The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Author: WangKon936 (page 1 of 35)

USFK MREs STILL popular in Korea?

Apparently so.  Back in 2009 51 Koreans were arrested for illegally selling American MREs.  Well, last month more people have been arrested for selling American MREs!  Apparently, the people are being arrested not so much for selling the MREs but for selling expired MREs (i.e. after 10 years).  Supposedly, Korean hikers and campers like expired American MREs.  At $2 a pop for a meal containing 3,000 calories, it is hard to beat the price too.

Personally, I don’t see how Koreans can be all that excited about 10 year old (or older) beef “patties,” faux pork “ribs,” chili & beans, cajun rice & sausage, meat loaf with gravy, etc.  However, according to this video, even a Desert Storm era MRE can be edible.  Any ways, I just don’t see the aforementioned flavors being all that exciting to the Korean palate.  Anyone have some inside information here?

Roaring Currents estimated to be most successful Korean movie, per gross receipts

The numbers are in and apparently “Myeongryang: Roaring Currents” will be the most successful Korean film made to date with admissions rates estimated to be well over 14 million after just 18 days of release.  The previous record was James Cameron’s “Avatar” in 2009 which had about 13.62 million admissions total, thus Roaring Currents will, excuse the expression, blow Avatar out of the water.  So far, the film has brought in gross receipts of W109.7 billion for CJ Entertainment.

(Image from Soopi.com)

Sure, a competently done movie about Korea’s greatest hero fighting a near impossible battle against that perennial Korean enemy the Japanese would certainly expect to do well.  It would appear that most critics believe the special effects to be quite good, even by Hollywood standards, however those same critics also believe the movie to have a healthy dose of nationalism.  At least one Korean critic lambasted the movie for overly playing to nationalistic heart strings.  However, the movie’s success may not be attributed to nationalism alone as some critics believe that the Korean population’s need for something inspirational after the Sewol disaster may be driving some of its admissions.

One half-Korean viewer took exception to the fact that many of the characters (both Korean and Japanese) took on familiar one dimensional caricatures.  Commander Bae Seol (who deserted Admiral Yi a day before the battle) was portrayed by an actor who had an untrustworthy ferret face.  The Japanese were, predictably a bit evil and/or crazy looking.  Admiral Yi, predictably was appropriately heroic, serious and savior-like.

(Image from FilmsMash.com)

Out of all the articles I read about the film I thought the interview with an historian on the film’s inaccuracies was most interesting.  Anyways, I saw the movie last week and I thought it was all right.  To me it wasn’t any less nationalistic than say Mel Gibson’s “The Patriot” or both the “300″ movies.  The battle scenes were competently done and exciting in my opinion.  Listen, let’s not kid ourselves here.  I agree with Jay Seaver over at eFilmCritic.com.  It’s not going to be Academy Award winning material nor is it going to be a completely accurate historical documentary.  It’s going to be crafted as an effects-laden crowd-pleaser and like “The Patriot” or “300,” historical license is going to be taken.

Lady Gaga wears outfit with hangul on it in Tokyo. Japanese netizens go ape sh*t

On her Instagram account Lady Gaga posted a few pictures of her walking around Tokyo with an outfit that had, gasp, hangul written on it- 컬러.  Evidently it’s Konglish for “color” (kol-lo), a play on the style of her outfit.

Why Lady Gaga's Outfit Upsets Some People in Japan

(Image from Kotaku.com)

Reported by the Asian pop blog Kotaku, evidently the fine folks at 2ch, wasted no time in getting a lively thread started to display their shock and aghast.  Some of the more interesting comments?

“She thinks South Korea and Japan are the same.”

“Wearing clothes with Korean characters and sauntering about Roppongi is giving hate to Japan.”

“Get outta here, you shitty white person.”

“Yep, just a dumb American.”

“Certainly looks like between Japan and South Korea, Gaga likes Korea more.”

