The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Category: Korean Culture (page 1 of 72)

“Topless” and “bottomless” pictures

The latest controversial photo in Korea has 18 modern dance students at Chonbuk National University in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province, take a “topless” photograph to commemorate their graduation.

2

(Image from ohfun.net)

So, what’s up with that one guy in the right corner?  What’s his story?

Meanwhile, in ‘Murica:

(Image from NY Daily News)

What is it?  Oh, just attention whore celebrity Kim Kardashian and her technologically enhanced butt out there to “break the internet.”

Is it sexy, funny, over-the-top?  Regardless, the internetz, armed with an iconic image, is rather creative at making hilarious fun out of it.

New WSJ series: “Office Outsider”

Are you non-Korean but working in a Korean white collar office environment?  Then you might be an “office outsider.”

(Image from the WSJ)

A non-Korean gal who worked as an English teacher for two years has gotten a job with a Korean corporation.  She thought she understood Korea as an English teacher, but working in the Korean corporate world was a whole new ball game.

My generic workstation in a room filled with cubicles could be located in any office park in North America. But my prior work experience, as well as my two years of teaching English at a middle school near Seoul, did little to prepare me for the Korean corporate sector.

[…]

When I entered the office on my first day of work, I was astonished to see formally dressed office workers standing in rows and performing calisthenics while the official exercise song (국민체조) played over the intercom.

[…]

My journey began with an interview. While I and the other candidates waited for the interview to begin, an human resources representative who was filling out personal profile questionnaires casually asked our blood type, religion, and alcohol tolerance.

[…]

I have faced some of the most curious, challenging, and unexpected experiences of my time in Korea, and my life, from enduring the months-long new employee training camp to adjusting to the office worker lifestyle. Now I am more immersed in Korean culture than I ever imagined or hoped, and the surprises just keep coming.

Calisthenics for office workers?  Questionnaires asking for blood-type and alcohol tolerance?  Everybody bowing in perfect unison?  Oh, my!

“Office Outsider” will be a bi-weekly column written by the gal in question (I am guessing she will remain anonymous?).  I’m looking forward to reading future installments.

Girl group flashes swastika-like symbol?

You be the judge:

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(Image from iamkoream.com)

This is relatively unknown girl band “Pritz” (프리츠).  It’s spelled “Pritz” because there is no “F” in Korean otherwise it would have been “Fritz.”  Uh, oh.  I think I know where this is heading.

Any ways, more information here.

Languages spoken in North and South Korea diverging?

Perhaps, so.  Well, when a language has been separated for 66 some odd years, there is a danger of that happening.

Apparently, North Korean defectors are complaining that the language spoken in the South has enough differences that it makes integration more difficult.  One defector claims that the language of the South is “completely different.”

This issue isn’t a new one.  There have been attempts by various individuals to come up with joint dictionaries, but the two governments haven’t been as cooperative.

Aside from difficulties for North Korean defectors is the larger issue of divergent diplomatic language.  The North have a different academic heritage than the South with many Soviet and German Marxist loan words entering their scholarly vernacular, whereas the South has kept many Japanese derived Chinese academic words and have adopted many German legal terms and English loan words.  The North has “purified” their language of Sino-Japanese words and haven’t adopted any English loan words (except for those that may have entered via the Russian route).

 

외국 남자들 (foreign men) portrayed as [completely normal] boyfriends?

A rather progressive yogurt commercial:

Commentary and background information given by James Turnbull over at The Grand Narrative.

Are South Koreans ignorant?

Ipsos Mori, a U.K. market research company has come up with an “ignorance” index of the world’s 14 most developed countries.  In defining “ignorance” Ipsos came up with nine questions about the 14 countries in the survey and asked an appropriate sample size of citizens of each country the nine questions about their respective country.

The results?

Ipsos MORI Perils of Perception: Index of Ignorance

(Image from Ipsos)

The questions were basic social facts about each country such as the rate of teen births, people over the age of 65, immigration rates, life expectancy, etc.  I took the test (available here) for both the U.S. and South Korean and I got a seven and eight out of nine questions right, respectively.

Japan (number 12) appears to blow Korea out of the water here.  Italy isn’t that surprising.  The U.S. at number two isn’t terribly surprising either, unfortunately.  Sweden, as usual in these type of indexes, outperforms.

