Extra! Korea

May 24, 2011

Will the fur fly? Lee Hyo-ri vs. fashion house Fendi

Filed under: celebrities, rapid cultural change — extrakorea @ 10:50 am

On June 2nd, on the new “floating island” in Seoul’s Han River, fashion house Fendi will hold a major fashion show. The Seoul government is hoping that it will be a successful debut for the man-made islands, and herald Seoul in as a “design city.” (Hey, let’s all be thankful that they didn’t use the word “hub” (“a hub of fashion”) or “mecca” (“a mecca of fashion”)!) The show was to showcase 60 pieces from its fall/winter collection, including 20 limited-edition fur items, be broadcast live on the Internet, and to feature high-profile guests, including foreign celebrities and fashion leaders.

However, animal rights activists are protesting against the show because of the fur pieces. After initially telling Fendi to remove all fur from the show, the Seoul government reached a compromise in which the show will scale back the number of fur pieces featured.

This isn’t enough for the animal rights activists, including singer and animal lover Lee Hyo-ri, who wrote about her disapproval on her Twitter account. Activists plan to protest outside the venue.

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May 10, 2011

Seven bar “hostesses” have committed suicide since July

Filed under: celebrities, drinking, gender equality, music, prostitution, suicide — extrakorea @ 12:56 pm

On March 24th, a young woman committed suicide, the seventh bar “hostess” (known as “jeopdaebu,”) to do so since last July.

In a suicide note, the 27-year-old said she was forced to have sex against her will and was no longer able to stand the abuse from customers and the bar owner.

Apparently, she was not able to quit because of a “slave contract.” In such bars, the owners are, or are connected to, loan sharks who lend out money at excessively high interest rates.

In the article, it is subtly hinted that the recent crackdowns on prostitution may have actually exacerbated the situation by forcing prostitution underground, leading to the exploitation of women who, unlike those in red-light districts such as Chongyangni and the now-defunct Yongsan, never had any intention of becoming prostitutes.

As shown in the crackdown by the Pohang Police, the sex industry has developed into a well-organized business run by bar owners, gangsters and loan sharks who exploit the women, they say.

Many of them first start working at a bar or club to earn “easy money” without knowing it will put them in a trap from which they can’t get out, they say.

“Most of these hostesses regret starting the job,” Lee Jung-mi, the head of the Korean Shelter for Women, said. “They first thought they would make a lot of money by simply talking to male customers at bars or karaoke, serving drinks and singing for them. But the reality is they are forced to sell sex and they can’t say no due to money they have been loaned in advance.”

Here is a statistic that, if true, is interesting:

According to Statistics Korea, one out of 60 economically-active women work in bars, clubs and karaoke rooms, or in red light districts.

Also, in case you were wondering, the Korean music industry, despite all the rhetoric since the suicide of Jang Ja-yeon, still harbors sexual exploitation. Here is a report from this past February, in which journalists went under cover to find out what happens to young trainees.

The trainee was also asked to call the director of her agency without alerting him that he was being recorded. When asked about the contract fee she was forced to pay, he replied, “There are no agencies these days that support you financially 100%. Since we do support you 100%, don’t leave us. Even if you say that we forced you to provide sexual favors, you really have nothing to say in the end.”

Upon hearing his shocking statement, reporters visited the agency themselves while hiding their cameras. They found that the agency, on the outside, looked no different from any other agencies, and when asked to name the celebrities they housed, they had no trouble listing the names.

[ … ]

Another trainee hoping to become an actress later gave her own account, revealing, “The agency said they were looking for a small role and wanted to meet me in person. They instead dragged me to their home and force fed me various drinks, claiming that they needed to check my limit. After a while, they taped my mouth shut so that I couldn’t scream, and further claimed that in order to become a celebrity, I needed to have sex with him.”

What was even more shocking for viewers was that this all happened before she entered her third year of junior high school.

May 8, 2011

Daum must feel threatened by Kakao Talk

Filed under: advertising, celebrities — extrakorea @ 12:35 pm

Kakao Talk is a popular app (computer program) that can be used on iPhones and smart phones that use the android operating system. (You can read a description here.) It’s very popular in Korea.

Daum is a big South Korean Internet company. It’s released an app called My People. (You can read a description here and watch a semi-informative video below.)

Daum must feel threatened by Kakao Talk since it has singled them out by name for abuse in their commercials. They’ve also brought out the big guns by hiring the the most popular girl group in Korea, Girls’ Generation, to administer the beat down. Notice how the girls have departed from their usual aegyo (cutesy-wootsy way of talking) when heaping scorn on the poor cocoa bean.

This is par for the course for South Korea, where big companies crush and/or take over smaller companies. Interestingly, Kakao Talk is available to everybody, while My People is useful only to people who know the Korean language. I wonder if popularity abroad could help Kakao survive.

(Hat Tip to the Marmot’s Hole)

November 4, 2010

Netizens apoplectic with fury at suggestion that Girls’ Generation may have done sexual favors

Filed under: celebrities, music, prostitution, youth — extrakorea @ 10:27 am

A Taiwanese television show had an program in which they discussed the notion that some female celebrities in South Korea do sexual favors as a way to get ahead, or have it virtually forced on them. Taiwanese singer Estrella Lin, who has previously spoken about her experiences in Korea, was a guest speaker. Unfortunately for them, they used an image of Girls’ Generation, and Korean Internet surfers, “netizens,” are furious. I mean, they’re absolutely apoplectic with fury. The AllKpop post on the topic has over a thousand comments, with new ones arriving literally every thirty seconds, and the YouTube video of the program (below) rising by the hundreds every hour.

