected definition of the 21st-century woman. Their income levels are expected to be determined by their professional skills and academic qualifications as opposed to sexual orientation. From an individual’s perspective, it is evident that similar movies have some negative influence on society because they promote autonomous stereotypes, displayed through exaggerated and overemphasized characters. In an attempt to ensure equality between different sexes, the films should incorporate themes that acknowledge the essential role of women in society apart from producing and raising children. [9: Andrew Jackson, and Colette Balmain, Korean Screen Cultures: Interrogating Cinema, TV, Music and Online Games (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2016), 3.] [10: Xiaolongimnida. “Drastic Change in Korean Male Prototypes: The.”Flower Boys”,” Hellokpop, last modified March 10, 2013, accessed March 20, 2017, p. 1, http://www.hellokpop.com/editorial/drastic-change-in-korean-male-prototypes-the-flower-boys/]

Case Study #2: Korea

As is the case with Japan, Korean society traditionally considered the roles of women as mothers, homemakers, and wives. This influenced the emergence of their title as “housewife.” On the other hand, men were essentially considered as workers being the main supporters of their households. The two Korean films “My Sassy Girl “and “Beauty inside” show the autonomous stereotypes displayed through exaggerated and overemphasized characters of the main cast. In “My Sassy Girl,” there are several scenes, which suggest that women’s role is still confined to domestic affairs. For example, Charlie’s action shows utmost disrespect to femininity. It is evident that they consider women as objects of pleasure and simple games. Even when he enters into a new relationship with a lady, it is evident that he does not express much respect to women. His definition of a wife-material is submissive and does not have any history of wrong doing. According to one study, this form of prejudice has also manifested itself in the country’s political system. Since many people consider that the main task of women is a homemaker, those who venture into politics receive a lot of criticism. The resulting impact of this fact is that there are few women who have been involved in politics.

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Changing roles of women in Japanese and Korean cultures

Both Japanese and Korean films share a lot of similarities and differences. For example, an individual interested in drama films will enjoy Korean-based production while Japanese are more successful in producing romantic films[footnoteRef:11]. One can observe this statement in the two films described in the essay. The involved elements, such as romance and drama, have been used to show the slowly changing culture. These Asian countries are gradually moving from their traditional practices and recognize the unmeasurable contributions made by women to modern society. Moreover, women make a lot of strides in Japan and Korea. The most notable change in both countries and cultures is that society starts to accept the intention of women to work and start the career. Their male counterparts are also slowly embracing home life. Korean women are increasingly becoming engaged in a variety of fields, such as engineering, education, medicine, and sports among others. For example, in response to some challenges faced by women, the Korean government has formed the Presidential Commission on Woman’s Affairs, which was established to control the issues involving women. The commission is now part of the Ministry of Gender and Equality. It oversees the establishment and enacting laws that will hinder discrimination and support female workers. In both countries, there have been attempts to promote women’s involvement in several social activities and to connect them to international organizations. [11: Andrew Jackson, and Colette Balmain, Korean Screen Cultures: Interrogating Cinema, TV, Music and Online Games (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2016), 1.]


It is evident that in recent decades, society has witnessed a lot of campaigns for women’s empowerment. However, despite these efforts, modern women are still faced with a lot of challenges in a male-dominated world. In Korea and Japan, the people still appreciate the traditional roles of women, which have become outdated in some parts of the world. One can observe this situation in some of their film productions. Both Japanese and Korean films show some level of stereotypes displayed through exaggerated and overemphasized characters, which influence society. Examples of such movies include “My Sassy Girl “, “Beauty Inside”, “I Just Wanna Hug”, and “The Girl in the Sun.” These films portray and confine women’s role to childbearing, homemakers, and domestic chores among others. There are minimal attempts to encourage females to participate in the issues of national importance, such as politics and career development. It is evident that some movies caused a significant impact on people’s perceptions regarding the roles of women in society. From an individual’s perspective, attempts to curb gender-based discrimination will address the effects of Japan and Korean filming industry and ensure that it is in compliance with the suggested changes for women’s empowerment.

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