In paternalistic South Korea, 'sexy cooking men' break kitchen barrier

Fri Aug 7, 2015 1:36pm EDT
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By Ju-min Park

SEOUL (Reuters) - After work on a recent Friday, 53-year-old Lee Jin-soo headed for the "Happy Guys Cooking Class," where he joined six other mostly middle-aged men in tall white hats and aprons.

Lee, who runs a business making compression bags for bedding, gently handled abalone and shrimp and made a rice crust that went into the Korean stew of chicken and seafood on the evening's menu.

He is one of a growing number of men taking up cooking in a country where men have long done little housework. South Korean men came bottom in a 2014 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development survey on housework, with just 21 minutes a day.

Lee described himself as an authoritarian father and domineering husband, which he says he now regrets.

"I wanted to change. Taking cooking classes here was the turning point," he said, showing off pictures of himself serving a Chinese cold vegetable dish for his wife and her friends.

"I've been thinking recently, hierarchy is not needed for making a happy family. Cooking is," he said.

The kitchen was once seen as off-limits for men in South Korea, so much so that according to a saying: "If a man enters the kitchen, he risks losing his testicles."

Demographics and popular culture are changing that.   Continued...

Lee Jin-soo (2nd R), 53, looks at a small octopus as he and others take part in Happy Guys Cooking Class in Seoul, South Korea, July 31, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji