Touching the Opposite Sex in Korea

Touching the opposite sex in Korea may be different than what you’re used to. Korean culture is a conservative culture, and not everyone is cool with public displays of affection in Korea. Find out what’s ok and what’s not ok with touching the opposite sex in Korea!

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Covered in this video:

Touching the opposite sex in Korea
Touching the same sex in Korea
What Korean parents do and don’t do

What do you think about Korea’s culture of public displays of affection? What’s touching the opposite sex like in your cultures? Share with us in the comments!

About Keith

Keith Kim is a Korean-American living in Seoul, Korea. He likes espresso shots, photography art and he loves his Playstation 3. He started seoulistic.com as a hobby site, and is now in the process of turning it into a full-time business. Wish him luck! Check out his blog for an uncensored view on entrepreneurship, dating and life in Korea.Personal Blog: gyopokeith.com Facebook: facebook.com/gyopokeithkim Twitter: @gyopokeith Youtube: "Gyopokeithe-mail me anytime at: gyopokeith [at] gmail.com

27 comments

  1. myra

    hmmmmm…very interesting video..I also heard from my korean friends before that you can’t be friends with someone who is older than you because there’s this thing about being respectful towards them and you can’t treat them as your equal. I have 2 bestfriends who are younger than me and my korean friends seem to think it’s kinda weird….

  2. Age is a really big thing in Korea, so it’s more common for people to be best friends with people of the same age. Being younger/older, even with friends, is kind of like a older/younger brother/sister relationship. The older tends to (not always) take care of the younger.

  3. Myra,

    I guess it also depends on how serious your friends take Korean culture also. Age tends to be a major factor in terms of who gives and who gets respect. Whether they deserve or not is obviously an entirely different subject. Like Keith said, the older in general tend to care for the younger, while the younger in general give deference to their elders.

  4. I live in Gwangju now, and being from another Asian country, I do know what excessive skinship is still not greatly accepted. I have to say though, skinship is awkwardly practiced in South Korea. Lots of couples I’ve seen in here tend to freely do skinship. From only holding hands and arms, to shoulder hugs, up to straight front hugs spiced with kisses. So why do I say awkward? Because they actually practice skinship with same-sex friends, of course not up to long, deep hugs or kissing, but it still bothers me. My Indonesian friend once said that he literally jumped out of his lab chair because one of his labmate, which was giving him shoulder massage, suddenly dropped his hands and gave him a back hug. My friend knew later that his labmate is straight, has a cute girlfriend, but known to do lots of skinship to his friends, especially his older friends. Apparently, this is something they called “aegyo” for the “hyungs”.

  5. jasmine

    Honestly, I find this video as no longer true as with regards to Koreans way of dealing to their opposite sex. I’ve seen too much PDA anywhere here in Korea from Korean younger generation. What with or without their couple shirt, too much hugging and eye contact as if they are the only people in the subway or in the scalator; as in anywhere. The girl in video seems to be hypocritical. Girl, I think what you’re saying don’t apply anymore to your generation and to the more younger Koreans. I’m disgusted because the Korean girls/women are actually bolder than the boys in the PDA dept. Sorry, but this is what I observe in my more than 3 yrs here. Just what I have observed, I hope I am wrong though..

  6. Yes, you’re right that the younger generation is more open to PDA :)

  7. faissal

    Wow, a very interesting video. Personally, I (male) was born and raised in Germany, but with arabic parenting. I think the arab culture is in this point similar to the korean culture, but not that extreme. Like, its for sure possible to hug someone in the streets, it would be like “hey I was missing her/him so what i wanna hug”. But like kissing in front of other people (I mean intense kissing, not that little one on the cheek) is not what people do, also in front of kids or your own children. Regarding the very direct way of some people of the same gender to express their affection, I think it got kind of normal here in Germany, but more in a gaging way between friends. For example if I say to a good friend of mine who I know understands this gag-type of chat “hey sweetie, you look cute” with a wink, he will probably reply with a blown kiss lol. But people for sure will be like confused if he would sit on my lap or something, thinking we were a gay couple. In arab countrys its more casual to do things like this, people you meet often tend to be friendzoned and have like a total brother-sister or brother-brother relationship regardless of age (proposing is mostly only possible by your parents asking their parents). Therefor its quite normal to like hang out with your “brothers” and do funny stuff.
    I also think that this whole mindset is affected by the view on gay couples. In arab countrys, mostly you wont see any gay people in public or at all in your entire life. Its a thing the majority doesnt really accept or kind of looks down to, thats why they dont get the idea that a group of boys being friendly to each other means they could be gay rather than they are just close friends. From what I heard, read, and watched its most likely the same situation in SK.

    Anyways, keep up the good work! We all hope to see more of these videos :-)

  8. rockchiq

    hmm…interesting. I watch kdrama and no wonder if body contact happens it’s like a big deal or something.