There appears to be two schools of thought here.  One is that Lady Gaga is an ignorant American who doesn’t know the difference between hangul and hiragana and this is just a dumb mistake.  The other view (from the more paranoid 2ch members) is that Gaga knows full well that hangul is Korean and is taking Korea’s side on historical issues!  Her parading around Roppongi in a hangul suit is her way of thumbing her nose at Japan!

Personally, I don’t really know what Lady Gaga is trying to do, but I kind of think that she would know the difference between the two writing styles.  Crayon Pop did give her an outfit with her name stenciled in hangul on it:

(Image from Lady Gaga’s Twitter)

For those of you who may not know, it says Leh-yi-dee Ga-ga, in Konglish.

Now, in all fairness to 2ch commenters, if Lady Gaga was running around the streets of Seoul and taking pictures of herself with an outfit that had hiragana characters on it and prominently posted the pictures on the internet, then I would say that Korean netizens would react with similar butthurt and aghast.

The great green devil: soju. Should New Jersey legalize it as beer & wine?

Today’s New Jersey Herald debates whether or not the state should legal recognize the sale, or otherwise handling of, soju as under “beer & wine” licenses.  This provision has already been established under NY and CA law, but New Jersey currently includes soju as a “hard liquor” that can only be sold in establishments with a full on liquor license.

(Image from The Guardian)

The difference between a full liquor license and a beer & wine license is monetarily vast.  A liquor license can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, but a beer & wine license is only a couple of hundred bucks.  The Korean community got the CA and NY governments to acquiesce by debating that the old liquor laws “inhibited their traditional culture” to routinely consume their “traditional” drink.

Kim, the attorney representing… businesses in Palisades Park [NJ], said that soju is “close to the heart” in Korean culture, and it can contain less alcohol — between 16 and 24 percent — than some wines. He compared it to beer because it is first fermented, and to Sake, the Japanese alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice. “It’s not hard liquor,” he said.

Not “hard liquor” huh?  It’s “fermented,” huh?  Listen, I like swigging soju in a local restaurant as much as the next guy, but the average soju in those “green monster” bottles are most certainly distilled rather than fermented and if it’s not a “hard liquor” then it’s awfully close to it.  Gotta love lawyers and their ability to swerve around words.

Apparently, NJ’s laws being so different from neighboring NY’s laws have caused some Korean establishments to cheat:

Soju’s popularity has led to some problems in restaurants in Palisades Park and beyond, where police have issued summonses for its illegal sale and consumption.

[...]

In Palisades Park [alone], more than 20 citations have been issued in the last year to BYOBs for a variety of violations, including serving soju…

Will gochujang be the next Sriracha?

For those of you who haven’t been back home in the states lately, you may be surprised to see that a hot sauce from Vietnam/Thailand has become nearly as ubiquitous as ketchup.  It’s called Sriracha and the most popular brand was brought to us by a refugee from Vietnam and is named after a town in Thailand.

(Image from ColumbusCook.com)

The American food industry is among the most innovative in the world and they are constantly looking for new flavors, particularly of the spicy variety.  What’s next?  It might be gochujang.  In a recent taste taste, a gochujang derived sauce compared favorably with the most popular brands of Sriracha.  It’s not just L.A. or NYC restaurants that’s experimenting with it.  It’s apparently had some penetration into middle America as well.

So, a 41 trillion won stimulus? How do I get some of that action, huh?

Korea’s economic growth over the last year and a half hasn’t been great.  It’s been average at best and hasn’t been up to expectations or projections.  From a some perspectives, the Korean economy isn’t employing enough young people coming out of college and isn’t creating a lot of wage growth for many of those who are employed.  Well, it’s fair to say that Korea isn’t the only country suffering the same woes, but any ways.

So, the natives are getting restless and something needs to be sacrificed to the volcano god.  Madame Park pounded her fist on the table in a recent cabinet meeting and demanded ideas to “revive the economy no matter what.”

