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Korea... in Blog Format

Category: Korean Media (page 1 of 21)

“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.

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(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:

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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.

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:

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“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.

Trailer for “Battle of Myeongryang- Roaring Currents”

Speaking of movie trailers, for you fans of Admiral Yi Sun-sin there is a new movie coming out that portrays probably his most famous battle where, the story goes, he successfully fought off 330 Japanese ships with just 12 or 13 of his own.

Battle of Myeongryang- Roaring Currents,” is starring Choi Min-Sik, probably one of Korea’s most internationally well known actors.  It will be interesting to see how he portrays Admiral Yi, given his history of portraying such dark characters.  Another interesting thing is that at least some of the storyline and aesthetics will be based on the American comic book “Yi Soon Shin: Warrior and Defender.”

Samsung sues newspaper over report on Galaxy 5

Samsung has launched a KRW 300 million lawsuit against Korean IT newspaper The Electronic Times for running an article that questioned whether the company would be able to launch the Galaxy 5 on time:

Last month ET News published claims that Samsung was having trouble producing Galaxy S5 cameras putting the device’s April 11th launch in jeopardy. Samsung states that’s not true. The Korean publication stood by its claims, refusing to change the story when requested by Samsung.

Samsung is now suing for 300 million KRW – about $284,000. The lawsuit was confirmed to TechCrunch by a Samsung representative.

I will say this about the Electronic Times—they aren’t sitting back and taking it. Since Samsung issued its demand for a correction, the paper has been firing back with a flood of articles criticizing Samsung, reports Pressian. So much so that Samsung is accusing the paper of using articles as a weapon. The Electronic Times, meanwhile, is accusing Samsung of using its economic power to “tame” the media.

Now, I have no idea whether the report in the Electronic Times was true or not. That said, Pressian and Media Today note that rather than take its case to the Press Arbitration Commission, the usual practice in cases like this, Samsung chose to launch a lawsuit straight away just two weeks after the store was printed. If true, this might lead some to suspect there’s something else going on here, even if Samsung has legitimate cause for complaint with the Electronic Times.

Now, as somebody who a) likes Samsung products, b) views Samsung as a symbol of Korean drive and ingenuity and therefore wants them to succeed but c) is simultaneously scared shitless of the company because of stuff like this, I’d caution Samsung that in terms of PR, lawsuits of this sort often cause more harm than good. As Media Today notes, Samsung launched the lawsuit because it was worried the Electronic Times’ report would spread and impact sales. Since the lawsuit, however, the foreign press—including FOX News—and big tech bloggers have picked up the story. This is probably NOT the effect Samsung intended. To make matters worse, a story at AppleInsider compares the Korean electronics giant rather unfavorably to the Cupertino Fruit Company, which—assuming the report is true—almost never sues newspapers/blogs despite the countless groundless rumors that accompany the release of just about every iPhone model.

Roboseyo’s five signs a writer knows nothing about Korea

Roboseyo has posted some very handy tips for determining whether the writer of a particular story about Korea actually knows anything about Korea:

You know how it is: whenever global or OECD rankings come out, whenever a Korean hits the global stage, whenever something’s written about Korea in a prestigious magazine, or bidding opens for another major global event… it becomes clear that in general, Koreans in high places (and perhaps many ordinary folks as well) really really do care what non-Koreans think about Korea. I’ve written about this before… perhaps my most memorable (to me) being “In Which Roboseyo Exhorts Seoul City Not To Get In A Snit About Lonely Planet.” One result of this abiding interest is the occasional case where some article, blog post, or other bit of writing gets far more attention than it deserves, through social media, netizen backlash, anxiety that someone Doesn’t Like Korea, or whatnot.

No. 3, “They use Han, Jung, Confucianism, Nunchi, Chaemyon, and other “Magic words” to explain Korean culture,” is the one that irks me the most, although to be fair, locals (about whom it can be presumed they know at least something about Korea) are wont to do this, too, when explaining things to a non-Korean audience.

As for No. 5, “(And this is the biggie) They don’t know any Korean,” is a good one, too, although as Roboseyo points out, it’s not a deal breaker in and of itself. I know of a couple of very knowledgeable writers about Korea whose Korean proficiency could generously be described as basic. Inability to understand a Korean news broadcast, read a Korean newspaper or interview a Korean, however, does limit your ability to gather and relay information. There is a corollary to this, though: just because you speak or understand Korean doesn’t mean you’re an expert on Korea. I know plenty of Koreans who can read the New York Times in English. Very few of them, however, I’d want to see on MBC analyzing the November midterms or the crisis in the Ukraine.