  9. Amanda

    Very interesting video. I concur with rockchiq, I’ve been watching a few K-Dramas and noticed the same thing. The episodes are an 1 and 4 minutes long, and the main characters who are “in love” each other never really do anything. Then finally something happens…15 episodes later…cue Inception soundtrack…THEY HUG. Anticlimatic much? Lol.

  10. maria

    i am agree to jasmine

  11. Mariama

    Hi! Just like faissal, I grew up in the West with foreigner parents. My family comes from Sierra Leone (w Africa) and I was raised in America. Since they brought their culture, my parents raised me as if I were in Africa and I completely embraced it. Recently I’ve realized Asian and African cultures are quite similar in philosophy so I’m not quite shocked by any of the tips in the video because I too have NEVER seen my parents kiss! Men can hold hands and sleep in the same bed without being labeled gay (mostly because like faissal said, most ppl are not openly gay in our countries as in the US); generally ppl are not overtly touchy-feely. Of course America has taught me to embrace PDA daily but I very clearly know which situations call for NO PDA. Its funny though to see how quickly a kiss can turn into a lecture!

    As young ppl we change the world!

  12. MOHAMMED

    Your comment…i like Korean culture and respecting public its like in my country Yemen

  13. sal

    Hello, very cool and instructive site!

    By the way, Korea is the ONLY country where I have seen guys holding their girlfriend s’ bags while walking in the streets… I guess it is viewed as the ‘gentleman’s thing to do” (?!). Perhaps, but I find this hilarious! Any thoughts??! :-))

  14. The culture is pretty similar with my country, Indonesia. Though as the time goes by, people don’t really care about it anymore. Cheek or forehead kissing and gentle hug are tolerable. Stronger and longer hug is also tolerable if people can see that they are married couple or family related. But a kiss on lips is big no. :)
    Nah, younger generation is the exception. Most of them don’t even care a bit and just do whatever they want in public.
    Then the adults will just giving umm… that kind of eyes… and “tsk tsk tsk” ㅊㅋsound… without any reprimand.

  15. Guillaume Brière

    I’m lucky to look younger then ^^
    I heard from my friend the same thing about respect of the older people. Well I’m 6 years older than her but we really talk equal to equal, and it doesn’t bother her at all

  16. Rosel

    Heyy..nobody compared this to american culture! Things like french kissing,”rubbing”, PDA for homosexuals and girl friend kisses are very normal for them. Somehow, even if I’m open minded in these kind of scenarios, I am still proud of the conservative upbringing of Asian culture. Love is different from just feeling y’know the H word. :)

  17. amon

    Your comment…kit then what is awolled by korean girls in private time, to which extent touching etc goes or is allowed by them and also in the korean culture concerning relationship in private mode

  18. mk

    wow yeah i’m american born and raised and I love kdramas and am planning to teach in Korea when I graduate from college. I could tell from watching Korean shows that PDA is defintely a big deal. The thing is in high school despite rules there was alot of PDA stuff going on and while it did get old after seeing it all the time but it wasn’t meant in a horny/lusty type of way. I think Americans are just more comfortable expressing themselves in physical ways… I think its cute that Koreans don’t really do PDA because it kinda makes the time leading up to any type of ‘skinship’ all the more intense. But at the same time having grown up constantly hugging/casually touching my friends, of either sex, I think it will probably be one of the harder things to adjust to when I’m in Korea :(

  19. Deidrea

    That explains a lot, actually. Super Junior, for one. XD Thanks for the insight!

  20. Deidrea

    Thanks for being the American voice, Keith. The guys-holding-hands comment threw me off too. I always enjoy the segments you’re in!

  21. sahar

    well in my country iran
    its more casual to do things like this, people you meet often tend to be friendzoned and have l brother-brother relationship regardless of agemostly .
    In iran ,you wont see any gay people in public or at all in your entire life. It doesnt really accept or kind of looks down to, thats why they dont get the idea that a group of boys being friendly to each other means they could be gay rather than theyReligious are just close friends.
    we dont accept gay and if 2 men hug or kiss each other its not at all bad of course not on lips . we are muslim and we dont even shake hand with opposite sex but we have lot kind of people that they have their idea
    if someone is Religious she or he never touch opposie sex unless he or she is confidant I mean like wife mom dad brother and sister but if touching happend we dont make a big deal of it unless that person be a bad man but we have lots of peple who arent very Religious and they do what they want to do but not in public

  22. Rainey

    This makes me kinda happy about being able to be so affectionate with the same sex in Korea. I am very affectionate with my friends. My bestie and I would walk around school with linked arms or holding hands, too! And LOTS of hugs. Although, I was like that with a lot of guy friends too, just minus the hand-holds because it would be misconstrued. I’ve had people ask if my best friend and I were lesbians! I’m American and I live in the south.

  23. SL

    It is interesting video… I am curios about the skinship between sibling of opposite sex in Korea… Is it normal? Anyone have any idea? Thanks…