We Need to Tak about Hyeon-min

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In a chapter of “A Manual for the Male Mind,” author Tak Hyeon-min provides a succinct bit of mansplaining. He recommends the old-fashioned pull-out method during intercourse as a means of birth control, his point being that since using a condom impedes the formation of “a next-level emotional rapport,” women must choose between safety or intimacy.

Tak is a senior administrator in the office of President Moon Jae-in, and is currently being lambasted on social media and by opposition political parties at both ends of the spectrum. Members of the conservative Liberty Korea Party and the left-wing Justice Party have branded his explanation of the male mind sexist, and now female members of Moon Jae-in’s Minjoo Party are chiming in.

“Tak’s statements are over the top. Female party members shared a lot of opinions yesterday and we’ve communicated our standpoint to the presidential office: that his words are inappropriate and need to be addressed,” said Back Hye-ryun, a female Minjoo Party lawmaker, in a radio interview.

The book was published in 2007 as a self-help work for lovelorn women, with Tak as a self-appointed sexpert. Tak came under fire for the sexist content in May, when he was appointed as a senior administrator. He apologized on his Facebook page, saying that his values have changed since he wrote the book, and that he regrets the inappropriate thoughts and words he expressed in the past. His apology didn’t sway many, but the Moon administration went ahead with and hired him as planned.

But then another of Tak’s books, this one called “The More You Speak, The Freer You Become,” also became a source of controversy for sexist content. In this tome, which takes the format of a conversation among two women and two men, Tak banters about how he finds pregnant women sexy, and how women who work in room salons must be pretty and not so dumb that they can’t hold a conversation with clients. He also shrugs off the fact that the first girl he slept with was ugly, because she was just a “sex object.”

While some female Minjoo Party members have spoken out, Moon Jae-in’s diehard supporters known as Moonppa, continue to find various excuses for Tak’s sexist comments. Some brush off the controversy as unimportant, dismissing Tak’s position as that of a “mere administrator,” and saying that it makes no sense to hold to him to high standards. Others say that if past deeds and remarks are to be used as a yardstick, conservative Liberty Korea Party’s Hong Joon-pyo, who came under fire for a regretful story of involvement in a date rape attempt during this year’s presidential election campaign, should have withdrawn his presidential bid too.

Tak entered Moon’s inner circle in 2011 while overseeing the national promotion of Moon’s book about late president Roh Moo-hyun; earlier this year, he became one of the first members of Moon’s presidential campaign team. Moon, who during his campaign vowed to become a “feminist president” and to fight for gender equality, has not commented publicly about his close associate’s objectifying statements.

Over the decades, many high-ranking figures in the presidential office have become embroiled in controversies. Appointment guidelines are opaque and the Blue House is not obliged to release appointees’ names and identities to the public despite the high-ranking civil service positions they will occupy. Reached by phone, a foreign media spokesperson declined to comment when asked if the Blue House had an official position on Tak’s case.

 

Cover image: Senior administrator in the office of President Moon Jae-in, Tak Hyeon-min, classified women into seven categories in his book, from women he wants to sleep with to women he wants to break up with. (Source Channel A)

Jieun Choi is staff writer at Korea Exposé. She has worked in the art industry and startups in Hong Kong and Australia.