Critics accuse official sex education materials of perpetuating chauvinism and medieval attitudes to women and their sexuality.
They perpetuate such chestnuts as that men are excited by seeing women without their clothes on whereas women are aroused by "mood," and that girls should avoid "provocative" clothing. The sex education materials can be found on a health website for youngsters run by the Education Ministry.
The ministry spent a staggering W600 million on a standard sex education manual that was only published in March last year, 15 years into the 21st century (US$1=W1,178).
But the materials immediately came under fire and the ministry hastily produced another version in September of last year. This is now proving little better. Supplementary materials on the website also highlight stereotypical and chauvinistic views, portraying men as pushy dominators and women as harassed wallflowers.
One sex educator said, "The gender differences are based on outdated notions that men are driven by hormones, while women are emotional and weak. Of course differences exist between individuals, but this black and white view is nonsense."
Some materials are merely unrealistic, calling for abstinence until marriage in adulthood -- an absurd notion now that the average age of marriage for Korean men is 33 and of women 31.
Kim Dae-yoo, professor of education at Kyonggi University, said, "Sex-ed materials that overemphasize abstinence are not realistic. As the barriers of sexual roles of men and women are becoming less distinct, schools need to come up with more realistic guidelines."
Experts say the flaws stem from ignorance of changing realities at school. The six co-authors of the ministry's materials are all university professors no longer in the first flower of their youth, and not a single school teacher or youth sex educator took part.
Bureaucracy is also to blame. Content related to sexual issues involving teens is in theory handled by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, but the Education Ministry publishes sex education texts. A Gender Equality Ministry official said, "When the Education Ministry was creating the manual, there was no request for cooperation or advice."
Under fire the Education Ministry has now promised to come out with a set of proposed revisions this summer and this time consult the Gender Equality Ministry and women's rights groups first.