In a country which frowns upon men doing household chores, a group of middle aged men in South Korea are breaking centuries old gender stereotypes. The men who dress up in tall white hats and aprons head to “Happy Guys Cooking Class” to learn cooking.
In the wake of a 2014 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development survey on housework, which ranked South Korea at the bottom, a growing number of men are eagerly taking up cooking.
“I wanted to change. Taking cooking classes here was the turning point,” said 53 year-old Lee Jin, showing off pictures of himself serving a Chinese cold vegetable dish for his wife and her friends.
While regretfully admitting that he was once an authoritarian father and a dominating husband, Lee further added, “I’ve been thinking recently, hierarchy is not needed for making a happy family. Cooking is.”
With the increase in women working for professional jobs, the demographics and the culture are changing. Popular television reality shows have emerged with star male chefs labelled as “Sexy cooking men.”
“Korean society is paternalistic and just because they work during the day, husbands want to be served by their wives. But cooking can soften this,” said Go Dong-rok, a student chef who loved the experience of making a pizza and the traditional Korean dish Bibimbap .
But all is not as rosy as it seems. Despite a lot of men taking active interest in cooking, many still have deep aversion in doing other ‘menial’ household chores. “I hear some men have fun cooking but then they leave the kitchen without doing the dishes,” said Lee Soo-yeon, a researcher at the Korean Women’s Development Institute, indicating that a lot more has to be done in achieving gender parity.
Nevertheless, it is positively expected that such initiatives can surely bring the required change in a society which once had a popular saying, “If a man enters the kitchen, he risks losing his testicles.”