Ladygate Special: What’s With All These Ladygates?

The number of Ladygate cases are on the rise, especially on the subway

The Ladygator strikes back! Introducing “beanpaste girls” [dwenjang-nyo 된장녀] in this case, the name given to those girls on the subway who don’t relinquish their seats for uncle and auntie who would like to rest their aching legs. Last week, the above photo of these leg-tired ladies caused such a fuss on the Korean internet that the this article was one of the most talked about stories of the month. But “beanpaste girl” means more than just girls not giving up their seats to angry old men. The name comes from a kind of modern Korean woman who will live as frugally as possible on a cheap beanpaste stew so they can save up as much money as possible to spend on designer shoes and handbags.

Every week it seems, Seoul’s giant octopus of a subway system gives us a new celebrity (with the rare exception of our Horny Bus Couple in Busan). Thus far on koreaBANG, we’ve seen it all. A breasty bikini girl, soju woman, pouring-beer-on-gramps-while-smoking woman, soup scalding mother, poo girl, swearing woman, and let’s not forget about a bit of pregnant adultery on the way. The apparently limitless supply of alleged nutters about these days, combined with the one-two sucker punch of the iPhone and YouTube, has made underground weirdo-hunting a booming cottage industry of sorts. From local blogs to the mighty koreaBANG itself, we’ve all been inundated with the stories that dog-shit girl, smoking girl, sexual harassment granddad, and naked ajumma so reliably generate.

Naked Lady Hits the Subway

But why have we now reached the ‘golden age’ of the subway scandal? In internet years, the dog-shit girl incident happened a lifetime ago – 2005, indeed. Since then, we’ve seen sporadic netizen outrage (with foreigners also getting in on the act, drinking on the train – as though Korea were a country where people liked a few beers, or something), but in the past few months there has been a noticeable uptick in the number of people gaining notoriety through some kind of metro lunacy.

Korean girl posts an image of her breasts online to protest the imprisonment of popular Korean podcaster Jung Bong-ju.

We don’t think Seoulites are getting especially crazier. For example, England (our second favourite country – Ed.) has a significantly higher amount of oddness per capita than South Korea – it’s just that English people don’t yet tend to video all the strange things they see, presumably because they’ve become desensitised to the outbursts of tram racism, underground dinner parties or, our personal favourite, the completely spontaneous booze-ups that happened when the Mayor of London tried to ban drinking on the London Underground. Perhaps smartphone recording in Seoul has reached a kind of tipping point (overused cliché though that phrase is). When people see something unusual these days, their uniform response is to whip out the smartphone and click record. Each additional viral sensation reinforces the process and these things only seem to grow exponentially. With almost every Seoul commuter buried deep in KakaoTalk on their smartphones, the majority are only one clunky application-switch away from snapping or videoing whatever madness suddenly happens in the next carriage.

Sexual Harassment Grandpa

But why – with the exception of gang-bang granddad – do these recent cases centre on women? Nobody would deny that a woman who runs around naked as a jaybird and swearing at people is in need of help, or at least, a new hobby. But it does seem as though the videos of odd behaviour that generate all the attention are the ones that feature women. Regular commuters of the Seoul Metro will note that most of the obnoxious behaviour  comes from old geezers – yelling into their mobile phones, staggering around drunk, or giving very much unwanted Bible readings.

"Beer Girl" drenches a disgruntled old man with a can of lager

Maybe the netizen has his reasons. The typical (or maybe stereotypical) angry netizen is an unemployed young man. He is afforded little respect by society, and does his best to satisfy his need to be heard by making aggressive comments about those he does not like. His prime targets are those he is jealous of – ie. successful men, hence the insane Tablo witch-hunt – and women, who show little interest in him. The fact that young Korean women are now generally well-educated and finally able to get good jobs makes his life even harder, since it gives him extra competition, and means they don’t have to take any crap from him either.

Cigarette Lady lights up

Or maybe not. Who knows? There are some who claim that all these Ladygate stories are deliberately catapulted to the front pages by the government merely as a distraction from more sour news. This may be the case, but it doesn’t stop the fact that, when the whole world was talking about the Nuclear Security Summit (the largest collection of world leaders since the formation of the United Nations) back in March, Koreans were all trying to make sense of Beer Girl.

The below comments are about “beanpaste girls” not giving up their seat to old people on the Seoul metro. Is the relative hostility towards them a passive aggressive reaction to the rising empowerment of women in Korea? Maybe. But it’s probably more likely to be a bunch of bitter netizens, hiding away from natural sunlight and angrily shouting at the world outside. One need only browse through a few YouTube comments to remind oneself this isn’t a culture-specific phenomenon, as demonstrated so eloquently in this clip.

From Nate:

이주영:

Seeing a woman give up her seat is actually quite difficult to watch. Still. Giving up your seat for an elderly person is goodwill, right? Wouldn’t that definitely be your duty? So shouldn’t they make separate seats just for the elderly..? On the contrary this incident is a violation of [the girl's] portrait rights

김재홍:

Anyway, I wonder why if elders only ride the subway after climbing mountains (exercise) their legs hurt them and it’s difficult for them to stand?? ke ke

최소영:

I guess they should sue the person who took that photo and uploaded it and make their face public.

