Extra! Korea

July 28, 2010

Lawmakers to be urged to take anti-sexual harassment education

Filed under: gender equality — extrakorea @ 3:00 am

You may have heard about this incident, which took place earlier this month:

A group of students who attended a dinner with disgraced Grand National lawmaker Kang Yong-seok last week confirmed yesterday that the lawmaker made sexually inappropriate remarks, corroborating an earlier JoongAng Ilbo report that has rocked the nation.

The 41-year-old first-term lawmaker has found himself in hot water after the JoongAng Ilbo reported on Tuesday that he made lewd remarks at a dinner with university students last Friday [July 16].

[ snip ]

Kang was quoted by students at the dinner party as telling a female student who wanted to become a television anchorwoman that she’d have to be prepared to “go all the way” to succeed in the profession.

He told another student who visited the Blue House that President Lee Myung-bak probably would have asked for her phone number “if the president’s wife hadn’t been there.” About half of the 20 students at the dinner were female.

Because of it, lawmakers are going to be encouraged to take anti-sexual harassment education.

“Upon the request of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, lawmakers will be asked to participate in annual mandatory sex crime-prevention education for the first time since the National Assembly provided the training in 2004,” an official of the National Assembly Secretariat told The Korea Times, Tuesday.

She said the training will consist of two two-hour sessions and will take place on Aug. 19 and 23.

[ snip ]

Lee said the Secretariat will only be able to encourage participation of lawmakers and it is doubtful whether it can force them to receive the training.

[ snip ]

Cho said the ministry may announce the participation rate of lawmakers in the program and even summon the person in charge of running it at the Assembly, should the turnout rate be disappointing.

She claims that the ministry has the authority to notify the public as to the outcome of the program and can go as far as making a list of lawmakers who have dodged it.

Good luck with that. I think you might need it.

Jung pointed out those with more power recorded a much lower participation rate, with that of the prosecution hovering around 79 percent, roughly 15 percentage points below the average.

The participation rate among the heads of state-run bodies was 87.2 percent, while that of the heads of police officers was 68 percent, he said.

Police chiefs have the lowest participation rate?! Geez. Then again, maybe that helps to explain why the police in South Korea don’t take sexual harassment as seriously as those in some other countries do.

July 27, 2010

Why blogs have surpassed Dave’s esl cafe for usefulness

Filed under: expatriates — extrakorea @ 7:49 pm

You might be surprised by how many Korea-related bloggers got their start as posters at Dave’s esl cafe (blogger / username on Dave’s).

Brian in Jeollanam-do / Smee

Grand Narrative / Exciting Head

Korea Beat / Hater Depot

Page F30/ Mithridates

Zen Kimchi / Zen Pickle

The Yangpa / Billybrobby

Gord Sellar / Gord

– [myself] / Troll_Bait

This is because Daveseslcafe used to be the place for expatriates to meet online, discuss, and exchange information. However, in my opinion, Korea-related blogs like Gusts of Popular Feeling have surpassed Dave’s in usefulness and relevance. The reason why can be summarized in one word: accountability. The recent issue of the revised E-2 visa regulations is a perfect example. Gusts of Popular Feeling and the Chosun Bimbo have written excellent posts on the matter. By contrast, the discussion on Dave’s was so full of vagueness, rumours, inaccuracies, and going-around-in-circles that the resulting noise-to-signal ratio was so high that it was pretty much useless. Why? GoP Feeling and C. Bimbo are accountable. Even if they were to blog anonymously, as I do, their reputations are currencies that they want to make and keep valuable. If they talk out of their arses, then they will lose credibility and people won’t visit their blogs. On the other hand, everyone on Dave’s is anonymous. You don’t know if someone is correct, ignorant, or trolling. Why bother trying to guess? Even if someone gets called out, it’s no big loss to them if the reputation of their anonymous username is damaged. Another, related problem, is the fact that the moderators are also anonymous. If a blogger is abusive of his power, or negligent in some way (e.g. his comments section is full of flame wars), people know who to complain to (even if, like myself, they are anonymous). Again, the reputation of the blog is on the line. However, at Dave’s, some of the moderators are lax about some of the Terms of Service. For example, GoP Feeling put a lot of effort into translating an interview with the founder of Anti-English Spectrum (a great service to us all).* Somebody at Dave’s posted all of GoPF’s work there. This is a violation of the Terms of Service:

Articles that are more than 300 words may be edited or deleted. Try to keep your comments concise. If an article is longer, post a link and quote only the really important parts to your argument.

