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In Session: Rewriting a Korean Feminist History: Gender, Sexuality, and Media in Motion
3: The Korean Teenage Lesbian Subculture and Its Networks On and Offline
Monday, March 22, 2021
12:30pm – 2:00pm EDT
Yoon Won Chang
Ewha Women's University , Republic of Korea
Ye Ji Park
This ethnography historicizes Korean teenage Lesbian’s subculture, changing and flourishing since the popularization of internet in the early 2000s. In 2000, web portals introduced ‘cafe’ which is a online platform to build social communities and Korean Lesbians or so-called ‘ivan’s took advantage of the new service. Alongside it were the offline meetings that took place in Sinchon park at the heart of Seoul. Teenage Queers gathered and organized small dancing crews which led to ‘il-cha’, a performance show which is equivalent to the Ball. However, smartphones became popular in 2011 and the crowd left the old communities to settle in SNS and dating apps.
The lack of archived knowledge of the subculture back in the 2000s made us wonder what the current teenage Lesbian culture looks like. We came across a small coffee shop in Seoul built in the early 2000s and still making its way famous as a gathering spot for teenage girls. It initially had nothing to do with Lesbians until il-cha started occupying the place. Since then, it became ‘home’ for the teenage girls. The cafe resembles a prison. Iron bars segments a small underground space that is packed with girls in school uniforms trying to find intimate partners. They extend their relationships to online platforms such as Instagram and Twitter using slangs to recognize each other as queer. This ethnography about the cafe restores an important part of history of Queer subculture in South Korea and reveals how the change in digital technology drives its change.