The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Category: Korean Media (page 2 of 21)

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.


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 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.

So, I take it you were less than pleased with the way you were treated in the United Kingdom?

Somebody at the JoongAng Ilbo was slightly upset at the way the Korean press was treated by British officials during President Park’s visit to Great Britain:

Among the three European countries President Park Geun-hye visited last week – France, Britain and Belgium – Britain was the only country that invited her as a state guest. Only a few foreign leaders are invited as state guests, and they received the best possible treatment from Queen Elizabeth II.

But the splendid welcome afforded to the president was denied to some 70 members of the press accompanying her, including full time Blue House correspondents. Veterans of presidential trips said they had never been treated with such condescending rudeness. It reminded some of the memorable remark made by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young in 1977 that racism must have been invented in Britain.

What follows is a lot of complaining about British security guards, the journalists’ British minders and the security folk at Heathrow Airport.

How much of this is the Brits actually being dicks, how much is simply winging by entitled journalists, and how much is somebody at the newspaper in question having a bad experience, I don’t know.

I did appreciate this part, though:

Journalism is all about timing. Many of us had deadlines approaching back in Seoul. Our editors in Korea needed photos, videos and articles about the pomp and ceremony going on in London. What is the use of being on the scene when you can’t report it?

That’s a good question. And it’s a question that might be better asked, perhaps, of your own government officials and media editors.

Character Assassination & Libel – A Disturbing Trend in Korean News Reporting?

prosecutedMost people have heard the phrase about hammering down the nail that sticks out.

What happens when the offending nail is the chief prosecutor for the nation?

Prosecutor General Chae Dong-wook has just now been accused in the leading conservative newspaper, the Chosun Ilbo, of fathering a son, out of wedlock. Why would this be newsworthy, if true? To discredit a prosecutor that has had the temerity to question the role of the NIS in illegally exerting influence in the last presidential election?

Possible but, according to one article in the MK Business News, Prosecutor General Chae is also the man responsible for going after the illegal stash of money that Chun Doo-hwan had hidden away within his family circle:

. . . the prosecution (Chae) armed with the `Act on collecting Chun Doo-hwan’s punitive fine’ and public support ultimately led the Chun family to unveil a plan to pay the remaining fines by intimidating that the Chun family would all be subject to prosecution.
After the related ruling came out in 1997, the task has faced many bumpy roads. The issue of fine collection has resurfaced after Prosecutor General Chae Dong-wook took office. (link)

Could this mean that Prosecutor General Chae has been overzealous in his role as chief prosecutor and has made certain old-school power brokers angry by directly threatening their interests?

I certainly can not answer the question,  but it is interesting that Prosecutor Chae has demanded a retraction from the Chosun Ilbo and has announced that he is willing to take a DNA test to prove that he is not the father of the child in question. Chae also is to demand a correction from the Chosun Ilbo for incorrect, if not libelous reporting.

I would ask – though we are still trying to determine who is responsible when a government agency (NIS) interferes in an election, who is responsible when a newspaper decides to discredit a prosecutor who is trying to do his job for the welfare of the nation?


It is now Chief Prosecutor Chae’s turn to embarrass the Chosun Ilbo and maybe, some other unknown member of the current administration:

. . . “We decided to file a lawsuit because the Chosun hasn’t taken any action, even though we asked them on Monday to publish a correction,” said Koo Bon-seon, the spokesman of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office. “To resolve the matter, we decided to take the issue directly to court instead of going through the Press Arbitration Commission.”

. . . The Chosun Ilbo’s Sept. 6 edition mentioned the boy’s certificate of family relationship, his residence address and the specific date that he left Korea for schooling in New York. A later edition claimed that school records named the boy’s father,” two Democratic Party legislators said at a press conference. “That information can’t be obtained without cooperation from government officials. Handing over such information to another person is subject to criminal punishment”. (link)

Considering his personal character and drive, maybe Chae Dong-wook should run for president, in the future.


Chief General Prosecutor Chae has resigned his position stating that he would continue his suit against the Chosun Ilbo:

Today, I am relieving myself of the heavy responsibility of prosecutor general . . . ” (link)

According to Yonhap News:

. . . The resignation came shortly after the justice minister ordered an inspection of the case, saying there was an “urgent need to promote stability of the prosecution office and to reveal the truth as soon as possible.”

It marked the first time that a justice minister has ordered an inspection into the country’s top prosecutor over a scandal involving a personal matter.

