Extra! Korea

July 15, 2010

SM Entertainment manager literally could have killed member of Super Junior

Filed under: legal issues, music — extrakorea @ 5:40 am

Hang Geng, who used to be a member of the boy band Super Junior (until he took legal action to try to leave their company, SM Entertainment), talked about the actions of a manager at SM Ent.

“I went to a Korean awards ceremony with other members of [Super Junior]. I was seriously ill that day. Both Choi Si-won and I were ill that day. I had only two hours before having to walk the red carpet to the ceremony. I went to the hospital with Si-won. I went to the emergency room and the doctor asked me to have an intravenous drip. That day a manager at SM Entertainment followed us to the hospital. He shouted four times, ‘We don’t have time! Be quick!!’ And he adjusted the intravenous drip to increase its speed to the maximum. I really felt dazzled, but he still shouted, ‘Be quick! We don’t have time!!’ Before half of the liquid in the bottle had gone into my vein, the manager pulled out the needle and asked me to leave the hospital and go to the awards ceremony.”

Do you know what could happen if you monkey with the IV drip like that?

Fluid overload

This occurs when fluids are given at a higher rate or in a larger volume than the system can absorb or excrete. Possible consequences include hypertension, heart failure, and pulmonary edema.

This idiot could have literally killed Han Geng with his stupidity and ignorance. It is not, however, the first time that managers have displayed such inexcusable behavior. CN Blue’s manager whacked in the head a female fan whose only “offense” was getting too close to the band, and shortly thereafter a manager with SHINee (another SM Entertainment boy band) did the same. (Go to the links to see still photos and videos of these punks caught in the act.)

July 14, 2010

Hopefully, these robots shoot better than Engkey teaches English

Filed under: North Korea, science, technology — extrakorea @ 7:09 am

According to the Chosun Ilbo, robot sentries are now manning the DMZ and other areas that border North Korea.

“We’re going to deploy such robots at all posts along the DMZ by year’s end if the trial operation is successful,” the officer said. The military authorities could also deploy them on the five islands near the maritime border in the West Sea.

Equipment consists of a camera, a K-4 high-speed machine gun, and a central control system. Each robot is said to cost about W400 million (US$1=W1,212). The surveillance camera sends images to the command and control room in real time. If it detects an approaching enemy, the robot is activated to fire 40 mm rounds at high speed.

Hopefully, they’ll be better at shooting North Korean invaders than Engkey is at teaching English.

20-year-old Vietnamese killed by 47-year-old mentally-unstable husband after 8 days in Korea

Filed under: crime, rapid cultural change — extrakorea @ 6:55 am

A 47-year-old Korean man with a history of mental illness got himself a 20-year-old Vietnamese wife, brought her to Korea, and eight days later, murdered her (Joongang Daily, Korea Times).

The Busan Saha Police Station said the woman was found dead at her house, Wednesday, and that officers were questioning her husband identified as Jang, 47, for beating and stabbing her to death.

[ snip ]

According to investigators, Kim punched his 20-year-old wife in the face and then stabbed her in the stomach at 7:25 p.m. Thursday in Sinpyeong-dong, Saha District, after a quarrel.

[ snip ]

The couple was introduced on Feb. 7 through an interracial match-making company, and the woman decided to marry the man the next day, hoping for “the Korean Dream” despite the age difference.

She stayed in Vietnam to make arrangements for the marriage and arrived in Korea July 1. She did not know any Korean and her husband was her only contact here. However, she did not know of his history of mental problems. He was hospitalized for five days before returning to Vietnam to bring her to Korea and assaulted his parents five years ago after hearing voices.

[ snip ]

Kim told investigators that he suffers from mental illness and heard a ghost telling him to kill his wife while the two quarreled.

Police are investigating whether the matchmaking company that introduced Kim to the Vietnamese woman screened candidates for mental illness, as they found Kim received treatment in a mental hospital 57 times in the last eight years.

[ snip ]

The immigration office is expected to require Korean men to prove they informed their wives-to-be of any past record of domestic violence, mental disorders or human trafficking.

Good luck with that.

