Extra! Korea

April 11, 2010

“Eye Smiles” and “Egg Lines”

Filed under: celebrities, gender equality, pseudoscience, rapid cultural change, youth — extrakorea @ 10:55 am

Somebody page The Grand Narrative. To S-lines, V-lines, heart-lines, and the rest of the alphabetical labels that we can attach to women for easy categorization, we can add: eye smiles and egg lines.

Eye Smiles:

If you haven’t heard of this term before, it’s the crescent shape that an eye curves into when a person smiles. In Korea, guys tend to love girls who smile this way.

And an “egg-line” is when a person’s face looks like an egg, with the narrow end on the bottom, of course. In other words, it’s a V-line taken one step further. Because it’s always OK to further criticize a woman’s looks.

Do you know what I think is the purpose of all this is? To use use pseudo-scientific terms so that you can describe a woman’s face or body and not suffer consequences. If I were to say to a woman, “You have nice boobs,” she might well slap my face. On the other hand, if I say, “You have a good W-line” (which basically says the same thing), she probably won’t do anything. Why not? Probably because wrapping the comment up in pseudo-scientific terms makes it look objective.

And did you know that having surgery on your eyelids is considered, by some people, to not be plastic surgery?

After all, it is only double eyelid surgery and is not the same as plastic surgery.

Say what?!

I’m sure the rape at the MT (“Membership Training”) is just the tip of the iceberg

Filed under: crime, culture, drinking, gender equality, safety, suicide, youth — extrakorea @ 9:59 am

Not too long ago, Brian (formerly) in Jeollanam-do reported on the university student who committed suicide after being raped on an MT. MT is short for “membership training” and they have nothing to do with any sort of training. Groups of students who are associated in some way (e.g. are members of the same club or have the same major) go somewhere, stay the night, and then return the next day. Participation is supposedly optional, but declining could get you ostracized, which is a big deal in Korea, particularly among university students. What do they do there? Drinking alcohol. Lots of it. Again, you’re pressured to conform and participate. If you don’t drink, or only a little, you will be angrily accused of “spoiling the mood” by your superiors (“seon-bae”). In Korea, subordinates (“hoo-bae”) basically have to do everything that their seonbaes demand, or risk the aforementioned excommunication. It’s common for male seon-baes to try to get female hoo-baes drunk so as to make sexually harassing them easier.

You say, “Wait a minute, they stay overnight? I thought that Korea was a conservative society. I thought that Korean parents are worry-warts with regards to their children. What do they think about that?” Good question. I think it’s a combination of: a) naivety (“Just because a big mixed-gender group stays somewhere overnight doesn’t mean that they’re having sex.”), b) denial (similar to a)). Korean parents don’t want to think about the fact that their kids might be humping like rabbits.), and c) people know, and it’s kind of a dirty little secret. Have you ever seen the movie “Memories of Murder“? (If you haven’t, be sure to.) In one scene, two police officers speculate on what might be happening on these MTs.

I’m sure that it’s well-known among Koreans that sexual harassment is widespread at MTs. You might remember the Japanese student who shocked the nation by publicly describing when her Korean teacher offered her a sex-for-grades exchange. You might not remember that another girl on the show, a Chinese student, Shang Fang (“상팡”), said that she was sexually harassed by the same teacher while on an MT (“상팡 “문제의 교수에게 MT서 성희롱 당했다””). People here don’t want to talk about it in much the same way that they don’t want to talk about the special barber shops (which don’t offer haircuts), “anmas” (a kind of massage parlor), “room salons” (an expensive bar-brothel mash-up), etc. It’s embarrassing to talk about it, so the problem is not addressed.

Kushibo has written that the problem isn’t as bad as it used to be. Let’s say that he’s right. “Not as bad as it used to be” can still describe a serious problem. Near the school that I teach at, I still see students at the big supermarket loading up for the weekend MTs with snacks like chips and booze. Lots of cheap, strong booze. Kushibo certainly knows the seriousness of the problem, from this story that he reprinted:

Well, one other woman began to pass out while they were all at a noraebang in L.A. Koreatown. My friend noticed what seemed like shallow breathing, but she wasn’t sure. She asked some of her sŏnbae (‘senior’) if the passed-out hubae (‘junior’) seemed all right. She actually got barked at that she was ruining the punwigi (mood/atmosphere) of the party. After a couple minutes, still nagged by concern for the passed-out friend, she decided to call 911.

