Extra! Korea

July 29, 2009

Michael Phelps and his coach joins Park Tae-hwan’s handlers in criticizing the new swimsuits

Filed under: sports — extrakorea @ 2:33 am

When I wrote this previous blog entry, I sarcastically poked fun at Park Tae-hwan’s handlers in blaming Park’s losses at the most recent world championships on his swimming suit, probably because it reminded me of this guy and others like him. However, there has been a lot of harsh criticism of the suits, to the point that they will be banned next year.
Phelps’ coach has threatened to not have him swim again until the ban is in place.

“Probably expect Michael not to swim until they are implemented,” Bowman said. “I’m done with this. It has to be implemented immediately. The sport is in shambles right now and they better do something or they’re going to lose their guy who fills these seats.

[ snip ]

“It took Michael from 2003 to 2008 to go from 1:46 to 1:42.9 and this guy’s done it in 11 months. That’s an amazing training program. I would love to know how that works.”

Phelps himself had some strong words about them.

After the race, Phelps made his strongest statement yet about the suit controversy. When asked by NBC’s Andrea Kremer about his “inferior suit”, Phelps declined to take a direct shot at Biedermann but said, “I will say that next year swimming will be swimming again. You’re going to have to do all the work and there’s not going to be a suit that does it for you.”

Even the new champion from Germany, Paul Biedermann, gave a lot of credit to the suits.

“The suits make a difference,” Biedermann said. “Last year, it was Speedo. This year, it’s Arena.

“I hope there will be a time when I can beat Michael Phelps without these suits,” the German added. “I hope next year. I hope it’s really soon.”

[ snip ]

Biedermann conceded after his 400 free win that the suit made him two seconds faster, but Phelps passed on the chance to wear one of the latest-generation suits. He’s been sponsored by Speedo since he was a teenager and wasn’t about to abandon the company that paid him a US$1-million bonus after he won eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics.

Shortly before the race, FINA confirmed that a bodysuit ban will take effect by May 2010, making this the last major competition where buoyancy-aiding suits are allowed.

“It’s not my problem,” Biedermann said. “It’s the problem of FINA. They should handle it really fast.”

So what will be permissible next year?

Suit materials will be restricted to “textiles,” a definition of which will be determined by a scientific committee. FINA also announced specific standards for buoyancy, thickness and permeability. The complete rules will be given to swimsuit companies by Sept. 30.

To his credit, Park Tae-hwan himself has downplayed the swimsuit issue, instead focusing on his lack of a personal coach when asked about his losses.

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July 28, 2009

Choi Han-bit becomes Korea’s first transgender transsexual supermodel

Filed under: gender equality, rapid cultural change — extrakorea @ 11:42 pm

According to Korea Beat and All K Pop, Choi Han-bit, whom I’ve mentioned before, has successfully passed the second round of a contest to become Korea’s first transgender transsexual supermodel.
In a speech he it she said:

“Looking back, the situation I’m in would have seemed impossible to me as a child. I’m just so happy to be here right now and I want to become a dignified supermodel as well as a great role model. I would like to thank my parents for actively supporting me through the surgery and the pursuit of my dreams.
I would like to send a message to any other transgenders transsexuals. Be dignified and proud of who you are.”

The contest’s final round will be held on September 25th.

Edit/Update:

Take a look at this picture. Some of the other contestants look more masculine, not to mention less attractive, than Choi.

President Brian, please outlaw Sexy Dance/Michael Jackson tribute combos

Filed under: hard to categorize, music — extrakorea @ 7:11 am

Brian in Jeollanam-do has promised, if elected president, to outlaw sexy dances. I’m going to hold him to that, in light of this Sexy Dance/Michael Jackson tribute combination. Isn’t it a little late for this? 2NE1 did a tribute to him soon after he died, about a month ago. The girl spotlighted in the video is Hyun-ah, who, until illness forced her to leave, was a member of the Wonder Girls, a fact that’s been promoted hard. Even though she’s underage (turned 17 years old recently, according to this profile*), her handlers have been tarting her up, with bare midriffs, etc. In this video, her getup and hip-shaking makes her look like a girl at Yongsan’s hooker district.** She blinks so much that it looks like she has a tic in her eye, and she sings in a nasal, chipmunk voice. I guess she, or her trainers, are going for aegyo. It may be working, though. Jokwon of 2AM*** recently described her as his “ideal” woman.
Since I’ve wandered onto this topic, I think that Hyun-ah’s group, 4Minute, has been really cribbing the style (big sunglasses, bright colors, leggings, etc.) of 2NE1, a group that I actually like. A lot. Stop laughing, I’m serious. I’ll get into details in a later blog entry.

* Almost all information about her has been edited out of Wikipedia’s entry on the Wonder Girls. Strange. Very Joseph Stalin-esque.

** Soon to be torn down

*** No, I don’t know who he is either. No, I don’t care who he is either.

Park Tae-hwan sinks at World Championships; blame the swimsuit

Filed under: sports — extrakorea @ 6:36 am

Park Tae-hwan failed to advance to the swimming finals of neither the 400-meter or the 200-meter freestyle at the World Championships in Rome, despite having won an Olympic gold and Worlds silver medal in those respective events. So what happened?

