Tuesday, August 31, 2010

KPOP Korral - [Taeyang] - I'll Be There

One of the hottest male performers in Korea at the moment is Taeyang (태양).  He was born Dong Young-bae (동영배) and is part of the YG Entertainment family.  He debuted in 2006 as a member of Big Bang.  The song "I'll Be There" is from his solo album titled Solar.

The ladies love him...

Monday, August 30, 2010

Shawkshank Bopeeption

I saw a couple other web parodies similar to this one on Youtube and felt the need to give this iconic scene from Shawshank Redemption a K-POP twist.  The video is mirrored because copyright protection would have prevented the ability to embed it.

This has easily been the cutest (nauseatingly) kpop song I have seen so far.  When I first saw Bo Peep by T-ara I thought it was a joke and too silly to be serious, but it has been one of the biggest hits of 2010 so far.  Koreans love this song...

274kg (602pound) Woman Hospitalized in Bangkok

Story via Asian Correspondent:

...Umnuayporn Tongprapai, who weighs in at 274 kilogrammes (602 pounds), says she hasn't been outside her home for three years. 
But the 40-year-old needed urgent hospital attention for a tumour on her leg so neighbours contacted the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority, sparking an operation involving engineers, rescue workers, doctors and nurses. 
Umnuayporn left her flat in a firestorm of press attention after the Bangkok governor invited them down to document proceedings. It isn’t known whether the governor recieved a fat kickback from the press for getting access to this colourful event.
Oh my... what a spectacle...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Red Army Performs Beat It

Not really, but that would be awesome if they really did.  I bet those guys would be great at synchronized dancing.  I found this gem on College Humor.

Country Club Rejects Tattooed Person

Upon arriving in Korea, I was surprised to learn that tattoos were so widely feared by Koreans.  I use the word "fear" because that is exactly what it is.  In the west, an employer might require an employee to cover their tattoos because they are either a distraction or an eye soar (any service job).  Westerners do not see a ninety pound girl with a butterfly tattoo on her back and think that she is a hard core criminal or drug addict.  At times I feel like this is the case in Korea.  Koreans see that you have a tattoo and it is assumed then that you are either a criminal or a drug addict.

That has to change... and silly stuff like this does not indicate there is much progress.
Rejecting an applicant for country club membership because of his full body tattoos does not violate his rights if the tattoos cause discomfort to other members, a human rights panel said Wednesday.
The petitioner, whose name was withheld, filed an appeal with the rights group in February after he was turned down for a membership to a local country club that took issue with large tattoos on his upper body.
The National Human Rights Commission said the club's decision to reject him does not violate his right to equal treatment as the refusal was based on the tattoos that can "cause abomination" to other people.
Although there is no law against tattoos in South Korea, they carry a stigma here as many people associate them with gangsters, who display their tattoos as a means of intimidation.
As a country club is a private facility that promotes fraternity among members, and since the petitioner can still use the facility as a non-member, the rejection cannot be seen as unreasonable discrimination against him, the commission said. 
Commission officials said there were minority opinions that opposed the ruling.
"By now, tattoos have become a way of expressing an individual's personality," said Choi Kyung-sook, a commission panelist. "Perception of tattoos differs from individual to individual, and there is a high possibility that such a (negative) perception could have arisen from prejudices."
It is silly.  I hope whoever got their membership rejected on these groups has enough sense to find a different club to belong to.  Did he really want to be a member there anyways if that is how they treat people?

No Short Skirts?

Most native English speakers who regularly read The Korea Times might agree that there are frequently spelling and grammar issues with their articles.  Why their computers do not have spell check our why they seemingly do not hire competent copy editors is anyone's guess.  But this following article is so ridiculous it needs to be shared and then laughed at...

To be fair, it was written by an intern.  But that still means that someone copy edited this story and another person decided to run it.  Now, what is the point of this story?  Korean women have traveled to rural South Africa and apparently packed their high heels and miniskirts with them.  Well... that is ridiculous and their morons for doing so.  Foreigners living in Korea all agree that Korean women show a ridiculous amount of leg in public and for some reason it is socially acceptable.  Why is it that three volunteers in rural South Africa being told to put some pants on (probably so they do not get raped) deserves its own news article?  Bizarre...

