1) In Japan Focus, Stephen J. Epstein and Rachael M. Joo examine “Korean Bodies and the Transnational Imagination.” Definitely worth the read:
In this paper we concentrate on two complementary phenomena that have surfaced in the last decade, a focus in popular media on both muscled male torsos and long, slender female legs in order to interrogate how changing social and institutional contexts are shaping new physical ideals in Korea, transforming meanings and practices of the body and inculcating technologies of the self that have come to function as a panoptic discipline. While other media-driven trends related to the body have also appeared, such as a growing interest in “average”-looking people who rise to fame through previously undiscovered talents in reality-show competitions, these alternative exemplars are inevitably measured against ideals shaped by celebrities. To what extent does the increasingly ubiquitous representation of these body ideals pressure individuals toward ever more normative yet rarefied standards of beauty?
My only complain is that it needed more photos of long legs.
2) In the Korea Times, Andrew Salmon pens a wonderful column on lefty activist-turned-North Korea human rights activist Kim Young-hwan, an example of what Salmon suggests might be “Pyongyang blowback”:
For six decades, Pyongyang has waged an espionage campaign against Seoul. Standout incidents include the attempted 1968 special forces assassination of President Park Chung-hee; the 1980 hit on the South Korean Cabinet, which, while visiting Rangoon, was blown up by North Korean operatives; and the 1984 bombing of Korean Air Flight 858 by North Korean agents.
But these are just the standouts, the most spectacular and murderous operations; Pyongyang also sponsored a range of less kinetic moves aimed at fermenting revolution. Amid the pro-democracy protests against the Chun Doo-hwan regime in the 1980s, one man carrying out this work in the South was Kim Young-hwan.
An ardent believer in Kim Il-sung’s “juche” ideology, Kim established underground networks and distributed subversive literature. He was arrested and imprisoned but his quality had been spotted. He was later conveyed to North Korea by submarine for training, and met “The Great Leader” himself.
As recent news reports make clear, Kim is today deploying his experience against his former sponsors. His recanting of his youthful ideology and his activities in China suggest that he possesses a gift that is rare in politics: Integrity.