What’s the old standby when you need instant economic gratification?  Pump cash into the economy! So, Finance Minister Choi Kyung-hwan came up with the (sarcasm on) brilliant idea (sarcasm off) to dump 41 trillion won ($39.8 billion USD) into the economy through three ways:  1) make buying homes cheaper 2) make capital cheaper for some businesses and 3) give households more spending power.

Choi Kyung-hwan has dubbed this policy “Choinomics.”  Many people (including this writer) are skeptical that it is the panacea that many in the Korean press is making it out to be.  Short term stimulus, whether by fiscal (Choinomic) or monetary (Abenomics) means, are a temporary fix.  It’s kind of like cocaine, makes you feel like you are on top of the world for a few hours, but it’s not real medicine.  Structural reform is the real medicine.  But, like in Japan, structural reform is tedious and sometimes hurtful (in the short term) to the immediate electorate, so it is often the economic weapon of last resort.

If Choinomics is just a morale saving measure to counteract the artificial temporary decline in GDP caused by the Sewol disaster, then I would be more supportive.  Given the modest improvement in GDP estimated by Choi (estimated at only 0.1% GDP improvement for this year and 2015) I suspect that’s all it is, despite the enthusiasm for it demonstrated in the Korean press as some sort of counter to the equally futile Abenomics.  So, my qualms are not in the actual policy itself, but in the manner in which it is being marketed by the government and the press as a “do all” and “save all” genius economic miracle policy.

Colin Marshall’s five part series on Korea in The Guardian

Meet Colin Marshall, a Seattle native who somehow ended up living in Koreatown, Los Angeles shortly after college and currently writes for the British daily The Guardian.  Recently, he just wrapped-up a five part series on Korea for The Guardian.  An index of the articles is available on this link.

Unlike many commenters and writers on this blog, Colin has not lived in Korea for years.  His Guardian series was based on about a week’s travel in the country.  He has live in Los Angeles’ Koreatown for awhile and claims he can speak a functional amount of the language.  Apparently, he even has a Korean girlfriend (in Los Angeles).  This might be a plus or negative for some people.  However, when it comes to urban vibe and city planning, Colin might have some experience to speak as he’s traveled to Mexico City, London, Copenhagen, Osaka, in addition to his native Seattle and current home of Los Angeles.

The Korean American magazine KoreAm interviewed Colin about his Guardian articles.  It’s an interesting read and he says some rather insightful observations that I think may have a kernel of truth.

In a way, some Koreans here [in the U.S.] are actually more conservative than the ones in Korea.

[...]

Talking to the twentysomethings there [in Korea], sometimes they’re way more mature than me, but sometimes it feels like they’re still in middle school.

[...]

[English learning in Korea is]… not even about learning English. It’s about getting above the others.

[...]

[Koreans burn too]… much energy on competition with each other.

[...]

Korea has brashness, which isn’t the same thing as confidence.

Fun with polls and surveys!

Some interesting surveys regarding Korea and Koreans, and their relationship with other countries, have come out.

First of all let’s look at some surveys regarding Korea’s attitudes on China.  According to one sponsored by the JoongAng Ilbo and the Asan Institute of Policy Studies, South Korea’s attitudes of the PRC have improved, particularly after President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Seoul recently.  Results summarized in the graphic below:

(Graphic source from the JoongAng Ilbo)

There are however, misgivings.  Most South Koreans think China is still an economic and military threat.  Also, since most Koreans have lungs, a whopping 95%+ hates China’s most pervasive (and unwanted) export: pollution.

The good ole’ U.S. of A also gets high marks.  According to the latest Pew Research results, South Korea’s “positive” attitudes of the U.S. are in the 82% region, up from 78% in 2013, the highest they have ever been since Pew has conducted the survey.  Only the Philippines (former colony) and Israel (fellow U.S. military aid dependant) had higher rankings.  According to the Pew, South Korea’s attitudes of China are comparatively in the 56% positive territory, a rise from 46% last year.

