The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Category: Korean Media (page 1 of 21)

Safety At All Costs?

Starting with the Sewol accident a year ago, there have been many accidents that have occurred in Korea in the past year.

For one thing, there have been a couple of subway accidents. There was also an accident in a K-pop concert where sixteen people lost their lives. There were also a string of accidents at Hyundai in the past year. And of course, there has been the seemingly increasing number of sinkholes around Lotte Tower. Of course, there are many more examples that I could not list all of them here.

With each new accident reported in the news, there is plenty of hand-wringing in the news media. For instance, this op-ed from The Korea Times claimed “incompetence, irresponsibility and a lack of safety awareness” can be blamed for the Sewol accident. The earlier article about the subway accidents blamed outsourcing of safety inspections.

I am sure that those same culprits can be blamed for almost every other accident that occurs in Korea.

There are a lot more examples of hand-wringing that can be found on social media where the chastising is more sarcastic.

Of course, corporations have been blamed for the accidents, also. Specifically, many people have blamed businesses’ “ppali ppali culture” as well as “businesses that put money and profits ahead of human lives and safety.”

However, what none of these moirologists ever specifies is how much fewer accidents there have to be for them to be satisfied. Must the number of accidents be halved, or at least reduced by a third? How much should businesses spend on safety precautions before they are satisfied that businesses are not putting profits ahead of people? Or will they not be satisfied until there isn’t a single accident that ever occurs anywhere within Korea’s borders, including its maritime borders?

More importantly, do people truly believe that Koreans really lack safety awareness? If they do truly believe that, then I have to wonder just how arrogant and self-righteous one has to be to actually think that to be true.

It is true that we do not often think of our own mortality. Can you imagine if each person in the world actually spent a significant amount of time thinking about their own inevitable ends each day?

So we choose to put the Grim Reaper at the back of our minds and until that fateful day comes, we continue to choose to live because we must. And while we live, we have to make choices. And sometimes, those choices come down to choosing between safety and convenience.

Despite all the moralizing and hand-wringing that people take part in, the fact of the matter is that safety does not always trump convenience. If it did, no one would ever do anything. Jaywalking, eating food sold by a street vendor, climbing a mountain, swimming in a lake, getting inside a taxi cab – each of those things carries certain amounts of risk.

At every waking moment, each of us has to make trade-offs. Do we sacrifice some safety to get more convenience, or do we sacrifice some convenience to get more safety?

However, those are private choices that each of us has to make for our own selves. And no one should presume that their preferred balance between safety and convenience is or ought to be the preferred balance for everyone else.

But what about those children who died on that ferry? They didn’t choose to put their lives in danger. There was no trade-off between safety and convenience. They implicitly trusted that the ferry they boarded was going to be safe. The ship’s captain, some of the crew, Chonghaejin Marine Company, and the coast guard failed them all.

That is, indeed, true. When it comes to third-parties who suffer from the choices that others have made for them, there is no satisfying answer. There is no “gotcha” argument or a clever turn of phrase that people can give that will satisfy everyone. The best that we can say is that better decision-making ought to be practiced and incentivized.

However, we must never kid ourselves and delude ourselves into believing that human life is somehow priceless. The truth of the matter is that no human life is worth an infinite value. Life is all about trade-offs. And at the end of the day, we have to decide how much money, how much comfort, or how much anything we are willing to sacrifice to save one additional life.

For example, if there were a way to make sure that no ferry would ever sink again, but it would cost a billion dollars to do it, would anyone actually spend a billion dollars on each ferry to ensure such an outcome? No, no one would do such a thing. Such a decision would soak up resources that are needed for other things.

If not a billion dollars, then how about a hundred thousand dollars? Or a thousand dollars? No one can answer this question and say that it ought to be the same answer that everyone else ought to give.

Contemptible as it may be, economic factors have to be taken into account and we must remember that economic factors set a limit on what is feasible to do. It is easy to say that no amount of money should ever be valued more than the life of another human being. It sounds nice, but, like most rhetoric, it is empty of thought. Moral intuitions, even the most well-intended kinds, can lead people astray; and it is absolutely necessary to subject moral judgments to a reality check.

Feeling Blogged Down

What to do?  What to do?

Korea’s news cycle has been consumed with the anti-corruption probe, the ensuing Sung Won-jong suicide, news of cash stuffed energy drink boxes, more threats (?) of suicide(!), captains abandoning their ships,  and thoughts of whether Korea is a police state in random musings about the reported 10,000 police officers at the first anniversary memorial commemorating the Sewol Ferry tragedy and its victims.

