South Korea & Netflix: Dubbing Is Accessibility/Inclusion

Dr. Jarryd Willis PhD
10 min readDec 5, 2022

South Korea continues to have the best content on Netflix & no other country comes close

“It’s not always good to have long subtitles. They ruin the immersion.”

— Mi-Joo in Run-On, another brilliant South Korean show (obviously)

“South Korea has the fastest Internet connection speed and the highest internet penetration rate of 96%, being cited as “the most heavily connected society.”

Dubbing & Accessibility (James Goodman, 2022 May 25)

While Squid Game won significant acclaim for its plot, direction, and acting, one element was roundly mocked by critics and viewers alike: its dubbing. Flat and jarring, Squid Game’s English-language dub often felt like an afterthought, with a range of unconvincing performances undermining an otherwise stellar production. With Squid Game’s popularity taking Netflix largely by surprise, the company’s failure to produce a high-quality dub is somewhat understandable.

However, with all signs pointing to Money Heist: Korea having a significant global pull, this time the company has no excuses. While certain purists may argue that subtitles are superior when it comes to watching foreign dramas, Squid Game’s subtitles also had a range of translation issues that affected the nuance and meaning of the dialogue.

Still, dubbing remains incredibly popular — and while for some viewers this may just be a matter of personal preference, for others

dubbing is a matter of accessibility.

As such, Money Heist: Korea must significantly improve on Squid Game’s dubbing if it is to reach, and retain, as wide an audience as possible.”

Jarryd: After watching Money Heist: Korea I feel that they did an excellent job. Looking forward to part 2 💁🏻‍♀️

South Korea’s Birthrate — Woosang Hwang & Seonghee Kim, 2021

Korea has become the lowest-fertility country in the world (Statistics Korea, 2019).

Gender inequality based on the social and cultural context is one of the main reasons for the fertility drop in Korea (Woo, 2010; Yoo, 2012).

https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/total-fertility-rate

South Korea — EunyoungHong & Kang, 2017

The prevalence of [unintended] pregnancy [7.9%] and induced abortion [71.6%] are much lower in Korea than are those of other countries.

South Korean & Feminism — Young-Im Lee, 2022

The gender wage gap in South Korea is the widest of OECD economies.

Nonetheless, around half of all men in their 20s and 30s seem to think that women have an easier time in society according to several opinion polls.

A Realmeter poll found that 76% of men in their 20s and 66% of those in their 30s oppose feminism.

And around 75% disapproved of government policies like programs supporting women who experience career interruptions due to childbirth.

In South Korea, 78.9% of men in their 20s & 70.0% of men in their 30s agreed with ‘Discrimination against men is serious.’ [ Thanks @GoogleTranslatr ]

https://www.hankookilbo.com/News/Read/A2021061321020001086?did=NA

Tal-Corset South Korea: Hyejung Park, 2020 (direct quotes)

According to RealMeter (2018),

76% of South Korean men in their 20s oppose feminism.

[About] 56.3% of South Korean women in their 20s support the #TalCorset movement (Korean Women’s Development Institute, 2018).

About “31% of South Korean women in their 20s have gone through plastic surgeries (Gallup Korea, 2015).

“It is women who are “required to work on & transform the self to a much greater extent than men” (Gill & Scharff, 2011, p. 7) though the message in most cases is self-empowerment (Banet-Weiser, 2017)” (Hyejung Park, 2020).

“The term K-beauty came into public use within the last 10 years, referring to “Korea’s global influence on aesthetics and cosmetics (Kim, 2016).”

Appearance Labor

“Not one part of a woman’s body is left untouched, unaltered” (Andrea Dworkin, 1974, p. 113)
Painted nails / Plucked eyebrows / Body shaved / Face makeuped

Female socialization as “the tolerance of pain” & “romanticization of that tolerance serves to prepare women for lives of childbearing, self-abnegation, and husband-pleasing” (Andrea Dworkin, 1974, p. 115).”