Some experts blamed Park for refusing to wear the new high-end swimsuits considered the best on the market now.

Contrary to the craze for the polyurethane suits, credited with shortening the world records, the South Korean insisted on going with what he has. Among the competitors, Park was the only one who wore the outdated swim pants that exposed his bare torso.

Wait a minute. I don’t know for sure, but since he was swimming “with what he has,” I’m assuming that it’s either the same suit that he wore at the Olympics or a similar one. Those polyurethane suits were being used back then, too. Are they trying to blame the suit? Also, isn’t Korea a high-tech powerhouse? Surely the country that rules World of Warcraft could make a decent suit for its star swimmer.

Park signed a lucrative contract with SK Telecom, the biggest telecommunication firm in South Korea, in October last year after his success at the Olympics. He has trained separately with an SK Telecom special team organized just for him, separately from the national team.

[ snip ]

[T]here was no swimming expert to manage Park’s exercise schedule or health conditions in SK Telecom’s special team. Many say Park needed a personal coach.

[ snip ]

A month before the world championships, Park returned to the national sports training center. The national squad’s head coach, Roh Min-sang, said in Rome that by that stage it was too late to fully prepare him for the world event.

That sounds like a much more sensible explanation: Being treated like a superstar, instead of training with other national team members. And no swimming expert on SK’s special team? Since it had no swimming expert nor national swim team members, who the heck was on this “special” team? Comedians? Actually, that may not be so far-fetched …

The gold medalist has also spent considerable time shooting TV commercials and appearing in talk shows since the Olympics.

I can see him losing some of his focus after being hit on the head with a rubber mallet on one of those brain-rottingly stupid comedy shows.

“I felt the pressure more than I did in Beijing. It was difficult to cope with the attention and the expectation of the South Korean people,” Park told reporters. “I was nervous when I raced. I can’t believe that I was eliminated (in the 400 meter event).”

At that high level of competition, where victory is measured in slivers of a second, frame of mind certainly comes into play.

Park has one last chance to medal, at the 1,500 meter freestyle on Saturday.

Hopefully, he learns from his mistakes, as opposed to my students, who promptly throw their corrected tests into the trash bin.

July 27, 2009

Japanese guy proposes to Girls’ Generation member he never met before

Filed under: hard to categorize, humor, music — extrakorea @ 11:52 pm

Some Japanese guy appeared on a TV show. He said, slowly in Korean, “”Korean woman pretty, please marry me …” Then he sang Girls’ Generation’s “Tell Me Your Wish.” After that, he went to Girls’ Generation member Soo Young, whom he had never met before, took out a diamond ring, and proposed to her.
Her reaction? “This is a precious ring that you have brought from Japan, so please find your perfect girl and place that ring on her finger.”
His response? “I want to go tour places where there is a lot of Korean women, like Apgujong.”
Actually, all of Korea has Korean women, but if he’s looking for cosmetically-enhanced women, he’s thinking of the right place. So if you’re in Apgujong and see some guy offering a diamond ring to female passers-by, you’ll know the background story.

Would you like a 15-cent hamburger? Go to North Korea

Filed under: North Korea, rapid cultural change — extrakorea @ 11:23 pm

The Dong-a Ilbo reports that, despite chronic, severe food shortages, North Korea has opened its first “sokseong” (fast) food restaurant. Because of North Korea’s poverty, prices are low.
For fifteen cents you can buy “minced beef and bread” (a hamburger). Other menu items include frizzled bread (a waffle) and “Kumkang fresh beer,” a glass of which costs six cents. (I wonder if it’s Taedonggang beer. If you haven’t already, be sure to watch the advertisement video.)

Average Koreans overweight but slimmest in OECD

Filed under: health — extrakorea @ 3:10 pm

The Chosun Ilbo, Korea Herald, and Korea Times all have articles about how statistics indicate that the average South Korean adult, having steadily increased in weight over the last decade, is now overweight.
It should be noted, however, that Korea has the lowest rates of obesity in the OECD.

July 26, 2009

Park Tae-hwan eliminated from final round of 400m freestyle

Filed under: sports — extrakorea @ 11:38 am

Park Tae-hwan, who won the gold medal in the 400-meter men’s freestyle at last year’s Beijing Olympics, has been eliminated from the final round of that event at the World Championships in Rome. He had to place in the top eight, but finished in 12th place.
On Monday, Park will compete against Michael Phelps in the 200m men’s freestyle. At the Olympics, Phelps won gold and Park took silver.

July 25, 2009

At least somebody is preparing for a future North Korea

Filed under: Kim Jong-il, North Korea — extrakorea @ 3:31 am

According to this article and this similar, older article, a senior official at the U.S. Defense Department has said that they are planning for a future North Korea, possibly one without Kim Jong-il.
Thank goodness someone is making preparations. Take a look at this article by a so-called professor to see the kind of head-in-the-sand mentality that is, unfortunately, prevalent here in the South.

July 23, 2009

Soliciting teenagers for sex will become punishable, even without sex

Filed under: crime, gender equality, prostitution, youth — extrakorea @ 11:36 pm

Next year, soliciting teenagers into sex-for-money exchanges (“wonjo kyoje” / 원조교제) will become a punishable offense, even if no sexual intercourse occurs.
I say, without any sarcasm, “Sparkling.”

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