Another Seoul National University scientist caught fabricating data

Filed under: science, technology — extrakorea @ 6:29 am

You might remember Hwang Woo-suk, who was caught fabricating data. Now Shin Kyu-soon, another scientist from his alma mater, Seoul National University, has been caught fabricating scientific evidence (Joongang Daily, Korea Times).

Seoul National University’s Research Integrity Committee said yesterday that Shin, who specializes in nanoscopic molecular engineering, was unable to provide proof to back a paper published in Nature Materials journal in October 2007. A school spokesperson said they are planning to inform the journal of the false information soon.

Shin’s paper, “Enhanced Mobility of Confined Polymers,” stated that polymers gyrate faster if confined in an area as small as a few nanometers. When first published, the paper drew attention as scientists previously believed that polymer mobility was enhanced in larger areas.

Polymers are a type of large molecules composed of repeating structural units. DNA, proteins and plastics are polymers.

[ snip ]

The school said it will soon officially inform Nature Materials, a U.K.-based monthly journal, of its finding that the professor’s paper used manipulated data.

The latest fabrication is expected to deal another blow to the credibility of papers written by South Korean scientists, which was tarnished in 2006 with the cancelation of two stem cell-related papers by Dr. Hwang Woo-seok.

[ snip ]

Shin has denied the charge and says the original experiment results were deleted from his computer by mistake.

What kind of an engineer doesn’t have a backup? He should have stuck with those old standby excuses of ajeosshis, “I was drunk … You have to understand my unique situation.”

July 13, 2010

Konglish-teaching robot is an epic FAIL

Filed under: education, idiots, languages, technology — extrakorea @ 9:35 am

The New York Times brings us the story of Engkey, a robot with a Konglish name.

Enter Engkey, a teacher with exacting standards and a silken voice. She is just a little penguin-shaped robot, but both symbolically and practically, she stands for progress, achievement and national pride.

She won’t stand for progress or achievement if she’s a failure.

“Not good this time!” Engkey admonished a sixth grader as he stooped awkwardly over her. “You need to focus more on your accent. Let’s try again.”

“Accent”? We all have an accent; which one depends upon where we’re from. While “accent” can also mean “stress” (as in syllable, not syllable), the word “stress” is used more often, especially in pronunciation text books. And also, what is the student saying wrong? A good teacher should be able to give feedback so that the student knows what they’re doing wrong and can self-correct.

Engkey, a contraction of English jockey (as in disc jockey), is the great hope of Choi Mun-taek, a team leader at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology’s Center for Intelligent Robotics.

So that’s why the robot has a Konglish name.

“How can I help you today?” Engkey said.

“Do you have any fruits on sale?” the student said.

“Wow! Very good!” Engkey exulted. She sounded a fanfare, spun and raised her left arm for a high-five. A screen on her chest showed stars grading the student.

Uh, Engkey? How about actually answering the student’s question (e.g. “Yes, apples are 20% off today.”)?

Still, Engkey has a long way to go to fulfill her creators’ dream. The robot can help students practice only scripted conversations and is at a loss if a student veers off script, as Yang did during the demonstration.

“I love you,” the boy said to appease Engkey after he was chastised for a bad pronunciation. Engkey would have none of it; it was not in her programmed script.

“You need to work on your accent,” the robot repeated.

So the robot responds to everything that’s not in its programming with the same stock answer? It responds to grammatical errors, incomplete sentences, inappropriate responses, etc., with the same criticism of the student’s pronunciation? That is so inadequate as to be almost criminal.

And anyone who’s worked with kids, or even just has been a kid, can see where this could go.

* * *

Engkey: How can I help you today?

Student: I’m just looking, thanks.

Engkey: You need to work on your accent.

Student: There’s nothing wrong with my accent.

Engkey: You need to work on your accent.

Student: You not a very smart robot, are you?

Engkey: You need to work on your accent.

* * *

Actually, one kid was thinking exactly the same thing as I.

When Yang said, “I don’t like apples” instead of “I love apples,” as he was supposed to, Engkey froze. The boy patted her and said, “Hello, are you alive or dead?”