Perhaps the justice minister’s unprecedented entrance into this affair was a sign from the highest levels of government that it was time for General Prosecutor Chae to leave.  Though I am not a fan of the Korea Times, their comments on the tactics of the Ministry of Justice is telling:

. . . quite a few Koreans suspect this might be a joint scheme of those in the core of power and the conservative newspaper to drive out this disobedient prosecution head.
The seed for his resignation after just five months in office was sown when he first caused friction with Cheong Wa Dae over the prosecution of state spies who allegedly meddled in elections. Chae pushed ahead with indicting a former head of the National Intelligence Service (NIS), in defiance of opposition from justice ministry, for directing NIS agents to conduct a smear campaign against opposition candidates in last year’s presidential election.
When Chae initially pushed back outside pressure by volunteering to take a genetic test and prove the Chosun Ilbo story wrong, the power elite seems to have decided to use the “inspection card,” depriving Chae of his authority and making the prosecution dysfunctional. Otherwise, it is hard to understand why the justice minister couldn’t wait until how the proposed DNA test pans out.
This page, along with most other Koreans, hope these presumptions are wrong, as we don’t want to see the nation’s democracy go back decades ago to when leaders used the state spy agency for political maneuvering. For any faithful news watchers, it was evident that the NIS, to get out of the biggest crisis the state spy agency is in because of unwarranted meddling in domestic politics, has made a series of “revelations,” ranging from the disclosure of the records of the 2007 inter-Korean summit to the latest spy ring accidents involving a leftist lawmaker.
It is also hard not to point out, as one in the same profession, the way the Chosun Ilbo reported this case: the self-imposed most influential paper neither provided any plausible grounds for its allegation nor confirmed its contents before reporting, let alone giving Chae an opportunity for a counterargument, like some irresponsible tabloids.
Two of the biggest victims of this third-rate drama will be the mother and son, whose private lives have been brutally exposed to the public gaze. It is another sad reminder of how the institutions of political power, including arrogant media outlets, can trample on basic rights of powerless individuals to pursue quiet lives ― and the urgent need to reform these agencies by the people’s power. (link)


Now President Park has refused to accept the resignation of Prosecutor General Chae Dong-wook, a senior official said Sunday:

 . . . “The resignation has not been accepted,” senior presidential press secretary Lee Jung-hyun told reporters. “Revealing the true should come first.” . . . A presidential aide also said that Chae’s case is not about the prosecution’s independence, but about ethics of a public official. (link)

The presidential aide completely missed the point of this issue, which is not about the PG’s ethics or independence – which were never in question before he investigated the NIS – but why has this libel been printed in a major newspaper with ties to the Saenuri Dang, at this very time?

The deputy chief of the internal inspectors’ office, Kim Yun-sang, also resigned Saturday in protest of the justice minister’s order that an outside prosecutor be named to investigate Chae.  The Deputy Chief is also quoted as criticizing the Minister:

. . . He is a bad leader who has completely failed to fight against political influences, and who failed to protect the chief of the senior investigations agency. It is also insane that the ministry didn’t consider using the prosecution’s own inspection headquarters for this work. I heard about the investigation from the news media, not from the ministry or from the prosecution organization. Such a process is unacceptable and doesn’t usually occur. (link)

 This is still unfolding and will be interesting to see just how the President plays this issue now since too many people are not going to let this issue and the NIS affair die quietly.

Korean Football Team gets an education on how (not) to use the SNS

As a result of a recent palaver following the footballer 기성용 Ki Sungyong slagging off the former national team manager 최강희(Choi Kanghee) on his twitter, South Korean National Men’s Football team (a.k.a Team Hong Myungbo 홍명보호) is to receive a special lesson on how to keep their big SNS gobs shut.

National Men’s Football Team Coach Hong Myungbo – 출처:스포츠동아DB .

Hong Myungbo, Mr.Charisma himself, who was recently appointed as 감독 Manager to direct the national team, is having none of the monkeying-around by Ki. Although Ki himself has mentioned Hong with much respect and awe during multiple previous occasions, Hong in turn, silenced the possibility of showing a soft-spot for Ki by saying :

홍명보 감독은 기성용에게 “대표팀 감독이 아니라 축구 선배로서 (말하자면)앞으로 바깥세상과 소통하기보다는 부족한 내면의 세계를 넓혀 갔으면 한다”며 “협회의 경고조치를 가볍게 생각해서는 안 될 것이다. 축구에서 옐로카드가 어떤 의미를 주는지에 대해 잘 생각해야 할 것이다. 앞으로 주의 깊게 관찰하겠다”고 말했다.
As a 축구선배 (Football sunbae/senior) and not as a national team manager, I would advise him(Ki) to make an effort to widen/teach his inner self which is very much lacking (in various qualities) rather than to worry about communicating with the outside world. He should not take the Football Commission’s warning lightly, and instead think about the meaning of a yellow card during a football game. I will keep a close eye on him.”