FBI to crack down on Los Angeles Koreatown “doumis” (도우미)

In an investigative report by JTBC News, Los Angeles’ Koreatown is apparently rife with young women willing to sell (rent?) their time to eager men looking for companionship in karaoke singing rooms (a.k.a. noraebangs/노래방).

Some of the numbers JTBC threw around are huge.  At least 40 doumi “agencies” each managing 30-40 doumis for an estimated 1,600-1,000 total doumis in an area about three square miles.  Demand is apparently so huge that many of the doumis are non-Koreans or Koreans flown in from Korea to work as doumis for the extent of their tourist visas stays (three months).

For those of you that don’t know, a doumi (도우미) literally means “helper” but is now slang for a young woman who “helps” a business.  There are, for example, those “doumi” dancers that help bring attention to newly opened businesses, etc.  In this context these doumis are taxied into a regular noraebang, not room salon, mind you, to “help” drum up business for the noraebang.   Generally, the patrons of the noraebang specifically asks for doumis from the noraebang’s management who calls them in.  They sing, dance and talk to the patrons of the noraebang.  Generally speaking, there is light petting, flirting and sometimes kissing.  There is, again generally speaking, no sex.

JTBC alleges that these doumis breed casual drug use, gangs and are bringing “disgraceful” (JTBC’s words, not mine) attention to the Korean American community and by extension Korea.  Local law enforcement is keen on this trend and apparently the FBI had gotten involved in cracking down.

Notes

Like many “investigative” reports from Korean journalistic sources, there is a fair mix of fact, fiction and exaggeration here.  The absolute numbers might not be too far from the truth, as well as the “heterogeneous” mix of girls.  The fact that they have to recruit non-Korean girls and Korean girls from Korea sounds about right as local girls don’t ply the trade consistently because of the high likelihood that they will eventually run into someone that they know.

The assertion of massive drug use?  Almost always copious amounts of alcohol, but very rarely drugs.   I honestly don’t know about the gang part but my sources says it’s usually more small scale operations and loose networks of cab drivers, noraebang owners and doumi brokers who are managing the trade rather than gangs.

Busan Film Festival to tone it down

In past years the Busan International Film Festival’s (BIFF) red carpet was a chance for some of Koreans’ more sexy, but less well known actresses, to, uh, show off their talents.  Who can forget past entrants?

Oh In-hye, BIFF 2011:

Oh In-hye

(Image from Chosun Ilbo)

Bae Soo-eun, 2012:

(Image from Seoul Beats)

Han Su-ah, 2013:

(Image from HanCinema)

Kang Han-na in 2013:

(Image from Koalas Playground)

According to Bobby McGill’s on the scene and “in-depth” reporting over at Busan Haps, this year’s BIFF organizers, bending to the will of their militant and angry dry, old hag committee, have announced a dress code of sorts to eliminate the low cut dresses that have walked previous red carpets.

It is reported that BIFF organizers are pleased this year as it would seem that the actresses have heeded the dress code with attire that is a bit more, uh, sedate:

(Image from Korea Times)

By the way, it is just me or does the Busan Cinema Center look like a Cylon Basestar?

BIFF kicked off this Thursday and runs through Oct. 11.

Koreans now drink more coffee than eat white rice.

The headlines are saying that Koreans drink more coffee than eat rice, a statement that’s patently false.

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 10.00.14 AM

(Graphic from I Am Koream)

White rice 7 + multigrain rice 9.5 = 16.5 total rice > 12.3 coffee, no?

However, there is very little doubt that total Korean intake of rice has been decreasing over the past few years, particularly among urban dwellers.

Do North Korean refugee women dream of finding their perfect South Korean meal ticket husband?

What usually comes to mind when one thinks of North Korean women?  Those pretty cheerleaders that the North occasionally send out to international sporting events?  Women who, by very nature of being malnourished, being an average of 2-3 inches shorter than their South Korean counterparts?  Prettier than average Korean women in line with the Korean saying, “남남북녀” (“Namnam buknyeo”), or in English “Southern men [are handsomest], [and] northern women [are prettiest].”

Well, according to The Hankyoreh, at least one matchmaking agency has drawn some cartoons to expound their own stereotypes of apparently economically desperate North Korean women refugees looking for South Korean husbands to take them away from their destitution.