Speaking of the Ukraine, last month I read a pretty funny piece in the Spectator that provided ten handy phrases to help you bluff your way through a discussion on the Ukraine. Perhaps it would be fun to put together a similar list for Korea?

Korean words starting to get loaned into Chinese

I would be the first person to admit many Chinese loan words have made it into Korean.  However, it’s interesting when there are reports that the reverse is happening.

The Chosun Ilbo reports that due to the popularity of Korean dramas in China, Korean terms such as “oppa” (오빠) and “ajumma” (아줌마) are entering Chinese popular vernacular.  The Chinese, however, are putting different meanings behind the words.  오빠, which in Korean can mean anything from a female’s older brother to a female’s older male friend or even boyfriend/lover, has adopted the Chinese characters “,” pronounced “ou-pa” in Mandarin and the meaning of “…amorous feelings toward the subject.”

Ajumma/아줌마?  Well, the Chinese already has a popular word for “auntie,” (阿姨/āyí in Mandarin) the rough equivalent of “아줌마” so it’s adopted the meaning of “…to refer to tough women.”

American troopers in “Real Men”

As you all know every healthy Korean male is suppose to serve a two year stint in the armed forces.  It ain’t easy and it ain’t relished by most Korean men.  However, some time after their service, many Korean men develop strangely nostalgic memories of their service.  The Korean has a good series on this here and here.

Capitalizing on this phenomenon is MBC’s reality show “Real Men” where older Korean actors relive their days in the military for the benefit of their television audiences.  Surprisingly, the show has become popular with women who want to know a little bit of what their men had gone through.

Any ways, now “Real Men” has started to have troops from the U.S. 2nd Infantry Division interact with the Korean stars.  The American troopers, for example, don’t seem to mind eating Korean food.  What’s the first thought that runs across the Koreans’ minds when they see the non-Korean faces?  “Gosh, my English sucks.”  A surprising number of the American troops knew some Korean.  The cross cultural exchange is “interesting,” to say the least.

‘진짜 사나이’ 샘 해밍턴 “250원 바나나라떼 정말 맛있어” 극찬

(Photo credit edaily)

Korean drama about aliens, love and fried chicken big in China

Yep.  That’s the unlikely premise of “My Love From the Star.”  Strange plot aside, I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that the lovely Jun Ji-hyun is staring.

A pretty good performer in Korea, with an average ratings of 22.6%, it is apparently at least as popular, and probably a good deal more popular, in China.  In one of the episodes, Jun Ji-hyun’s character apparently has a love for fried chicken and this has lead to mobs of Chinese to form enormous lines at Korean fried chicken places.

It isn’t just food where hilarity has ensued.  In a recent Washington Post article, it would appear that Chinese government officials are talking about the drama as well and bemoaning the fact that Korea’s drama making skills are so much better than theirs:

“Well aware of the craze the drama has created in China, one committee of China’s political advisory body (called the CPPCC) spent a whole morning bemoaning why China can’t make a show as good and as big of a hit.”

Ah, a proud moment for kimchi-cheerleaders?  Maybe not.  What Wang Qishan, head of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and perhaps one of China’s top seven Communist Party leaders, said about the issue may be rather unsettling, if you are Korean:

“The core and soul of the Korean opera is a distillation of traditional Chinese culture,” Wang said. “It just propagates traditional Chinese culture in the form of a TV drama.”

I get it.  At the end of the day everything in Asia ultimately belongs to China!  I love how he turned that around.  Bravo, bravo.  Very smart Mr. Wang.  Very smart indeed.

UPDATE:

Here’s more on Wang Qishan and Korean dramas and a fuller version of his “quote”:

Wang then attributed Korean telenovelas’ success to their “Chinese spirit”.

“Sometimes I watch Korean dramas on and off. After watching for a long time, I realised I understood why Korean dramas are ahead of ours,” said Wang, who is known for a keen interest in popular culture.

“I’ve been wondering why Korean dramas have [invaded] China. How can they cross the ocean and influence the US and even Europe? In the past few years, they have come out with a Gangnam Style.

“The core and spirit of Korean dramas is the exact sublimation of Chinese traditional culture,” Wang was quoted by the newspaper as saying. “They use TV dramas to disseminate Chinese traditional culture.”

He is apparently also a fan of NetFlix’s House of Cards and has a bit of a reputation as an anti-corruption “tsar.”

This has caused buzz among  Chinese news sources who are trying to interpret what Wang is saying.  A Sina.com editorial thinks Wang is directly criticizing Chinese cultural officials.  The Zhengzhou Evening Post blamed China’s backward cultural bureaucracy and censorship for the failure.  Some media outlets believed Wang’s remarks were meant to encourage government officials to be open-minded and engage more actively with the young online community.

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