Who knows? Marrying a 누나 might calm him down a bit in the future – here he is marrying the lovely actress Han Hyejin.
I would also say that a lesson in SNS might not be a bad idea for a lot of people. Or just any sort of anger-management. Or a help-line one can call before pressing that “publish” or “tweet” button.

Chosun Ilbo on pro-North Koreans, Roh Moo-hyun and anything other than the NIS scandal

So, I click on over to Ye Olde Chosun, and what do I see on the front page?

Why, an analysis piece taking an in-depth look at pro-North Koreans. Well, at least one pro-North Korea, anyway, a guy who ran a pro-North Korean website. Suffice it to say the guy was a bit odd, and if I were forced to guess, I’d say perhaps a bit unstable.

This article was sparked by news of another pro-North Korea who just earned himself a year and a half in the sin bin for praising North Korea. Well, not just praising North Korea, but praising North Korea is balls-out fashion—he’s shouted “Long Live the Great DPRK!” and other pro-North Korean statements at four straight hearings since 2011, earning himself extra charges every time.

The Chosun—or at least its TV channel—also used the North Korean UN ambassador’s call for the dissolving of the UN Command to look back on—you guessed it—late President Roh Moo-hyun’s views on USFK. Not quite sure why they felt compelled to do that, other than perhaps with Saenuri Party lawmakers leaking confidential statements made by Roh during his summit with late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, Roh-bashing has become the order of the day.

Mind you, I find the leaks interesting, if for no other reason that—assuming for the moment that the leaks are true—-they make Roh look even more craven than I thought he was. Still, it seems fairly obvious this is the shiny object conservatives are shaking around to distract attention from the NIS scandal, which I think is much more important.

Oh, and the leaking of the notes from the summit may have been illegal, depending on how the notes are categorized. The Democratic Party has filed a complaint against not only the lawmakers who announced the notes, but also against the NIS director and vice-director who let them read said notes. At any rate, the Saenuri Party is calling for a parliamentary investigation into the NLL issue. The head of the Democratic Party, meanwhile, is calling for a parliamentary investigation into the NIS trolling scandal, and honestly, I’ve got to agree with them—it’s a very, very dangerous thing for the intelligence service to intervene in domestic politics and the public deserves answers.

For comparison’s sake, I’ve posted the screenshots of the online editions of the Chosun Ilbo and Hankyoreh:

스크린샷, 2013-06-24 13:22:24

스크린샷, 2013-06-24 13:23:08

Oldboy: A Spike Lee Joint

They did it.  They finally “remade” Park Chan-wook’s OldBoy.  Looks like they have been in post production for awhile.  Here are a few posters courtesy of “Oh No They Didn’t” blog.

Oh, no they didn’t indeed.  Release date is October 25th.  Here is more info at the IMDB.

What? You mean having consensual sex with a Korean woman is NOT a sex crime?

Matt over at Gusts of Popular Feeling has been all over the JoongAng Ilbo and its TV station for some articles and a TV program on foreign crime.

I’m going to link to his most recent post, but it’s got the rest of the series linked at the top.

BTW, dear readers, don’t try this at home:

I’d also like to say Solbi‘s role in all this, while regrettable, is easily forgiven because she’s hot. She doesn’t look like Jessica Alba, though, unless by Jessica Alba, you mean “charmingly plump Korean girl with a great rack,” in which case yes, she looks exactly like Jessica Alba.

Flavor of the month – You Are Fired

unapproved-tiesDonald trump may be a schmoe but sometimes people need to be fired, thus the Foundation of Broadcast Culture (FBC) that controls MBC, after so much protesting last year, finally fired MBC President Kim Jae-chul.

Kim’s dismissal comes after one of the largest protests over media independence this last year, when hundreds of media workers walked out in protest of heavy-handed media influence by Kim and others, who sought to control how the former government was portrayed in media:

Editorial employees of Munhwa Broadcasting Corp., or MBC, walked out Jan. 30 and were followed by journalists at the Korea Broadcasting System, or KBS, the news-only cable channel YTN, and the publicly funded news agency Yonhap. All voiced the same demands: editorial independence and the resignation of pro-government corporate presidents.
Although workers at KBS, a public broadcasting company, and Yonhap ended their strike recently, the battle continues at MBC, another public broadcaster, and at YTN, a private company whose major stockholders are government-related agencies. The strike at MBC has become the longest in company history.
President Lee Myung-bak appointed close associates to the top positions at public broadcast companies and news agencies after he took office in 2008. Kim In-kyu, a media advisor in Lee’s election campaign, became chief executive of the KBS network. Kim Jae-chul, a reporter who allegedly was close to Lee, took over at MBC.
Strikers say that major investigative programs were canceled and news stories criticizing the government were dropped or banned from the air. (cite)