When I was an active poster at Dave’s, I noticed this kind of thing all of the time (another example here) and would complain about it to the moderators. They would then slowly, belatedly take half-hearted action, usually consisting of, “Please don’t kind of do this, OK?” Another example was the fact that a poster named Homer would always mock and ridicule other posters. He wouldn’t say, “You’re stupid,” but he would sarcastically say, “What a logical idea.” His favorite trick would be to put a laughing emoticon right next to his mocking words. Insulting people is not OK, but mockery shouldn’t be either. He was called out on it many times, but nothing was ever done. Why not? Probably because he was also a moderator, by the username of The Dude.

So if you’re new to Korea, and you have a question, I would advise you to pose it to a reputable blogger, such as:

Chris in South Korea

Ask the Expat

Ask a Korean

(There’s a whole list of them here, here, and here. So if, for example, you’re interested in gender-related issues in Korea, you might want to look at Grand Narrative.)

Just two things:

1. Don’t ask silly questions.

(“Can I bring a laptop to South Korea?”)

No, despite being one of the biggest producers of laptops in the world, laptops are illegal in South Korea.

2. Don’t ask questions that betray an obvious case of yellow fever.

(“When I’m there, will I be able to date Korean women easily?”)

If dating the local women is your priority, then maybe you shouldn’t be coming here.

* [Edit] I’m seriously thinking about taking Kushibo’s advice and asking the National Human Rights Commission to have Anti-English Spectrum classified as a hate group.

July 22, 2010

Who’s Shin Jung-hyun and why can he speak with authority about Korean music?

Filed under: music — extrakorea @ 2:47 pm

You might recall this post, which had this quote:

Veteran rock guitarist and singer-songwriter Shin Jung-hyun said in a recent interview, “There is no real music on Korea’s pop music scene these days. There is only greed.”

So who is this Shin Jung-hyun, and what gives him the right to talk about the Korean music scene like that?

Well, he’s one of only about a dozen guitarists to be honoured by guitar company Fender with his own guitar. This list includes all-time greats like Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, and Eric Clapton, and he is the first Asian to be so honoured. If you’d like to hear his innovative songwriting and playing, listen to the video below. (Hat Tip to commenter milton, who was responding to an excellent article about Korean culture and creativity, by the way.)

Can you hear distinctive Korean flavours? I can. (I can’t describe or put my finger on it, but I can hear it.)

What was his era, and who were his contemporaries? The following snippet comes from a blog post about the reason that K-pop acts like Rain have so much trouble breaking into the American music scene is because there is nothing distinctively Korean about them save for their lyrics.

Korea had a great music scene in the 1970s, with performers such as Shin Jung-hyun, Sanulim and Yang Byun-jip, as well as all the folk singers.

OK, but let’s go further back in time, to the beginning of his story, courtesy of Mark Russell, author of the book “Pop Goes Korea” and of the “Korean Pop Wars” blog.

At night, in between, and any chance he got, he taught himself guitar.

Soon Shin was good enough at the guitar to find work teaching at a music institute in Jongno, the center of old Seoul. His reputation grew quickly, and someone suggested he audition to play for the U.S. Eighth Army.

In 1957, he started playing rock music for U.S. Army bases (under the name “Jackie Shin”), where he would continue for ten years. The American Army circuit was a godsend for musicians then, with plenty of clubs (jazz standards for the officers clubs, more country music for the NCOs, and rock for the enlisted men) and decent pay.
Asked to write a song glorifying then-president Park Chung Hee, Shin refused… Soon after, police officers and government agents began following and harassing him.

