Not talking to Japan
Note to President Park: Look, I happen to agree that certain Japanese leaders are being, to put it politely, dickheads, Still, don’t you think you’re overreacting a bit here:
All of which makes South Korea’s current relationship with Japan all the more striking. Eight months after taking office, Ms Park has still not met her neighbour and fellow US ally, and talk of a summit, she said, was still premature.
“The fact is there are certain issues that complicate [that relationship]” she said. “One example is the issue of the comfort women. These are women who have spent their blossoming years in hardship and suffering, and spent the rest of their life in ruins.”
“And none of these cases have been resolved or addressed; the Japanese have not changed any of their positions with regard to this. If Japan continues to stick to the same historical perceptions and repeat its past comments, then what purpose would a summit serve? Perhaps it would be better not to have one.”
I don’t see PM Abe and Co. growing more repentant any time soon, which means unless Park wants to spend however long Abe lasts pretending the man doesn’t exist, she’s eventually going to have to talk to him, and when she does, she’s going to look like she’s giving in.
I suppose Park isn’t completely anti-Japanese. Certain jokes—most of them related to “Park Chung-hee” and “Japanese uniforms”—probably present themselves at this point. I won’t make them, though.
North Korean beauties
In Japan Focus, Christopher K. Green and Stephen J. Epstein look at “Ije mannareo gamnida,” the Channel A program that could be seen as Misuda, but with North Korean beauties. Read it in its entirely—here’s just the into:
In 2011, the recently established South Korean broadcasting network Channel-A launched Ije mannareo gamnida (Now on My Way to Meet You), a program whose format brings together a group of a dozen or more female talbukja (North Korean refugees)2 on a weekly basis. These women interact with host Nam Hui-seok, an additional female co-host (or, in the earlier episodes, two), and a panel composed of four male South Korean entertainers. Episodes typically open in a lighthearted manner, with conversation about daily life in North Korea alongside mild flirtation between the Southern male and Northern female participants, often involving song and dance, but climax with a talbuk seuteori, an emotionally harrowing narrative from one of the border-crossers detailing her exodus from North Korea. Via this framework Ije mannareo gamnida attempts to nurture the integration of North Korean refugees into South Korean society; personalization of their plight occurs in conjunction with reminders of a shared Korean identity maintained despite the regime they have fled, which is depicted as cruel, repressive and backward. The show has proven a minor hit within South Korea and received coverage from local and global media (see, e.g., Kim 2012; Choi 2012; Noce 2012).
The unusual subject matter of Ije mannareo gamnida itself renders the show worthy of analysis; equally significantly, it offers a useful window into attempts to address South Korea’s increasingly diverse society, which now includes a large number of North Koreans, as well as media practice in the face of this demographic shift. Nevertheless, other than journalistic treatment, only a limited number of South Korean scholars (e.g. Tae and Hwang 2012; Oh 2013) and Western academic bloggers (Draudt and Gleason 2012) have thus far investigated the show and its larger social ramifications. In this paper, we ask how Now on My Way to Meet You is to be understood within the contexts of South Korean society, its evolving media culture, and developments in South Korean popular representations of North Koreans. We offer close readings of segments from Ije mannareo gamnida in order to elicit motifs that recur as it pursues its stated goal of humanizing North Korea for a South Korean audience and giving defectors a voice amidst the general populace. Given that the show’s very title intimates that a genuine encounter is about to take place, one might reasonably ask how successfully Ije mannareo gamnida establishes a meeting point for South Koreans with these recent arrivals from North Korea: in other words, does the show fulfill its stated aim of breaking down prejudices against North Korean refugees and supplying them with a vehicle that allows self-expression?3 Or, alternatively, does it reinforce, even if unintentionally, pre-existing regimes of knowledge and actually impede understanding of North Korea and its people? As we will argue, given the broader sociopolitical context, the show’s desire to reinforce elements of commonality between North and South while illuminating life in North Korea leads to a double bind: viewers are encouraged to recognize homogeneity with the newcomers based on a shared ethnic and cultural identity, even as the conversations and editing techniques applied to the material often represent the Northern panelists as Others.
K-pop and Youtube
Over at the WSJ, Jeff Yang asks why Girls’ Generation and K-Pop won big at the YouTube Music Awards. Ordinarily, I’d say the answer to that is simple—there is no God—but then again, considering the disgrace that was the MTV Music Awards, perhaps somebody really is watching over us.
Anyway, to win those sorts of things, a passionate fan base and a very mobile-savvy population help:
Having just returned from an extended trip to Korea, I can attest to that: For Korean consumers, whose mobile broadband cups runneth over, watching video is like breathing — they’re virtually never not in front of a screen, whether they’re sitting on the subway, walking through busy intersections, or hanging out at home. It’s quite common to see family members in Korean households sitting around “alone together,” each viewing their own media on their own respective screens while ostensibly in the same room. I was, in fact, nearly run over by a kid watching some kind of video while riding a bicycle, steering with his elbows. And a huge percentage of the content they watch is music videos — almost all of it via streaming sites like YouTube.
“When country restrictions are in place, like the way every country has its own iTunes Store, one can’t witness the power of a global K-pop fanbase,” says Jeff Benjamin, who covers K-Pop for the music industry’s periodical of record, Billboard. “But when no restrictions are in place, like on YouTube, it’s amazing what they can do. ‘I Got a Boy’ received millions of views in its first few hours.”
Hey, anything to beat Justin Bieber.
Keep your hands to yourselves, kids!
The first reaction to hearing that kids are getting punished for holding hands at school may be, “Gee, how medieval.”
Then again, at least I haven’t read about kids recording themselves having sex in class. So perhaps the Korean schools are on to something here.