Lastly, non-Koreans (living outside of Korea) continue to admit they have a hard time distinguishing North from South Korea.  Ah, Egypt.  Not only do they hate the U.S. more than any other country out there, but they are the worst at telling the difference between North and South Korea.

Virginian congressional candidate panders to Korean voters

Meet John Foust, Democratic congressional candidate for Virginia’s 10th congressional district.  The 10th congressional district covers suburban areas of Fairfax, WinchesterMcLean and Manassas.

The areas of Fairfax and McLean have a particularly large Korean population.  Believe it or not, the third most common language in Virginia is Korean.  The Korean Americans in Virginia have succeeded in establishing a significant voting block.  So much so that the present governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, made a campaign promise (which he kept) to have the state’s textbooks teach the East Sea, concurrently with the Sea of Japan.  

Any ways, Mr. Foust appears to be mindful of the demographics of his district and has been actively courting the Korean vote.  There’s even a Korean language television commercial:

A commercial depicting an American political candidate pressing Korean flesh and eating food samples at the local Korean supermarket (complete with a saccharin, and exaggerated, “it’s delicious” expression).  I never thought I’d see the day.

Update:

Apologies to our readers of the more GOP persuasion.  Didn’t mean to leave you fellas out.  Looks like GOP candidate for the 10th district, Barbara Comstock, isn’t surrendering the Korean American vote without a fight.  According to the WaPo:

… Comstock, who is facing Democrat John Foust in the Nov. 4 general election, has also made sure to advertise her appearances before Korean and Indian audiences. She touts her legislative efforts on their behalf even as advocates say she has supported measures that are anti-immigrant.

[...]

The newsletter also highlighted the first celebration of the Korean Bell Garden in Vienna, a new attraction she said she was “thrilled” to have in her district when she spoke to the gathering of Korean Americans in Tysons earlier this month.

Sponsored by the RNC, the event — held at Woo Lae Oak, a restaurant that is a pillar of Northern Virginia’s Korean community — is the kind of grass-roots affair the party is seeking to host around the country.

“Good to see you,” Comstock said repeatedly as she visited tables while an aide shot photos of her with Korean guests that were later posted on Twitter and Facebook. At one point, the candidate conferred with Harold Pyon, a Korean civic leader who could be heard teaching Comstock to say “How are you?” in Korean.

Interesting.  I never knew there was a Korean bell and garden in Annandale, VA.

Paris Baguette goes to… Paris?

In a move that can be determined as either the height of hubris or the proverbial roll of the dice, the parent company of Paris Baguette has decided to open up its newest location in the heart of Paris, France.

(Photo from Korean Herald)

Ah, notice the “Boulangerie” (French for “bakery”) sign a bit more prominently displayed than the “PB” or “Paris Baguette” signage.  Personally, I question the attempt to bring croissants infused with hot dogs to a population as finicky with their pastries as the French.  Then again, it couldn’t have been more offensive as opening up a Taco Bell in Mexico or a Pizza Hut in Italy.  Wait, there are no Pizza Huts in Italy.  Good thing too as it might create some anti-American backlash.

Asia observer Donald Kirk pens an interesting article over at Forbes with his take:

[SPC Group is]… opening a Paris Baguette, mais oui, in the heart of the city that provides its name.  Along with French restaurants that are truly French, Paris Baguette decided to compete where it’s likely to attract the most scrutiny and appraisal by knowledgeable customers.

[...]

The idea is to go beyond the chain’s Korean roots, to show it’s truly French, to match the most sophisticated, subtlest tastes of any French restaurant. In keeping with that approach, Paris Baguette is a little reluctant to publicize its history as a Korean company in the hands of a Korean billionaire, Hur Young-in,  chairman of  SPC

So, to “show it’s truly French” to French people in Paris, huh?  Okay, good luck with that Mr. Hur.

Open Thread: July 18th, 2014

Hey, fellas.  I figured since the last few Open Threads came out a bit late, that we would at least be a little early with this weekend’s edition.  Mr. Marmot has told me that normal blogging will commence next week.