“The American bases are where Korean rock developed,” Shin says. “At the time, Korean clubs only played ‘trot,’ tango, music like that.” Shin still remembers the music he most liked to play then: “Bill Haley’s ‘Rock Around the Clock,’ ‘Guitar Boogie Shuffle,’ Duane Eddy’s ‘40 Miles of Bad Road.’” He was a big fan of Elvis, and after seeing the movie Love Me Tender, Shin bought a denim jacket and practiced shaking his legs and playing like the King. “But I could never get it right,” he says. “I was very disappointed in myself.”

Gradually, rock music spread from the army bases to the rest of Korea. In 1961, Shin formed Korea’s first rock band, Add 4, but Korea still was not ready to embrace the rock sound.

Mainstream success eluded him until 1968 when he produced an album for two high school girls who called themselves The Pearl Sisters. That album, Nima, was a huge hit, and soon made Shin a star, too. Over the next seven years, Shin and the singers he produced released many hit records, usually with his signature “fuzzy” guitar style, spacey organ sounds, and a healthy dose of the psychedelic.

In 1972, near the peak of his fame, however, he received “the phone call”—it was the president’s office on the line. Asked to write a song glorifying then-president Park Chung Hee, Shin refused.

And that was the beginning of the end. The government of Park Chung-hee harassed, arrested, and banned him from performing. By the time the ban was lifted, with the passing of President Park, the music scene was being taken over by government-approved disco, trot, pop music, and ballads.

It was all, ‘Let’s work hard,’ and ‘Let’s be happy’ kind of stuff,” Shin says, with a soft, matter-of-fact bitterness. “It was completely physical, with no spirit, no mentality, no humanity.”

Sounds familiar, huh? Replace “Let’s work hard,” and “Let’s be happy,” with “I love you,” “I miss you,” and “Yo yo yo, I hip-hop styyyle,” and the words would ring completely true today.

July 18, 2010

These “singers” are busy with non-singing activities

Filed under: actors/actresses, movies, music, television — extrakorea @ 1:10 pm

According to this post, the members of the girl group T-ara are so busy acting in dramas, movies, and variety shows that they can’t sing on stage or record in the studios.

Jiyeon has already been in a lot of movies and dramas, Eunjung has been in a drama and preparing for a movie, Hyomin has been preparing for a drama, and Qri, Boram and Soyeon have been regulars on variety shows. When album activities occur, the girls become very busy.

A representative said, “T-ara’s Hyomin is preparing for a drama shoot and future individual activities,” he said, “in this case, it means they girls can’t regularly be on stage or record often or else members would be missing and that’s why we recruited a new member to hold activties and keep interest in T-ara and not the dramas/movies.”

I thought that they are, you know, singers. It reminds me of the time that Uee, of the girl group After School, was so busy with her acting that she couldn’t join After School in performances.

This kind of thing, combined with the fact that most girl groups only have one or two members who can really sing well, reinforces the notions that:
a. to be a “singer” in South Korea you don’t need to be able to sing well
b. South Korea doesn’t really have singers and actors like other countries do. That is, in other countries, singing and acting are professional careers that require ability and specialized training. In Korea, there are just “celebrities” who both sing and act, but don’t dedicate themselves to either and don’t do either particularly well.

Another “I don’t like short guys” controversy smoothed over with a sexydance

Filed under: celebrities, gender equality — extrakorea @ 12:33 pm

Another young woman on national television has expressed her preference for taller men, and unfortunately for her, she’s a celebrity, Park Ga-hee (박가희), and thus especially vulnerable to netizens. Here’s what happened:

host: ”You’re at an age where you should be getting married, so do you have an ideal type?”

Ga-hee: ”I don’t like guys that are shorter than me.”

host: ”Then?”

Ga-hee: ”I think I prefer a guy to be at least 183cm (which is around 6ft tall).”

Then the host says that the only guy on the show who is that tall is Julian Kang and then tells them to stand next to each other.

With GaHee’s statement, the other male guest appearances on the show had felt embarrassed. So as to not make them feel bad and hurt, GaHee presented a set of sexy dance routines on the show, much to the delight of the other star appearances and the TV viewers.

Why are these “sexydances” such a staple of Korean television? Is there really such a lack of imagination on the part of the creative teams that write these shows? It reminds me of that children’s song, “Old MacDonald.”

