Home > TV

Men with brains gain popularity in Korea

By Lim Jeong-yeo

  • Published : Mar 31, 2015 - 16:20
  • Updated : Mar 31, 2015 - 16:20

A newly coined term in Korea shows a changing attitude in what women perceive as “sexy” in a man.

“Brainy sexy man,” an English translation of the popular Korean term, “noesaeknam,” is a term referring to men who appeal to women with their intelligence, not their physical appearance.

The term “brainy sexy man” even made it to the list of popular words for 2014, which was compiled and published on March 25 by the National Institute of Korean Language.

Boosted by a greater use of the peculiar term, a standalone cable TV program has been launched to take advantage of the phenomenon.


“Hot Brain -- Problematic Men,” a quiz and talk show on cable channel tvN, features six male celebrities who are challenged to tackle brain teasers.

The cast members are asked to improvise for a skit on handling an inflight customer complaint in English or solve mathematical problems under time pressures, often to the giggles and gasps of viewers.

Experts said the popularity of brain-sexy, or intelligent, men has to do with changing demographics in Korea. In recent years, the country has witnessed a growing number of women with higher educational backgrounds entering the workforce. These female professionals are seen as favoring smart men, rather than those with only physical charm.

“Smart men are sexy, as long as they are not outright show-offish about it. Take the broadcaster Sohn Suk-hee, for example. He has not only intelligence but also integrity,” said Kim Hee-hyen, 23, a graduate school student.

By Lim Jeong-yeo (kaylalim@heraldcorp.com)