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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.

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  1. Anonymous

    Maybe it’s because of how homosexuality is viewed in Korea. Not sure exactly how it is, but in NA, it’s reasonable to assume they may be a couple since they are doing what couples do. But since homosexual couples are not common in Korea, they just assume they’re friends. It’s like that in places like India too. 

    But i dunno, nowadays i see a lot of same-sex friends acting affectionate too.

  2. My Princess has decent passionate kissing and i actually felt uncomfortable watching because im used to the worst kissing scenes  ever .:P(i watch too much Korean dramas)-ireland is  like North America  with holding hands.

  3. My Princess has decent passionate kissing and i actually felt uncomfortable watching because im used to the worst kissing scenes  ever .:P(i watch too much Korean dramas)-ireland is  like North America  with holding hands.

  4. My Princess has decent passionate kissing and i actually felt uncomfortable watching because im used to the worst kissing scenes  ever .:P(i watch too much Korean dramas)-ireland is  like North America  with holding hands.

  5. Is it the same for family members of the opposite sex… I have a younger brother and I often travel so when we are with each other we are very affectionate like kiss on the cheek and constant hugs and clinginess well but that is normal where I am from? Is that looked down upon also?

    • Koreans these days are open minded when it comes to “culture differences” … people could look at you when you kiss your brother but, they will just accept it thinking that it’s just a part of a culture that you are grown up with. People will not look down upon it…

  6. Definitely true for same-sex couples. My boss (and friend) is very touchy-feely by my standards, but I understand where he’s coming from.

  7. South America is kinda mixed. Guys don’t hold hands, but we hug or kiss on each other’s cheeks (if we are very close, or family, or Italian, lol). Girls can hold hands, hug and kiss as friends. It’s perfectly acceptable for guys and girls to kiss on each other’s cheeks as a greeting or as a sign of affection.

    Holding hands and further skinship between guys and girls means dating or very close friendship or unrequited love, and BOY is it unrequited love, mostly girls initiate it and guys are all like (whoa she likes me), but meh, only as a friend (caveat emptor!).

  8. Didn’t Park Bom grow up in America for a while? It shouldn’t be that strange if she has at least.

  9. you know the kissing in dramas is so horrible because of the “ministry of banning things” (official title). dramas aren’t allowed to have open mouth kissing or it will get censored. case in point: Iris. There was a slightly open mouthed kiss that occurred between TOP and a chick he later killed, and it got cut out because it was too much!!

  10. I also love how in the Korean dramas, when the girl is being kissed, she always looks so  bewildered/horrified.  She never looks like she wants to be kissed until the VERY end when they are officially together.

  11. Anonymous

    so what’s the deal with the piggy back ride? (i’ve seen it in kdramas); isn’t that considered skinship? How about a kiss on the forehead?is that a big deal?

  12. How about guys holding the bags of their girlfriends? I think that’s also a sign of their affection towards each other.

  13. ervin_goodboy

    It is true that indians do really hold hands even though they’re of the same sex. LOL.

  14. I heard in India it’s common for heterosexual men to walk down the street holding hands.  It really does highlight how homophobic the US is when it comes to same sex affection.  But what do you expect from a country founded by puritans.

  15. I heard in India it’s common for heterosexual men to walk down the street holding hands.  It really does highlight how homophobic the US is when it comes to same sex affection.  But what do you expect from a country founded by puritans.

  16. I heard in India it’s common for heterosexual men to walk down the street holding hands.  It really does highlight how homophobic the US is when it comes to same sex affection.  But what do you expect from a country founded by puritans.

    • Anonymous

      I like to hold hands with my girlfriend to keep her close to me, it’s like a protective action, as if to say, “you’re safe with me honey, and I could never let you go”. However, I never ever hold hands with my male friends, just don’t have nearly the same feelings towards them. Plus their hands are big and rough, maybe even dirty/smelly ewww. I’m sure guys appreciate the confidence in their own ability to take care of themselves. I dont think it’s as much homophobia as you might think.

      • Actually, this sounds exactly like homophobia. Down to the eww.

        • Unaballer

          Woah…i think you missed my point…i’m only suggesting that the reason you don’t see men holding hands in the US is not actually because we’re all homophobic puritans, as the previous poster implied, but perhaps we’re just repulsed by each other.

    • Its the same in Western-Europe. Though in some countries when friends of the same sex meet they kiss eachother. On the cheeks. I think its was in Spain and/or Italy.

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