Old MacDonald had a K-pop show,
Ee i ee i oh!
And on that K-pop show he had some sexydances,
Ee i ee i oh!
With a sexydance here,
And a sexydance there

Here a sexydance, there a sexydance,
Everywhere a sexydance
Old MacDonald had a K-pop show
Ee i ee i oh!

There goes my plan to save a lot on a Blackberry …

Filed under: economics, technology, the Internet — extrakorea @ 11:45 am

Unlike most people, I’m more interested in buying a Blackberry than an iPhone. I went into a shop with a Korean friend and found out that the latest model costs about a million won (roughly a thousand dollars!). Through the Internet, I discovered that the same model sells for about $500 in Canada. Since I’m going to Canada tomorrow for vacation (so expect light posting for a while), I thought I’d buy one in Canada and bring it back here, thus saving myself 500 bucks. Well, it turns out that I would have to pay 300,000 won to have it unlocked. I’d still save about 200 dollars, but still, bummer.

No surprise that South Korea is a country that will not get the latest iPhone at the end of July. Government approval wasn’t given because Samsung doesn’t have a clone in the pipeline extenuating circumstances.

Why haven’t we heard of pianist Lim Hyun-jung before?

Filed under: music — extrakorea @ 11:10 am

Via the Marmot’s Hole comes a video of a young woman, Lim Hyun-jung (임현정), playing an impressively fast version of “Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Despite some naysaying (for every Korean apologist there’s someone who criticizes Korea unfairly), she is more than about speed. Here are a couple of comments under this YouTube video:

This is not a about speed like argerich or richter, they play just so fast without music feelings, a bit like a machin [sic] that you can’t hear any details and music.
Here I can distinguish and hear the harmony, the rubato, the accents, the music of Chopin indeed! My favorite rendition, 1000/5!
– “medtnerlovesme”

Wow! In an age when note-perfect young piano virtuosi are a dime a dozen, she is a rarity. She not only has phenomenal technical skill, but she also plays with wonderful expressiveness and imagination. She puts her own personal aliveness into each performance, in an exciting and captivating way. She is the Real Deal.
– “HarpoMarx22”

Why haven’t we heard of her before? Under this YouTube video was this comment:

The reason why you’ve never heard of her is because she hates competitions. She doesn’t want to become a part of business and I respect that. Watch her Rachmaninoff Etude on Utube, and you’ll be AMAZED.
– “marie1109s”

And under this video was this:

She is certainly no automaton, despite an astounding technique- she has a real feeling and understanding of the music, which is rare. She seems relatively unknown outside Europe but I hope that changes!
– “2ndAveLine”

(emphasis mine)

So it seems she’s known in Europe. According to her Facebook page she moved to France for the sake of her studies and, as far as I can tell, she lives there still.

This twenty three year-old Korean pianist began her musical studies at the age of three under Jong-Sun Kim. Her prodigious talent was quickly recognised and she moved to France at the age of twelve. Five months later she graduated from the Conservatoire National Région de Compiègne with First Prize and highest distinction in the class of Marc Hoppeler.

She became the youngest ever person to obtain the “Diplôme d’Etudes Musicales Complètes” of Normandy in France, aged fifteen.

So can we in Korea ever see her perform?

In August 2010, Hyun-Jung will perform the complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas over eight consecutive days in Paris and November 2010 will see her return to Korea to make her eagerly awaited recital debut at the prestigious Seoul Arts Center.

(emphasis mine)

I’d like to know:
a. how much will tickets be, and
b. how can I get them?

You can see a collection of her performances here, and if you watch only one video, it should be the one below, as it has both Rachmaninoff’s Etude op.39 n°9 and Bumble Bee as an encore.

Like Kim Yu-na, this one one young Korean who actually lives up to the hype.

July 16, 2010

Those inadvertently funny “English” slogans

Filed under: humor, languages — extrakorea @ 4:44 am

This is a bit of an old article, and I’m not sure if it’s been posted before by another blogger (I don’t think so), but it sure is worth the read, largely because of the interviews with two experts on Korea, Michael “Trod Underfoot by Samsung” Breen and Tom Coyner.

