Extra! Korea

January 31, 2010

Mao Asada wins Four Continents Championships, dances to “Abracadabra”

Filed under: sports — extrakorea @ 2:50 pm

Mao Asada has been in a slump. Once touted as Kim Yu-na’s greatest rival for the gold medal at the upcoming Vancouver Winter Olympics, she had to fight just for a berth on her country’s Olympic team. She came to this week’s Four Continents Championships to try to turn a new page. At first, things didn’t look good, as she finished third after the short program. However, she did very well on Friday’s long program to take the title at the last major competition before the Olympics.

When Kim was told that Asada had not qualified for the Grand Prix final, Kim fought to hold back a smile. But now, that schadenfreude is likely vanishing. Just when it counts the most, Asada appears to be on the upswing.

Kim’s such a sweetie that I find it hard to imagine her behaving like that, and I bet that her heart would be filled with rainbows and sunshine for Mao if she saw her performing “Abracadabra” at the exhibition performance.

Your teacher might quit? Kidnap him

Filed under: crime, education — extrakorea @ 1:45 pm

You may recall the scandal involving the leaking of SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) answers, which since then has widened. In the latest development, an instructor who helped prepare students for the test was kidnapped, taken to a resort villa on the outskirts of Seoul, beaten, threatened with a knife, and finally, forced to sign a renewal contract.

Entertainment Weekly ranks John Park #1 in American Idol, Season 9

Filed under: music — extrakorea @ 1:14 pm

Entertainment Weekly magazine has ranked the top 20 singers from American Idol’s ninth season. (Of course, it’s still early, as only two weeks have passed.) Guess who was ranked #1? Yes, John Park, whom I’ve mentioned before.

(via Korean Beacon via Korean News Feeds)

(Updated) Anti-English Spectrum’s leader admits to stalking “following” foreign teachers in the LA Times

Filed under: crime, expatriates, xenophobia — extrakorea @ 12:45 pm

The Los Angeles Times has an article about the group called Anti-English Spectrum, and its leader admits that he stalks foreign teachers. Well, he says it’s not “stalking” but “following.”

Sometimes, in his off hours, Yie Eun-woong does a bit of investigative work.

He uses the Internet and other means to track personal data and home addresses of foreign English teachers across South Korea.

Then he follows them, often for weeks at a time, staking out their apartments, taking notes on their contacts and habits.

He wants to know whether they’re doing drugs or molesting children.

Yie, a slender 40-year-old who owns a temporary employment agency, says he is only attempting to weed out troublemakers who have no business teaching students in South Korea, or anywhere else.

The volunteer manager of a controversial group known as the Anti-English Spectrum, Yie investigates complaints by South Korean parents, often teaming up with authorities, and turns over information from his efforts for possible prosecution.

Outraged teachers groups call Yie an instigator and a stalker.

Yie waves off the criticism. “It’s not stalking, it’s following,” he said. “There’s no law against that.”

Since its founding in 2005, critics say, Yie’s group has waged an invective-filled nationalistic campaign against the 20,000 foreign-born English teachers in South Korea.

On their website and through fliers, members have spread rumors of a foreign English teacher crime wave. They have alleged that some teachers are knowingly spreading AIDS, speculation that has been reported in the Korean press.

Teacher activists acknowledge that a few foreign English instructors are arrested each year in South Korea — cases mostly involving the use of marijuana — but they insist that the rate of such incidents is far lower than for the Korean population itself.

“Why are they following teachers? That’s a job for the police,” said Dann Gaymer, a spokesman for the Assn. for Teachers of English in Korea. “What this group is up to is something called vigilantism, and I don’t like the sound of that.”

The article goes on to mention the fact that Anti-English Spectrum has posted photos of teachers’ apartments online and the death threats made against the ATEK president. Like Kushibo and Brian in Jeollanam-do, I remain unconvinced that the death threat is undoubtedly from a Korean person as opposed to, say, an expatriate playing some kind of sick joke.

What’s most important, I think, is that now that this guy has publicly admitted to a famous, international newspaper that he stalks, er, I mean, follows, foreign teachers, it’s time to bring the hammer down on the guy.

Edit/Update:

Brian in Jeollanam-do now has a post in which he gives a lot of background information on Anti-English Spectrum, both from his blog and from other sources such as the blog Gusts Of Popular Feeling and law professor Benjamin Wagner.