And look at this public relations spin:

Even though they are little more than fancy toys, experts say, these robots prepare children for a fast-approaching robotic future.

If they “are little more than fancy toys,” as they admit, then how do they prepare children for the future? You prepare kids through education, and toys don’t educate.

Here is the most damning bit:

An independent evaluator of the trial noticed that Engkey required the constant presence of a technical operator.

If it requires the constant presence of a technical operator, then that means that there has to be two people working the classroom, just like now. The only difference is that instead of two teachers, there’s a teacher and a robot operator, which brings me to something earlier in the article:

Over the years, this country has imported thousands of Americans, Canadians, South Africans and others to supplement local teachers of English. But the program has strained the government’s budget, and it is increasingly difficult to get native English speakers to live on islands and other remote areas.

Since you will still need two people who will have to be paid, then how do these robots help ease the supposed strain on the government’s budget? Instead of paying a foreign teacher, you’ll be paying a Korean robot operator. This reminds me of a great quote by a guy (his username was Billybrobby) who used to post on Dave’s esl cafe (before it became pretty much useless).

“It’s no coincidence the Japanese and Koreans are working hard on building robots now. Their aversion to co-existing with people from other countries is so great that they’d rather co-exist with robots.”

Here’s a honest evaluation:

“Engkey has a long way to go if it wants to avoid becoming an expensive yet ignored heap of scrap metal at the corner of the classroom,” said Ban Jae-chun, an education professor at Chungnam National University.

You said it.

Dr. Choi said his team was racing to improve the robot’s ability to recognize students and to discern and respond to a student’s voice amid noise. It is also cramming Engkey with more conversational scenarios.

That’s all? How about programming Konglishbot to respond to not respond to grammatical errors with admonitions about the student’s pronunciation?

This all reminds me of this teacher’s comment:

I’m currently teaching in South Korea (and yes, there are always job openings… though less than usual, with the recession on). I teach at two public elementary schools, one of which is on the extreme outskirts of the city and only has 46 students. For some reason, this tiny school got an English robot called the Cybertalker, which uses voice recognition and some kind of face recognition to tailor pre-made conversations to students. The only time I’ve seen the thing turned on was in the frantic lead up to a school inspection, when my English classes were cancelled in favour of registering all the students in the system and trying to make it perform for the school board officials. Even with days of practice, the students couldn’t make it respond – even the almost fluent teachers couldn’t make it recognize their English. These are the crappiest teaching robots in existence. A Speak and Spell would be more useful.

Read the blog post by Brian that I got this from. It has a lot of information, links, and thought.

This makes me think of a post that I saw over at the ROK Drop blog regarding how to make an efficient army. (What follows is a paraphrase from my recollection, so it could be very inaccurate.). The priorities should be: training, then leadership, then fancy equipment, not the other way around. Give fancy guns to poorly-trained soldiers, and they’ll panic when they’re under fire, rendering the fancy toys almost useless. By contrast, give mediocre guns to well-trained solders, they’ll keep cool under fire, know what to do, and do it. In the same way, give fancy toys to poorly-trained (or untrained) teachers, and they’ll just waste the students’ time in an amusing way with lots of bells and whistles. Give a well-trained teacher something that’s not so sexy (e.g. textbooks), and they’ll be good to go. Unfortunately, the Korean public school system is trying to save money by letting go or hesitating to hire the most-qualified foreign teachers, and keeping, hiring, and seeking the least-qualified foreign teachers. Back-asswards.

July 8, 2010

(Updated) Entertainers’ annual incomes nearly 10 million won less than ordinary office workers’

Filed under: celebrities, economics — extrakorea @ 6:08 am


The Chosun Ilbo has an article which gives us a little more information. It looks like one reason for the low average income was because 18,000 entertainers with very low ones (less than 5 million won a year) were included and dragged the average down. Also noteworthy is the fact that the number of poor entertainers has risen.


Original Post:

If you’re an entertainer, you must live in a luxurious mansion tended to by maids while butlers serve you flutes full of champagne on silver platters, right? Not if you’re a run-of-the-mill entertainer in South Korea. Despite the fact that the country is obsessed with celebrities, your average entertainer earns much less than your average Joe Kim who works in an office.