The last couple lines are also pretty humorous.  "According to the CIA World Factbook, illiteracy in South Africa isn't so bad."  Is that a fact or the author's opinion?  Is that the opinion of the CIA?  What a weird thing to say.  The author even states the illiteracy rate is 14%.  Apparently that is acceptable and the three Korean girls in mini skirts are wasting their time there teaching adults how to read.

Another thing... are these Korean girls teaching people in South Africa how to read Korean?  or English?  or some native language in South Africa?  Why are they really there?  Truly bizarre.

The last paragraph is just fun...

"Putting an end to racial segregation, the country achieved democracy in 1994, electing its first black president, Nelson Mandela.  In June this year, it hosted the FIFA World Cup, feeding the self-esteem of the entire African continent."

ha ha

Thursday, August 26, 2010

101 East and the Korean Zainichi

Al Jazeera English's 101 East did a program last week on the Zainichi.  They are ethnic Koreans living in Japan who remain loyal to North Korea.

Their numbers are somewhere in the 600,000 range and they are mostly concentrated in the urban areas of Tokyo and Osaka.  More than one hundred years ago colonial Japan annexed the Korean peninsula.  Then, for more than fifty years they kidnapped and enslaved Koreans and forced them to relocate to Japan.  The Zainichi are the decedents of these former forced laborers, many of whom are third or fourth generation.

The video starts out following the fame and popularity of North Korean World Cup Striker Jong Tae-Se.  He is a soccer star born and raised in Japan, drives a Hummer, and respects and remains loyal to the communist dictator, Kim Jong-Il.  The piece gives us an excellent glimpse at the contradictions and complexities that face ethnic Koreans living in Japan.  North Korea pumps millions of dollars and financial aid into their communities and schools.  In response to this, Zainichi children never learn about the state atrocities committed by the communist regime and regard North Korea as their spiritual homeland and a place to respect and admire.

Assimilation into Japanese society is also near impossible, as the decedents of the ethnic Koreans brought to Japan do not automatically obtain Japanese citizenship.  Japanese citizens also discriminate and resent the Zainichi because they fear that their tax dollars are either directly or indirectly supporting the communist regime that routinely threatens them and violates international law.

A fascinating watch:

Government Puts Loan Restrictions on Under Performing Universities

Since coming to Korea, I have consistently heard from Koreans and Westerners that the University system here is rather a joke.  High schools in Korea of course are extremely demanding and difficult.  However, once a high school graduate is accepted into a community or state university, they are virtually guaranteed a degree and much effort is required to not be simply passed through the system.  Except for a very exclusive club of Korean universities in Seoul, a degree from any other university in Korea is not worth much.

As of right now every student in the country can borrow 100% of their tuition needs in government loans.  However, the government recently has announced a plan to address their under performing university system.  Article from the Korea Herald:
The government plans to reveal a list of 50 “low-performing” colleges that are subject to restriction in their student loans, education officials said Wednesday. 
The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology recently judged the nation’s 345 private and national universities and vocational schools, and selected 50 schools, about 15 percent of the total, for the credit restriction.
Depending on their credit ratings, students in 44 schools will be allowed to get 70-percent of student loans, while those in six others borrow only 30 percent of their tuition, the ministry explained. 
Under the current state student loan system, college students can borrow their full tuition costs and are allowed to defer paying back their loans until they obtain employment at a workplace. 
However, students from low-income families will be able to apply for student loans without restriction, the ministry added. 
“We have decided to reveal the list of the low-performing schools in order to improve education environment in colleges. The student loan system is a kind of compensation for schools’ efforts for better education services,” said a ministry official.
The ministry will announce the list next week before schools start accepting next year’s applicants on Oct. 8, officials said.
Even though the announcement imposes only the credit restriction, controversies are likely to continue. Colleges involved are already resisting fiercely to the decision, fearing such revelation could brand their school members. 
Observers also say that the government move is aimed at encouraging schools to start restructuring by themselves. 
According to parliamentary data, almost 10 percent of colleges nationwide cannot meet their 70 percent of quorum currently.
During the confirmation hearing on Monday, Education Minister-designate Lee Ju-ho also said, “The revelation (of credit delinquent schools) would send a signal for restructuring in colleges.”