김종필:

These days, since there are so many subway xx girls appearing on the internet, they take a picture on their mobile phones and [call it] subway xx girl — it’s getting boring. Before doing all this bullshit of taking a photo and uploading it, instead you should first of all try talking to the person once or something. No? Anyhow, if that old man was continually standing, I just will never understand why netizens would rather want to do that without being able to say anything about it.

남정찬:

I wonder how often the bastard who took [the picture] is willing to give up their seat?

김혜미:

No ㅡㅡ Giving up your seat is your feeling, right? Is is the law that you have to do itㅡㅡ? Honestly, though I’m dead tired, and my legs kill, the old grandfather or grandmother in front of me, looking at me, I think that they’re feeling it more…?

송호종:

You know that if goodwill continues, it becomes a right…

윤여울:

If you even upload photos for that kind of thing, how can the world go on living? There are times when you give up your seat, and if you are tired or in pain there are times when you can’t even give up your seat. I mean, are they so impatient to prey on people? The people who upload the photos must also have pretty nasty dispositions

박미연:

Whether you’re young or old, being fed up and tired is exactly the same. Even if you look closely at the photo, it seems that there are no seats for the elderly around there~ On the bus or the subway, please stop giving young people the third degree ~ Is it a crime to be young?… I know, it’s alright if you stand aside and smile, and then they sit down, grateful. But don’t be like before looking threatening and shouting at people~ Couldn’t the other person also be extremely tired, like really tired, and be unable to get up? And young women are not all young girls just because they don’t have pot-bellies. They could also be women in the early stages of pregnancy. I won’t say that young people shouldn’t want to do it first, but it would be good if seniors would also think of this and that situations and not accuse people.

박찬걸:

Giving up your seat is a virtue; it’s not a duty. I think that it’s right that we learn it is a good thing to give up your seat, but still making someone’s face public is an abuse of your personal life that goes too far. It seems like you have to think of this from the perspective of the writer’s qualifications. Of course, you also have to think about the moral conscience of those people who do not give up their seats.

한규태:

Of course, did they ask the person to move, then upload a photo of their face to shame them?

김건:

Manners are not the manners of the person who took the photograph.

신현우:

To the bastard who uploaded the photo, can you live in good conscience? Whether someone gives up their own seat or not, why would you upload a photo, that’s bullshit, even if the photo of the twat who uploaded it goes public, they’d better shut up about it.

오승수:

If they behave like that, the word ‘beanpaste girl’ is bound to come out ke ke

정연중:

These are some really brazen bitches..is this the how the women in our country are?

유보람:

I just want to say one thing..It’s hard for young people, too. Especially when commuting, it’s really, really, tiring, and once a month, if you’re caught on that day it’s difficult to even stand. Please, it’s good to give up your seat for the elderly, but don’t those people sitting down also have their reasons? It seems like even for saying this there’ll be troublemakers who say bad things about me, but…. it would be good if there were less elderly people during the rush hour. Kids with worn-out heavy bags full of books who are taking entrance exams, office workers, and so on and so forth, these people all have their reasons and have tough times. It seems like we shouldn’t unconditionally say that you should give up your seat to the elderly first.

이미영:

You pay your own money to sit down, why are people saying bad things? I mean, it’s not like they’re seats for the elderly. And it’s free for the elderly, isn’t it?ㅡㅡ.

이정현:

Women, if, in the future, you want people to give up their seats for you when you’re pregnant, you should start giving up your seats from now on…

최유찬:

Hmm..so, I came on Line 1 today, and I saw three or four people move from their seats, and they were all women…the guys just crossed their legs and played games on their i-pads.

김소영:

So there’s only women riding on the subway?

고요섭:

Types of people who often give up their seat for the elderly:
1. Men who have been brought up well, middle and high school students.
2. Most male university students.
2. Most men in their twenties who’ve done military service.

UPDATE: A version of this koreaBANG article appeared in the Korea Times here.

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  • W

    Poo

  • glenn

    im not sure why the ladygators are in focus lately.. when i was there.. it was more about the ajussi and ajumma making scenes on the trains, buses and elevators…

  • Stories of butts

    I dont really know Korea or its culture all that much but maybe theres a thick idea of how a lady should act and when theyre not acting that way it becomes a big thing add that with video cameras and you got a flood of ladygates :\

    PS- You forgot to add the lady with her hands in her pocket ladygate

  • Brett Sanbon

    “Ladygate” just sounds scandalous, doesn’t it? I think that some of these things, like the woman smoking on the train, are worthy of the name. Others, pretty lame.

    In my experience, I see both young men and young women play on their phones, or pretend they are sleeping, so they don’t have to give up their seats.

    I need to be careful here, considering my face is associated with this post. There are days, especially when its super hot, that I prefer to stand by the doors in the air conditioning, and let others fight for seats. Honestly, though, about the standing up for elderly… I only stand up and offer my seat for certain reasons: A pregnant woman, someone with a small child, a person with a clear injury, or someone who looks over 65 or in pain. My justification is that I have to travel over 80 minutes every morning and every evening. My job requires me to travel to and from meetings by foot, taxi, or subway, almost everyday. At the end of a long day, and at 193cm 95kg, my legs and feet are often very sore.