In case you’re thinking that Mr. Yie actually cares about education, I would direct you to this comment by King Baeksu, a.k.a. author Scott Burgeson.

Browse the AES site and you will find at least two threads from 2007 in which Yie himself urged his cafe members to call up my former employer, Hongik Univesity, and demand that I be fired for the “crime” of publishing a critical, but nonetheless bestselling and well-reviewed, book about Korea — despite the fact that at the time I was a certified ESL instructor with some ten years’ experience in the field. He was even so thoughtful as to include the phone number of Hongik’s office of academic affairs. No mention of my actual teaching ability — or lack thereof — was mentioned in either thread, I might add.

An equivalent analogy would be neo-Nazis in the US trying to get a Korean-American university instructor fired for writing a critical book about the US.

Of course, this is no surprise to anyone familiar with Mr. Yie and his group. Aside from advocating the harassment of foreign teachers, he has never made any suggestion as to the improvement of English-language education, or education in general.

Like asadalthought, I liked this quote from the LA Times article:

Yie, who is single and has no children, volunteered to help organize an effort to rein in such behavior.

But he looks so cheerful, handsome, and kind.

Surely some Korean woman is eager to snatch up this prize of a man.

In the interest of fairness, I feel that I should point out this part of the article:

In 2005, by then living in Seoul, he joined the fledgling activist group after seeing an upsetting posting on a website: claims by foreign teachers that they had slept with Korean students.

Yie, who is single and has no children, volunteered to help organize an effort to rein in such behavior.

“People were angry; most of them were parents with kids,” he said. “We all got together online and traded information.”

Gaymer says he doubts that such a posting ever existed. Instead, he says, Koreans were angry about photos posted on a job website showing foreigners dancing with scantily clad Korean women.

“They were consenting adults at a party with foreign men,” he said. “They weren’t doing anything bad or illegal.”

They’re both right. Gaymer is correct in that people were enraged upon seeing pictures of Korean women dancing with foreign men at a party. Those women were stalked and harassed online, and called “whores” by people who in all likelihood went on to form Anti-English Spectrum. However, Yie is also correct. The website called English Spectrum (from which Yie’s group gets its name) had a discussion forum as well as column written by an unnamed foreigner called “Ask The Playboy.” The Playboy and other members did indeed discuss ways to seduce one’s adult students. Plans and strategies for sleeping with one’s students is unacceptable, indefensible behavior for so-called “teachers.” Other members of English Spectrum should have spoken up, or spoken up more strongly, but they didn’t, and now we are all suffering the consequences. I write this because I feel that we must counter lies with truth, not with distortions of our own. As they say, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” We should take the high moral ground by owning up to what really happened. However, as they also say, “Let the punishment fit the crime.” Also, the innocent should not be punished along with the guilty. For Yie and his group to be sta… er, following innocent teachers because of the actions of a few who, in all likelihood, are no longer even in Korea, is beyond the pale.

Like Brian, I would also strongly discourage any kind of vengeful retaliation. If he or one of his cronies is, ahem, following you, then gather evidence (e.g. photos) and take it to the proper authorities. That’s their job, and don’t think, “I’m not a Korean, they won’t take me seriously.” Look at Bonojit Hussain.

January 30, 2010

Kim Jong-il undergoing daily kidney dialysis? Dead by 2012?

Filed under: Kim Jong-il, North Korea — extrakorea @ 1:28 pm

An article in the Chosun Ilbo reports that Kim Jong-il may be undergoing daily kidney dialysis, which would corroborate with an earlier article that predicted that Kim may well be dead by 2012. Of course, given the incredibly secretive nature of North Korea, it’s impossible to know anything for sure. If he were to die, say, tomorrow, then that could collide with the current troubles caused by the recent currency reform to create a perfect storm of chaos. In that case, five trillion dollars might even look like a bargain. And somebody would have to cough up 400,000 troops in a hurry.

Girls’ Generations’ “Oh!” has been buffalaxed

Filed under: humor, music — extrakorea @ 12:22 pm

You might recall this previous post in which I mentioned a YouTube user named “jeaok” who buffalaxes Korean pop videos. That is, he writes subtitles not based upon real translations but on what they sound like to him. His latest video features the already-a-hit song “Oh!” by Girls’ Generation.

I’ve got a fever, and the only prescription is more Asian Poses.