…and that’s just here at The Marmot’s Hole.

Korea’s news media and blogosphere has been similarly consumed, save for one sanctum sanctorum, fortress of solitude, alternative airing of Heidi when everyone else is thinking Superbowl, The Chosun Ilbo.

While all other of Korea’s daily news media have blared Sewol Ferry and the anti-corruption probe in their headlines for the past few weeks, today’s Ye Olde Chosun Ilbo featured the following:

Chosun Ilbo Front Page April 18, 2015

 

For the inquiring mind who wants, nay needs, to know, I humbly provide for his convenience and further edification:  Why Mostly Older Men Use Libraries.

…and what is the most read article at the venerable Chosun Ilbo?

Again, for his further denigration edification and to save my gentle reader the burden of a mouse click, I have reproduced the article complete with pic here:

Woman Holds Topless Protest in SeoulChosun Ilbo Most Read - Woman Holds Topless Protest

A topless woman appeared in Seoul’s busy downtown area around noon Wednesday with her private parts only covered in tape to protest for women’s right to bare their breasts.

Holding a sign that roughly translates as “Why are men allowed to expose their nipples while women are not?” she later put on a bikini top to cover herself up when a crowd of men had gathered around her.

Police arrived at the scene to stop her and the woman left at around 1:30 p.m. Police said they had no idea why she was holding the protest.

The 27-year-old woman, identified only by her surname Lee, had caused a stir last month after a video clip of her dancing topless at a night club went viral on the Internet. She is known to be an ex-dealer of German luxury cars.

Chosun Ilbo Woman Stages Topless Protest

A woman in a bikini holds up a picket in the Cheonggye Stream in Seoul on Wednesday.

It was her third topless protest. She protested semi-nude last month with a sign reading she would prefer to be naked rather than wear fur and stood in front of a memorial set up to mourn the victims of last year’s ferry disaster. On social media she claims to be a vegetarian, animal rights activist and feminist, and indeed her protest copies similar stunts by Western activist groups like FEMEN and PETA.

She claimed nobody would pay attention to her if she did not take her clothes off.

I feel like balance has been restored in the blogiverse.


(Special thanks to Brier for the kick in the pants inspiration.)

 

 

 

 

Cheating Ahjussi Destroys Pair of Blackmailing Agasshis

What do all these events have in common?

They were memorable lopsided victories.

First reported by Yuna last week, Mr. Lee Byung-hun looked like he was in a bit of a pickle with two young women trying to blackmail him over apparently “sexually suggestive” video content.  The married Lee Byung-hun (age 44) met model Lee Ji-yeon (age 24) earlier last year and in alleged text messages, it appeared that Byung-hun tried to seduce the younger woman into having sex with him through gifts and flirty text messages.  All this was apparently happening while Byung-hun was barely a year into his marriage with actress Lee Min-Jung (age 32).

Lee Ji Yeon's parents clarify and protest regarding their daughter actions against Lee Byung Hun.

From left to right- Kim Da-hee, Lee Byung-hun and Lee Ji-yeon.

So, as the story goes, Lee Byung-hun tries to shag up with Ji-yeon, is apparently unsuccessful, and after tiring of the blue balls inducing chase (other accounts says that Byung-hun dumped Ji-yeon only after she insisted on having sex with him), he dumps her.  Jilted, Ji-yeon plotted revenge with her friend, GLAM girl group member Kim Da-hee (age 20), to extort $5 million USD out of Byung-hun by threatening to release of video that allegedly has him making sexually suggestive (lewd?) comments to the girls in one of their evening outings.  $5 million USD?  Seriously?  These girls need to get their heads checked!

Presented with such a ludicrous request Byung-hun did what any sane man would do.  He said “hell no” and reported them to the police.  Wow, talk about backfire!  So, the police question Da-hee and Ji-yeon, they apparently confess to their attempts at blackmail and were formally charged.  Yesterday, the Seoul Central District Court convicted both Da-hee and Ji-yeon of attempted blackmail with a jail sentence of one year and one year and two months, respectively.

These girls certainly tried to go big.  They bet all their money and the keys to their car on a pair of twos, bluffed badly, and got royally shafted.  Spectacular fail, but deserved due to their gross stupidity and hubris.  Lee Byung-hun doesn’t come out smelling like roses either, with all kinds of evidence pointing to him being a pervy married ahjussi trying to seduce a girl 20 years his junior.