(Image from The Hankyoreh)

The blog Korea Exposé offers interesting English commentary:

A North Korean woman, alone in her cheap government housing, asks, “I want to get married. Where is my love?” She daydreams of being only in her underwear, straddling her ideal South Korean man, and calling out to him in affection, “My dear husband.”

That controversial advertisement by a matchmaking firm specializing in bringing North Korean defector women and South Korean men together was abruptly pulled late last month amid a firestorm of criticism at the way it depicted North Korean women as lonesome, sexually charged, and desperate.

Added bonus?  The same match making agency put out another cartoon explaining the, uh, “benefits” of having children with North Korean women:

(Image from The Hankyoreh)

No brown interracial children!

The Korean Herald: Racism in Korea

I know the news of the bar in Itaewon “not accepting” Africans is old and has been making the rounds in the Korean blogsphere.

(Image from Kenyabwala.com)

They did quickly issue an apology a day later.  However, I’m sure the apology was probably insufficient to many.

(Image from Koreaboo blog)

It may have only been 24 hours since the original signs were replaced, but let’s face it.  The damage was done.  The photo is a symbol of the issues of race that Korea is still mulling over.  To be fair, most countries have issues with race but a recent article from the Korea Herald (English Edition) did an excellent job at discussing its context within modern Korea.

[Korean racism]… is a complex product of the country’s colonial history, postwar American influence and military presence, rapid economic development as well as patriotism that takes a special pride in its “ethnic homogeneity,” according to professor Kim Hyun-mee from Yonsei University.

Unlike racism in the West, Korean racism is mostly targeted against those from other Asian nations, she noted. As of this year, more than 80 percent of immigrants residing in South Korea are from countries in Asia, the largest number coming from China and Vietnam.

(Graph from Korea Herald)

It’s really a nice article written by Claire Lee, who looks like she was educated in Canada (perhaps she is a gyopo?).  My excerpts don’t do it justice.  It’s well worth reading the article in its entirety.

Note

I don’t mind spirited discussion/debate, but let’s keep it civil folks.

Andrei Lankov asks what North Koreans really think about South Korean dramas

If one were to believe many news reports about North Korea, one may be forgiven for having the impression that the starving masses there long for a glamorous life in the South and are highly envious of their southern neighbors.  Well, the truth may be a little more complex.

The eminently readable and relevant Andrei Lankov asked the same question and came up with a highly textured answer.  In short, the Northerners are in fact impressed by Southern prosperity, but are also appalled by the violence, sex and greed exhibited in the dramas.

At first glance, it seems that North Koreans are bound to be admiring and envious of their South Korean brethren, whose income and living standards are so much higher and whose lifestyle is so much more comfortable….

[…]

The picture of the South within North Korea is a bit more complex, though. While admiring the almost unbelievable prosperity of the South, viewers are also exposed to many of the negative aspects of South Korean society.

[…]

… a number of North Korean viewers have come to the conclusion that South Korea must be a very violent place where police shoot suspected criminals more or less at random…

[…]

… casual sex, let alone sex as a means by which to advance one’s career or make some other type of gain, is considered morally despicable by… [North Koreans] . When they encounter a depiction of casual sex and one-night stands in South Korean movies, this confirms their belief in South Koreans’ low moral standards.

Very interesting read.  Dr. Lankov never disappoints.

Chad Future wants to introduce America to K-pop

Well, actually something he calls “AK-pop” or “American music inspired by K-pop.”  Chad Future (a.k.a. Detroit native David Lehre) has even set up a production company, Vendetta Studios, to make music videos and record songs.

Here are a few of them:

Listen, I can’t speak for the anyone else other than myself, but I laughed, I cringed and I really couldn’t get into the music.  Overall, I thought his videos and music were a little strange and overwrought.  That’s just my opinion though.

The last video, “When You Call,” features a Korean American singer, Jamie Seo, who looks so untypical for a Korean pop star.  She isn’t super skinny with long legs, big eyes and aegyo sal.   I think that’s refreshing and something that K-pop can perhaps learn from Chad Future.