According to the National Tax Service (NTS), the yearly income for actors, musicians and models averages 28.5 million won, almost 10 million won less than normal office workers’ 38.2 million won.

In the quote above, they lumped actors, musicians, and models together. Below is rough breakdown by profession:

An NTS analysis of income of non-salaried people and services providers shows that movie and TV actors earn more than musicians or models

The NTS says 12,029 actors who are exempted from value added tax reported their combined total income as 463.7 billion won in 2008, averaging 38 million won a year.

It also says the income of 3,152 musicians averaged 26 million won in 2008, two thirds that of office workers, and 6,238 models earn 11 million won a year, less than 1 million won a month ― almost the legal minimum wage.

Models’ earnings are almost as low as minimum wage?

“Since the reported income includes all expenses, most celebrities are sure to have a hard time living on their small income,” said an NTS official.

I guess that could be why four of the most famous female singers all said on a recent radio show that they like guys with a lot of money.

It should be noted that members of Korean girl groups and boy bands don’t have to worry about rent or utilities, as almost all of them live together in dormitory-like housing that’s provided by their companies. If you’re a stalker enthusiastic fan, you can even find out where they live via the Internet.

July 7, 2010

More evidence of Kim Jong-il’s dementia? Or a clever ruse?

Filed under: Kim Jong-il, North Korea — extrakorea @ 7:51 am

I’ve posted before about how there is speculation that Kim Jong-il may be suffering from dementia. Now comes word that he watched the same play in less than two weeks, and then ordered the theater, which is in good condition due to it being renovated seven years ago, to be demolished and rebuilt.

The theater was torn down on May 9 just after Kim watched a play there, making his first public appearance since his visit to China early that month. Kim had apparently watched another performance of the same play there on April 27 and after his second visit had enough and ordered it rebuilt.

“It’s strange enough to watch the same play twice in less than two weeks, but it’s even more absurd to order the reconstruction of a building that was renovated just seven years ago,” said a South Korean intelligence official.

However, we should be cautious:

But other experts advise caution. “North Korea has gauged the level of South Korea’s intelligence gathering abilities by monitoring media reports from the South and other countries about Kim Jong-il’s health,” said Sogang University Professor Kim Young-soo. “We need to be more discerning even when it comes to signs pointing to dementia.”

North Korea wins Justin Bieber world tour contest

Filed under: music, North Korea, the Internet — extrakorea @ 5:02 am

North Korea has won the online contest at Justin Bieber’s world tour site. See here for yourself.



Of course, the effect will be limited. First of all, while North Korean bureaucracy decides whether or not to issue young Mr. Bieber a visa, there will be time for the guffaws to die down. In the unlikely event that an invitation is actually offered, he can just come out and honestly admit that he’s been pranked. And let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that he actually decides to go. It wouldn’t be the first time that foreign pop artists have performed in the north. Check out the now-defunct K-pop group Baby Vox performing there.

The Norkbots will, as in the video above, just look on impassively* and then give polite applause, as instructed to, and then they’ll recycle the footage as evidence of western decadence.

* Or stifle laughter, as at 0:39 in the video above.

Some K-pop trainees begin as young as 10 years old

Filed under: music, youth — extrakorea @ 2:44 am

Via OmonaTheyDidn’t comes an article from the Straits Times of Singapore about K-pop. Readers of this blog are probably familiar with most of what they say, though the following stood out:

Although there is no age limit, Ms Mei Han, JYP Entertainment’s publicist, says the hopefuls are getting younger, with some just 10 years old.

For how long might they train for?

They can train for anywhere between one and seven years, or sometimes even longer, in courses organised or sponsored by the talent management agencies which have cherry-picked them for grooming.

Jo Kwon, leader of ballad boyband 2AM, for example, trained for seven years and 10 days before he was selected to debut.

You might remember him.

How much does it cost to manufacture train one of these young wannabe stars?

