Extra! Korea

July 31, 2011

Is it art or pornography?

Filed under: censorship — extrakorea @ 1:36 am

Let’s say that a 145-year-old oil painting is on display in the Orsay Museum in France. Wouldn’t most people would consider it to be art, even if it displayed full nudity? Now put that same picture on a blog, and it instantly becomes pornography.

That seems to the the point that Park Kyung-sin was trying to make when he posted the painting “L’Origine du Monde” (Origin of the World) [NOT SAFE FOR WORK!] by French painter Gustave Courbet on his blog.

Park was one of nine members of the Korea Communications Standards Commission which ordered a portal site operator to remove photos of a man’s penis from his own blog. Park, a Korea University law professor, disagreed with the decision, and in protest posted the famous (?) painting on his own blog (though he later removed it). He explained his actions thus:

“The photos were like this painting, Origin of the World which everybody can see at the Orsay. They neither contained any sexual narrative, nor implied sexual intercourse, except for just showing human genitals. … But it is a different issue concerning the state controlling its people and their opinions. Such control should be limited to cases causing damage to all people. … So, it may be right if only adults are allowed to see them. But if we define them as lewd material, even adults cannot see them and they are expelled from the legal boundary of expression.”

May 29, 2011

Documentary film The True Taste Show may be banned

Filed under: censorship, food, legal issues, movies — extrakorea @ 1:48 pm

Remember the upcoming documentary, The True Taste Show, in which the filmmaker alleges that restaurants pay for positive reviews on food review shows that are scripted?

On Wednesday, MBC filed an injunction with Seoul Nambu District Court to request a ban on screening the film. The network is among those identified in the film as introducing “top restaurants” that paid to be on the respective programs rather than being actual favorite restaurants.

The maker of the documentary is taking it in stride.

Director Kim Jae-hwan said he was not greatly concerned, adding, “MBC’s injunction will be a lot of help at the box office.”

[ … snip … ]

“When the court hearing begins, I will provide evidence, including recordings of promotional agency officials commissioned by the production company to handle liaison efforts between entertainers and restaurants,” Kim added.

Where and when can you watch it (provided that it doesn’t get banned by the douche-nozzles at MBC)?

It will be opening on June 2 at ten theaters nationwide, including the CGV in Seoul’s Daehangno neighborhood and the Lotte Cinema outside Konkuk University.

May 12, 2011

Restaurants, companies pay for positive reviews & repress negative ones

I’ve explained the concept of “reviews” to my students. I would always add that in foreign countries, reviews are useful because people write both good and bad reviews. In Korea, however, they are not, because every restaurant that is reviewed on TV gets a thumbs up and an enthusiastic “Wahhh! Mashisseoyo!” (“Wow! It’s delicious!”).

I’ve always figured that it was either because the TV station didn’t want to make anyone lose face, or because of Korea’s ridiculous libel laws. (In Korea, you can sue someone for libel even if they tell the verifiable truth. For example, let’s say that Mr. X is a thief who robbed you blind, and you write in your blog, “Watch out for Mr. X. He’s a thief.” Mr. X can successfully sue you for libel, even if you present documents showing that he was convicted for theft and served prison time.)

It turns out that restaurants pay TV companies for positive reviews.

In order to make the documentary [“The True-Taste Show”], Kim [Jae-hwan, a former MBC producer] opened a small restaurant of his own in Ilsan, Gyeonggi, and recorded his attempt to get featured on television shows.

Kim’s restaurant was featured on ‘‘Live Show Today” on SBS earlier this year. In return for that, he had to give 10 million won ($9,090) to a broker and the broadcasting station. It took 9 million won for the restaurant to be featured on another show “Find! Delicious TV” on MBC, and all true-life incidents are described in the film. Kim shut down his restaurant after it was introduced by a couple of shows.

According to the documentary, food shows are no more real than television dramas or comedies. People are hired to sit down and show two thumbs up when asked how the food is.

Remember those ridiculous libel laws that I described above?

Broadcasting stations are considering suing Kim.

Fortunately, Kim is not backing down.

