Extra! Korea

January 22, 2010

Kim Yu-na is writing a book

Filed under: sports — extrakorea @ 3:18 am

Current world figure skating champion Kim Yu-na is writing a book. Entitled “Kim Yu-na’s Seven-Minute Drama,” it’s a collection of her reflections, culled from a diary that she writes into every night after training.

Despite being a world figure skating champion, Kim defines herself, “a simple, cool and down-to-earth 20-year-old figure skater who dreams of freedom and a normal life, has blood type O, and eats everything except for things she doesn’t like.”

(emphasis mine)

Has blood type O? Well, this is Northeast Asia. And the part about eating whatever she wants seems to contradict earlier claims about her diet.

The book goes on sale January 28, and you can begin reserving your copies.

January 21, 2010

(Updated) Video of one of Green Day’s “craziest fans” kissing member on stage

Filed under: music — extrakorea @ 3:41 pm

At K-Pop shows like Music Bank and Inkigayo (“Popular Song”), Korean fans are, literally, given a script to follow, which tells them what to chant when. At the recent Green Day concert, however, there was no script, and one fan in particular did the unexpected after she and about a dozen other fans were invited up onto the stage to sing along.

The teenage girl, who was among them, approached Armstrong, who was sitting down and playing the guitar, suddenly knelt down, embraced him and kissed him for what observers timed were eight seconds. Armstrong was visibly surprised but did not resist.

They timed it? If you want to, you can time it yourself while watching the video (it starts around 0:35).

Armstrong, impressed by the passionate reaction, shouted during the concert, “You’re the craziest fans I’ve ever seen in my life!”

I’m sure he’s said that to many audiences, not that the one in Korea wasn’t appreciated. And regarding the girl, I think he was professional. He’s not going to brush off a fan, but he did extricate himself fairly quickly and got back to the business of playing. And he encouraged her to take a stage dive, which was fun for her and got her out of his hair. Here she is again, though I think this actually took place shortly before the video above.

Here is some more footage:

Edit/Update:

Notice how the audience know the words to the lyrics of Basket Case:

In this comments section, someone named incognito84 wrote:

I was there, she is a high school student. I think she took off afterwards. Anyway, some Koreans are trying to turn this into a “famous foreigners going after Korean high school girls” news story but this? video clearly proves it wrong. However, considering what passes for news around here, I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone bought into the lie and ignored the video! …

I hope that isn’t the case, and the Chosun Ilbo (at least in the English-language articles that I linked to above) did not do that at all.

In the last month-and-a-half, Guns N’ Roses, Muse, and Green Day have come to Korea. You can tell from that, and the enthusiasm of the fans that you can see in the videos above, that there is a real hunger for rock here. Despite the fact that the big music companies (JYP/SM/YG/DSP Entertainment, Mnet) work hand-in-hand with the major television stations (SBS, KBS, and MBC, who produce the TV shows Inki-gayo, Music Bank, and Music Core, respectively) to do everything they can to kill rock, it still manages to find its audience. Here is Metallica playing in Seoul in 2006. Notice: a. how many people there are, b. that they recognize the song as soon as the riff begins to be played, c. how enthusiastic they are, particularly at 1:05 when beverages start flying, and d. that the people in the audience are not in their 30s and 40s but young.

With the critical and commercial success of Death Magnetic, does that mean that Metallica might soon return to Korea? Let’s hope so.

Even some music idols are rock fans. Seo Tai-ji began as a bass player in a rock band. In an interview, Yoobin (Yubin) of the Wonder Girls said that she likes rock and that her favorite band is Muse. And when Jewelry broke up (temporarily) Park Jung-ah released a solo album in 2006 which was much more rock-oriented than Jewelry. Listen to the title track, Yeah.

So why are they in pop-tart groups? Because in Korea, there is no other route to fame. Now that Park Jung-ah has left Jewelry, hopefully she’ll release more rock albums (because Yeah was good).

