Friday, 16 December 2011

Aegyo: Korea's Cute Coquette

In Korea there is something called "aegyo". They translate it as charming, which is definitely not the best translation. Aegyo is basically when an adult acts childlike in order to come over as cute. It is usually done by women, but men sometimes do aeqyo too, particularly in the early stages of a romantic relationship. Aegyo is basically acting cute coquettishly. This is probably a good translation for aegyo: "cute coquette." Korean women usually do aegyo to break her male target's resistance as she manipulates him to do her will.

I get that aegyo is cute. I also like cute things -- a cute kitten can melt me in a second. What I don't get is why aegyo is sexy. Korean men actually thinks it is sexy when their girlfriends act like little girls. Personally I'm completely put off by it. I find the nagging-manipulation of aegyo, like any type of emotional manipulation, distasteful. Also, that men should find such childlike behaviour sexually exciting borders on paedophilia, I think. (I cannot help but wonder if there is a correlation between child sexual abuse and a culture that views childlikeness sexually attractive. I couldn't find much information on the topic; this post by The Grand Narrative may be a start.)

As I mentioned earlier, aegyo is not exclusively used by Korean women. Korean men also do aegyo, as the videos below demonstrate.

However, male aegyo sometimes works the other way. Instead of an adult trying to act cute, a young man could act more mature, self-confident or tough towards a female that is his senior. The following video illustrates this:

I've often been asked about my interest in Korean women and why I don't yet have a Korean girlfriend. There are different reasons, but one is that I really do not find aegyo sexually attractive. On some isolated occasions I thought it cute, and can appreciated it as an interesting cultural phenomenon. However, sexually it is a turn off for me. I definitely find mature women attractive, not little girls.

A bad aegyo moment. Sorry.
But, let me not be too hypocritical. I've done aegyo myself on occasion, because I know the results it gets in this culture. Also, apparently I speak Korean very cute. The reason is two fold. First, my Korean ability is quite elementary so I end up sounding a little like a toddler clumsily putting together sentences and we all know how cute that can be. Second, I used to learn much of my Korean from women, so I ended up speaking like the girls whose intonation I copied. Therefore, I'm often doing aegyo without it being my intention. I've started watching how Korean men act tough in Korean films and have tried that instead, but from the reactions of some of my students I think it came across as the reverse aegyo that men sometimes used, which I spoke about earlier. While I'm not a fan of aegyo, I catch myself sometimes being an aegyo culprit.

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