Extra! Korea

April 29, 2010

Over 60% of actresses pressured to have sex, says comprehensive new study

Filed under: actors/actresses, celebrities, crime, gender equality — extrakorea @ 1:12 am

Last July, in the aftermath of the suicide of actress Jang Ja-yeon, whose suicide note claimed that she had been forced by her manager to sleep with rich men, a survey of about 2,000 entertainers was conducted. Unfortunately, there were a mere 183 responses, which rendered the study almost meaningless.

Fortunately, more recent studies are giving us a clearer picture of what goes on behind the scenes in the entertainment industry, but unfortunately, the image is an ugly one.

Last October, a survey of 200 people, of various professions in the entertainment business, revealed that:

37.5% [of actresses] experienced physical or verbal assault, 25% experienced unwanted physical contact and 12.5% received “sponsorship” offers. By Sponsorship, it means those in power who support actresses, financially and also using their connections and influences (to get important roles), in exchange for sex. Many famous stars such as Ivy and Song Yoon Ah confessed to turning down such offers, while some female celebrities who seem to receive a lot of media attention compared to their popularity are rumored to have very powerful sponsors.

Now a more comprehensive study did extensive interviews with 240 aspiring actresses and 111 actresses, of whom 10% were top actresses. Eleven entertainment industry insiders, including managers, also participated. The results are far more damning that those from the previous two surveys. Sixty-point-two percent of them reported being pressured to have sex with influential figures like producers, directors, businessmen, politicians and advertising executives. The study has been written about in the Joongang Daily, the Chosun Ilbo, and the Korea Times, and the following quotes are taken from those articles. Apologies for block-quoting huge swaths of text, but it speaks for itself.

An up-and-coming actress in her mid-20s is still reeling from a nightmarish experience she had a couple of years ago.

“I was with the boss of my agency that evening,” she said requesting anonymity. “We went shopping together at brand-name shops. His behavior was unusual as he provided lavish hospitality, going on a spending spree in buying me pricy clothes and other accessories. Afterwards, he escorted me to his luxurious car.”

According to the actress, the man drove toward the area where she lived. She thought he would drive her home. But he pulled over near a hotel and propositioned her.

“He told me that how much I know about men would decide how famous I would be,” she said.

She terminated her contract with the agency but this just highlights the lack of a fundamental solution to prevent future incidents from occurring, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) said Tuesday in a 294-page report on the rampant rate of such propositioning of actresses and actress-hopefuls by those who can influence their career development in the domestic entertainment industry.

Almost 60 percent of respondents said they believed rejecting sexual advances would disadvantage their careers, and 48.4 percent said they had in fact lost out on appearances on shows because they refused.

Wealthy men were cited as the most common group of people seeking sex with the stars, cited by 43.9 percent of respondents, followed by TV producers and directors with 38.6 percent. Heads of TV production companies came next with 22.8 percent and senior businessmen with 15.8 percent.

Fifty-five percent of the interviewed actresses said they received at least one offer of “sponsorship” – a secret contract between a rich man and his favorite actress in which the actress receives financial support during a certain period of time in exchange for having sexual relations with him on a regular basis.

“I got such an offer at the initial stage of my career,” said an actress in her mid 40s in the report. “He told me if I accepted, he would support me unlimitedly. But I rejected him.”

Among those who made such offers were wealthy businessmen, TV and movie directors, and politicians, the NHRC said.

More than 6 percent said they had been victims of sexual crimes including rape.

Rape? Things are clearly worse that what some have smugly dismissed as merely “the casting couch.”

Another 31.5 percent said they were molested when men touched their bodies, including breasts, hips and legs.

Among the actresses surveyed, 58.3 percent said they had felt sexually harassed by people who “stared at certain parts of their bodies,” while 64.5 percent said they had to listen to sexually explicit jokes and 67.3 percent said they were judged by their appearance. Some were directly asked to have sex, or even suffered sexual harassment or assault. Some 21.5 percent of respondents said they had received direct requests for sex …

The NHRC said one of the main reasons for the abuses in the entertainment industry was the competition of a large number of actresses for a limited number of parts. “Each year, 48,000 aspiring actresses graduate from various acting schools in major cities, and there is no way of telling how many more women are hired by small talent agencies,” a commission official said.