Censorship has had a long and storied history in South Korea and is still a problem with many in the entertainment industry who must deal with having their music videos and work vetted first before being put out on the internet. The Korea Media Rating Board (KMRB) is another example of heavy-handed and failed meddling in the fields of entertainment and commerce.  After the infamous “Sea Story” incident, the Game Rating Board (게임물등급위원회) was created but began indulging in a list of stupid pranks that basically help shut down smaller and independent game developers in Korea (cite).
Per Yang Hyun Suk of YG Entertainment:

In the early 90′s, we were often censored for coloring our hair back when I was promoting with Seotaiji & Boys. This new policy implemented by the Korea Media Rating Board reminds me of those days. I experienced ‘mental collapse’ after hearing the news. . .  Psy‘s fresh and humorous “Gangnam Style” MV is going viral all over the world, but if this new policy gets implemented, we are going to have to think twice before we produce this kind of project again.” (cite)

The MBC labor union accused former CEO Kim of “interfering with fair and balanced news coverage and pushing favorable reporting of the former Lee Myung-bak administration”.  Their strike lasted 170 days – the longest ever – ending last July.

South Korea to get medieval on North’s ass: Dong-A Ilbo

OK, the Dong-A Ilbo didn’t say that exactly, but they got downright North Korea-esque in their headline, “Self-propelled artillery to belch fire if North launches provocation… command posts to be turned to ash by jet fighters.”

To sum up, if North Korea uses its coastal guns to attack somewhere like Baengnyeongdo, they’re gonna get a hurtin’. The South Koreans will first use their 20 K-9 pieces on Yeongpyeongdo and Baengnyeongdo, 130mm Multiple Rocket Launchers and 155mm towed artillery to rain fire on the offending artillery unit.

If North Korea persists, South Korea would commence the second stage of its retaliations by going after support and command units. ROKAF F-15s and F-16s would launch surgical strikes against command units in the rear such as the headquarters of the KPA 4th Corps, while the ROK Navy would put destroyers in the West Sea to guard against further provocations.

The ROK military is also ready for attempts by the North Koreans to land special forces on the West Sea islands in a bid to occupy them. The ROK military believes the North has plans to use air-cushioned vehicles to take over the islands within 30 minutes of crossing the NLL. South Korea has got Cobra gunships on Baengnyeongdo for just such an occasion.

A high-ranking military official told the Dong-A that it has more the quadrupled the amount of firepower its got on the West Sea islands and rewritten the rules of engagement since the Yeonpyeongdo incident. This time, the South would get proper vengeance if the North launches a provocation. Military experts, however, say it’s difficult to say who’s on top in the West Sea, with the North ahead quantitatively but the South ahead qualitatively.

And on a related note… hey, G’Na! Get off those flags!

I take it the Chosun Ilbo’s Washington correspondent dislikes pot legalization

Or so the conclusion of his latest column would seem to suggest:

But pushing “drug legalization” because of money problems cannot be a desirable direction. Even major US media say the loosening of regulations on “evil industries” like drugs and gambling is a dark aspect of American society. If you open the gate on marijuana, there’s no reason to believe there won’t be calls to permit even more addictive drugs. If one sees how there is already a study that says if the United States legalizes all drugs, it could raise an extra US$43 billion a year, this cannot be regarded as simple alarmism.

You know, guys, I think she was kidding

I have no idea how Ye Olde Chosun even picked up this story in The Reader, but me thinks—their caveat notwithstanding—they might have taken it a bit too seriously.

Daniel Tudor interview and an excerpt from his book

Back in December I did an interview with Daniel Tudor for Haps. He being the author of Korea: The Impossible Country as well a correspondent covering the peninsula for The Economist and Newsweek. The print version of the piece has been out for a month, but have just gotten around to posting it online.

Along with the interview, Haps has an extended (and quite interesting) excerpt on Shamanism in Korea, from the book.

Tudor, who I found to be frank and engaging in his responses, gave some insight into the book’s “impossible” title –which partially grew out of an interview with a former Park Chung-hee aid who said, “Korea was the poorest, most impossible country on the planet.”

“I love living here, but often, I feel thankful that I’m not part of this society’s rat race,” said Tudor, before segueing into the dual meaning of his book’s title. “I think that this society makes life ‘impossible’ for its citizens in some way, by setting up impossible ideals to live up to, and forcing people to accept a very narrow definition of what ‘success’ can be.”

I know he has caught some flak here on The Hole of late, but his book is well worth a read. You can check out the rest of the interview here.

I did like his quote on the drawbacks of being a foreign reporter here:

“On the downside, people don’t like to be so outspoken here, so that often leads to boring interviews. And if you criticize someone, they are liable to go ape on you. There’s a little over-sensitivity, especially where the foreign press is involved.”

The MH comments section would never go ape though, right?

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