It seems that there may have been two problems:
1. While AllKpop may have done a decent job of translating Sports Chosun’s piece, Chosun may have mistranslated the original Chinese.
2. The TV program may have gotten its image of Girls’ Generation from a Taiwanese newspaper. If so, then it might be the newspaper who ought to shoulder the blame.

I’m wondering this: Where was this fury when Jang Ja-yeon committed suicide? Where was the fury when it became known that her ex-manager faces a maximum of one year in prison? How about when it became known that an SM Entertainment manager could have literally killed a member of boy band Super Junior? How about when another entertainment agency seemed to admit to forcing an underage trainee into virtual prostitution? How about any of the other examples of trainees’ mistreatment? Or how about the recent survey that suggests that over 60% of female entertainers are pressured into giving sexual favors? But slander some pretty girls, and the rage is like an inferno. I’m glad to see that some people have their priorities straight.

While I’m at it, I might as well express my incomprehension as to why K-pop fans are cheerleaders for entertainment agencies.  Can you imagine the following conversation between three teenagers in America?

A: I like Interscope Records.

B: No way!  Sony Music is the best!

C: You both have your heads up your arses!  Warner Brothers all the way!

Ridiculous, huh?  When I was a teenager, we talked about which artists we liked.  However, K-pop fans will get into heated debates over whether they like YG Entertainment or SM Entertainment better.

October 7, 2010

MC Mong formally charged with trying to avoid military service, is still a douche

Filed under: celebrities, crime, idiots — extrakorea @ 8:47 am

Remember the rumours that MC Mong had pulled out healthy teeth in order to avoid doing his mandatory military service? He has been indicted and will go on trail. Frankly, I’m happy. In addition to the fact that Mong is a plagiarizer and makes ignorant music videos, this also means that there will be one less buffoon on Korean TV. If only there were some way to get Kang Ho-dong permanently off the air.

September 12, 2010

Did the big mouth on “Korea’s Paris Hilton” get her family tax audited?

Filed under: celebrities, idiots — extrakorea @ 1:51 pm

To the long list of “Korea’s _______ ” (e.g. Rain is “Korea’s Usher,” but he’s also “Korea’s Justin Timberlake”), we can now add “Korea’s Paris Hilton,” Kim Kyeong-ah. If you don’t know who she is, read about her here and here.

Like any celebrity in Korea, she attracted the criticism of netizens. Unlike other Korean celebrities, some of whom will commit suicide after receiving cheap shots from these keyboard warriors, she defiantly struck back.

“Keep yapping away. I’m going to go play at Roppongi Hills tomorrow. No matter how inferior you feel, I won’t blink an eye.”

That may have been a mistake. Netizens will fight tooth-and-nail to have the last word, even though they will only do such “fighting” behind a keyboard, safely behind a veil of anonymity. They contacted the National Tax Service regarding the luxurious gifts that she says she receives from her parents.

Up to 30 million WON is nontaxable if given to an adult son or daughter, and up to 15 million WON for minors.

The director of the National Tax Service had this to say:

“Once we confirm Kim’s personal information and the truth of her claims on broadcast, we will be taking strict action against her.”

A congressman, Lee Yong-seop, weighed in:

“As Kim Kyeonga-ssi earns more fame, a lot of citizens have been feeling deprived. The truth must be investigated and proper action must be taken.”

Furthermore, it looks like the tax audit would target not only her, but her parents as well.

Now Kim is claiming that she was playing a role, and that the show was scripted:

“I read the script the broadcasters prepared for me. The majority of the broadcast is different from reality.”

Apparently, some concrete discrepancies between the televised image, and the real Kim, have already surfaced:

According to the authorities who set out to confirm Kim’s situation after the whole “Korean Paris Hilton” controversy, Kim’s parents are not wealthy enough to be able to provide Kim with billions of KRW (approx. millions of USD) as pocket money. Also, Kim, who was introduced as an unmarried woman on-air, has been revealed to be married to a husband working a white-collar job, meaning that her husband is not extremely wealthy either.

Kim, according to sources familiar with the matter, does live in Non Hyeon Dong (an expensive neighborhood), but the townhouse, registered in the name of her husband, is far from luxurious. Furthermore, the luxurious car worth 300 million KRW (approx. $300,000) does not appear to be real either.

[ snip ]

Even if it turns out that the producers of “Tent in the City” were deceived by Kim, and not the other way around, the producers will still be criticized for not checking the authenticity of the content in advance.

Kim is currently in Japan (remember Roppongi Hills?), and says that she will return to Korea, whereupon she will reveal the truth.

August 25, 2010

Did MC Mong have his teeth pulled to dodge his military service?

Filed under: celebrities, crime — extrakorea @ 6:25 am

All young men in South Korea are required to do 21 months of mandatory military service. (It’s likely to remain in place even after reunification, since they’re in an unfriendly corner of the world.) Some try to get out of it, particularly the scions of the wealthy.

Last month, rapper MC Mong was under suspicion of dodging his military duty by having some of his teeth removed. [Joongang Daily, Korea Herald, Korea Times] (I don’t know why that would give you an exemption. You can still shoot a gun without teeth. Look at rednecks.) Authorities have decided to formally charge him.

Indicment [sic] without physical arrest means that MC Mong is under arrest and will be going through a trial to determine whether he really is guilty or not. However, he will not held in a cell due to his circumstances, such as low threat of running. He has been accused of intentionally removing all of his teeth but the front ones and canines, which would make him ineligible for full military service as a soldier if the lack of teeth was due to natural reasons.

Readers of this blog might recall that I am not a fan of the plagiarizing Mr. Mong.

July 18, 2010

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!

July 8, 2010

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

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

Edit/Update:

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.

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.”

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