(Updated) Could a Korean-American be the next American Idol?

Filed under: music — extrakorea @ 3:10 am

One of the latest people to have a successful audition into the first round of American Idol (a “Yes” from all four judges) was John Park, a Korean-American. One of the guest judges, Shania Twain, was quite smitten, saying that he has “a beautiful bottom end”* and “nice lips.” The other female judge said, “She’s right.” He already has the women swooning.

* This was ambiguous. She could have been referring to the lower range of his vocals or his ass.

Edit/Update:

The Korea Herald now has an article with some additional information about him.

Park is just one of a handful of contestants of Asian descent the top-rated show has had.

Like last year’s Indian contestant Anoop Desai, Park is also a member of his college a cappella group, called the Northwestern Purple Haze, where he sings bass.

In a recent article from the Daily Northwestern – the university newspaper – fellow members of John’s a cappella group talked about him.

“America is going to fall in love with him,” former Purple Haze member Janelle Kroll told the paper. “His voice just oozes soul. He’s the full package. He needs to be a superstar.”

It would be cool if he had a face-off with this guy, but it’s unlikely to happen.

Reporter has difficulty not laughing while reporting “Go home, make babies” news

Filed under: economics, humor — extrakorea @ 2:35 am

As Brian in Jeollanam-do reported earlier, South Korean bureaucrats are being told to go home early so that they can make more babies, for the good of the nation (“Just lie back and think of England Korea.”).

The BBC reported on this, and during the video segment, the reporter has difficulty not laughing while reporting this news (see 0:40 of the video). And at 1:05, 1:25, and 1:55 he’s visibly trying really hard to keep a straight face.

Boosting the number of newborn children is a priority for the government, which is staring into the abyss of a rapidly ageing society, falling levels of manpower and spiralling health care costs.

The Ministry of Health, now sometimes jokingly referred to as the Ministry of Matchmaking, is in charge of spearheading this drive, and it clearly believes its staff should lead by example.

Generous gift vouchers are on offer for officials who have more than one child, and the department organises social gatherings in the hope of fostering love amongst its bureaucrats.

But critics say what is really needed is widescale reform to tackle the burdensome cost of childcare and education that puts many young people off starting a family.

Be sure to check out the comments below the article. Korea Times, this is what a comment board should look like.

January 20, 2010

South Korea will preemptively attack the North at signs of a nuclear attack

Filed under: North Korea — extrakorea @ 1:51 pm

South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-young has said that South Korea will preemptively attack North Korea if they feel that there are in danger of a nuclear attack.

“We will need to carry out preemptive strikes immediately as soon as we see definite signs of a nuclear attack from North Korea because there would be too much damage if we tried to first block the attack and then respond,” Kim said at a forum on military reforms and inter-Korean relations.

The defense minister’s remarks come as relations between the two Koreas appeared to be strained once again in the aftermath of a furious statement from the North, denouncing Seoul’s reported contingency plans for dealing with “emergency situations” in North Korea.

January 19, 2010

Universal Studios’ largest Asian theme park scheduled to open in Korea in 2014

Filed under: economics, movies — extrakorea @ 6:23 am

After a delay of two years because of a lack of funding, Universal Studios has revived a plan to build a theme park in Hwaseong City, near Seoul. Scheduled to be begin construction in 2011 to be completed in 2014, it will be Universal Studios’ third in Asia, and its largest, as it will include a movie theme park, water park, and a resort that will include a golf course and condominiums.

(Reuters)

Korea has fastest broadband Internet speed while America’s has declined

Filed under: technology — extrakorea @ 1:42 am

Korea number one! And it’s for real. South Korea has the world’s fastest broadband Internet speed, while America’s has actually declined.

In the U.S., Delaware currently leads with 7.2 Mbps, though it remains far behind South Korea, where the average speed is almost 15 Mpbs. Currently, the U.S. is in 18th place, far behind Japan, Hong Kong, Romania and Sweden.