“I’m ready to be sued because I think it’s better to bring this issue to court,” Kim said.

“The True-Taste Show” will be released sometime this month.

Now that is a documentary that I would love to see.


What do you get when you cross a multinational conglomerate with the mafia? Samsung. Just ask Michael Breen if you don’t believe me.

A Mr. Ham bought a Samsung Galaxy 2 smartphone with his own money and, after using it for two weeks, he posted a negative review, “Nine Nasty Flaws of the Galaxy 2,” on his blog, which is hosted by Naver (which itself seems to be a bit of a bully). Samsung demanded that Naver remove the blog post, along with the over 1,400 comments it had received, which it did.

The same fate befell another blogger, Mr. Kim, after he wrote a post entitled “Three reasons why the Motorola Atrix is better than the Galaxy 2.” Ironically, Mr. Kim had been planning to write another post called “Three reasons why the Galaxy 2 is better than the Motorola Atrix.” According to Samsung, looking at two sides of an issue or having balance is unacceptable.

How dare they write negative reviews of Samsung products! Don’t they know that Samsung is Korea’s royal family? Bloody peasants!

An official from one portal site said, “Of the thousands of temporary deletion requests we receive per month claiming defamation, many are from corporations and politicians.”

This indicates a system adopted on the justification of blocking invasions of personal privacy are also used more insidiously as a means for powerful groups to control online opinion.

So what does Samsung have to say for itself?

Regarding this, Samsung Electronics’ public relations office said, “The matter was in many ways a communication failure that arose due to insufficient understanding of the particularities of the Internet at the Galaxy 2’s marketing sector.”

“It’s a misunderstanding. You must understand our special situation.”

There is also debate about the fairness of review marketing. Most review marketing takes place with compensation exchanging hands. The problem is that this is rarely revealed, so the objectiveness of the review is easily lost. Some firms even filter out critical posts from the very beginning by getting prior confirmations. Recently, one mobile phone community was conducting a user review event for the Galaxy 2, with the phone being provided for free or at a discount based on the favorableness of the review.

[ … ]

The Federal Trade Commission of the United States has since December 2009 required bloggers to reveal if they received corporate support or payment when they write product reviews.

October 6, 2010

Children need to be protected from loan advertisements?

Filed under: advertising, censorship, legal issues, television, youth — extrakorea @ 10:36 am

In an effort to further protect children from undesirable influences, the Korean government is extending the hours during which adult material will be permitted to be broadcast.

Currently, adult-rated TV programs are banned from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays, and from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on public holidays and vacations. But from October, that will be expanded from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on holidays. Advertising for alcohol, tobacco and private loan companies is also banned at those times.

Children need to protected from private loan company advertisements?

September 12, 2010

New (inconsistent) regulations planned for K-pop girl groups

Filed under: censorship, eye candy, gender equality, legal issues, music, youth — extrakorea @ 4:20 am

It looks like TV station SBS is planning some new regulations for K-pop girl groups. Read the following quote and see if you find anything that doesn’t quite make perfect sense:

SBS’s “Inkigayo” set three bans on outfits: shirts that reveal too much cleavage, shirts that expose the belly button, and wearing white shorts under miniskirts. Starting from the 4th, the producers of “Inkigayo” asked singers to make the appropriate changes, keeping the three bans in mind.

So, cleavage is bad, but showing lots of leg by wearing hot pants is OK. As they stated, miniskirts are acceptable, but white shorts underneath them are not. Girls showing their belly button is inappropriate, but guys can rip off their shirts and go topless. And thrusting your buttocks towards the camera/audience, and doing some bump-and-grind, gets a green light.

Evidently, the straw that broke the camel’s back was the “ab dance” or “belly dance” by Rainbow. You can take a look at the video below and judge for yourself if it’s so bad. (By that, I mean, compared to what some other groups have done.)

Rainbow’s company has promised to take the gesture out of the choreography. In the meantime, their bellybuttons are being censored out by flashing the letter A (the name of the song) over them. No, I’m not making this up.