According to my accountant friend, the call saved the woman’s life. She was rushed to a nearby hospital and her stomach was pumped. The E/R doctor told them that if they had waited another twenty minutes, the friend might have died of alcohol poisoning. Her blood alcohol level was stratospheric, having downed all these “one-shot” drinks, egged on (without any real choice without being ostracized) by her supposed friends.

Also, I’m sure that someone as knowledgeable about Korea as Kushibo is knows that there’s optional, and then there’s “optional,” with big, fat quotation marks around it, which basically means, “It’s your choice not to, but if you don’t, we’re going to make your life f-ing miserable.”

Now, due to this unfortunate tragedy, perhaps the problem will be addressed like it should have been long ago.

April 10, 2010

Picture of the Day for April 10th

Filed under: Picture of the Day — extrakorea @ 1:49 pm

All this talk of North Korean gulags and Somali pirates requires something to lighten the mood.

(from cuteoverload.com)

(Updated) Somali Pirates want $10 million, negotiations could take months

Filed under: crime — extrakorea @ 1:48 pm

The Somali pirates who captured a Korean supertanker full of oil are currently demanding ten million dollars to return the ship. Negotiations could take months.


Korea has recalled its destroyer, the Yi Sun-shin.

North Korea wants YOU as a tourist!

Filed under: North Korea, travel — extrakorea @ 1:38 pm

North Korea must be desperate for money. They’ve seized South Korean assets, and now they’ve put out a full-page advertisement in Time Out New York‘s back cover in an attempt to lure tourists. (Be very sure not to enter illegally.) Here’s one quote that they included:

“An eye-opening experience” — Anderson Cooper, CNN

A lie of omission. Here’s the full quote:

“Watching 5-year-old children being forced to battle feral dog packs for scraps to eat in Pyongyang garbage heaps was an eye-opening experience. Particularly the local police placing bets… On the dogs!”

Of course, you won’t see the gulags where they imprison entire families and murder half-Chinese babies.

But you don’t need to go there (and line Kim Jong-il’s pockets). Just watch Vice Guides series of videos which they made when they went there (and pissed off some of their handlers in the process).

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

The videos are also on YouTube, but in 14 parts. Here’s Part One (use the search function to find the others).

Would you give your child advice on drinking alcohol?

Filed under: celebrities, drinking — extrakorea @ 12:13 pm

Moon Geun-young (who was known as “Korea’s ‘Little Sister'” until Kim Yu-na came along) has described advice that her father gave her regarding drinking alcohol.

I guess it’s a trait I got from my father who loves alcohol, he always used to tell me ‘No matter how much you drink, never let your eyes weaken and always stay focused.’

Would you advise your children on how to drink alcohol? And how much does Ms. Moon like to drink?

When asked how much is an ideal amount of liquor, Moon Geun Young surprised everyone by answering, “About two Soju bottles are okay.”

April 7, 2010

Another phrase you can’t use in class anymore: “She’s gone.”

Filed under: education, languages, music, youth — extrakorea @ 1:04 pm

As Brian (formerly) in Jeollanam-do has noted, once an English phrase has been used by K-pop artists, it ceases to be a tool of communication, and becomes an instrument of triggering widespread epileptic seizures in the majority of your students. Examples: “Please tell me the answer,” and, “Try it one more time.”

One of my students decided to disappear during break time. Despite the fact that I am a foreigner (and therefore stupid), I noticed. Pointing to the vacant desk, I asked the girl whom she had been sitting next to:

“She’s gone?”

Cue mass hysterics.

It’s a song by G-dragon. It’s not one of his big hit singles, but it’s gained notoriety for being accompanied by, at his concert, a video in which he stalks and murders some girl.

Actually, the song itself is pretty decent. Unlike most Korean rappers, he doesn’t do the staccato monotone that I dislike so much. And if you read the translated lyrics, you can see that he’s trying to have a kind of Eminem’s Stan-style twist at the end.