Public auditions should also be encouraged to create a transparent culture,” the rights commission said. “Actresses are also urged to create labor unions or other representative bodies to improve their working conditions and protect their rights.”

April 24, 2010

Should America withdraw from Korea?

Filed under: geopolitics, opinion, the future — extrakorea @ 12:26 pm

“Nations have no permanent friends and no permanent enemies, but only permanent interests.”

–old British adage

Sorry for the lack of posts. Among other things, I’ve been absorbed by George Friedman’s The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century, and the following post takes ideas from and is inspired by it.

The blogger One Free Korea has argued that the time has come for American forces to finally, permanently withdraw from South Korea, and the M-hole, ROK Drop, and Monstrous Kushibo have weighed in with opinions from themselves and/or their commenters.

Here’s my take.

If you had told Americans in 1941 that Japan would become one of America’s closest allies, or in 1957 that the Soviet Union would collapse in thirty-four years, they probably would not have believed you. What seems impossible today could be tomorrow’s future. Given that, we can assume that there could be very large, unexpected geopolitical changes, and that it would be foolish to place all of America’s East Asian eggs in one basket, Japan. Here are some possible scenarios, and notice how in many of them, it is to America’s advantage to retain some kind of presence in South Korea.

North Korea survives

Despite the multiple stresses of a failed, unpopular currency reform, the death of Kim Jong-il, and the youth and inexperience of his designated successor, North Korea somehow manages to survive. If Russia becomes resurgent and belligerent (see below), then it could become the recipient of everything that it needs: oil, new military equipment, money, and food. It could go from being a boxed-in basket case to a very real threat to South Korea.

North Korea collapses and is absorbed by China

If South Korea continues to be as ill-prepared for a North Korean collapse as it was during the Noh Moo-hyun administration, then we can expect such a collapse to be followed by Chinese troops entering North Korea. It will be described as a peacekeeping, stabilization force, and it will be. Behind the scenes, however, the Chinese will be supporting whichever faction is friendliest to their interests, setting up North Korea to become, over the long run, a vassal state or even a Chinese province.

North Korea collapses and is absorbed by South Korea

Seeing as how China seems to be prepared for a North Korean collapse, South Korea would have to be at least as well-prepared to pull this off.  In addition to having troop ready to enter the north as peacekeeping/stabilization forces, they would have to somehow, probably through a diplomatic appeal to the international community, persuade the Chinese not to enter, which they probably want to.  Unfortunately, the example of Tibet proves that the Chinese will go where they want and do what they want, and not care what the rest of the world thinks.

North Korea collapses and is absorbed by both China and South Korea

Here is a scenario that no one, as far as I know, is seriously considering. In the same way that Korea was divided in two, so too might North Korea, with China and South Korea then each absorbing one part of the former North Korea. The complete reunification of Germany was made possible by the fact that the force that was holding it back, the Soviet Union, collapsed. Things aren’t so simple in North Korea. The force that is, more than any other, holding back reunification is Kim Jong-il, because that would be the end of his rule. His successor, whether it is his son, or his son’s regent, or the leader of a military coup, would be in the same position. Remember what Milton’s Satan said, “Tis better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven.”

In this scenario, both China and South Korea are well-prepared for a North Korean collapse (or both are poorly prepared). Pyongyang’s centralized control has weakened significantly, and North Korea has essentially turned into many fiefdoms, each ruled by a local lord, an official who has managed to amass personal power and wealth, while ostensibly swearing allegiance to whichever Kim (or Jang or Oh) is in charge.  After North Korea collapses, both Chinese and South Korean peacekeeping/stabilization troops enter.  Each will race to get as far as they can until they meet or almost-meet somewhere in the middle.  Hopefully, this doesn’t inadvertently lead to a shootout.  Then, like Korea itself, North Korea becomes divided.  Since it would be easier for China to justify to the international community the takeover of only part of North Korea, this might actually be the more attractive option to the Chinese, as they retain the buffer zone that they want, and partially pacify the South Koreans with partial reunification.  If China fragments (see below), then that could set the stage for complete reunification later on.

