195 COMMENTS

Ok, so apparently we need to find some time to start watching 2NE1 TV. For this week’s TL;DR, the top rated question was:

In an episode of 2NE1 TV, 2NE1 went to London, and when Park Bom saw a couple holding hands and kissing in public, she seemed surprised that they could do that so openly (and wished she could live there). Is PDA uncommon or looked down upon in Korea?

The simple answer to this is, yes, PDA (Personal Displays of Affection) is uncommon in Korea. In Korea, it’s called “skinship” which we think means friendship + skin = skinship, but that is actually a guess.

We touched upon the idea briefly in our post on What Korean Students Think of North Americans, when we were told that South Korean people supposedly think that North Americans are skanky. Skinship isn’t really common here between dating couples, and since it’s more common in North America, then it means we get around more. Ha! No, but really: we find it a bit odd, because we see a lot of people dating in Korea. All the time. Go to a coffee shop at night, and you’ll see tons of guys sitting across from girls and looking at each other, chatting, talking. They’re dating. We know it, but we only know it because we’ve been here for a while.

Korean Hand Holding

To us, holding hands meant dating. Now, we don't know...

Dating couples don’t often really physically show that they’re dating besides wearing matching clothing or sometimes holding hands. Hand holding exists here, yes, be that’s about the most we see to know someone is dating, and the reason why that isn’t that exciting to us is because friends in Korea, of all ages, hold hands freely. We’re not just talking about children or sisters, we’re talking about two guys, not dating, but good friends and 25 years old, holding hands. At first, we were a bit surprised because in North America once you’re an teenager/adult you don’t really hold hands for an extended period of time without dating that person, but we learned that in Korea, close friends hold hands.

That’s why we find it hard to tell the couples and the friends apart, because holding hands can mean closeness but not dating, while in North America, we have other clear displays of PDA to separate friends and daters. For example, in Korea we don’t really see a lot of skin touching, like girls snuggling up to guys when it’s cold. In fact, we think we can say that we’ve never actually seen people kiss in public in Korea. Trying to think back on it now, yeah…we can’t remember seeing it happen. Except once and it blew our minds. A young couple in a partially empty coffee shop, around 1 am. They were making out for something like half an hour. Oblivious to the world. Making out so hard that when we walked passed them to get to the washroom we stopped beside them, looked, and nothing. They wouldn’t stop. AWESOME! Other than that glorious moment, we haven’t seen people kiss in Korea.

Awkward Drama Hug is Awkward

Awkward Drama Hug is Awkward

We hope this lack of PDA should clarify why Korean dramas have some of the worst kissing scenes that we’ve ever seen. Are you kissing or just pressing your lips emotionlessly against each other? You call that a hug? Her arms are pinned at her sides!!! Really Goo Jun Pyo? You haven’t seen Jandi for 2 years, you just proposed and you don’t even KISS HER!!!!??? WHAT’S GOING ON!!!?? I’M SO STRESSED OUT!!!! AGHHHHH!!! *Martina leaves the room screaming and searches frantically for Coffee Prince, the only drama with decent passionate kissing*

*ahem*

Now we know that not everyone is like this, of course there will be couples PDAing it up in Korea, but it is really rare (unless you’re in the youthful club/dance floor/drinking zones) especially considering what we’re used to in North America, which is more like, “Hey, I just paid 20 bucks to see this movie, not to see you make out.”

We wonder, though, how affectionate people in Korea are in private. Not that we want to know all the details, of course, or not that we’re suggesting that Korean people are loveless. Nor can we fairly assume that all people will act the same way, just based on the examples of a few people. We’re just curious. K Dramas aren’t really the most reliable source material, you know? The two of us, for example, are really affectionate around each other in private, and feel like we can’t really be that affectionate in public because it might be viewed as inappropriate. Some of you might know about our Bobo rule (we said it in our Korean Masks Bloopers video), in which whenever one person says Bobo (Korean for “kiss”) the other person has to kiss them, no matter how stressed out or angry or tired or busy or whatever. Are other people as affectionate? Bah! Forget it. That’s an impossible question to answer.