Wine prices slashed says Joongang Daily and Kim Yu-na

Filed under: advertising, drinking — extrakorea @ 12:34 pm

According to the Joongang Daily, wine prices have been slashed. I have been informed of this same fact by Kim Yu-na, via a flyer in my mailbox from Homeplus.

April 5, 2010

(Updated) iPad has Samsung microchips and LG liquid crystal displays

Filed under: technology — extrakorea @ 2:10 pm

The iPad has arrived (in the United States, that is), and a company called iFixit Inc. wasted no time in taking it apart. What did they find? Among other things, Samsung microchips and LG liquid crystal displays. Hopefully, this will help alleviate the worry that is probably accompanying the coming of the iPad, considering the success of the iPhone here. No wonder, really, considering that its strength lies in something that the Korean education system strives, from elementary school to university, to crush: creativity.

It’s due to be released in Korea later this month. It will face some limitations, both in the U.S. and in Korea.

It doesn’t give you most of the things you want to do online, for example — Hulu.com, Netflix, because it doesn’t support Flash. These are things that Apple has chosen to do that I think hamper its ability to have the impact that it really could have otherwise,” he [Industry analyst James McQuivey] added.

(Chosun Ilbo)

“I think the impact of the iPad in Korea will be limited, at least at first. Many Korean Web sites are built to work only on Microsoft’s Web browsers, with all those Active-X tools and all, and that may prevent users from a smooth computing experience with the iPad,” said an official from a Web technology firm.

[ snip ]

The iPad model featuring Wi-Fi wireless connectivity will be available in Korean stores sometime this summer, industry sources say. Although Apple will release another iPad that offers both Wi-Fi and third-generation (3G) cellular connectivity in the U.S. later this month, it’s hard to predict when this model will be available in Korea.

KT, the wireless carrier that provides iPhone here, and SK Telecom, the largest carrier that controls more than half of Korea’s mobile phone users, both say they have yet to engage in serious negotiations about releasing the 3G-capable iPad here.

(Korea Times)

The phone companies screw the Korean consumer again.


The Marmot’s Hole now has a post about how 500,000 iPhones have been sold in Korea, and how its success has locals wondering why companies like Samsung and LG, the largest and second-largest electronics companies in the world, don’t seem able to keep up with Apple’s innovations. Here are excerpts from an article, quoted by them and re-quoted by me.

“Why can’t Samsung Electronics make an innovative product like the iPhone? The answer may be found in the company’s dated and rigid top-down approach in decision-making, which seems ripe to invite another crisis in the current market environment,” said Kim Sang-jo, a Hansung University economist and head of the shareholders’ activist group, Solidarity for Economic Reform.

All companies have hierarchies. They must, or nobody will know who does what, who is responsible to whom, etc., and nothing would get done. What makes a Korean company different, different in that they crush innovation more than others?

* If a subordinate (“hoo-bae”) has a good idea and presents it, it will embarrass his superior (“sun-bae”) and cause him to lose face. Since face is more important than logic, efficiency, or even profits, you can expect said hoo-bae‘s life to become very unpleasant in the future.

* If a hoo-bae has a good idea and his sun-bae learns about it, the sun-bae will steal it and present it on his own idea. What can the hoo-bae do about it? Two things: jack and s***. His options are to suck it up, or to quit. You say, “But that’s so unfair!” Welcome to Korea.

To improve the company’s software capabilities, Samsung Electronics is attempting to steal talent from elsewhere, but industry watchers wonders whether the company still lacks a clear direction for its software-based rebuilding plan.

Stealing talent from elsewhere won’t do much unless the corporate culture changes. If it doesn’t you’ll have talented people not presenting their innovative ideas, either because they don’t want to embarrass their sun-baes or don’t want their sun-baes to steal their ideas.

April 4, 2010

A reminder of how good BoA is

Filed under: music — extrakorea @ 2:02 pm

Here’s something that I stumbled upon.

BoA spends so much time outside of Korea that people here sometimes forget how good she is. Here is a reminder.

Hyoyeon, of Girls’ Generation, and Kahi (also spelled Gahee), of After School, used to be background dancers for BoA. Not surprisingly, they’re very skillful dancers. To keep pace with BoA, you have to be good.

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