Korean girls sometimes touch each other in public.
(Photo Source: allkpop.com)
But... it's not what you think...
Korean girls are just…a little bit more physically friendly with each other…than many Western girls (just in my experience...).
(Photo Source: weheartit.com)
In Korea, Westerners might notice that Korean girls generally feel comfortable showing physical affection with their female friends. An example of this is when Korean females hold hands when they walk down the street. This behavior might be confusing at first, but this is something that I have gotten used to since I moved to Korea over two years ago.
Initially, when Korean females held my hand in public….I wasn’t sure if it was a romantic gesture… or a friendly gesture.
I learnt rather quickly... that this is actually A VERY COMMON FRIENDLY GESTURE AMONG KOREAN WOMEN.
I was a little disappointed. ㅋㅋㅋ
There is nothing sexy or even risqué about Korean girls holding hands in public.
In Australia, I don’t feel physically close to other Australian women. I even turn around when another Australian female adjusts her stockings. I don’t want my female friends to get the wrong idea. Korean females generally look unphased by being naked with other females, and also look comfortable when they are being physically close with other females. I have discussed previously my feelings on being naked with Korean females when I discussed the Korean 찜질방 bathhouse. See here; http://luiginakorea.blogspot.com/2011/08/naked-together-bathing.html#!/2011/08/naked-together-bathing.html
I think the difference (in this case) between Australian females and Korean females could be the difference in ideas relating to personal space, and also the emphasis in Korea on age-influenced relationships.
In Korea, Koreans feel closer to others when they know the other person’s age. For notes on age in Korea, see here; http://luiginakorea.blogspot.com/2011/08/benefits-of-korean-age.html#!/2011/08/benefits-of-korean-age.html
So, Korean females will call me 언니 (older sister) or 동생 (younger sister) to create some kind of relationship between us… even though we are not genetically related. This creates a feeling of proximity and intimacy.
Let me add that I do not mind if Korean females touch me at all (as long as it isn’t pushing or hair pulling… that reminds me too much of scary girls in High School).
These are the different kinds of touching that I have experienced (culturally?) with Korean girls… that I would probably never ever ever try with Australian girls;
· Holding hands in a coffee shop
· Walking hand in hand
· Linking arms while walking
· Female friend stroking my hair
· Female friend stroking my arm/placing her hand on my leg.
These actions sound slightly sexy, but they are not at all sexy….at least between Korean females...it is a sign of 'closeness'.
There is no Korean version of ‘The L Word’ (most detailed lesbian drama of all time). I have heard about Korean lesbians, but I have not yet met one. I would be curious to meet one. I have seen some Korean females (possibly lesbians?) in gay bars in Seoul, but their community seems small.
One reason why uni-gender touching is totally acceptable between Koreans (and does not raise eyebrows at all) is that there is not an open presence of gay culture in Korea. Many older Koreans still think that ‘gay’ is a ‘foreign problem’, and there are ‘no Korean gays’. This is laughable. There are many gay Koreans… they just hide it well from their parents and from society, for the most part.
Even though it is somewhat taboo in Korea for male+female couples to touch each other intimately in public (Korean couples can kiss in public…but not too much), touching between Koreans of the same gender is perfectly OK.
It is not uncommon to see Korean males walking with their arms draped over each other’s shoulders... but this is never perceived as 'gay', just 'friendly'.