Laura (1) Korean Teenagers
If there’s one thing I love about Korean teenage girls, it’s that you rarely meet one who is a slag. No doubt slags exist in Korea and no doubt there are examples of Korean 15-year-old girls who trowel on make-up, wear Satan’s panties and are promiscuous, but I haven’t met any. In the UK, unless you teach in a top girls school, and I was fortunate enough to have taught stints in two of the top schools, notably Colchester Royal Grammar School (a boys school) and Colchester Girls’ High School, a large percentage of the girls are strumpets. Many of them were good students and decent kids but they still dressed and behaved in a way I didn’t think appropriate: obsessed with their bodies, with looking sexy, obsessed with sex, with behaving in a sexual manner and in flaunting their undeveloped bodies all of which comprised to denude them of personality. From childhood recollections to my more recent experiences as a teacher, being a slapper, in the UK at least, drastically improves a girls popularity among both other girls, and naturally, among the boys. My sister is convinced that had she been in those elite ranks, she’d have had a more interesting life. Amusing though this comment is, I’m glad she wasn’t.
Laura, one of my Korean students, is 15 and totally adorable and like many Korean teenagers, a country with the lowest rate of teen pregnancy in the world, she is, in the cute Korean way, ‘innocent.’ Laura definitely has an interest in boys and one of our regular conversation topics centers on which boy band she is currently into and which boys she finds attractive. Recently, she has started using perfume which I would imagine she applies after leaving her school and before she comes to the haggwon in which I teach. The ‘safest’ place for her to do this is probably on the elevator up to the third floor, where the school is located. Her perfume predilection started about 2 months ago and in the initial stages of pioneering application, I think she doused herself in it. The smell was ‘in your face’ and strong enough to remain in class and around the school, long after she had left.
To compliment the perfume, she has also started wearing the faintest traces of make-up, basically lipstick and some mascara. The make up isn’t applied in the manner many English strumpet’s apply it, which is by slapping it on in the manner a plasterer might plaster a wall. I’ve seen plenty of young teenage girls with such thick mascara it looks more like cladding and usually little pebbles of it will be stuck to their eyelashes or face and will occasionally flake off like little pieces of a crusty, albino scab. The art of teenage make-up, like their interest in sex, is uniquely British, which is to say, is an overstatement and hence pots of mascara and eyeliner and all the other accouterments of teen tartery are used with as much subtlety as that of a circus clown. For the most part, Korean teenage girls, certainly under the age of 18, are discouraged and often forbidden from make-up and so when a little is used, forced into subtlety of application, it often enhances their features. You probably wouldn’t notice Laura’s make-up if it weren’t for the fact that when applied, she’s incredibly sheepish and self-conscious. As for her lipstick, it is so faint I imagine it’s simply lip balm with the slightest trace of added colour.
Discerning how much make up Korean girls do wear, is difficult as girls, like children everywhere, will ‘push the limits’ and hence I hear stories of girls wearing ‘short’ skirts to school or who wear make up but in Korea a ‘lot’ of make-up is actually very little and a ‘short’ skirt doesn’t mean you can see their knickers.
In British schools, I often saw tell-tale signs that girls were wearing a pair of Satan’s panties and it wasn’t unusual to see that flimsy bit of ‘string’ riding above a girl’s waistband. This is a sight I’ve never seen in Korea and Korean adults are often mortified to know that western girls, often not yet teenagers, are permitted to wear, or even want to wear, such sexualised clothing. Indeed, in Korea, I’ve never caught glimpse of a girls knickers. While it is solely an opinion based on my observations, and which doesn’t include routing through the children’s underwear section in my local E-Marte, I would imagine that Laura’s knickers, like those of her friends, are void of the translucent panels, little bows and lacy frill edges that are used to sexualise the bodies of little kids. Her knickers probably reach to her navel and are styled like the baggy blue things, British girls were compelled to wear for PE in the 60’s and 70’s.
I mention knickers, panties and thongs, not for any perverse reason but to highlight the divergence of social values between Korean and western societies. How children ‘choose’ to adorn their bodies, the extent to which this adornment is encouraged or tolerated, how it is subsequently received by societies both at home and abroad, expresses and exposes important attitudes and values. In Britain at least, there is a difference between ‘knickers’ and ‘panties;’ ‘knickers’ are functional whereas the purpose of ‘panties’ is two-fold, to induce arousal in the observer and a sense of sexiness in the wearer. Satin’s panties take this to a totally different level. In Britain, many girls, will tart up their twat with ‘sexy’ panties or a thong while still children and often before using make up. In Korea, while a little experimentation with make-up might occur whilst still at school, the transition from knickers to panties, from innocence to awareness, probably occurs at about the same time a girl becomes an adult.
Over the duration of a week or so, Laura’s perfume gradually mellowed until it was actually quite pleasant and on a few occasions, when it hung faintly in the air, I was reminded of my mother who always wore floral type perfume. It has become a regular habit of hers to hold her wrist under my nose and ask for my opinion on her latest scent. I then discovered, from her brother, that the various perfumes she parades, are her mother’s and are sneaked on when no one is at home.