Industry insiders in Singapore estimate that the total costs can range from SGD50,000 to SGD300,000 (USD36,000 to USD215,500) or more for each trainee, depending on how long he trains.

One of the Wonder Girls talked about something I’ve written about before: lack of sleep.

As Park Ye Eun, 20, from popular girl group Wonder Girls says: ‘Being a star now, I get very tired as I have to wake up early a lot. We have to wake up at 4 or 5am and catch up on sleep on planes. I miss sleeping comfortably on my bed the most.

With very few exceptions (e.g. the Wonder Girls in the United States), they don’t go on tours, so what keeps them so busy?

After they make their debut, there is yet more work. Their daily lives will revolve around promoting their albums, attending television and radio shows, appearing for autograph sessions and travelling to different parts of the world to meet their fans.

[ snip ]

Boyband F.cuz’s members agree, saying in an e-mail interview: ‘Our everyday life consists of going to the television and radio stations, going to the dance studios to practise our dance steps and vocals and going home to rest.’

(emphasis mine)

Yeah, they seem to make appearing on lowbrow slapstick “comedy” shows a higher priority than going on tours, learning how to play musical instrument, writing their own songs, etc.

Incidentally, here’s another example of how K-pop performers have no control over what clothes they wear (among other things).

Raina was recently featured for an interview with T-News, “At first when I heard about the concept of Orange Caramel, I was shocked. Honestly I was flustered and shocked. I didn’t know that we will end up doing such a concept. It was not a style I like.”

(from K-Bites and AllKPop)

Interestingly, representatives of SM Entertainment (who were responsible for some of the most infamous examples of “slave contracts”) have publicly appeared with National Assemblyman Cho Moon-hwan to promote better working environments for entertainers.
(from OmonaTheyDidn’t, AllKPop, and the Chosun Ilbo)

July 5, 2010

(Updated) Netizen pranksters are trying to sent Justin Bieber to North Korea

Filed under: music, North Korea, the Internet — extrakorea @ 3:40 am


There are only a few hours left to vote, and North Korea is still in the lead.

The BBC did an article about it, and got a quote from the North Korean embassy!

A spokesman for the North Korean Embassy in London told BBC News that any application for 16-year-old Bieber to tour would be dealt with by its mission to the United Nations, although the matter would be referred to Pyongyang.

Incidentally, some of the pranks that have been played upon him have gone over the line (e.g. rumours that his mom would be posing for Playboy. Leave the guy’s family out of it.)


Original Post:

This post incorporates two things the Marmot hates: Canada and North Korea.

Justin Bieber is an inoffensive young man from that hotbed of R&B, Stratford, Ontario, Canada. He’s huge in North America, and if, like me, you didn’t know that, then I guess that’s evidence that Korea really has dropped an iron curtain in front of foreign music. He (or his PR people) decided to generate interest in his upcoming world tour by having an on-line contest to get the fans involved. They could vote for him to come to their country, and Bieber would promise visit the winning country. Some netizen pranksters decided to have a little fun by doing some virtual ballot-box stuffing. As of this writing, the country in the lead is North Korea.

The Wonder Girls might get a chuckle out of it. You might recall that one of their former tutors in New York came forward with some allegations that might be disconcerting in America, but are par for the course in South Korea, where the music business has become more business than music. Said tutor allegedly wrote a letter to K-pop blog PopSeoul.

In an attempt to gain some popularity in America, JYPE paid Justin Bieber’s company to open for him, but Bieber’s fans hated the Wonder Girls and sometimes chanted: “We want nobody, nobody but Justin!”

I’m sure that Bieber did not want any of his fans to mistreat the Wonder Girls, and I’m equally sure the Girls don’t blame him for the rude behavior of some of his fans. Still, the irony might be a source of amusement for them.

Speaking of Justin Bieber, IU (아이유), whom I’ve mentioned before, reminds me a bit of him, in that she can actually play musical instruments well enough to do it live. Unfortunately for her, she lives in South Korea, where everyone has to be pushed into a limited number of cookie cutter molds. If she had been born in Canada or America, I think that her talent would have received more commensurate appreciation.

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