ToFebruary
  1. This explains so much about kdramas. It’s weird with Heirs or inheritors, because between with Ester Lee, Rachel’s mom, and Secretary Yoon Jae Ho it was full make out like crazy in that episode when they first kissed, but when Cha Eun Sang and Kim Tan kiss it is that “dead” kiss. It could be that the mom and secretary haven’t seen each other for a long time and where getting it on, while the Tan just up and surprised Eun Sang with that kiss=”dead”, but still. Give me some passion!!

  2. Traci Hannon

    OH!!! thank God for this Video!!! I was extremely confused about, the slow motion hugs…in the kdramas
    Or the shocking phase ‘I like you’. I seriously couldn’t understand, why an episode would end with a
    suspenseful Hug, or kiss and the other person is acting like they are traumatized by any form of
    affectionate actions…

  3. Arrann Barrett

    Just so you know skinship literally just means a lot of skin to skin contact. Its not two words in one or anything and might i add some k dramas like Secret Garden or City Hunter have some not so stiff/childish kissing scenes lol

  4. Watch the kisses scenes from operation proposal, love rain & me too flower. Just one decent kiss for drama… Please somebody tell me why it’s so different the PDA scene in dramas from the movies???? And sex thing?!

  5. Here in the states I’ve heard that Korean people think all the girls are sluts bc Americans are more openly affectionate. This isn’t necessarily true. Just because for me being a hetero male in the United States i absolutely love being affectionate with my gf doesn’t make her a slut. Plus girls rock! That doesn’t mean we’ve had sex yet. Just that we like being affectionate & enjoy each other’s company. I mean come on who doesn’t like kissing with someone your in love with or with someone you really like? I do think there is a fine line of being affectionate and basically groping each other. Be wary & be courteous to other people not everyone wants to see it. Yet here in America giving your GF or BF some lovin by kissing and hugging imo it’s a nice thing. Honestly what’s so offensive with showing you love your partner?

  6. People should be allowed to express their feelings in any freedom. We live in the 21 century after all. As long as they dont go overboard to inapropriate touching and frenching in front of kids for example then i should be fine. Anything else is should be allowed according to personal freedom of action, Also cinema is art and art shouldnt be conformed to some ridiculous medieval laws. If the director feels there should be a love scene then there should be one. If a show shows people hugging and kissing it should be for all ages (not 15+!!) and if there is love-making and more then put it 16+ for example. This is how the normal standart should be. Otherwise how will children ever learn about how physical affection shows your real affection. I watch a lot of korean dramas but all those ridiculous obligations in them ruin an otherwise perfectly great series. I love the cuteness and sweetness of gestures etc which we dont see in amercan television but koreans shouldnt be affraid of exploring other human emotions too. They sure have no problems with hitting people in anger all the time in the dramas, so to be realistic what’s the issue with kissing and making love? Is it a sin? No its not. Its a normal human thing to do. And we’re all humans arent we.

  7. this is going to be hard for me and my fiance as we often make out in public, hold hands, hug each other and say sweet nothings to each other. we’re going there for him to meet my family, and we don’t know how they are going to react, seeing two of us together, and also – seeing how he’s white and i’m korean, they will judge me and won’t like the idea. i’m freaking out about all the racial slurs, and all kinds of nasty comments i or my fiance might get, just for being ourselves. it was already so hard dealing with all the racism crap in CANADA by korean/asian folks judging ME for “selling out” bullshit. but all that aside… being raised in korean culture, i can attest to seeing only rare occasion of my parents’ PDA – namely, my parents holding hands when they go out, WHEN THEY WERE DRUNK, or when my mom kissed my dad on his cheek for his birthday on a dare. i don’t get it. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH A LITTLE EXPRESSION OF LOVE? Oh well.. to each his or her own!

  8. Debra Millen

    Hey! I love all of your videos especially the video on how to make ramen and BB cream in Korea.. Awesome Videos… and your videos are the best!! P.S: I’m from Malaysia TEEHEE… I’m living in South East Asia so it’s hard for me to go to Korea… and THAT’S HOW I FOUND YOUR YT VIDS!!! :D Okay.. You guys rock so badly… and I have 1 question though…

    Who is your favourite Korean actor/actress/singer?? Please tell me… THANKS!!