Third Wave Feminism

Beauty behaviors are no longer oppression or tolerance of pain but instead are women’s choice (Scott, 2005; Snyder, 2008).

Postfeminist discourse on beauty practice allows us to “think more ambivalently about beauty politics” and to “retain an openness to multiple possible readings” (Elias et al., 2017, p. 21).

On the one hand “discussions of how the beauty industry negatively affects the self-image of women have been central to the third wave” while on the other “the principle of choice” wins out as the value of choice has been central to the history of feminism. Thus, a first or second wave feminist scholar may criticize a woman getting breast implants while a third wave feminist scholar may defend her choice to do so (Snyder, 2008).

NeoLiberalism

New technologies such as beauty apps on mobile phones have brought about digital self-monitoring that puts women’s bodies under unprecedented degrees of scrutiny.

“In a study on beauty apps, Elias & Gill point out that the self-assessment practices conducted through

these apps constitute “the nano surveillance of visual appearance” (Elias & Gill, 2018, p. 74).

Alison Winch & Girlfriend Gaze

“Women and girls monitor each other’s appearances and behaviors (Winch, 2013, p. 17). Winch argues the “mutual body regulation” among women is intensified through digital media where

“the many girlfriends watch the many girlfriends” (Park, 2020, p. 21).

Although neoliberalism drives individuals — both men and women — to enhance self-efficacy through endless competitions and self-disciplines, it is women who are “required to work on and transform the self to a much greater extent than men” (Gill & Scharff, 2011, p. 7).
Digital media such as makeup tutorials and beauty vlogs are reproducing “a conventional, idealized definition of beauty,” although their overt message in most cases is self-empowerment (Banet-Weiser, 2017).”

Influence of Tal-Corset

Since the advent of the Tal-Corset movement, “year-on-year purchases of cosmetics, hair products, and other beauty products by South Korean women in their 20s significantly declined between 2016 and 2018. Instead of spending money on beauty products, young women were spending more money on cars after 2016 (Kim, 2019).”

Park, Hyejung (2020). “Throwing off the Corset: A Contemporary History of the Beauty Resistance Movement in South Korea,” Dignity: A Journal of Analysis of Exploitation and Violence, 5(3), Article 1. https://doi.org/10.23860/dignity.2020.05.03.01

Park, Hyejung (2020). “Throwing off the Corset: A Contemporary History of the Beauty Resistance Movement in South Korea. Dignity: A Journal of Analysis of Exploitation and Violence, 5(3), Article 1. https://digitalcommons.uri.edu/dignity/vol5/iss3/1/

South Korea & Feminism — Choe Sang-Hun, 2022 (NYTimes)

“Included in the hard-won progress South Korea has made in expanding women’s rights in recent decades is the legalization of abortion & starting one of the most powerful #MeToo campaigns in Asia.

Older South Korean men acknowledge benefiting from a patriarchal culture that had marginalized women. Decades ago, when South Korea lacked everything from food to cash, sons were more likely to be enrolled in higher education. In some families, women were not allowed to eat from the same table as men and newly born girls were named Mal-ja, or “Last Daughter.” Sex-preference abortions were common.

As the country has grown richer, such practices have become a distant memory. Families now dote on their daughters. More women attend college than men, and they have more opportunities in the government and elsewhere, though a significant glass ceiling persists.

[Indeed, there’s still work to do as]

South Korea has the highest gender wage gap among the wealthy countries.

Less than 20% of its national lawmakers are women. Women make up only 5.2% of the board members of publicly listed businesses, compared with 28% in the United States.

[Even so,] “Men in their 20s are deeply unhappy, considering themselves victims of reverse discrimination, angry that they had to pay the price for gender discriminations created under the earlier generations,” said Oh Jae-ho, a researcher at the Gyeonggi Research Institute in South Korea.

If older men saw women as needing protection, younger men considered them competitors in a cutthroat job market. Among South Korean men in their 20s, nearly 79% said they were victims of serious gender discrimination, according to a poll in May.

