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?!

April 10, 2010

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.”

March 29, 2010

Choi Jin-shil’s younger brother may have committed suicide

Filed under: celebrities, suicide — extrakorea @ 9:48 am

As if the Choi family hasn’t suffered enough

The younger brother of Choi Jin-shil, Choi Jin-young, was found dead at his home Monday. He supposedly hung himself, though no suicide note was found at the scene.
(Joongang Daily, Korea Herald)

As Brian who-used-to-be-in-Jeollanamdo reported earlier, Korea reportedly has the highest suicide rate in the OECD and one of the highest in the world, and also did so in the years 2004 to 2009.

March 25, 2010

(Updated) How K-pop trainees are (mis)treated

Filed under: celebrities, music, rapid cultural change, youth — extrakorea @ 2:41 pm

Twenty-seven years ago, a plurality (23.3%) of Korean schoolchildren wanted to be scientists, followed by teachers, judges, doctors, and artists. Nowadays, 41.6% of kids want to be singers when they grow up. Considering that an additional 8.5% want to be actors, that means that over 50% of kids want to be entertainers. Those that want to be scientists amount to only a little over 1%.

Nowadays, groups manufactured by the star factories of SM, JYP, YG, and DSP Entertainment dominate the music scene, leading to large numbers of young people to enroll in “star academies,” hogwons for future pop music hopefuls, which cost trainees from 500,000 to 2,000,000 won per month (US$1=W1,137). On average, trainees attend for four or five years before being allowed to debut (if they debut at all). In addition to the monetary costs are other, more intangible ones.

During that process, the company may require the aspiring star to live in a boarding house with colleagues (or rivals), go on a strict diet with regular weight checks and put in more than 10 hours of practice a day.

[ snip ]

Park, the manager of Beast at Cube Entertainment, explained, “When registering as a trainee with our company, the trainee makes an agreement with us that they will comply with a set of rules along with an acknowledgement that we cannot guarantee when they will be able to make their debut as a full-fledged singer.

Park Bom (Bom), Sandara Park (Dara) and the other two members of 2NE1 are forbidden from having boyfriends. That’s fine for, say, 15-year-old Minzy, but Bom and Dara are in their mid-20s.
The members of After School were forbidden from having cell phones. Ironically, Uee (Ms. “Honey Thighs“) appeared in commercials for cell phones. When this ironic fact became publicly known, their management relented and let them have cell phones.

“The toughest part is getting only five hours of sleep,” said a 16-year-old student. “I feel like I’m in hell every time I get up in the morning.”

Kahi, the most senior member of After School, once fell asleep right on national television. She’s not the only member that goes with little sleep.

Kahi revealed, “UEE only got 1-2 hours of sleep daily because of all her drama filmings, After School activities, and dance practices. Because of that, she falls asleep as soon as she gets home.”

And falling asleep in front of camera might not be as embarrassing as dozing off in a toilet cubicle.

She continues “when she was sleeping at the toilet, we had no idea where she was. So we kept searching the whole building for our leader. Suddenly our staff member said she fell asleep inside the cubicle.”

Eunjung responded, “Honestly, I fell asleep because I was so tired. But the seat was so comfortable and I didnt even smell any bad odors.”

I’ve nodded off while watching movies, riding the bus, studying in the library … but on a toilet seat?!

In fact, these no-holds-barred training regimens – and the hold they give managers over young performers’ careers – have caused numerous scandals over the years. Last year, when actress Jang Ja-yeon committed suicide after allegedly being forced to act as an escort for VIPs at the behest of her manager, it led to an investigation by the Fair Trade Commission, which found last July that most entertainment contracts, including those for idol groups, infringe on performer privacy and limit their ability to change agencies.

According to rumor —rumor!— the reason that Park Jae-beom was permanently kicked out of 2PM was because he divulged details of his “slave contract” to his friend during that infamous MySpace incident. JYP Entertainment finally stopped having “slave contracts” only in November, 2009, after such contracts had become such a big public issue.

One manager for the entertainers said, “The reason why the trainees are often punished and shouted at is so that they are driven to succeed in a very competitive industry.”

They can be punished like schoolchildren even after they successfully debut. Look at the way Park Jin-young treated members of 2PM not too long ago, making them kneel and hold up their arms.

Experts say it is worrying to see these budding entertainers grow up under such conditions and develop a distorted set of social values. Ji Jung-soon of the Bright Youth Center, said, “Young kids who want to be stars grow up being punished and pushed around, so if they become famous, they may become fixated on power and influence, while suffering from low self-esteem.”