He [Breen] said the Dongjak district of Seoul tags itself “Lucky Dongjak,” but his first thought on reading that was, “Where’s the casino?”

“If Dongjak’s main industry were gambling, that would work well. But as it isn’t, I can’t quite see what it’s for,” Breen said. “Similarly, what can we make of Namwon, City of Love?”

He pointed out that the main mistake local governments make is to copy others. He said the effect of Dynamic Busan copied from Dynamic Korea and Yes Gumi copied from Yes Tokyo is to say, “We are not original.”

Coyner offers analysis.

Tom Coyner, president of Soft Landing Korea, said the strange use of English may possibly be due to it being categorized into three target consumption groups; domestic, international and foreign tourist.

“In the category of domestic consumption, the use and misuse of English is of little consideration to the local marketers who come up with these catch phrases.”

Coyner claimed the primary consideration in the category is how the English words resonate with the local population who may have a fundamental but inadequate grasp of the language, as seen from Super Pyeongtaek and Hi-Touch Gongju.

“There can be linguistic or pedagogic connections between certain English words and corresponding Korean words, cultural points, etc. that are totally lost on most native English speakers,” he noted.

Coyner said such examples are not only found in product advertising, building names, but also with local government promotions of towns and provinces.

He believes the most controversial of the three is for international consumption.

The management consultant said often prestigious and expensive international specialists are employed, but the specialists are overruled by the bureaucratic desire to “localize” the international expertise.

“This may be done out of a desire by local bureaucrats to privately boast that they came up with the final slogan,” he said.

Coyner claimed, if not out and out weird, the choice of English words associated with a place’s slogan often seem rather arbitrary, such as Colorful Daegu, Ulsan for You, Happy Suwon, and Nice Jecheon.

He said, sometimes, punctuation is hoped to make the difference ― particularly when employing an exclamation mark as in “New Start! Yesan.”

As for foreign tourist consumption, he said while these examples were attempts to be helpful, they were made without asking foreigners to review signage or even checking a dictionary before ordering the signs to be made.

And the coup de grace:

“When wrong, at best they can be humorous, and at worst, they may convey a sense that the country is made up of yokels.”

(emphasis mine)

Is anyone (in a position of influence) listening? Frankly, I wouldn’t hold my breath. The desire to brag to one’s friends in the same bureaucracy, “That’s my slogan!” probably outweighs any concern about making one’s country look like a bunch of yokels.

July 15, 2010

(Updated) Surgery being performed in North Korea without anesthesia because of shortage

Filed under: North Korea — extrakorea @ 1:42 pm


The BBC has an article with more information.

One 20-year-old woman from North Hamgyeong province said: “People don’t bother going to the hospital if they don’t have money because everyone knows that you have to pay.

“If you don’t have money you die,” said the woman, who left North Korea in 2008.

[ snip ]

A 56-year-old woman told Amnesty that her appendix was removed without anaesthetic.

“The operation took about an hour and 10 minutes. I was screaming so much from the pain – I thought I was going to die.

“They had tied my hands and legs to prevent me from moving.”

Also, go to this BBC page to see a video.


Original Post:

Amnesty International has released a report on the dire situation of the North Korean health care system. The following stood out:

“And there’s such a shortage of medicines that surgeries are often performed without the aid of anesthesia or not enough anesthesia to control the pain.”

This was also noteworthy:

The World Health Organization says North Korea spends the least on health care compared with any other country – less than one dollar per person annually.

(Updated) Homestay students in Canada more likely than Canadians to be sexually abused, be sexually active, use cocaine

Filed under: crime, expatriates, youth — extrakorea @ 6:20 am

Update #2:

The University of British Columbia has a media release, but by far the best source of information so far is this Vancouver Sun article. First, it gives us a definition of what was meant by “sexual abuse”:

The B.C. Adolescent Health Survey asked respondents if they had been forced to have sex by either an adult or a youth (or both) and defined sexual abuse as: “Sexual abuse is when anyone (including a family member) touches you in a place you did not want to be touched or does something to you sexually which you did not want,” explained study co-author and nursing professor Elizabeth Saewyc.

