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 were at the bottom in an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development global survey last year on housework, with just 21 minutes a day.
Lee described himself as an authoritarian father and domineering husband, which he said 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.”
With more women working in demanding jobs and households shrinking, meaning fewer female family members, many men no longer have the choice not to cook.
Reality television shows featuring men cooking and the emergence of star male chefs are also credited with helping lure men into the kitchen, spawning a catchphrase: “Sexy cooking men.”
Gmarket, an online retailer owned by eBay Inc, said sales of kitchen utensils to men rose 24 percent in the first half of this year.
The appeal of men who can cook as potential husbands is also prodding younger males to take to the kitchen.
“Young men are saying, ‘If you can’t cook, you can’t get married’,” said Han Hee-won, a chef who has run the cooking class for men in Seoul.
Lee Jin-soo (second from right), 53, looks at a small octopus as he and others take part in Happy Guys Cooking Class in Seoul, South Korea. With more women working in demanding professional jobs and households shrinking, many men no longer have the choice not to cook. Kim Hongji / Reuters
(China Daily 08/08/2015 page8)