Furthermore …

Although Rainbow was forced to change their choreography on the “Inkigayo” episode broadcast on the 4th, Chaeyeon, Narsha, and An Jinkyung were allowed to wear short hot pants without any changes and their performances were broadcast with no edits.

While I appreciate that somebody feels that ever-increasing sexuality in girl group performances needs to be slowed down, the inconsistencies are problematic.

I would have also liked to have seen some dialogue about this, instead of the usual ham-fisted methods that are typically employed. There are, unfortunately, some obstacles to this. One is the lack of teaching of critical thinking skills, in favor of rote-memorization of exam material. Without these skills, it’s difficult to debate. Another is the tendency to go into denial until a situation has deteriorated significantly (and then to over-react). Also, there is the real need to teach conflict resolution here. People in this country have a real inability to resolve things peacefully (witness the regular brawls in the parliament). Lastly, South Korea isn’t really that far removed from its dictatorships of the past, which may explain the tendency to resort to dictator-like solutions a little too quickly.

May 10, 2010

Samsung sues journalist Michael Breen over satirical column

Filed under: censorship, legal issues — extrakorea @ 9:14 am

Two entities have cemented their bad reputations: South Korea as “an enemy of the Internet,” and Samsung as a cesspool of corruption.


Samsung is suing journalist Michael Breen over a satirical column that he wrote for the Korea Times. In it, he joked that Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee would receive a pardon as a Christmas gift from President Lee Myung-bak. Unfortunately for the author of “The Koreans: Who They Are, What They Want, Where Their Future Lies,” his joke turned out to be prophecy, and on the very day that Lee received his pardon, Samsung sued Breen, the Korea Times, and its top editor “for $1 million, claiming damage to its reputation and potential earnings.” It’s hard to imagine how a column read by relatively few people could possibly cause a Goliath like Samsung so much financial damage. But that’s not the point of the lawsuit.

“The reason I’m being sued is that the beast roared,” said Breen, 57, a British native and longtime social commentator and South Korean resident who wrote a 1998 book on South Korea’s modern history.

In its suit, Samsung said the column used a “mocking tone” to add “baseless, malicious and offensive false information to criticize” the firm.

[ snip ]

But Samsung continues to pursue Breen personally for libel, both civilly and on criminal charges that he intentionally libeled the company. If convicted, he faces a hefty fine and even jail time.

[ snip ]

In a nation where reporters are often discouraged from highlighting chaebol transgressions, some say Samsung’s pursuit of Breen is intended as a warning.

The message: Even when joking, don’t mess with the chaebols.

“In South Korea, it’s considered taboo to criticize the chaebols,” said Kim Ky-won, professor of economics at Korea National Open University. “They hold very close to absolute power.”

April 1, 2010

Must Read: Critic tried to silence blogger Brian by siccing Immigration on him

Filed under: censorship, expatriates — extrakorea @ 1:24 pm

Brian (formally) in Jeollanam-do said before that he had a big announcement coming up, one that he had been sitting on because of Korea’s libel laws (Even if what you write is verifiably true, you can still be sued. [Edit/Update: You can also get a criminal record.]). This must be it. Be sure to read his post first.

Brian isn’t the only one whom disgruntled Koreans have tried to silence through ugly methods. Members of the group Anti-English Spectrum tried to get author Scott “King Baeksu” Burgeson fired for writing a book that had some criticisms of Korea.

Also, Koreans have been silenced by other Koreans. Most notably, the Korean government itself arrested a blogger called “Minerva.” That so many people would blindly follow an anonymous blogger is an indictment of the educational system of this country. That the government would arrest someone for expressing his opinion is an indictment of the government’s mindset. It’s no wonder that South Korea was recently named an “enemy of the internet.”

Of course, expatriates have targeted other expats. One guy, after being banned from the Marmot’s Hole comments section, tried to get said blogger in trouble with his boss. There is also an expat blogger who has an unhealthy obsession with Brian. However, in my opinion, these are different. The guy who got banned is clearly mentally ill. The expat blogger may or not also be certifiable, but he is certainly an alcoholic as well as a negligent, lazy teacher. The Koreans, on the other hand, are not crazy (at least not in the conventional sense). They know what they are doing, which is exploiting the legal confines that expatriates must live within to silence them. (Blogger Kushibo says that he has also been targeted by, I believe, other expatriates. I don’t know much about it, so I can’t comment.)

