Buying toshirak lunch boxes at convenience stores became very popular in Seoul last year. This was partly because eating lunch out in restaurants is getting more expensive. And also, trying to get a seat in a restaurant in a business district at noon on a weekday is a nightmare. Toshiraks make lunchtime easier and cheaper and the quality has really improved. I wrote about celebrity chef Paik Jong Won’s toshiraks (below) for the convenience store CU here.
chicken lunch by Paik Jong Won
The price can even be cheaper than just one kimbap seaweed rice roll- if you like PREMIUM kimbap, (which I do! Kim Seon Seng is still my favourite shop).
When I first came to Korea, convenience stores were small and unassuming shops selling the odd chocolate bar and packet of crisps. But now they are getting a lot more exciting with selections of wine, ready made food, and a range of services.
This month CU introduced two new toshiraks made up of rice and an assortment of side dishes. They were aimed at young customers and cheap at 4,000 won a box. So far so good. The problem was the names given to the lunch boxes: ‘girlfriend-made lunchbox’ and ‘lunchbox made by Mum’.
picture and article: Korea Times
‘girlfriend-made lunchbox‘ (top left) includes rice with a heart shaped deep fried pork cutlet on top. And ‘lunchbox made by Mum‘ (right) is going with slices of dried seaweed to represent the motif of a mother’s apron.
So what’s the problem? Well, there are some who are calling this sexist.
I get the idea behind the marketing. More young people are living alone away from their families, and these lunch boxes suggest that they were made with love by someone who cares. Some people told me that they would buy a toshirak like this stating that after all, it IS women who usually cook, so what’s the problem?
But there have been complaints on Facebook lamenting that Korea is still a patriarchal society and women are expected to do the cooking. I think that the fact that these lunch boxes have even become an issue shows a change in society and a greater awareness of gender stereotyping.
And due to the complaints about the name of the lunch boxes CU is considering marketing a ‘boyfriend-made lunchbox‘ and a ‘dad-made lunchbox’. If they do that, then I have a question: If you are married, can you still buy the boyfriend-made lunchbox?
This is all too complicated and I suggest we just get back to celebrity chefs promoting food.
So the lunch boxes suggest that women can cook. Here are some instant noodles that suggest that men can’t cook. They are ‘noodles that are delicious even when Dad makes them‘ 아빠가 만들어도 맛있는 우동.
Hmm, I admit my first reaction was to chuckle. I see the image of a bumbling father trying to find his way to the kitchen, while his wife is away, and managing to pull together a bowl of noodles for the kids.
But hang on a minute, doesn’t this also encourage stereotypical roles of mum in the kitchen and dad out at work? Women doing most of the cooking is still the norm, but is it ok to enforce this idea to sell products?