And I could never tell that the chorus that these girls were supposed to be singing was “Bo Peep.”

January 29, 2010

So who started all this “sexy dancing”?

Filed under: celebrities, eye candy, gender equality, music, rapid cultural change — extrakorea @ 3:22 pm

(This began as a comment on this post by the Grand Narrative blog.)

Nowadays, so-called “sexy dancing” (the quotation marks are to show that they aren’t really that sexy) is ubiquitous, but how did it all start?

In the mid-1990s, Jeon Ji-hyeon starred in a commercial in which she was dancing to music. I think that it was an ad for some kind of sound system, headphones, or walkman. Things were being bounced up into the air by the beat of the music. This was the commercial that got Ms. Jeon noticed. I’ve looked for the commercial on YouTube, but haven’t been able to find it.

Soon afterward, Ms. Jeon appeared in commercials for Samsung printers, a first one in which she wore a white t-shirt and slacks, and a second one in which wore some kind of leopard- or tiger-print clothing. (Incidentally, it was rumored that her bust had been enhanced through video manipulation.)

The commercials were a big success, but this kind of dancing was yet to find its way into Korean pop music and pop culture. The big girl groups at the time were S.E.S. and Fin.K.L, and you can see how moderately dressed they are in these videos, from 1997 and 1998, respectively.

Around the mid-1990s a singer named Park Jin-young (who now calls himself JYP) was pushing the envelope in terms of sexual imagery in his videos. Look at this video for “Elevator” from his second album, Tantara.

This is tame by today’s standards, but in 1995, this was definitely risque. Later, Park started his own management company, and one of his protegees was a young female singer named Park Ji-yoon.

She was on the top of the game in 2000, arguably the most popular female singer in Kpop at the time. In 2003, uncomfortable with the way her image and career was being used as one of the frontrunners in pushing sexual boundaries (JYP’s goal/tactic at the time) with songs like “Adult ceremony” and “Do you know how to…?”, the singer left Kpop and basically fell into obscurity.

[ snip ]

2009 is a very different climate than the ironically, more boundary pushing/shocking atmosphere of the early 2000’s. Can you imagine the Wonder Girls or SNSD (who are the same age that Park Ji Yoon was at the time) headlining such sexually provocative songs (not just as remake performances) today?

I have to disagree with the author here when she says, “Can you imagine …?” I, for one, can. Does the writer forget that when the Wonder Girls debuted, three of them, Sun-mi, So-hee, and Hyun-ah (who was later replaced by Yu-bin) were 15 years old at the time, and that it was those three who wore shorts and mini-skirts in promotional pictures?

Park Ji-yoon’s song “Adult Ceremony” (“Sung-in-shik” in Korean) was about a young woman who had just reached legal age, and she’s singing to her boyfriend about how, now that she’s a woman, she’s ready to “do it” (to “do it” is a euphemism that has the same meaning as in English). Look at the video. Her abdomen is visible, as are the strings of her thong underwear. That was pushing limits back in 2000. Young Korean women had been wearing miniskirts for years, but they never showed their midriff (sort of like how they are still very conscious to not show any cleavage, even if they have little cleavage to show). So-called “granny panties” were (still are?) the preferred type of underwear. If you did wear thong panties, you would certainly try to keep it a secret! Also, notice how, at one point in the choreography (4:25), she squats down, quickly opens and closes her legs a few times, and then stands up again.

And yes, its the same song and choreography that Jae Kyung of Rainbow performed when JYP drooled over her.

However, the person who really put “sexy dancing” on the map was Lee Hyo-ri. Fin.K.L broke up in 2002. Oak Joo-hyun was the only really good singer in the group. The other members were just different flavors of eye candy. (S.E.S. followed the same formula. Bada did the heavy lifting, vocally, in that group.) So how could she ensure the success of her solo career? The answer came in the video of her first solo single, 10 Minutes.

Today, it may not look like much compared to, say, the Brown Eyed Girls’ “Abracadabra” but back then, in 2003, trust me, it scorched your retinas. The fact that she showed off her midriff made a big impression. Of course, as I mentioned above, that had already been done three years earlier in Park Ji-yoon’s video for “Adult Ceremony.” I think that Park Ji-yoon’s video may have gone a little too far, too soon. Lee Hyo-ri’s video was the right one at the right time. It wasn’t too far ahead of the curve. Also, let’s be honest about this: Hyo-ri has a more voluptuous figure than Ji-yoon, and the clothing that she wore showed it off. That had an influence. Thus, Hyori’s video was the one that made it into the common consciousness. It made so much of an impact that the phrase “Hyo-ri Syndrome” was coined to describe her ubiquity. Ever since, everyone has tried to be “sexy” like her, though not many have succeeded.