The power that manager or producers wield over these group members seems to extend over every aspect of their private and public life:

“Every time we record a song, our boss Park Jin Young emphasizes that we should sing very emotionally. During those times, there are specific emotions that he assigns to each of us 2PM members. To me he said, ‘Taecyeon, you show anger. You show anger no matter what.’”

You’re told what emotion (not emotions, plural, but emotion, singular) to exhibit while performing?! What if I don’t want to be “anger”? What if I want to be … angst? Or schadenfreude? It’s almost like that scene from the movie Reservoir Dogs:

A: Here are your names. … and Mr. Pink.

B: Why am I Mr. Pink? … Why can’t we pick our own colors?

A: No way. … I pick. You’re Mr. Pink. Be thankful you’re not Mr. Yellow.

B: Mr. Pink sounds like Mr. P***y. How about if I’m Mr. Purple?

They don’t get any control over, say, lyrics either. Seo-hyun, of Girls’ Generation, was so uncomfortable with the lyrics of Oh! that she could hardly sing the song:

“The part where the lyrics go ‘Oppa I love you’ was really difficult for me to record. … No matter how much I practiced, when it came time to record, I couldn’t sing it!”

After letting out a sigh Seohyun said, “The lyrics were just so embarrassing that I couldn’t do it at all.”


Artists also have no control over what clothing they will wear

T-ara members HyoMin and EunJung participated in the filming of SBS Strong Heart recently and they said, “When we first received the animal costumes during our first performance, we were really embarrassed and don’t know what to do with it.”

T-ara had followed cute concept with various animal costumes and gloves for their performance of ‘Bo Peep Bo Peep’. They added, “There is something we have to clarify. There are many who raised their doubts about how our stylists are antis. The truth is our codi unnies have no wrong in this. All the costumes were ideas of our boss.”

… or dances that they will perform

Ga-In also shared her feelings on the Saucy Hip Swaying Dance in their song, “Abracadabra”. She said that when she first saw the choreography, she was so shocked by how racy and sexy the whole dance was.

… or who leads the group

Jo Kwon continued,

After “This Song” was released, JYP decided I should be the leader of 2AM for marketing reasons.

… or which songs will be released as singles

She revealed that Lee Hyori had decided with ‘U-Go-Girl’ while their company boss had wanted the song ‘Mister Big’ as Lee Hyori’s 3rd album title song.

… or their lyrics or music

Everything about the Wonder Girls, from writing lyrics and composing music to costumes and choreography is controlled by Park’s magic hands.

… or even their music genre.

At first we [the Brown Eyed Girls] went with R&B, hip hop and ballad. This time, we felt that electronic should be our thing.

In the video below, the Wonder Girls are being interviewed. When asked about their favorite music, Yoobin replied that her favorite band is Muse, and that she likes rock.

Finally, there is this story, which should make anyone consider carefully about sending their daughters to these “star academies.”

Taeyeon explained, “During practice, there was a missed call from an unknown number waiting for me. Initially, I thought it was a prank call so I disregarded it. Later, I received a text message that read, “I am __ oppa.” He kept sending me text messages so, out of curiosity, I dialed his number using the office phone to confirm his true identity. It turned out that he really was the man that he claimed to be.”

According to Taeyeon, he is a famous celebrity that can easily be identified by his name alone. However, she has never met him face-to-face before.

She continued,

“He told me that he happened to find my number and asked if it was okay for him to contact me. Of course, I consented because he has always been a sunbae much older than I am.

Despite him being a sunbae with a large age gap, he continued to contact me. He would send me texts like, ‘Let’s meet sometime’ and ‘I’ll buy you some ice cream,’ almost like a child abductor

What was most upsetting, though, was the time when he called me in the middle of the night while he was drunk. He said he knew a lot about my private life by talking to the people around me. Hearing this, I grew really angry. I asked him, “Why are you being like this? There is no need for us to keep in contact any longer” and quickly hung up the phone. He replied a few weeks later with a text message that read, “If you plan on continuing your life as a celebrity, do you really think you can cut ties with me, just like that?”

Taeyeon’s confession shocked viewers, including fellow SNSD member Seohyun who shared that it was her first time hearing it as well.

As she wrapped up the story, Taeyeon expressed that she received a huge shock from this ordeal and wished that the mystery man would not create such a tramautic experience anymore to other hoobaes in the future.