That’s a pretty broad definition, and could conceivably include things like unwanted hugs, etc. Also, it states that the offenders could be anyone the student knows, not just home-stay “parents” but others such as other students or home-stay participants.

The study studied three groups of students who were of East Asian heritage:

1. students living in B.C. without their parents (home-stays)
2. immigrant students living with their parents
3. Canadian-born students who also live with their parents

Are any of these home-stay kids living with relatives? It seems so.

The Vancouver school board had 730 international students between the ages of 13 and 19 last year, says the head of the board’s international education program, Barbara Onstad. Most students stay with relatives, but between 15 and 20 per cent use the homestay program managed through Langara.

(emphasis mine)

Another tid-bit of information:

Fifty-four per cent of male homestay students spent more than four hours a day on the computer for recreation compared to 30 per cent and 35 per cent of immigrant and Canadian students living with their parents.

Way to break the Starcraft-playing, four-eyed computer geek stereotype, boys. More proof that sending these kids to Canada for the sake of “a better education” is not working out as planned by the parents.

And how much do the students pay?

Foreign students pay about $12,000 a year in tuition and another $7,000 for room and board.

Most disturbing of all is the fact that some of these young women may be getting into (being forced into?) prostitution.

In May, a 17-year-old female homestay student from China was picked up during a raid on a bawdy house in downtown Vancouver. A 44-year-old Vancouver man, Xiao Jin Zhao, was charged with several prostitution-related offences including procuring women to sell sex.

(source, Hat Tip to Seth Gecko)



Gusts of Popular Feeling posted a link to a Canadian article that has more information. First of all, it tell us more about who takes in these kids and why.

The industry, however, is largely unregulated and home-stay “parents” who take fees from foreign students “are considered custodians, not legal guardians, and have no legal obligation to nurture youth,” the University of British Columbia and non-profit McCreary Centre Society researchers noted in calling for government oversight of the sector.

[ snip ]

“Shouldn?t we also have systems for protecting foreign teens when they are here for years without their parents?”

We also find out more about who these students are …

The research was based on information collected from more than 3,000 foreign home-stay students, among 30,500 students surveyed in grades seven to 12 throughout British Columbia in 2003.

And what they’re doing (or not doing) in Canada.

[H]ome-stay students were also far less likely than other students to be involved in extracurricular activities and just over half had skipped school in the month before the survey, while only a quarter of their peers did.

So much for the notion of sending these kids abroad for the sake of a better education.


Original Post:

Each year, lots of young people from Korea (and other East Asian countries) go to Canada to hang out pretend to study escape their parents study English, but there is a dark cloud, due to the fact that there is little-to-no oversight of the homestay programs.

Each year, thousands of East Asian students, mostly from Korea, China and Japan, stream to Canada to study English or attend high school through homestay programs.

Under the scheme, families pay for their children to study there while living with families who provide room and board.

But the industry ― worth an estimated $60 million annually in British Columbia alone ― has no oversight or screening processes, the study said.

[ snip ]

It found that 23 percent of female respondents from East Asian countries reported having been sexually abused, compared to eight percent of Canadian-born girls.

Among males and females, 25 percent of the homestay students were sexually active, more than twice the ratio of their Canadian counterparts.

They were also two to six times more likely to use cocaine compared to other students their age.

All three of these problems seem to come out a lack of supervision. Another factor could be that in Korea, these students and their schedules are strictly controlled by their parents, especially their mothers. After they arrive in Canada, they “overdose” on this new freedom (freedom provided both by Canada’s more relaxed atmosphere and the homestay program’s lack of oversight). The relatively-high rates of sexual abuse could be traced back the naivity that South Koreans had until the horrible Na-young case. Korean parents don’t teach their kids to be careful (not just of strangers, but not to run across a street without looking, etc. It’s not surprising, since the parents themselves are often reckless.*) My Korean language teacher told us that when she was in elementary school, she would walk to school alone, a half-hour trip. Nowadays, some parents walk their kids to school, but not all. I still see a lot of young students walking to school either alone or with a friend of similar age.

* At one of KOTESOL’s annual conferences, Dr. John Linton described Koreans as “lacking the danger gene.”

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