A rather progressive yogurt commercial:
Commentary and background information given by James Turnbull over at The Grand Narrative.
A rather progressive yogurt commercial:
Commentary and background information given by James Turnbull over at The Grand Narrative.
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.
(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.
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.
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.
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:
(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)
BIFF kicked off this Thursday and runs through Oct. 11.
(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.
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!
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.
I don’t mind spirited discussion/debate, but let’s keep it civil folks.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.
Author and Wall Street Journal Online columnist Jeff Yang wrote a piece published by CNN Opinion in which he posits that South Korea, no longer Hong Kong or Japan, is the Asian nation at the center of cultural cool.
So, is Korea cool du jour or can Korea kewl stay even after school?
That’s a question Euny Hong addresses in her new book, “The Birth of Korean Cool: How One Nation Is Conquering the World Through Pop Culture.”
“I think it can,” she says. “The difference between cool Korea and earlier Asian pop culture waves is that Korea has been working to make this happen for almost two decades. Korea is cool because it decided to be cool — it’s the first country in history that has made being cool a massive policy priority, backed by the Korean government to the tune of billions of dollars.”
The fact is, the machine of Korean pop culture is as sleekly designed, systematically engineered and massively marketed as any Samsung gadget. It’s not just a gigantic money-making industry, it’s also the primary source of “soft power” by which the nation seeks to shorten its path from war-torn, third-world country to the top ranks of world influencers.
“Koreans have a deep-seated desire to see the nation recognized and validated,” Hong says. “We study harder than anyone in the world, we work more hours, and it’s all because of this need to see us finally come on top.”
Jeff Yang continues,
Japanese cool is quirky, the sum of the nation’s eccentricities. Hong Kong cool is frenetic, representative of the society’s freewheeling striving spirit. American cool is casual: It’s cool that’s anchored in doing without trying, it’s about being quintessentially effortless.
By contrast, Korean cool could not be more effort-ful.
…and in illustrating his point, he diverges with mine:
The hypnotic appeal of K-pop videos are not just their candy-colored, otherworldly aesthetic, it’s also because their performers — sometimes numbering in the dozens — are invariably dancing in perfect sync, with a level of precision possible only because candidates for K-pop glory are recruited as adolescents and trained for years in groups that are required to live, take classes, eat, sleep and rehearse together until they’ve achieved a transcendent level of harmony.
“It all underscores the fact that the rise of Korean cool was hardly an accident — and that it could well have staying power.”
It can if, like those technocrats in a planned economy, the pop culture makers can continue to guess right or throw money at marketing or throw increasingly more money at marketing their mistakes. History’s lessons are full of semi-successful-for-three-years five-year plans doomed after so many succeeding and less successful five year plans ran those ministries into the dust heap.
The forced analogy makes me wonder, can cool be dictated by the decidedly uncool? I have commented often (as recently as today) on the long-term faptastic mistake that I think the femmebot, (shall we say) compliant sort of K-pop that the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST) subsidizes for export is. At best the girl groups will be laughingly remembered in dorm rooms as their target cohort matures into university students. At worst, they will resuscitate a hard-lost image of objectified Asian women. All the while the corporativism that is the alliance between the MCST and the Ministry’s preferred big entertainment companies are missing Korea’s vibrant and talent laden hip-hop, rap, and dance scene
OK, so the author and I disagree about what is cool and even whether Korea can stay the (as pronounced with a long ‘e’) it girl after the carriage turns into a pumpkin. As things stand he and the ministry are right, and the validity of my opinion is yet to be determined. Still Jeff Yang hit upon a larger, more important trend in Korea, though he missed the forest for the trees: Korea’s MCST is writing the how-to manual for emerging countries to market themselves and project their soft power.
Brand Korea, which I sometimes use derisively, is a self-marketing juggernaut. Korea’s branding prowess extends far beyond pop culture. For example, Korea recently gained recognition for Namhansanseong as a UNESCO world heritage site, which brings Korea’s total to an impressive 11. The Korean marketing machine is the real story here.
Read Jeff Yang’s full opinion piece at CNN.com
UPDATE: I found an article, Korean Cool Is The Ultimate National Marketing Ploy written by Euny Hong, author of the above cited book in Newsweek Online. She provides a brief, interesting bit of why:
“Very few countries have ever attempted to sell their pop culture to the United States. Even Japan didn’t try,” says Lee Moon-won, one of Korea’s most prominent cultural critics. So why would Korea focus its efforts on popular culture? Why not stick to cars and semiconductors?
The answer lies partly in the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997-1998, which left the country economically crippled, forcing the government to request a $57-billion loan from the IMF. The crisis exposed a huge fault line in the Korean economy: it was too dependent on the nation’s chaebols…. The government of then-president Kim Dae-jung realised it had to diversify.
…Was the president out of his mind? Building a pop culture export industry from scratch during a financial crisis seems like bringing a Frisbee instead of food to a desert island. …The creation of pop culture, Dae-jung argued, doesn’t require a massive infrastructure; all you really need is time and talent.
Read the rest of her article here.
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…
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.