Photo from Kpopstarz.com via Twitter.

Have You Seen This Man?

CYH

Apparently, he was reported to be in the vicinity of the Blue House but there is some disagreement with this sighting and there are concerns that more than this man may be missing.  If you spot him, please call the Segye Ilbo, since they have invested some effort in locating this fellow.

American ambassador talks policy, love of kimchi

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 9.26.57 AM

In his first interview with the Korean media, American Ambassador Mark Lippert discusses a variety of topics such as North Korea, America’s role in improving relations between Japan and the ROK, THAAD, the “pivot” to Asia and his long-time friendship with President Obama.

He also confirmed that he not only eats kimchi, but is quite fond of it.

When asked, Lippert responded:

“I eat a lot of kimchi. Absolutely. I love it. I love the flavor.”

The 41-year-old Lippert, the youngest ambassador Washington has posted to Seoul, seems a sharp fellow and has been lauded since his arrival for the way he engages the public through social media and on the street. We should all wish him well moving forward with what must be one of the more difficult ambassadorial postings in the arena of Asia geopolitics.

As for “the question”. I once asked former Lotte Giants’ manager Jerry Royster something, errr, similar during his tenure here.

“Quo Vadis”- problems with Korea’s Mega Churches

A documentary will be coming out on December 10th that will examine allegations of wrong doings by three of Korea’s largest Christian churches.  Titled “Quo Vadis“(Latin for “Where are you going?”) the documentary was made by Kim Jae-hwan, a self identified Christian, who says he spent $270,000 USD of his own money to make it.

Documentary Quo Vadis’ challenges the mission of South Korean churches

(Photo from Los Angeles Times via Han Cinema)

According to a L.A. Times article on the  documentary:

Kim [Jae-hwan], a Christian, said South Korea’s media have gone soft on the churches because of their significant political influence and financial clout. His goal: to spark what he calls an overdue debate on whether churches have lost their moral authority in a quest to accumulate more congregants and money.

Kim centers his greatest condemnations on Korea’s largest Church- Yoido Full Gospel:

One of the scenes in “Quo Vadis” includes a 2013 news conference in which elders from the Seoul-based Yoido Full Gospel Church, purported to be the largest Pentecostal church in the world, asked embattled senior pastor David Yonggi Cho to step down.

The elders accused Cho of using millions of dollars of church funds to buy stock in a company owned by his son. Despite the evidence against Cho, other Yoido elders argued that the allegations were baseless. Cho supporters who barged into the church gathering included one who reached for the throat of a speaker. A brawl ensued. As groups of suited men shoved one another and threw punches, journalists’ cameras rolled.

A few months later, Cho was found guilty of tax evasion and professional negligence. He was sentenced to three years in prison and fined more than $4 million.

 

“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.

Girl group flashes swastika-like symbol?

You be the judge:

qqsmetiua2xubspfe9fz

(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.

Keep Reaching for the Stars, Korea

The KT ran a link on its homepage to a piece, Olivia Hussey has half-Korean son.

For those of you who might not remember, Hussey is best known for her role as Juliet in Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet (an inverse-bowdlerization of that otherwise HS freshman English snooze fest, Romeo and Juliet), playing opposite the ageless Zac Efron‘s Romeo.  Thoughts of Hussey reminded me of the best (full disclosure: only) mammaries I had in high school.

According to the article in the venerable KT, “Academy Award-winning 1968 film ‘Romeo and Juliet’ Max Fusestar Olivia Hussey’s half-Korean son is receiving the nation’s spotlight.”

For those whose animal appetites have been whet to a frothy, rabid peak, “his name is Max Fuse, her 30-year-old son born from her second marriage with Japanese musician Akira Fuse who was a Korean descendent.”

And what, pray tell, you might ask has Max Fuse done, had done to him, had sex with, or in some other way accomplished to garner the nation’s spotlight?  “Max began to attract attentions (sic) following the recent news that shed lights (sic) on Hussey’s 20-year-old daughter from her third marriage India Eisley.”  (Note to KT copy editor:  “…Hussey’s 20-year old daughter, India Eisley, from her third marriage.”)

India Eisley appears to be in the doey-eyed ingénue business and positioning herself for a long, multi-decades run as such.