Romania? Romania ?! America is getting trounced by Dracula’s ‘hood?

(Hat Tip to this great website.)

January 18, 2010

Must-read for Koreans: You cannot recapture lost sleep

Filed under: health — extrakorea @ 3:00 pm

Anyone living in Korea knows that Koreans don’t get enough sleep (either through insomnia or by being forced to work long days). You can see people here dozing off anywhere: on the subway, on the bus, in class, in the office, etc. This is a sure sign of sleep deprivation.
A recent study suggest that you cannot recapture lost sleep. That is, even if you “catch up” on sleep lost during the weekdays by sleeping in on the weekends, you will still suffer the ill effects of chronic sleep deprivation. Here is a video on the subject.

Maybe this is what Tablo’s brother meant about leaking test answers

Filed under: crime, education — extrakorea @ 2:30 pm

You might recall that soon after the Infinity Challenge fiasco, David Lee, the brother of Tablo (a member of Epik High, a popular music group) wrote a brutally frank rant on his Cyworld, which is like a Korean version of MySpace or Facebook.

The students leak the questions online and get high scores on their TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) to study abroad, but all they do is fool around karaokes and clubs on 32nd Street. They copy the reports from their seniors and get caught by the professors. They can’t speak a tiny bit of English, not even a simple phrase.

Now the Korea Herald and Dong-ah Ilbo bring us the news of a hogwon (private eduction instutute) instructor who has been arrested for leaking answers to the U.S.-based Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) to Korean test takers.

Speculation is also rising that cheating also occurred in Korea on other international tests such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language, or TOEFL, and the Test of English for International Communication, or TOEIC.

The fear is that Korean students will face discrimination when applying to American universities because of tainted credibility through scandals like this.

[ snip ]

The instructor is known to have paid 15,000 won (13.40 U.S. dollars) to a Thai national who took the SAT Jan. 24 last year in Thailand. Then, he e-mailed the test sheets to two Korean students, who took the test in Connecticut 12 hours later.

Reportedly a graduate from a prestigious private university in the U.S., the instructor is well-known as an effective lecturer on SAT reading. The two students took his class over school vacations.

The instructor reportedly told police, “The institute I worked for charged a student 2.8 million to three million won (2,500 to 2,670 dollars) per class or more than 30 million won (26,700 dollars) for 12 classes on the promise of substantially raising their SAT scores.”

[ snip ]

Police also said the test sheets might have also been forwarded through e-mail to 20 other students who also took the instructor’s class and the same test taken by one of the two students.

Maybe cheating to get in helps account for why so many Korean students struggle at western universities.

[Samuel] Kim [a doctoral candidate at Columbia University’s Teachers College] said the main reasons for the high dropout rate were lack of preparation and proficiency in English, and wrong choice of major and university. By lack of preparation, Kim means inability to cope with independence after the coddled upbringing and constant parental supervision typical of Korea’s affluent children.

Despite getting the high required scores on standardized multiple-choice English tests, students often realize that their actual language skills are insufficient to follow lectures and take part in discussions.

Edit/Update:

The Joongang Daily now has a article on the topic, though there doesn’t seem to be much new information. There’s a Korean translation for those interested in using it as study material. Actually, the Dong-ah Ilbo also has a Korean translation.

January 17, 2010

Foul-mouthed teacher encapsulates what’s wrong with education here

Filed under: education, idiots — extrakorea @ 1:16 pm

First and foremost, the author of this article is not given, and since it’s a Korea Times article, we should take everything with a big grain of salt, since they have reporters like Kang Shin-who under their employ.

Now, onto the story of an “exceptional” teacher.

Woo Hyung-chul, 46, teaches math at a private institution or hakwon in Seoul that prepares students to get into colleges.

There are many teachers like him in Korea where education is a religion. But Woo stands out among them because his pedagogical approach is different.

