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∙ Current position: Academy of Finland Postdoctoral Researcher, Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Helsinki
∙ Ph.D. dissertation Neighborhood Shopkeepers in Contemporary South Korea: Household, Work, and Locality available online (E-Thesis publications a the University of Helsinki). For printed copies, please contact me by e-mail.
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Sunday, April 11, 2004

(Small businesses) Hairdressing shops gain in popularity among men

This should not be the kind of social or political issue that is on the lips in and around Korea, but it is more valid to my Ph.D work than the ROK parliamentary election...

Korean Gallup has surveyed that men are favoring more and more hairdressing shops (miyongsil) over barbershops (ibalso) (From Chosun Ilbo). Ten years ago 1/4 of men had their haircut in a hairdressing shop, but now the figure is 1/2. The younger the more likely the man is to frequent a hairdressing shop: 20s 86%, 30s 67%, 40s 34% and over 50 10%.

Originally men were legally prohibited to enter hairdressing shops as customers; that legislation must have been abolished some time in the 1970s, but I don't know the exact year. When the social atmosphere began to loosen so that policemen no longer carried around scissors to control the length of hair, men also begun to frequent hairdressing shops. And when men begun to have perms!

There was this laundry keeper with whom I talked about this; he told there's no way he could go to a hairdressing shop to have a haircut even though it's cheaper, that's not a place for a man to go.
The barber shops have really been struggling because hairdressing shops have been grabbing their clientele (or better, they have retain the old customers but not gotten new), and some time ago the Korean Barbershop Association tried to lobby for legislation to prohibit men using hairdressing shops, but they got nothing but cold shoulder from the Ministry in question.

Barbershops (and I'm talking about places where only haircuts are given) have been losing to hairdressing shops in the modernity race, and in the few places I've visited to chat with the keeper, the atmosphere is not what would draw young customers.
I should also add that there were two hairdressing shops that I frequented during my research time in Korea, both for haircuts and for discussions about shopkeeping and life of a shopkeeper. They both were (and still are) great personalities, and very self-confident - earning better than their husbands. I've enjoyed keeping in contact with them afterwards, and made sure to go to greet them when I've been back to Korea.

The barbershop (ibalgwan) in the picture is from Sillim-dong in Seoul; never went to that place, and never saw anyone going in.

Technical note: the ibalgwan pic was taken with a digital camera from a 10x15 paper print: never thought it'd come out that good. That's a method to use again.

Update: The article about the lobby attempts by the Barbers' Association (Seoul Sinmun Oct 25, 2003, searched from KINDS)
남자손님을 미용실에 빼앗기고 있는 이용사들이 담당 부처인 보건복지부를 상대로 맹렬한 로비전을 펴고 있다.
남녀 성별 구분을 해서 남자는 이발소만 이용하도록 하고,여자는 미용실만 갈 수 있게 아예 법제화해 달라는 것이다.
이른바 ‘가위전쟁’으로 불릴 만하다.이용사들은 이런 요구를 내세우며 법정공방까지 벌였지만 이미 지난 2001년 패소했다.그러나 경제불황이 깊어지면서 영업난이 더 심해지자 이 카드를 다시 빼들었다.
이·미용 관련법인 공중위생관리법을 관장하고 있는 복지부 질병관리과에는 이용사들의 민원전화가 이어지고 있고,복지부 홈페이지에도 같은 내용의 글들이 오르고 있다.
이발소는 3만 2000여곳이지만 미용실은 3배에 가까운 8만 6000여곳이나 될 정도로 성업중인 것과도 무관치 않다.
한국이용사회중앙회 관계자는 “남자 손님들이 미용실로 발길을 돌리면서 상당수 회원들이 생업에 어려움을 겪고 있다.”면서 “이발소와 미장원 이용시 성별 구분을 해 출입을 제한토록 입법화하는 것이유일한 해결책”이라고 말했다.
하지만 복지부의 답변은 “어렵다.”는 것이다.
공중위생관리법 시행규칙을 통해 이용사와 미용사의 업무범위를 구분하기는 했지만,남녀를 구분해 출입을 제한할 수는 없다는 것이다.시행규칙상 이발소에서는 파마를 못하고,미용실에서는 면도를 못하게 하는 정도의 제한만 가능하다는 얘기다.복지부 관계자는 “이발소의 영업이 어렵다면 새로운 스타일의 머리깎는 기술을 개발해 손님을 끌도록 노력해야 할 것”이라면서 “규제를 완화하는 차원에서도 미용실 출입에 성별 제한을 둘 수는 없다.”고 말했다.

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