The Luxury of Love: The “Rise of Bats” in Post-IMF South Korea


Thursday, March 13, 2014, 4:30pm to 6:00pm


Thomas Chan-Soo Kang Room (S050), CGIS South Building, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

Korea Colloquium

John Song Pae Cho
Soon Young Kim Postdoctoral Fellow, Korea Institute, Harvard University

John (Song Pae) Cho is the Soon Young Kim Postdoctoral Fellow in the Korea Institute at Harvard University. He completed his Ph.D. in socio-cultural anthropology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2011. Prior to Harvard, Dr. Cho served as the Korea Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow and the Social Science Research Council for Transregional Research Postdoctoral Fellow from 2011-13, both at UC Berkeley. Currently, he is revising his book manuscript, Intimate Confrontation: Negotiating Gay Desire in Post-IMF South Korea, for publication.

Chaired by Paul Y. Chang, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Harvard University

After a decade of sexual freedom in the 1990s, many South Korean gay men have recently responded to their lack of foundation in the heterosexual family and stable gay relationships with an intensified focus on financial anxiety. Claiming that the only security they have in old age is money, many retreat/retire from their gay lives in order to focus on economic security. Ironically, just as single gay men are retreat/retiring, “bats” are rising to the fore as a powerful new sexual constituency. “Bats” refers to married gay men who blur the affective, temporal, spatial, and financial boundaries maintained by single gay men between their weekend gay lives and their weekday heterosexual ones. Benefiting from the familial support of their own wives and children in a time of neoliberal insecurity, they are able to enjoy what single gay men in post-Asian Financial Crisis (“IMF Crisis”) South Korea have been forced to give up: the “luxury of love.” In examining the retreat/retirement of single gay men and the rise of bats in post-IMF South Korea, this paper reveals the entanglement of familial biopolitics with neoliberal capitalism and the national logics through which economic policies of structural adjustment, privatization, and rollback of state services affect diverse populations within South Korea and elsewhere.

The Korea Colloquium is generously supported by the Min Young-Chul Memorial Fund at the Korea Institute.

"The Luxury of Love: The 'Rise of Bats' in Post-IMF South Korea"