  9. foladisqus

    “i need romance isnt too bad ;)

  10. Okay *bumping an extremely old blog* so what does the Korean public think about those kpop idol groups that hug and kiss each other on performances/TV? I understand a lot of it is fan-service but since you did say that  even men who are close friends can comfortably hold hands does that extend to hugs and kisses as well? I mean in some cultures kisses shared between those of the same gender is totally normal but I didn’t think Asian was one of those cultures… I’m Chinese American and my dad and brothers aren’t the touchy-feely type so it wasn’t until I got out and made guy friends who hugged each other a lot that I was like “Oh wow, guys hug too”; kissing, however, is extremely rare between those of the same sex.

  11. rocketeercody

    Alright, I’m not sure if this question will even be answered, but, I was talking to a native Korean, and I asked her about skinship, here’s the gist of what she said: “Skinship between the same sex doesn’t happen here, it’s between couples, most of us find it disgusting, but 100% of the time it is only between couples.” I’m getting mixed messages here :|

  12. Alright, so I don’t know when this was written, but I’m glad someone explained. I’m a Nigerian fan of Korean dramas and it always frustrated me when the girls don’t hug back! I do have to say it has changed in recent dramas though. A Gentleman’s Dignity, a new drama had great kissing scenes… and hugs. Flower boy ramyun shop had some kissing too… but this was very helpful in explaining some cultural differences in KD. Plus now I know what “skinship” means! LOL!

  13. here in Brazil girls can do this, hold hands, hug, sit in eachothers laps, i do this everyday with my friends, but boys, hum, nope XD but is really good to know that in korea the things are like that for the boy x boy relation^^

  14. talking about sitting in each other’s laps: i’m in an all-girls’ school and me and my friend did that once (okay, more often than once) and we got called to the teacher’s office. XD

  15. err… ok…. so now i know that boy-to-boy/girl-to-girl holding hands can just mean friendship in korea… i don’t know since when but i’m very into holding hands with my girl friends and i love skinship with them XD yes people look at us weird because that ain’t korea. how i wish i live in korea. 

  16. I love the Bobo rule!  <3 You guys are just too cute :D

  17. Anonymous

    I think the make-out session PDA stuff is a bit much. However, I dont see anything wrong with a hug. I’m an American and have been with a Korean girl for years. The cultural differences are kinda hard to deal with sometimes. For example, if I haven’t seen my girlfriend for a while, and I arrive in Seoul, the first thing on my mind is giving the absolute love of my life a big, loving embrace when I see her. I find it hard to believe that people who are deeply in love, no matter where they’re from, dont at least feel this same urge. (Dont believe me? Any of you guys shocked to see what you’re missing after you give your Korean girl a teddy bear?) But of course it always ends up as a one-way thing, her arms at her side, making me feel like some undesirable creep. I know it’s just culture, but I just think it’s kinda sad and it’s certainly unsatisfying. Societal pressure in Korea is too much in my opinion.

  18. That’s how it is in the Philippines, like Korean’s display of affection. So when I went back here in the states and people wanted to know those kind of stuff they were creeped out by my stories.  HAHAHA. :D

  19. Anonymous

    whoaa!! this is amusing! and i can’t agree more… its so frustrating sometimes when you watch a korean drama wherein the lead actors haven’t seen each other for a long time longing to be with each other, then when they come face-to-face, they’ll just stare and embrace lightly.. and the girl’s hands dropped straight without feelings at all…poof!  all the passion is gone!  i was disgusted at first when i watched some kissing scenes in korean dramas… Kissing is an art particularly when you have to portray this on the big or small screen. it is an expression of one’s love and desire with the person you love whom you want to be with..  i had observed that most of the korean actresses don’t know know how to kiss!   with the exception of Son Ye Jin.  but its worst when you see it from male actors who were suppose to initiate the ‘kiss’ in a kissing scene,  please don’t get me wrong.. but when you go to acting, then, by all means, you should act….it will also depend on the directors how they would evoke that emotion from their actors…   I was in Korea for for  two years, and i’d been oriented on the culture as well… so I thought, they’re a little bit “conservative” so i have to be careful too.. but one Sunday afternoon, I had to meet a friend in one of Lotte’s burger shop… while waiting for my friend, I glanced on a young korean couple, two tables apart from where I sat, passionately kissing without let-up!!  I was the one who got the shock of my life!! hahahaha!!  i was dumbfounded!  … and I thought, maybe they were a mix-bred of korean and the west…  other koreans watched with surprised as well… that was the first time i saw a korean couple displayed their affection publicly..  And yes, you are right, friends can hold hands in Korea, girl-to-girl or boy-to-boy… having this understanding, it was easy for me to distinguish between who is in friendship and who is dating.  my korean colleague shared to me that in earlier days, it would even take 2 years before a guy could hold the hand of his girlfriend!! whew!!!  