    Ajummas running when they see a free seat are quite funny. Girls falling in tall heels, also amusing. Groups I rarely give my seat up for: the mountain climbers. The mountain climbing ajummas and ajussis are rather annoying, standing in front of young adults, gazing into their eyes until the little ones’ souls turn dark and hopeless and they relinquish their seats. Most are probably as strong and healthy as myself, if not stronger. It is not my fault that they decided to climb a mountain before scrambling onto the subway car.

    Not to bring religion into this, but the people I find most annoying are not boys or girls who refuse to stand up, nor the seat stealing ajumma. No, the worst are the people reading their bibles, who choose to ignore the elderly and pregnant women. Talk about hypocritical… What’s the point of even reading the book if you don’t live it out? Maybe we should start posting Christiangate™.

  • lonetrey

    Most netizens are male freaks with too much time on their hands. -____-

  • Paul M

    I think you hit the nail on the head with who these netizens are. Self righteous, angry, bitter individuals regardless of ethnicity. In the West we seem to have been able to ignore these basement dwellers and make light of the hate and vitriol they spew out, whereas in Korea it seems to be a different story. On occasion Korean netizens have wielded significant real life power and influence. Two examples off the top of my head being the American Beef protests a few years ago which apparently escalated from an on-line comment made by a 16 year old girl, and the 2005 dog-poo girl needing psychiatric therapy and an identity change.

    • RamPowers

      >the American Beef protests a few years ago which apparently escalated from an on-line comment made by a 16 year old girl

      The start was MBC’s PD Notebook where they main multiple claims that were void of reality. Or are you refering a particular post that also influenced the protests?

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  • Anne

    I said it last time when I saw that Korean old man shove the sharp end of his umbrella into that beer drinking/ smoking woman’s face. Korean men are sexist. Even the Chinese comments thought the old guy was going too far even if what she was doing was wrong. but in the Korean comments no mention, just cussings at women in general. I assume in that picture above there were miraculously only women passengers sitting in that entire compartment? Hinting therefore that it must be a women that gives that old guy a place?

  • k

    the seat culture in korea is a whole ordeal in itself. when i lived in korea last year i was pregnant with my first child and i worked 9.5 hr days at a school and generally was beyond fatigued. i found that in the mornings on a bus, it is everyone person for themselves and people arent nice to pregnant women no matter how heavily pregnant they are. when i was 7-8 months along with a huge belly, people would just ignore me on the bus and even worse was when some ajumma would try to shove her way around me or give me the stink eye for being alive and in her way. it would also get so hot on the bus because of no air circulation because koreans refuse to open windows due to it might mess their hair up, that i would often get dizzy from heat and being pregnant but still no one cared so towards the end of my pregnancy i just started taking a taxi to work because it was to hard to stand on a hot bus with 70 people crammed in around you while 8 months pregnant. ajummas were by far the rudest. however on the subway in the afternoons people usually gave me their seats and alot of the time it was elderly men who got up for me and insisted i sit down. men were generally must nicer then women, although i once had a young women give me her seat and i was totally surprised but i never once had an ajumma offer me a seat.

  • korea21

    when i think of scandales i think of american president bill clinton lol

  • mouse

    It’s so common for Korean men to behave badly that it’s nothing special anymore. They have to go after the women now. ;)

  • Ami

    When you take heavily used and crowded public transportation you’re bound to meet up with with some idiots, savages and crazies (and some super crazies) eventually (or daily). You can ask any long time New Yorker,Londoner what they’ve seen on the metro and you’ll hear a ton of stories

    Its just that Asians are the first ones to pull out their videophones and record/photograph whatever they’re seeing. Sometimes before even helping :(

    • Ami

      Also Idk about the poll answers (rise of power/angry men/crazies), I think its just a trend for 2012 to have ladygates.
      New stories often follow whats trending and whats popular and for right now its ladygates lol. Not saying that angry netizens aren’t angry men, because they usually are.

  • RamPowers

    I was told 된장녀 was a girl that only cared about the expensive name and bought products she was told are luxury and expensive. You could take a dump in a bag and call it 된장 (and to be fair 된장 doesn’t smell too good when fermenting) and the 된장녀 will believe it is bean paste because of the name and the price.

    • James

      Could be a funny take on the existing nickname but, from what I hear, it comes from the fact that these girls will live incredibly frugally so as to have enough to spend on designer/consumer goods –– the idea’s supposed to suggest that it’s they who are making the self-sacrifice in the pursuit of material gain rather than them being duped by external foes or living out of someone else’s pocket.

  • James Devereux

    Great stuff. Loving this site, especially that you get Korean translations by hovering over the comments – great for improving my Korean. Also the youtube links to those videos of stuff filmed in the UK and the Adam Buxton talk are priceless. Keep up the good work =)

  • Mich’insaeki

    @Koreabang

    Think you nailed it with this post. Good one.

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