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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
I guess they should sue the person who took that photo and uploaded it and make their face public.
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.
I wonder how often the bastard who took [the picture] is willing to give up their seat?
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…?
You know that if goodwill continues, it becomes a right…
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
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.
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.
Of course, did they ask the person to move, then upload a photo of their face to shame them?
Manners are not the manners of the person who took the photograph.
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.
If they behave like that, the word ‘beanpaste girl’ is bound to come out ke ke
These are some really brazen bitches..is this the how the women in our country are?
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.
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.
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…
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.
So there’s only women riding on the subway?
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.