The KT performed a fine piece of investigative and research journalism to uncover Max Fuse’s “half-Korean” roots but has decided not to reveal its sources.  Max Fuse is as anonymous on the internet as any anonymous Joe, and googling “Max Fuse” summons a single hit (about his Japanese roots) and others about a line of Air Jordans.  His father’s Wikipedia page neglects to mention, if not conspiratorially covers up, Akira Fuse’s Korean roots and intimates that his biggest claim to fame is his defunct marriage to Hussey.  From the article’s first sentence:

Akira Fuse (布施 明 Fuse Akira?, born on December 18, 1947 in Tokyo) is a Japanese singer, who was once married to Olivia Hussey.

His Wikipedia page prominently displays the following warning:

The topic of this article may not meet Wikipedia’s notability guideline for music. Please help to establish notability by adding reliable, secondary sources about the topic. If notability cannot be established, the article is likely to be merged, redirected, or deleted.

Phew.  …And to think all this started because I wanted to know how those KT math wizards calculated “half-Korean” for Olivia Hussey’s son.  At least I now know that the nationwide Beatles-esque frenzy Max Fuse inspires in Korea explains the traffic jam I sat hours in during Friday evening’s commute through Seoul.


As the KT continues in its mission to develop the local angle and guided by its credo that “all news is local”, my inside sources at the KT have leaked exclusively for TMH’s inquiring minds tomorrow’s piece on Leonardo DiCaprio’s half-sister, from his mother’s second marriage, overheard at a NoCal all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet saying how much she “loves this Korean sushi” while gorging herself on kimbap.

As Casey Kasem said signing off from America’s Top 40, “keep your head in the clouds and keep reaching for the stars”, Korea.

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.

Breaking News: Jessica Jung dropped from Girls’ Generation

It all started with an update to Jessica’s official Weibo account, which stated:

Untitled_1

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I was excited about our upcoming fan events only to shockingly be informed by my company and 8 others that as of today, I’m no longer a member. I’m devastated – my priority and love is to serve as a member of GG, but for no justifiable reason, I am being forced out.”

The whole K-pop world is alight with speculation.  At first it was believed that Jessica’s Weibo account was hacked and that message was a fake.  Alas, it would appear not so.

SM Entertainment’s official statement is:

Hello. This is SM Entertainment.

We are offering our position on the words posted on Jessica’s Weibo posted today.

This coming spring, due to her personal situation, she has notified us she will halt her team promotions with the release of one [more] album.

Despite Jessica’s sudden notice, the agency and the Girls’ Generation members tried our best and tried to figure out a way that Girls’ Generation’s activities can continue in the best possible direction.

However, in the midst of insufficient negotiations regarding conflicts of differences in priorities and interest, Jessica started her fashion business. Due to this, despite ongoing talks, it has come to a point where the team could not be maintained.

Thus, the agency had no choice but to pull up Girls’ Generation’s activities as 8 members earlier than planned, and in the midst of while working out when to announce this, Jessica had posted her words early this morning.

From here on, our agency will continue to support and manage the 8-member Girls’ Generation and Jessica’s individual activities.”

Apparently, Jessica has other interests she wants to pursue.  According to Soompi, a popular K-pop blog, she is an aspiring fashion designer and wants to study fashion design in the U.S. and is attempting to launch her own brand “BLANC.”    Her dreams to become a fashion designer, going to fashion school in the U.S. while still participating in Girl’s Generation activities appeared to be too much of a conflict for SM Entertainment and they apparently considered it a breach of contract and dropped her.  The SM statement does say that there are “on going talks” so it’s not clear if the drop is permanent.  More to come.

The remaining eight members of Girls Generation were spotted today in Incheon Airport with dire expressions and one member short.

(Image from SBS)

UPDATE

Jessica releases her official statement.  Here are excerpts:

Up until the beginning of August when I was launching ‘BLANC’, I had received agreement and permission from SM, and congratulations from the members as well.

However, in early September, after only a month since the launching, the members suddenly changed their position and held a meeting, and told me to either quit my business or leave Girls’ Generation without any justifiable reason.

[…]

Shocked about this, I had met with the agency CEO on September 16 to convey my position, and once again confirmed their permission for carrying out my business.

However, on September 29, I was given a one-sided notice asking me to leave Girls’ Generation. Due to this, I was also unable to attend the fan meeting in China on September 30, and I have also been excluded from following Girls’ Generation activities.

So, management was supportive and the other eight members asked her to leave?  Whaaaat!?

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.

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.

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.

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