Although there are a lot of things that I’ve discovered about Korea’s culture after having lived here for nearly eight months, there’s an aspect of it that amazes me the most: the abundance of male “skinship.”
If the term is not that familiar, it’s the combination of the words “skin” and relationship” and basically refers to bonding between people through physical contact. I first encountered the term in a Japanese show but apparently, it also exists in the Konglish dictionary. Now, I’ve seen my guy friends back at home hugging for the briefest of moments, and that was only because they had not seen one another in a long time. Here in Kimchi Land, however, boys tend to go beyond, well, what you’d normally expect them to do to each other. Hugging from the front for a while is one thing, but what about hugging from behind…and for an entire conversation’s length? Unbelievable.
I thought the whole skinship business lived only in the world of K-pop and J-pop idols since I’ve seen the acts just on TV or in photos, and boy was I wrong. Not long after I came to Korea, reality struck: Korean skinship is everywhere. And no, the main participants aren’t girls(which is more natural, in my opinion);it’s the boys who perform skinship? a TON of it. Whether it’s embracing from any direction, holding hands, petting, feeding each other, sending messages in a cute way, or speaking in an especially close proximity, Korean boys seem to have truly mastered the art of skinship. And if you think that only effeminate boys do it, think again: the more muscular ones actively take part in skinship as well. What’s more is that while male skinship is quite common here, male-female skinship is a no-no. A lot of straight Korean couples are rather conservative when it comes to their actions in public. Talk about a reversal!
Of course, I’m not in any way against the said phenomenon. I think it’s great that guys here are open about showing their affection to their friends. In the Philippines, it’s very rare to see two men walking as though their sides had been glued together. Filipino men tend to lean towards trying to gain a macho image, or something close to it. It’s a bit of a turn-off for us girls, actually, when a guy does everything to seem manlier. Imagine my delight when I started seeing boys touch each other’s faces or sleep on another’s shoulder on the bus. Finally, they’re being true to themselves!
I wonder, though, when the idea of male skinship will be accepted in other parts of the world. How come female intimacy isn’t considered taboo? Men should stop confining themselves to the macho stereotype and start showing more physical love to their boy buddies. Enough of drinking or watching sports as top male bonding choices; it’s time for all-male sleepovers to rule!