January 12, 2010

How about bibimbap for lunch today? If not, I kill you

Filed under: censorship, hard to categorize — extrakorea @ 2:07 pm

You might recall that Kuroda Katsuhiro, Seoul bureau chief of the Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun, wrote about the New York Times bimbimbap ad in a way that was not so flattering.

Kuroda used the Chinese saying “Sheep’s head, dog meat” which might be better translated as, “Crying out wine and selling vinegar” and wrote that the people who try the spicy dish will be shocked when they see it all become an unidentifiable mixture in front of their eyes. Kuroda said that the word bibimbap literally means “mixed rice” and described Koreans as people who “tend to mix everything they eat.”

He continued by sarcastically commenting that “Koreans violently mix everything from curry rice to a bowl of patbingsu, an adzuki-bean ice dessert.”

Actually, I can understand what he says about the way Koreans mix their food. Japanese food tends to be very compartmentalized, neatly separated and arranged, and sometimes too pretty to eat. This is one of the reasons that I think that the notion that the Japanese lack a sense of aesthetics is absurd. I wasn’t sure what to make of his statement about “Sheep’s head, dog meat” even though it was translated. I wasn’t the only one.

“I understand that the term is commonly used in Japan, but it is perceived as a very derogatory expression in Korea,” he said.

So how did people react?

Kuroda also said that he has been feeling unsafe in Korea since making the remark. “I received calls, threatening to kill me or asking the location of my residence. I may have to seek protection from the police,” he said.

Maybe they could work this into their tourism slogans:

“How about bibimbap for lunch today? If not, I kill you.”

Nothing could be worse than “Korea sparkling.” And they couldn’t embarrass themselves any worse after that Infinity Challenge episode. Tablo’s brother was not amused either.

August 15, 2009

Korean police don’t care about porn stars

Filed under: censorship, crime, gender equality, intellectual property — extrakorea @ 9:17 am

You may have heard the news about how American and Japanese porn produces are trying to sue Koreans who download porn, and then charge other people money to watch it.
Well, the Korean police don’t care. To be fair, though, they do have their reasons, which you can believe or doubt at your own discretion.

The officer said the video footage involved in the cases is not subject to protection from domestic law because it is neither academic nor artistic work.

Since pornography that depicts pubic hair or actual, as opposed to simulated, sexual intercourse, is illegal in Korea, I guess the police’s proper action would be to prosecute these people for breaking Korean laws. Let’s say that Harry Potter books are illegal in Country X, and that people in Country X start photocopying Harry Potter books and selling them for a profit. J.K. Rowling tries to sue those people for intellectual property piracy. Those people should be prosecuted for having Harry Potter books, because they are illegal in Country X, whether they are photocopied or bought from legitimate bookstores in other countries.

July 10, 2009

E.via’s “오빠! 나 해도돼?” (“Can I do it?”) has been banned. What a surprise

Filed under: censorship, music — extrakorea @ 7:27 am

Recently, a new artist named E.via made her debut. (The Grand Narrative briefly wrote about her in this post.) One of the songs on her album, “오빠! 나 해도돼?” (“Can I do it?”)* has been banned. If you’ve ever heard the song, it’s easy to figure out why. Incidentally, the links over at Grand Narrative’s post are now broken. “This video has been removed due to terms of use violation.” Or maybe someone was embarrassed and demanded its removal. But thanks to All K Pop, we have a new link.

Korean artists having their songs banned is nothing new or unusual. It’s happened to many, including Rain and DBSK, among others. What’s unusual here is that it isn’t just “오빠! 나 해도돼?” but all of her songs that have been banned.

Incidentally, she isn’t another clone coming out of the factories of JYP Entertainment, Good, SM, YG, and Daesung. She’s been working the clubs for years (see here, here, and here). And she can really rap.

* Interestingly, Korean and English, which are radically different languages, both use the verb “do” as a euphemism for … you know …

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