China rises and becomes belligerent

China’s economic and military power continues to grow, and it continues its goal of re-absorbing all territories that it historically claims, be it through peaceful means (Hong Kong and Macau) or conquest (Tibet). It sets its sights on Taiwan. If America refused to abandon its ally, then there could be friction between the superpower and the rising regional power. To be fair, though, China has not historically been aggressive, the notable exception being its near-obsession with securing all territory that it feels belong to it historically.

China fragments

In this scenario, the central government of Beijing increasingly loses the ability to make the wealthy, industrialized coastal regions support, financially, the impoverished heartland. The coastal regions are well-connected to the industrialized countries that they sell to (e.g. Europe and the U.S.). They can no more sell to the rest of China than they could sell to sub-Saharan Africa, and thus try to break free of Beijing’s control.

Russia becomes resurgent and belligerent

The Soviet Union was, for all intents and purposes, a Russian empire, and its borders extended Russia’s borders further west than ever before or since. Since the collapse of the USSR, there has been a great reversal. With Latvia, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, and Kazakhstan independent, Russia’s western borders have retreated dramatically. Russia is rich in oil and gas, commodities that Europe is hungry for. Rich and weak is a bad combination, so it will rebuild its military using the wealth that it has gained from nationalizing its natural resources. It will also seek to regain the important buffer zones that gave it the depth that it used to defeat both Napoleon and Hitler –Belarus, Ukraine, and, if it can manage it, Poland.

In the event that friction with America ensues, Russia will, as it did during the Cold War, fund any anti-American regimes. Should North Korea somehow have avoided collapse and absorption by this point, then it will become the recipient of everything that it needs (oil, new military equipment, money, and food), becoming once again a very real threat to South Korea.

Russia collapses

Nationalizing its natural resources (at the expense of industrialization) to fund the development of its military is a strategy that serves Russia well in the short term, but in the long term, turns out to be short-sighted and leads to another collapse.

With the collapse of Russia, its territories become tempting to its neighbors. China, even if it has avoided fragmentation at this point, cannot take advantage of the situation because of natural geographic features.

Japan needs resources

Japan has always been very resource-poor, which is why it attacked the U.S. in World War II. It still doesn’t have any, and now is facing the additional problems of a low birthrate and an aging population. They could solve the problem by increasing immigration, but they are loathe to do so. Even when they imported ethnic Japanese from Brazil, things didn’t work out as well as they had hoped. They’re now trying to solve the problem with robots (as are the South Koreans), but human workers can still do things that robots can’t.

If China fragments or if Russia collapses, Japan will probably take the opportunities to gain the kind of resources that they need (e.g. gas from Russia or workers from China). Japan will need to safeguard these resources with shipping lanes made secure by a strong navy. America won’t like that. Ruling the world’s oceans with a navy that’s larger than the rest of the world’s navies put together is what enabled America to box in and eventually force the collapse of the mostly landlocked Soviet Union. America does not want anybody, not even a friendly nation such as Japan, to develop a significant navy. Japan will want to secure its sea lanes to the resources that it desperately needs, and will possibly even want to be acknowledged as East Asia’s regional hegemon. If America responds by denying Japan what it wants (as it did during World War II), it could lead to friction between the two, possibly even to war (as it did in World War II). Right now, the Japanese are pacifists, but this is the land of the samurai and of the kamikaze. They have a history, and we can’t expect that they will remain Hello Kitties forever. So, in this case, it would be to America’s advantage to strengthen Korea as a possible counterbalance to Japan.

April 15, 2010

Babies’ Generation?

Filed under: hard to categorize — extrakorea @ 1:31 pm

Remember Wonder Baby? Maybe this young lady is the first recruit of Babies’ Generation.

Rain accused of embezzling 2 billion won

Filed under: legal issues, music — extrakorea @ 1:27 pm

Poor Rain. First he was sued for canceled concerts in Hawaii. Then he starred in an awful Hollywood movie, Speed Racer. Then he starred in another clunker of a movie, Ninja Assassin. Now he has been accused of embezzling two billion won (approximately $1.8 million)

Picture of the Day for April 15

Filed under: Picture of the Day — extrakorea @ 1:09 pm

Park Bom of the girl group 2NE1 is eating plain lettuce miserably. This is probably in response to accusations that she’s gained weight. Poor girl.