(emphasis mine)

Tae-yeon certainly showed strength. It should be noted that she’s undoubtedly the best singer in Girls’ Generation, and that a young woman with less talent may have relented and ended up being like Jang Ja-yeon.

March 12, 2010

Former Miss Korea accepted to PhD programs at Harvard and Johns Hopkins University

Filed under: celebrities, education — extrakorea @ 1:04 pm

Where has this woman, Geum Na-na, been all my life? It’s a rhetorical question, but if you want an actual answer, it’s: winning beauty contests in Korea and then going to school, both at the undergraduate and graduate level, in the United States. Specifically, she was Miss Korea for the year 2002, and has been accepted to PhD programs at Harvard and Johns Hopkins University, including one with a full scholarship.

The 27-year-old previously made headlines for gaining admission to prestigious undergraduate schools, including Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She graduated from Harvard with a bachelor’s degree in biology.

During a recent telephone interview with The Hankook Ilbo, sister paper of The Korea Times, Geum said she has qualified to become a doctorate candidate in three departments: epidemiology at Harvard, and epidemiology and cellular & molecular medicine at Johns Hopkins. For the medical program, she was also offered a full ride, which would cover not only tuition but also living expenses for five years.

After graduating cum laude from Harvard College, Geum is currently working toward a master’s degree in nutrition at Columbia University. She will be completing the accelerated one-year course in August.

[ snip ]

Geum was a pre-med student at Kyungpook National University when she won the Miss Korea pageant. Even though she earned impressive undergraduate grades at Harvard she was rejected by 26 medical schools.

Her original plans for medical school failed but she wasted no time sulking in disappointment and pursued an alternative course. And she succeeded.

Here she is nowadays:

And here are photos from her Miss Korea days.



In my experience, medical schools are full of hotties.

February 17, 2010

Updates on pop star’s epic FAIL at English

Filed under: celebrities, humor, languages, technology — extrakorea @ 1:15 pm

We have updates on a pop star’s recent epic FAIL at English.
First, you can see all four parts of the episode with English sub-titles (Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four)
Second, we have a screen capture. Show it to your students who are overly dependent on their electronic dictionaries and who think that said dictionaries are infallible. Tell them, “Don’t become like this.”

And guess what? At the very end of Part Four, we learn that they’re going to go to register at an English hogwon (private education institute). The hilarity may have only begun.


I was right.

February 14, 2010

Pop star’s English FAIL: “I want to kiss you and take a dump on your chest.”

Filed under: celebrities, humor, languages, technology — extrakorea @ 11:44 am

First, some background information: Jo Kwon, of the boy band 2AM, and Ga-in, of the girl group the Brown Eyed Girls, are playing the role of a couple on the reality show “We Got Married.” Such couples are given various challenges that they have to overcome. Today’s challenge was the fearful and difficult task of … meeting a foreigner.
When they first see the foreigner, an Afghanistani student, through their electronic peephole, they’re thrown into a panic. They slowly begin to get more comfortable, mostly because Kwon uses his iPhone to look up conversation questions. When Kwon goes out to buy some snacks for their guest, Ga-in tries her hand at iConversation, resulting in her telling him, “I want to kiss you and take a dump on your chest.” That’s some epic FAIL right there. You have to wonder who wrote or proofread those dictionary entries? The fun starts around 4:00 of Part 1 and continues into Part 2.

January 29, 2010

So who started all this “sexy dancing”?

Filed under: celebrities, eye candy, gender equality, music, rapid cultural change — extrakorea @ 3:22 pm

(This began as a comment on this post by the Grand Narrative blog.)

Nowadays, so-called “sexy dancing” (the quotation marks are to show that they aren’t really that sexy) is ubiquitous, but how did it all start?

In the mid-1990s, Jeon Ji-hyeon starred in a commercial in which she was dancing to music. I think that it was an ad for some kind of sound system, headphones, or walkman. Things were being bounced up into the air by the beat of the music. This was the commercial that got Ms. Jeon noticed. I’ve looked for the commercial on YouTube, but haven’t been able to find it.

Soon afterward, Ms. Jeon appeared in commercials for Samsung printers, a first one in which she wore a white t-shirt and slacks, and a second one in which wore some kind of leopard- or tiger-print clothing. (Incidentally, it was rumored that her bust had been enhanced through video manipulation.)