Any ways, Mr. Lehre knows he’s got a lot of haters out there, but he’s being persistent.  He’s been at it for at least 2-3 years (I first blogged about him in 2012) and I have a feeling he won’t be going away any time soon.  So, Mr. Lehre/Future, I’ll be honest and say that your music isn’t my style, but it isn’t my business to tell another man not to pursue his dreams, so I wish you luck.

Daum and Kakao Are On a First Name Basis

Kakao Corp. and Daum Communications announced that they will adopt the anti-hierarchical office culture of Kakao Corp.  after their merger in October.  All workers and executives will be required to call each other by English first names:  “Some 1,600 employees currently at Daum will choose a new English name for this, and by doing so, we hope to further promote the two firms’ work ethics that prioritize openness and active participation as well as create a synergy effect between the two groups.”

From Yonhap: “Of course, it may feel weird or awkward for people to call each other by a foreign name, but we’ll see how this system settles in when business begins at the new Daum-Kakao in October,” said Kang Yukyeong, a communications official at Daum.

From Korea Times:  “All workers at Kakao call co-CEO Lee Sir-goo by his English first name Vino.”  Kakao employee Dallas said he felt “‘kind of awkward’ when he first joined Kakao about six months ago.  ‘It didn’t take so long before I became used to being called my English name and calling others by their English names. I realized we are encouraged to make active communication in the office even with CEO.'”

State-sponsored Arirang News broadcast a piece, IT companies in Korea change corporate culture to promote innovation (video starts at 9:02):  “Could the seemingly minor changes bring about real changes to Korea’s innovation potential?  A recent innovation index ranked Korea 16th out of 77 countries– higher than Japan or China.   But when it came to the so-called tolerance index, which measures how much a society tolerates different values and thoughts, Korea was ranked near the bottom at 62.”

The C- Word

News sources and quoted experts cited the move as an attempt to counter Confucian culture:

Yonhap stated in its article,”addressing employees of different ranks by their first name is uncommon in South Korea, where corporate culture is often perceived as rigid and is operated along regimented and hierarchical lines, a reflection of the country’s Confucian roots. Such hierarchy at workplaces is palpable in local companies….”

Arirang News aired a (translated) statement from Kim Jae-hee, Professor of Psychology at Chungang University, “if we look at our Confucianist culture, we were taught that there is a right answer to everything. We were never taught to look for new answers. To foster creativity, we need to learn that there isn’t just one correct answer to everything and understand there could be multiple answers.” 


Arirang posed an interesting question: “Could the seemingly minor changes bring about real changes to Korea’s innovation potential?”  

If so, how effectively and at what social or cultural cost?

I suspect that the change in some Korean major players’ corporate culture will carry over to Korean corporate culture in general.  When casual Fridays and then casual dress came into corporate culture, employees liked and perceived it as a benefit.  Employers saw casual dress as a no-cost benefit, and companies that resisted discovered how much the labor marketplace valued casual dress.  I suspect that young, professional Korean talent will similarly place a value on casual address companies.

Will this spillover into wider Korean culture and be the end to Korea’s deeply rooted hierarchical culture?  I think ‘yes’, and we are witnessing a seminal moment.

Japan not thrilled with how some Koreans, uh “celebrate” Gwangbokjeol

Korean Independence Day [from Japanese rule] was last week, August 15th.  It is also known as Gwangbokjeol (광복절) or “Restoration of Light” day.   Any ways, the way in which it is celebrated by some Koreans has riled up some Japanese Netizens.  Of particular discomfort was the Japanese soldier “execution” water fight.

korean independence 3

korean independence 5

(Images from Kyunghyang Shinmun via RocketNews24.com)

Some translated Japanese Netizen commentary:

“Hey, Members of the UN…are you going to stay silent on this?”

“And yet, if something like this happened in Japan, there would be a huge uproar.”

“I’m starting to think that Korea is a third world country.”

“What century are we in? Until when are they going to keep doing nonsense like that?”

“A country that is not that different from North Korea. Or rather…worse than…”

“Isn’t this on par with hate speech?”

“Members of the UN…isn’t this sort of imprinting a really bad idea on children?”

Okay, so I don’t exactly think that the water fight, mock “execution,” is in the best taste, but asking the U.N. to look into this?  As horrible it is for kids to shoot water at imaginary Japanese imperialist troops, I somehow think the U.N. has bigger fish to fry.

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