April 14, 2010

“Watch Out for Your Buttocks When Using Public Toilets”

Filed under: health, safety, What the hell?! — extrakorea @ 2:17 pm

When I saw the words above as part of a headline, I thought two things:

1. Could a public toilet make my buttocks detach themselves from my body and attack me?

2. The Korea Times has another winning article.

It turns out that you should be mindful of the fact that some toilet paper has whitening agents that are banned from use in napkins, hand wipes, and diapers because of potential allergic reactions. So watch out your buttocks.

Nearly 40% of actors have considered suicide

Filed under: actors/actresses, suicide — extrakorea @ 2:02 pm

Park Jin-hee (a really hot actress who became famous among expatriates due to a brouhaha surrounding some Nazi-themed cosmetics advertisements) is working on her Master’s degree at Yonsei University (so she’s smart as well as hot).  For her study on depression and suicidal tendencies among actors, she interviewed 260 actors, and found that 38.9% had suffered depression and had considered suicide.  About 20% had bought pills or other means through which they could potentially kill themselves.

Why did they think about harming themselves?

Park said most of these symptoms derive from their “unstable status” in life. They thought their employment status was too rocky and that their talents weren’t received well enough by the public and industry insiders.

The gap between the general public’s perception that entertainers “live flamboyant and happy lives” and their actual life being “not so glamorous” also caused them mental anguish.

They were often forced to hide their real characters or feelings from others to remain “likable” and some of them thought “having to stay young and blissful” was self-consuming.

Her conclusion:

“The numbers show that people, who seem to be in the middle of amiability, love and glamour, are some of the most lonesome and troubled,” Park said in the paper.

April 13, 2010

13% of soju’s alcohol comes from rice. And the rest … ?

Filed under: drinking — extrakorea @ 12:43 pm

Currently, 13% of soju‘s alcohol comes from rice. There are plans to raise that to 33% this year.

OK, so where does the other 87% (soon to be 67%) of soju’s alcohol come from? Nobody seems to know for sure. And that, friends, is why I don’t drink soju. That, and the fact that it smells like a hospital’s rubbing alcohol.

April 12, 2010

20% of North Korea’s budget is for Kim Jong-il’s personal use

Filed under: Kim Jong-il, North Korea — extrakorea @ 7:49 am

Unbelievable. According to Hwang Jang-yop, the highest-ranking North Korean defector, this is North Korea’s budget:

50%: military spending

30%: public services

20%: Kim Jong-il

I know that some people, like Bill Gates, earn more money than some countries in the world, but they don’t take it from taxpayers or captive citizens. Twenty percent of an entire country’s budget for just one man is obscene. And evil.

Korea is not the Ireland of Asia because Ireland kicks its ass (in drinking)

Filed under: drinking — extrakorea @ 7:31 am

According to this article in the Chosun Ilbo, South Korea (“the Ireland of Asia”) is not the country with the most boozers highest per capita alcohol consumption in the OECD. That honor belongs to Ireland, the Ireland of the world.

According to the OECD Health Data 2009, Koreans aged 15 or over consumed an average of 8 liters of alcohol per person in 2007, less than the OECD average of 9.5 liters. Korea ranked 11th among the 16 countries surveyed, while Ireland took first place with 13.4 liters followed by Denmark and the Czech Republic with 12.1 liters.

Now, can somebody explain this?

So where does the misperception [that Koreans are a bunch of boozers consume more alcohol than most other nationalities] come from? It derives from an error made in a 1999 World Health Organization report which ranked Korea 2nd in the world with per capita alcohol consumption of 14.4 liters in 1996. But in the WHO statistics, ethyl alcohol concentrated from fermented cereals was mistaken for a kind of alcoholic drink and the delivered quantity of the ingredient (6.8 liters per capita) was counted in the consumption figure.

OK, if it’s not being made as a beverage, then what is its purpose? Rubbing alcohol? Mouthwash? Cough medicine?

Also, don’t celebrate Korea’s well-being healthy habits just yet.

But some experts attribute the nation’s low ranking to the wide difference in consumption between the genders. As Korean women drink comparatively less alcohol than their male counterparts, the nation’s ranking would rise significantly if it measured only men’s consumption, they point out.

To a certain extent, that would be true of most nationalities.

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