Women often have several fantasy images of their men. Some want their partner to have broad shoulders, and others dream of a "cool" guy, driving one handed. However, recently women seek something new. They want a man who is good at cooking; it's the new vision of a romantic man. In Korean society, unlike the past, men can be found in the kitchen. A man who enjoys cooking is viewed positively. It is even complimentary and seen as charming. Men in the kitchen are no longer ridiculous. They can be found near you and even right before your eyes.
Men in Love with Cooking
What are features of today's recent broadcasts? The first is eating and the second is cooking. Cooking shows have become entertainment programs such as Please Help My Refrigerator, Three Meals, and What Shall We Eat Today? Additionally, existing TV programs such as 1 Night 2 Days and Radio Star also featured specials on cooking. The most important fact is that all of these variety programs show men cooking. In the past, the majority of cooking programs aired during the morning since viewers were mostly stay-at-home mothers and not many cooks were male. However, recently, due to good feedback from TV audiences, Choi Hyunsuk and Baek Jongwon have become well known chefs. People now think men in the kitchen are charming through the broadcast programs.
The interest by men in cooking is not limited to media like TV programs. Cooking classes have seen the number of male students increase. There are even cooking courses that target only men. These cooking classes are very popular among middle-aged or retired men. The project called "The table of Youth" is a cooking class for elderly men run by social welfare facilities in six regions including Anyang, Gunpo, Gwacheon, and Siheung. In cooking classes, at department stores’ cultural centers, there has been a growing percentage of male students. According to Lotte Department Store’s cultural center, the proportion of male members in 2013 saw an increase of 300% compared to two years ago. The proportion of men applying for weekend cooking classes in Hyundai Department Store’s cultural center was also up to 35%. Lee Jaehyun, chief of public relations in Hyundai Department Store, said, "The proportion of male students in their 20’s and 30’s attending department store culture centers' cooking courses is more than 80 percents.”1 When taking into account that this number was figured two years ago, a large number of men have learnt to cook. Last but not least, male customers buying cookware have also increased.
According to G9, a curation shopping site of G Market, male customers who purchase cookware are increasing 72% each year. Kim Sunmu, Team Leader of Sales Planning in G9, recently said, "The number of male customers who buy cooking utensils has increased. In particular, they find products that can measure amounts and temperatures.”2 Measuring tools is also up 27% from last year, and sales of cooking thermometers are now at nearly 24%. In addition to cookware, the purchase of specialized bakery confectionery tools has increased. Kim Yeongyu, Department of English Language and Literature at Korea University ’11, said, "After getting interested in cooking pasta, I began to look for pasta ingredients and pasta pots.” The increase in men cooking indicates that Korean society has changed. Cooking is no longer seen as woman's work.
Is Really Cooking Easy for Men?
Men's interest in cooking might be the result of 'mukbang' morphism. Mukbang was once just for eating, but now it is used to watch cooking shows. In the Sookmyung Times no. 304, the article "You Eat, I Enjoy” dealt with the ‘mukbang’ issue. Mukbang is the watching of others eating food. However, ‘cookbang’ has appeared newly. Cookbang, a coined term meaning ‘Cook’ and ‘Bangsong' (broadcast in Korean), is a new type of entertainment programs that focuses on cooking themes. Already Olive TV, a food specialty channel, has aired the cooking reality game show Master Chef Korea, a mixed format of audition entertainment and cooking. There are more male participants than women. In addition, recently, the popularity of cuisine variety shows related to food and lifestyle such as Help My Refrigerator and Three Meals are based on cooking food much more than the consumption of food. As a result, viewers have changed their attitude towards cooking and are now entering the kitchen to cook. From the age of mukbang, comes the era of cookbang.
Cookbang has changed the perception of cooking. In the past, Koreans saw cooking as work only for professional chefs or women. Unlike professional cooking programs that feature specialized chefs, recently cookbang appeals to the general public with receipes that are easy and simple. Also, recent food programs aim at providing easy day to day cuisines that can be eaten after made. In What Shall We Eat Today?, the cooking skills of Shin Dongyup, who is the MC, is increasingly developing his skill, and it can be seen through the program. In addition, the program shows how it is possible to make a variety of dishes using normal material at home and shows how joyful the process of cooking in a short time of 15 minutes can be. Kim Gyumin at Seoul National University ’15, said, “Whenever I watch these programs, I feel cooking is easy and fun. It makes me feel curious and confident.” People are showing enthusiasm for cooking and eating due to our social trend which shows how everyday life has become drearier. Although people cannot afford luxurious items, they can eat luxurious food. The psychological factors of social unrest such as family dissolution play a central role as well. Kim Hyenam, a mental health laboratory chief in Nanuri Hospital, said, “Anxiety among society has resulted from living in a competitive society, so it is possible to survive unless one wins against others. This seems to be making cooking is popular. Modern people's desire is clearly highlighted through their continuous attitude towards eating."3
You Eat, I Enjoy Cooking!
Seeing men in the kitchen has gradually become a universal way of life in Korean society, and it indicates that the culture of our society is changing. Traditionally, Korean society has followed Confucianism, so it was a taboo for men to be in the kitchen. There were limited areas where males could be seen as in the act of cooking. However, now, Korean society wonders why men like cooking, and also enjoys their situation that men were cooking interestingly. Whenever there is a male cook on a show, the audience expresses great interest because men are not typically seen cooking. Women now envisioning a partner who is good at cooking meant that the act of cooking was intended to be limiting to the gender. However, now that men are engaging in cooking, the wall between men and women is collapsing. While these phenomena can also be double-edged swords that arouse an ironic situation: distinction between genders and the birth of cooking men. Although the TV rating of programs on male cooking or parenting is high, cooking and parenting by men at home is still rare. According to the OECD survey, the mount of time Korean males do housework, compared to other major countries, is the lowest among 29 surveyed countries. Childcare and housework totaled only 45 minutes.4 The OECD average was 141 minutes. On the other hand, the amount of time Korean women spend on unpaid labor was lowest among the surveyed countries at 227 minutes. It is directly connected to the daily life. Byun Leechul, team leader of CBS Nocutnews culture Entertainment, said, "The fact that Korean society has accepted men in the kitchen is an excellent show of empathy, compassion, and emotion.”5
Cooking is All Around
Son Hogeun, professor in the Department of Sociology at Seoul National University, said, "Food was the first element that divided the genders in terms of labour as well as a key factor in one’s health and wellbeing. To correct this, men must be taught to cook for themselves and their family."6 The ultimate value of cooking is the commitment of time and mind when cooking for someone. Now that there is no gender boundary to cooking, the willingness to cook for other people with great earnest is up to you.
1 Park Juyeon, “Recently, Warm Guy is Better Attentioned than Macho Man,” Kyunghyangshinmun , March 29, 2013
2 Cho Sungh o, “The Popularity of Cookware among Men,” MKnews, March 1, 2015
3 Kim Chijoong, “Why are Cooking Men Popular?” Hankookillbo , March 8, 2015
4 Ock Hyunju, “Korean Men Spend the Least Amount of time doing Housework, OECD Says,” The Korea Herald , March 10, 2014
5 Byun Leechul, “Recently Men Say, ‘I Love Cooking and Childcare’,” Nocutnews, March 5, 2015
6 Park Juyeon, “Men, Whey Did They start Wearing Aprons?” Kyunghyangshinmun , March 29, 2013