So, there are 345 private and national universities in the country and the government allows every student to borrow up to 100% of their tuition costs.  It has singled out fifty universities to punish for being so crappy by penalizing the students who decide to go there and prevent them from taking out their full loan amounts.  Harsh.  But they did say student's from low-income families will still be eligible for the full loan amounts.

I suppose this should make every university that did not make the list a little more competitive because students who need (or just want) the financial assistance will obviously try and compete more to get into the better universities.  The list of fifty universities that were black listed will also probably try hard to get off the list next year and this might in fact cause this "restructuring" that the government expects.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Young Entertainers Sexually Objectified? *GASP*

Claire Lee of the Korean Herald wrote about sexually objectification of young entertainers.
Plastic surgery, forced dieting, missing school and long working hours. 
Being a teen entertainer in Korea demands more than talent and effort. At least one out of every 10 young entertainers is sexually objectified by their superiors, including being forced to reveal certain body parts and receive plastic surgery, a government survey said Monday.
The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family and the Youth Policy Analysis and Evaluation Center last month jointly conducted a survey with 103 entertainers ― 53 male and 50 female ― aged between 9 and 24. Among the 88 participants who are age 19 or younger, 56.1 percent said they had been told to lose weight to work in the industry, while 14.6 percent said they were advised to get plastic surgery.

About 10 percent of the teen respondents said they have exposed specific parts of their body for work, such as legs, breasts and buttocks. Among them, 60 percent of the female teens said they were forced to do so.
Kim Ki-hun, a research fellow at the Youth Policy Analysis and Evaluation Center, said the problems young entertainers face now can have a life-long impact. “Many of them experience 'sexual objectification' without knowing they are victimized,” Kim told The Korea Herald. “There has to be a legal safety net so they can enjoy their basic rights as teenagers, such as access to education.”
On Monday, Gender and Family Minister Paik Hee-young told reporters the ministry will “draw measures against sexualization of young entertainers.” The Youth Policy Analysis and Evaluation Center will hold a seminar to brainstorm possible measures to protect the teens ― from legal sanctions to education rights and support networks ― on Thursday.

There is nothing uniquely Korean about this problem.  Young people (especially girls) are sexually exploited all over the world.  You cannot really be shocked or blame the entertainment industry for pushing young girls to show more skin.  The first wave of blame should always fall on the consumers.  We dictate these groups' success with our dollars and the industry knows that teenage sex appeal sells.  People should not be disgusting perverts.  But perhaps that is too much to ask to bend so hard against the human nature of dirty old men.

The second wave of blame should fall on the parents and family members of these children.  Kids have no legal right to work without their parents' consent.  Parents should be protecting their children from sexual exploitation, but some probably push it themselves to get more money and fame from their children.

Teenage pop groups are all the rage at the moment in Korea.  No new group (at least girl group) is being formed without a member or two under the age of eighteen.  This is clever marketing because the younger the age, the more young adults admire and respond to a person that is the same age as them achieving fame and success.  Minzy of 2NE1 was only fifteen years old when she joined the group last year, and she is easily the favorite member of the group amongst teenage girls of the same age.

A good example relating to this issue is the KPOP group 4Minute.  Last year when they formed all the members were either 18 years of age or younger.  Because they are so young, you can see in their videos how careful the group is to keep their breasts and legs covered.  But can you really get young women to shake their bodies in front of a camera and have it not be in any way sexual?  Additional laws protecting children are a good thing, but outraged consumers need to look at themselves in the mirror first and check to make sure the guilt is not right in front of them.

Get ready for the pun... this is such a hot issue!

Beer Garden Geisha?

Al Jazeera's Steve Chao filed a report from Kyoto on the changing world of the Geisha.

Japan is still stuck its twenty year economic slump, and was recently surpassed by China as the world's second-largest economy.  The tough economic times have opened up the secret society of the Geisha.

A Geisha's prestige and value is entirely dependent on what their clients are willing to spend for their time.  It takes years to study and master the craft and the woman as a final product should be a work of art.

Geishas have existed for hundreds of years and their numbers reached its zenith in the early 1900s with around 80,000 trained Geishas.  Today they number fewer than a 1000.

Geishas in training have been turning to rooftop beer gardens and other establishments open to the general public to finacially support themselves as the client list of wealthy Japanese men willing to pay for their services decreases each year.

I would totally pay $40 to drink beer with a Geisha in training.  I will add that to my to do list on my next visit to Japan.

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