If you have lived in South Korea for some time and you see two men holding hands while walking down the street, you won’t think that is strange at all, but if you are new to Korean culture and you don’t know a thing about friendship between or among males in South Korea, you will most probably think that those two men “holding hands” are gay lovers. This is exactly what happened to my brother-in-law and his best buddy when they spent a week in Boracay. A couple of times, they were spotted holding hands or with their arms around each other. Some people were staring at them; some were whispering behind their backs. My brother-in-law had lived in the Philippines for five years and he can understand some words and phrases in Filipino. He remembers hearing the “whisperers” say Bakla yan! (They’re gay!) Being gay is NOT a crime in the Philippines. In fact, it has become socially acceptable, but we rarely see “gays” holding hands or doing PDA (public display of affection).
My brother-in-law and his best friend aren’t gay lovers. They are just very close friends, and in South Korea, it is normal for male friends to hold hands or have their arms around each other while walking. Oh, you should see my husband when he’s with his buddies! When he and his friends are drunk or they are just being silly, they even grab one another’s balls! Not in a sexual way, or course. ^^
Sometimes my husband and his best friend go to the 목욕탕 (mogyogtang: public bath) together to bathe or relax in the sauna, and to scrub each other’s backs. This is a give-and-take act of friendship or sign of closeness, not only between men, but also between women. When I came to Korea for the first time, my female friend and her mom took me to the 목욕탕. It was embarrassing being totally naked in front of other women, but what embarrassed me the most was having my back scrubbed by my friend’s mother. I told her she didn’t have to do that, but she said friends or family members of the same sex in Korea do that a lot in the 목욕탕.
Hubby is very close to my sister’s husband and he has been trying to convince him to go to the 목욕탕 with him. Yes, we have 목욕탕 in the Philippines, but only Koreans go there. It’s in Korean Town. At first, my brother-in-law wanted to go, but when he found out what 목욕탕 is, he changed his mind. My husband is very persistent. He brings it up every time we go to the Philippines. He knows that Filipinos aren’t familiar with the culture of public bathing, but he wants to build a closer relationship with my brother-in-law by scrubbing his back and having him do the same thing.
The first time my husband tried to hug my Filipino brother-in-law, poor BIL was taken aback. I had to explain Korean culture to BIL, and now that he understands, he’s okay with it and the occasional holding hands.
- PDA in SK (chrissantosra.wordpress.com)
- Oh My, He’s Got Two Wives! (chrissantosra.wordpress.com)
- Korea’s Drinking Culture (chrissantosra.wordpress.com)
- Different Levels of PDA (papidre.wordpress.com)
- Will a gay athlete ever ‘come out’ in the Philippines? (rappler.com)
- Things gay people are still told (rappler.com)
- Muso’s, Metrosexuals and Military Men. (twodirtydiaries.wordpress.com)
- Don’t bare legs in India, Homosexuality is illegal in India says Asian Development Bank Advisory #WTFnews (kractivist.wordpress.com)
- Magic Johnson’s Son Photographed Holding Hands With Boyfriend (seattlepi.com)