Anti-feminists often note that men are put at a disadvantage because they have to delay getting jobs to complete their mandatory military service. But many women drop out of the work force after giving birth, and much of the domestic duties fall to them.

Mr. Lee sees the gender conflict largely as a problem of dwindling job opportunities, comparing young South Koreans to

“chicks struggling not to fall off a crowded nest.”

Lee Hyo-lin, 29, said that “feminist” has become such a dirty word that women who wear their hair short or carry a novel by a feminist writer risk ostracism. When she was a member of a K-pop group, she said that male colleagues routinely commented on her body, jeering that she “gave up being a woman” when she gained weight.

Conversely, most women agreed with the system to give additional points to military service members. …interpreted as a result of sympathizing with the concept of ‘compensation is needed’ regardless of whether the additional points system for military service is unconstitutional.

Women’s rights advocates’ fear is that the rise of anti-feminism might stymie, or even roll back, the hard-won progress South Korea has made in expanding women’s rights.”

ELITE Netflix (Italy)

“Italian politics displays a conservative attitude, especially in relation to family values and family structures, both of which are represented and strengthened by the country’s familialist welfare regime (Gusmano, 2018)” (Nicole Braida, 2021).

ELITE Netflix seems like an even more courageous show when taking Italy’s sociopolitical backdrop into account.

Voices of Medium

“Listening to an anonymous voice read your draft aloud might help you hear mistakes or awkward spots you’d unconsciously skip over otherwise. Try it in tandem with some of our other favorite self-editing tactics, including distancing yourself from your draft and getting rid of fancy words when simple ones will do” (Medium, 2022).

I already do this with Siri so being able to do the same with Medium (without having to copy/paste to Siri) is exceptionally convenient.

Sidenotes

Sex Differences in Voiceacting

In videogames, women are better than men at voiceacting. As such, playing with a female protagonist is the equivalent of getting a free upgrade.

“Is that why we’ve had female phone operators going back to 1878?”

Female Phone Operators

Well no. At first all phone operators were males. Alexander Bell, the inventor of the telephone, only started hiring women because he felt that their “soothing” voice would lead to better financial outcomes for the company compared to the voices of the “short-tempered”, “rowdy”, “wrestling on the job”, & impatient males he initially employed.

Six months after hiring the first woman to ever work at a phone company, Emma Nutt, ALL telephone operators were women.

He fired all the males.

Incidental Social Progress

- To be clear, women weren’t employed because Alex Bell was a rising feminist in tech back in the 1870s, or because he had no patriarchal interests in forming a boys club at the switchboard (as that’s what he started off doing). No, women were employed because the males were so objectively & unequivocally bad at it.

The Voice of Privacy

- In addition, due to the intimate exchange of info that may take place during a phone call, female operators’ lower voices gave callers a greater sense of security compared to the testosterone-laden lack of discretion in the males’ voices. “Can you repeat my card number a little louder Dennis; I’m not sure the entire world heard it that time.”

Thus, while many game companies are clearly diversifying their games in terms of having female protagonist options (or female protagonist ONLY — i.e., Aloy in Horizon) & romantic options across the sexuality spectrum, many other game companies may begin to add a female protagonist option based on the realization that Alex Graham Bell made over 140 years ago.

#HelloOperator

The Sequel: Typewriters

Women’s proficiency with the switchboard led companies to believe women’s dexterity would make them perfect as typists as well. As such, women were overwhelmingly employed in such jobs.

Interestingly, the autonomy/exploration women employed at phone companies may have felt was slowly being excised from the typing profession. Indeed, before there were PCs or laptops there were At Home Typewriters. The ad campaigns were what you may expect: they explicitly advertised typewriters — with floral designs, no less — that women could work with back in their home. Instead of traveling to work, the Mrs. can stay right there at home to complete all typing tasks (god forbid if any of those ads actually used the word ‘kitchen’).

Long Live lofigirl 🎶

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Dr. Jarryd Willis PhD

I'm passionate about making a tangible difference in the lives of others, & that's something I have the opportunity to do a professor & researcher.