  20. Anonymous

    I am a girl and recently I was out with my female friend, and after she had a little too much to drink I was holding her hand so she wouldn’t wander into the street (she almost did…twice). Anyway because we are in the states, people were making a huge deal out of it! Guys were yelling at us and others were being creepy…I wish skinship wasn’t so strange here. I seriously just didn’t want her to get hit by a car..thats all.

  21. Actually, I live near Insadong and I’ve seen so many couples PDA-ing on the streets at night. The most common ones are in the subway where couples are hugging each other to death and affectionately touching each other…especially at night. Therefore, my impression of Koreans here are actually the opposite – where the men are not afraid to show how much they love their women in public – and it’s great!

  22. Oh… Now I suddenly get why every time I go to my favorite bar, one of the bartenders always says “Bobo”… I thought that was just something he did. Hmph. Now I don’t feel so special. ^_^

    Anywho, I live in another university area, Konkuk University, and I see a lot of affection on display. Maybe it’s just in college areas or something. Often when I’m sitting in a coffee shop in the afternoon, I’ll see couples cuddling up together. Or just walking down the street with the guy’s arm around the girl. Very non-friend like and more couple-like. And the guys I’ve dated have never shied away from giving me a peck in public or putting their arm around me.

    But I will say that it wasn’t always like this. I’ve been here for about four years and when I first got here, I didn’t see a lot of PDA. So, I guess it’s changing.

  23. Oh… Now I suddenly get why every time I go to my favorite bar, one of the bartenders always says “Bobo”… I thought that was just something he did. Hmph. Now I don’t feel so special. ^_^

    Anywho, I live in another university area, Konkuk University, and I see a lot of affection on display. Maybe it’s just in college areas or something. Often when I’m sitting in a coffee shop in the afternoon, I’ll see couples cuddling up together. Or just walking down the street with the guy’s arm around the girl. Very non-friend like and more couple-like. And the guys I’ve dated have never shied away from giving me a peck in public or putting their arm around me.

    But I will say that it wasn’t always like this. I’ve been here for about four years and when I first got here, I didn’t see a lot of PDA. So, I guess it’s changing.

  24. PARK BOM PROBABLY WASN’T SURPRISED BECAUSE IT WAS UNFAMILIAR TO HER!

    She was more like happy in the sense that that’s the kind of affection she’s familiar with. That’s why she said she fits in London. SHE PRETTY MUCH GREW UP IN THE STATES. I don’t think Park Bom’s all that conservative like most Korean girls :) 

    I enjoyed this one Simon and Martina :)

    BTW…I have a question? Is it just me but it seems like watching K-dramas and reality shows made me a bit more conservative cause I think that it’s cute how Koreans romancicize (there’s no such word pretty much invented it LOL) and I think it’s helped me.

    How about you guys do you think your POV about things has changed because of living in Korea?

    • I agree completely with that! I’ve been watching Kdramas and have been finding it so utterly adorable that I find PDA in the States a little disgusting (like making-out—honestly it would do everyone a favor if people did that behind closed doors). What I’m trying to say is, I’m almost beginning to prefer that sort of public affection, well not as extreme as Korea, rather than what I’m seeing in the States.

    • Anonymous

      No, you didn’t invent it: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/romanticize

  25. I find this to be interesting because I see couples being affectionate all the time in Daegu.  They are not making out in public (which to be honest is a little uncomfortable for others to watch).  But they constantly have their arms around each other in ways that are very different when they are with their friends.  I have even seen older married couples who are like this when they are on dates (i.e. no kids).  I have heard that Daegu is supposed to be a  more conservative city but when it comes to PDAs Daegu sounds more progressive than Seoul.  Actually I had some older Korean friends tell me that holding hands is for friends, but a woman holding a man’s elbow that means you are a couple.  I guess it is just the opposite from traditional English/American displays of affection.