Korean beer consumers voting with their feet

Many foreign beer drinkers complain that Korean beers suck.  Comments range from donkey piss to kinda drinkable if really, really cold.  Personally, I like Korean beer with spicy Korean food and have never really thought of Korean beers as terrible.  However, there is nothing like the free market to bring out a little objectivity to the debate.

According to data from the Korea Customs Service consumption of imported beer has risen sharply:

South Korea’s beer imports reached a record-high level in the first half of this year, exceeding the nation’s beer exports.

Beer imports to the country surged 28.5 percent on-year to US$50.8 million during the January-June period, the highest figure since comparable numbers were first made available in 2000…

[...]

Imported beer['s] tonnage has increased more than 15 times since 2000…

So, are the Koreans flocking to British stouts or American lagers?  No.

Imports of Japanese beer came to 13,818 tons, accounting for the largest portion of the figure at 25.8 percent. The list was trailed by the Netherlands, Germany, and China at 8,887 tons, 7,825 tons and 5,067 tons, respectively.

Nippon number one!  At least in beer imports.

Netherlands?  Would that mean Heinekens are popular in Korea?

A different kind of Chinese invasion

Tourists and RMB.  Yep, Korea is becoming awash in both.  Quartz article sums it up nicely:

Chinese tourists are heading to South Korea more than any other destination this year, according to travel agency Ctrip. That’s because political instability has turned many off Thailand, and China’s ties with South Korea have been warming.

Invasion central?  Jejudo.

But most of all there is the undeniable appeal of JejuThe resort island off the South Korean coast is drawing Chinese tourists with its subtropical climate, visa-free status, and attractions like casinos and an erotic-sculpture theme park known as Loveland.

[...]

In 2013, almost four million mainland Chinese tourists visited South Korea, and 1.8 million of them went to Jeju…If Ctrip’s predictions are correct, the number of mainland tourists visiting South Korea will rise to 5.6 million this year—equal to over 10% of South Korea’s population.

Chinese tourism for 2014 may equal 10% of the ROK’s population?  Holy cow!

 

Snowpiercer to be shown on 250 screens in North America

Some of you may know, but Snowpiercer officially debuted in North America last week on about eight theaters in major metro areas.  It’s average take of over $20k per theater over the weekend was impressive enough that North American distributor Harvey Weinstein is expanding the release to 250 theaters this coming Friday (July 4th, happy birthday America!).

Wait a minute?  Didn’t this flick come out like in a year ago in Korea?  Why, yes it did.  It took so long to come out in the States probably due to some disagreements with Director Bong Joon-ho and the North American distributor on how well it would, uh, translate for a North American audience.  The Boston Globe has more of the grisly details on those “disagreements” here.

When Snowpiercer opened up last week it did so to largely positive reviews.  Among the more positive reviews, I liked Rolling Stone’s.

For shits and giggles, Variety compares Michael Bay and Transformers 4 to Bong Joon-ho and Snowpiercer.  But seriously, is there a comparison other then similar debut dates and the fact that both genres are “science fiction”?  It’s an amusing article none-the-less and perhaps enlightening on two different takes on movie globalization.

Japanese man self immolates himself in apparent protest to Abe’s collective self-defense law changes

Yesterday afternoon a Japanese man, apparently in his 60′s, wearing standard salaryman attire, sat on some girders near the busy Shinjuku Station.  With a blow horn he  announced that he would immolate himself in protest to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s controversial collective self-defense law changes.

man shinjuku south exist self immolate burn death protest abe shinzo collective self defense law suicide death

(Image from Japan Trends)

According to the blog Japan Trends, he cited government actions to “involve Japan more in war,” droned on for 30 or so minutes protesting Abe and his government and then proceeded to poured several bottle of brown liquid onto himself and eventually making good on his claims by igniting himself.  There is a YouTube video of the actual suicide moment.  The footage is graphic, so viewer discretion is advised.

Here’s more at Japan Times and Al Jazeera.

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