And now you know.

January 28, 2010

Making a K-Pop Group: Choosing a Name

Filed under: humor, music — extrakorea @ 1:59 pm

You’re a big music company in Korea. Years ago, you held auditions, and chose your trainees. After years of training, your singing/dancing group is ready to debut. But wait, what will you call them? Fortunately, names for K-Pop groups are so formulaic that we’ve been able to boil it down to a science. Under each category are examples of real names of real K-Pop artists. Then either choose a new name or make one up by following the examples. It’s easy.

Three-letter Acronyms that Spell Words

Examples:

g.o.d., H.O.T.

New Names:

d.o.g., h.a.t., b.u.g.

Combinations of abbreviations and acronyms

Examples:

Fin.K.L (Fine Killing Liberty), Baby V.O.X. (Baby Voices of Xpression)

New Name:

K.Thx. (Okay. Thanks)

Food

Examples:

HAM, Egg

New Names:

Toast, Cereal. Combine with HAM and Egg to form supergroup Breakfast.

Superheroes

Examples:

Super Junior, Wonder Girls

New Names:

Ultra Cheesy, Super Spam

Numbers Mixing Letters and Numerals

Examples:

2NE1 (“twenty-one”), Se7en, 8Eight

New Names:

9ine, 10en, 6ixty-6ix, etc. When you get into the high double digits, it starts to get a little sticky.

Times

Examples:

After School, 4Minute, 2AM, 2PM

New Names:

Fortnight, Behind Schedule

Something-ara

Examples:

Kara, T-ara

New Names:

Bara, Cara (not to be confused with Kara), Dara, Fara, Gara, etc. As long there remain letters in the alphabet, there will still be possibilities.

Natural Phenomenon

Rain, Big Bang, Rainbow

New Names:

Earthquake, Global Warming, Gravitational Singularity, Cosmic Expansion

Girls, Girls, Girls

Examples:

Wonder Girls, Girls’ Generation

New Names:

School Girls, Girls for Pedos

Leftover Scrabble Pieces

Examples:

F.cuz, ZE:A, MBLAQ

New Names:

Just grab some letters and toss them down. Don’t worry if it’s unpronounceable. Hire PR people to tell the public how to say it.

JYP Entertainment’s “solution” to Wonder Girls fans’ concerns isn’t well thought-out

Filed under: music — extrakorea @ 3:11 am

In an attempt to address the brouhaha surrounding the departure of Sun-mi from the Wonder Girls, JYP Entertainment has come up with this strategy:

In an effort to accommodate the needs of the fans, JYP Entertainment has decided to set up a storage room in order to better the communication between the fans and our company.

[ snip ]

Since we have now created an official storage room, we ask for the fans to please leave their written questions on the designated wall by the company building. Every 24 hours, we will take pictures of the wall and take the questions down into the storage room.

So if somebody want to ask a question, they have to physically trek all the way to the JYP Entertainment building, walk up to the designated Wall of Woe, and tape a letter onto it. What’s wrong with answering e-mail? Or setting up a special web-site, like an official Internet forum with designated moderators, or something like that?

What’s worse is the fact that they’re encouraging people to write on paper. Have they already forgotten that seven Korean pop artists (including the Wonder Girls themselves) have recently received letters written in blood? (See here, here, and here.) Clearly, somebody at JYP Entertainment hasn’t thought this through carefully.

January 27, 2010

Reviews for Macaroni Market restaurant

Filed under: expatriates, food — extrakorea @ 1:57 pm

A long time ago, I wrote a post about the restaurant called Macaroni Market. Now you can read some reviews:

–> Seoul Eats’ review

–> Paul Ajosshi’s review

–> Lightning Review (Seoul Eats)

–> First Impressions (Seoul Eats)

To get to Macaroni Market come out of Itaewon station and walk towards Hangangjin, past Hard Rock Cafe, Kraze Burger, Ali Baba and Villa Sortinos and you’ll find yourself staring up at the restaurant. You can call them on 02 749 9181 and satisfy your cravings for cheesy pasta.

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