  26. indie-the_demented-pixie

    omg i do that too at kdramas!! i once sat there like AAAARGH WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT! THATS NOT A HUG/KISS!!

    but the holding hands part sounds good because im used to doing that, but not everyone in england is comfortable with that :/ boo :(

  27. when i saw the Awkward Drama Hug is Awkward,, I knew you guys know some things that piss me off in the Korean Drama..

  28. First of all, yes I guess here in Arabic countries we do like in Korea. It like you are talking of the life here EXCEPT that it is VERY common fro the couples to hold hands here..
    Then, I gotta say, you guys make me ROLF all the time,thank you, Whenever there is something sexy or hot, I hear Junus’s Intoxication music and cry laughing.. you are so funny.  I wish you can just do on EYK and make us ROLF more..

  29. Hmm, I live in Sinchon, which is pretty close to Hongdae and is also a well-known university area, and there are lots of couples! In fact, I would say I see more hand-holding here than in the US. AND if you go to a club (especially in Hongdae) you can see VERY public displays of… I suppose you could call it affection but many would just call it sex. Though, maybe that’s just an experience unique to me.

  30. Anonymous

    That’s Something I actualy realy like about the korean culture :)
    Srsly some ppl in america need to get a freakin room

  31. I like your idea about saying bbobbo.

  32. A Korean who is flirting or romantically involved with you will tend to turn into you as you both walk down the street, bumping you and lightly touching as if attempting to run you off the road.

  33. Sara Eden

    Hello again!

    I think your video sums it up nicely but I do think that this is another thing that is starting to change in Korea (just like bare arms/sleeve-less shirts). I live in Deagu, which is well known for being a very conservative city, and I feel like I see TONS of couples holding hands and even some couples kissing each other on the subway and in coffee shops. I agree with you though, it’s no where NEAR the level of PDA in North America. However, it’s not so unusual here in Deagu that I feel uncomfortable holding hands with my guy or even kissing goodbye.

  34. Sara Eden

    Hello again!

    I think your video sums it up nicely but I do think that this is another thing that is starting to change in Korea (just like bare arms/sleeve-less shirts). I live in Deagu, which is well known for being a very conservative city, and I feel like I see TONS of couples holding hands and even some couples kissing each other on the subway and in coffee shops. I agree with you though, it’s no where NEAR the level of PDA in North America. However, it’s not so unusual here in Deagu that I feel uncomfortable holding hands with my guy or even kissing goodbye.

  35. This has to be the dumbest blog I’ve ever seen.  Of all the things one could focus on in the world, these two pathetic excuses for human beings have chosen to blog about the most mundane and stupid details of Korean society.  Just look at the bloggers anyways.  The guy looks like a complete washout loser and the girl is fugly as hell, she just hides it by spraypainting 29 layers of makeup on her face.  Christ, this is what the world is coming to.  Two pathetic jackasses running a blog about how koreans take a shit.

    Hey, to the two idiots that run the show here: I wish you all the best.  I hope your blog evolves into a tv series and you find fame and fortune and a wonderful life.

    Unfortunately some of us have more important things to do than to keep up with your stupidity.

    • mimikimete175

      well if you don’t like them, then why are you watching their videos that is just ridiculus… you say you have more important things to do but you loose like 5 minutes of your life commenting that you have other things to do… just go get a life please

  36. Anonymous

    Oh gosh! I didn’t know about the ‘bobo rule’! So funny..and I’m so gonna impose that rule from now on :)

  37. why park bom surprised with the kissing?i tot her also from overseas tho?

  38. Winifred Hwang

    I’m pretty sure someone’s head would explode in Korea if they watched True Blood, haha

    • True Blood is on TV in Korea. I remember laughing when it was advertised as a “hardcore-uh sex-uh vampire show”

      • Lola Marigolda

        They edit it soo heavily that it is nearly unrecognizable.  I’m not just talking about the sex scenes, but anything with more than a minute amount of blood and large amounts of dialog in scenes involving LaFayette.  

  39. Anonymous

    i totally agree with your views about when you are watching these k-dramas and they give this petty kiss where they just touch each other’s lips or a little smack! (O_o) what type of kiss is that?! and when they hug each other and the other person is all stiff and not hugging back…is that really a hug? it looks like that person doesnt want you touching them! (=_=) it is quite frustrating to watch those romantic scenes, where my heart hurts because of it…i get sexual frustration just from watching it! (>_>)

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