The commercials were a big success, but this kind of dancing was yet to find its way into Korean pop music and pop culture. The big girl groups at the time were S.E.S. and Fin.K.L, and you can see how moderately dressed they are in these videos, from 1997 and 1998, respectively.

Around the mid-1990s a singer named Park Jin-young (who now calls himself JYP) was pushing the envelope in terms of sexual imagery in his videos. Look at this video for “Elevator” from his second album, Tantara.

This is tame by today’s standards, but in 1995, this was definitely risque. Later, Park started his own management company, and one of his protegees was a young female singer named Park Ji-yoon.

She was on the top of the game in 2000, arguably the most popular female singer in Kpop at the time. In 2003, uncomfortable with the way her image and career was being used as one of the frontrunners in pushing sexual boundaries (JYP’s goal/tactic at the time) with songs like “Adult ceremony” and “Do you know how to…?”, the singer left Kpop and basically fell into obscurity.

[ snip ]

2009 is a very different climate than the ironically, more boundary pushing/shocking atmosphere of the early 2000’s. Can you imagine the Wonder Girls or SNSD (who are the same age that Park Ji Yoon was at the time) headlining such sexually provocative songs (not just as remake performances) today?

I have to disagree with the author here when she says, “Can you imagine …?” I, for one, can. Does the writer forget that when the Wonder Girls debuted, three of them, Sun-mi, So-hee, and Hyun-ah (who was later replaced by Yu-bin) were 15 years old at the time, and that it was those three who wore shorts and mini-skirts in promotional pictures?

Park Ji-yoon’s song “Adult Ceremony” (“Sung-in-shik” in Korean) was about a young woman who had just reached legal age, and she’s singing to her boyfriend about how, now that she’s a woman, she’s ready to “do it” (to “do it” is a euphemism that has the same meaning as in English). Look at the video. Her abdomen is visible, as are the strings of her thong underwear. That was pushing limits back in 2000. Young Korean women had been wearing miniskirts for years, but they never showed their midriff (sort of like how they are still very conscious to not show any cleavage, even if they have little cleavage to show). So-called “granny panties” were (still are?) the preferred type of underwear. If you did wear thong panties, you would certainly try to keep it a secret! Also, notice how, at one point in the choreography (4:25), she squats down, quickly opens and closes her legs a few times, and then stands up again.

And yes, its the same song and choreography that Jae Kyung of Rainbow performed when JYP drooled over her.

However, the person who really put “sexy dancing” on the map was Lee Hyo-ri. Fin.K.L broke up in 2002. Oak Joo-hyun was the only really good singer in the group. The other members were just different flavors of eye candy. (S.E.S. followed the same formula. Bada did the heavy lifting, vocally, in that group.) So how could she ensure the success of her solo career? The answer came in the video of her first solo single, 10 Minutes.

Today, it may not look like much compared to, say, the Brown Eyed Girls’ “Abracadabra” but back then, in 2003, trust me, it scorched your retinas. The fact that she showed off her midriff made a big impression. Of course, as I mentioned above, that had already been done three years earlier in Park Ji-yoon’s video for “Adult Ceremony.” I think that Park Ji-yoon’s video may have gone a little too far, too soon. Lee Hyo-ri’s video was the right one at the right time. It wasn’t too far ahead of the curve. Also, let’s be honest about this: Hyo-ri has a more voluptuous figure than Ji-yoon, and the clothing that she wore showed it off. That had an influence. Thus, Hyori’s video was the one that made it into the common consciousness. It made so much of an impact that the phrase “Hyo-ri Syndrome” was coined to describe her ubiquity. Ever since, everyone has tried to be “sexy” like her, though not many have succeeded.

And now you know.

January 23, 2010

Lee Byung-hun grilled by police from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Filed under: celebrities, crime — extrakorea @ 2:16 pm

(If you don’t know who Lee Byung-hun is, or what the brouhaha swirling around him is all about, then read this previous post.)

Mr. Lee responded to a summons by prosecutors and was interrogated from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Even though it’s no longer illegal to lure a woman to bed with false promises of marriage, it can still get you into trouble. Hope the sex was dynamite, Mr. Lee.

January 5, 2010

Kim Hye-su is taken

Filed under: celebrities — extrakorea @ 12:16 am

I know that some people are going to read this and weep. Actress Kim Hye-su is taken, by fellow actor Yu Hae-jin. Since Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were dubbed “Brangelina” can we call them Su-Yu? You can see pictures of the couple sneaking around in baseball caps and sunglasses.
It’s about time.

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