“Don’t throw an unrealizable goal to students on the first day.” That’s one of the lessons he shares in an interview with Donga Ilbo on Saturday. “Students will find it beyond their reach and give up.”

Wow, what a revolutionary idea. In all of my years of teacher training and attending teachers’ conferences, I have never seen such “thinking outside of the box.” Amazing.

Most of Woo’s students are “problem kids” by some definition.

No, they are not. He teaches at a hogwon (private education institute), not at a public school. To attend his classes, you have to register, pay money, and go to class in your spare time. B.S.

They don’t do well academically.

How do we know that? Every school kid is dissatisfied with their marks (or at least their parents are).

Their attention span is short.

Thanks to computer games, cell phones, TV, and being spoiled rotten, this describes just about every kid.

But when they come to Yoo, their grades improve. If not, they at least have a good time laughing a lot.[1] And as days go by, these students’ grades also tend to pick up eventually.[2] So, he’s special.[3]

(Numbers are mine.)

1. The students grades improve. Unless they don’t. And if they don’t, at least their parents paid top dollar (or won) for their kids to laugh a lot.

2. Again, their grades tend to improve. Unless they don’t. Gee, that describes just about every teacher except for the most incompetent ones.

3. No, he is not.

Woo believes that when students don’t do well academically, it’s partly the teachers’ fault.

More “blame the teachers.” That’s always popular. No wonder people like him.

“You need to understand the teen culture to motivate them. When you motivate them, they do better academically,” he said.

More revolutionary ideas. I have never met a teacher who tried to learn about, say, Big Bang, to better understand their students. Nope. Never.

The secret of his approach lies in his three-step formula of “first apply sticks, then carrots, and show a vision.”

OK, so what would that vision be?

Being a good deliverer of knowledge isn’t enough, he says. “Students are not a memorizing machine. You should guide them to help find a life goal by meeting them on their terms,” he said. “Creating a common ground of understanding between you and students is critical.”

Wow, this guy has truly opened my eyes. I have never heard teachers criticize the over-emphasis on rote memorization in eduction here. Never. Neither have I ever met a teacher who asked their students about their life goals or tried to foster understanding with their students.

He prepares his lecture by watching a comedy program. He uses the jokes he picked up from the comedy show in “disarming students and opening their hearts.”

I’m all for using humor in the classroom to relax students, but it should be somehow related to the task or topic. Using class time to play a comedy program that’s not related in any way to the lesson? They can watch such comedies in their own time.

He also uses “shock and awe” strategy. This includes intentionally cursing them and an exaggerated gesture of beating them with a shovel.

To be fair, the wording is ambiguous, but suggests that he pretends to beat them with a shovel, and doesn’t actually do it. But even pretending is not cool. And cursing with vulgar language is definitely inappropriate behavior for a teacher.

If it were in the U.S., he would be probably in jail for doing so. But yeah, it’s Korea.

Yeah, and there are reasons for that. Corporal punishment is one thing. Beatings with a shovel are another. And a foul-mouthed American teacher wouldn’t be a teacher for very long.

The chemistry he creates with such non-conventional methods is formidably effective and his income proves it.

Wait a minute. His income proves his effectiveness? His income ?! They admitted above that some of his students have their grades improve, but some do not, just as with most other teachers. But he’s special. Because he plays comedy programs in class.

Sadly, this encapsulates a lot of what’s wrong with education here. People equate popularity with being good, so there’s a race for the lowest common denominator. At the university level, no one demands academic excellence from their students (who are capable of such) because no one wants to be unpopular. Students want to come in hungover, sleep, play with their cell-phones, go on dates, and participate in club activities, and woe to anyone who impedes that with, say, homework. A teacher who taught in Korea and then Japan said in a podcast that (I’m paraphrasing) the Japanese want teachers, while the Koreans want expendable, short-term entertainers. Koreans keep saying that they want qualified teachers, but they don’t really mean it. Actions speak louder than words.

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