Extra! Korea

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.

May 8, 2011

Wouldn’t breath mints be easier?

Filed under: food — extrakorea @ 11:49 am

Are young South Koreans worried about bad breath ruining a kiss? Apparently so, and South Korea’s Rural Development Administration feels that the need for fresh breath merits the development of a “ping-pong ball-sized apple” for young wooers to eat just before some ooh-la-la.

Wouldn’t breath mints be easier? They’re smaller, they don’t spoil, and you can eat them more quickly. Also, if a good Korean girl sees her boyfriend eating one of these specialty apples, she knows that he’s got intentions.

January 27, 2010

Reviews for Macaroni Market restaurant

Filed under: expatriates, food — extrakorea @ 1:57 pm

A long time ago, I wrote a post about the restaurant called Macaroni Market. Now you can read some reviews:

–> Seoul Eats’ review

–> Paul Ajosshi’s review

–> Lightning Review (Seoul Eats)

–> First Impressions (Seoul Eats)

To get to Macaroni Market come out of Itaewon station and walk towards Hangangjin, past Hard Rock Cafe, Kraze Burger, Ali Baba and Villa Sortinos and you’ll find yourself staring up at the restaurant. You can call them on 02 749 9181 and satisfy your cravings for cheesy pasta.

December 26, 2009

I bought a penguin hat

Filed under: food, hard to categorize — extrakorea @ 2:12 pm

Yes, after ridiculing them in this post, I bought a penguin hat, a blue one, to be precise.

I really wanted one to send to my family back home, so much so that I bought a cake just for myself. After eating a sliver, it’s now in my freezer, where it will stay for who-knows-how-long, unless I see a homeless person starving outside of my apartment building. Brian will probably be annoyed with me, as my behavior is sure to encourage the continued tradition of selling cutesy hats every Christmas.

One thing I don’t understand is why all of the chains (Paris Baguette, Baskin Robbins, Dunkin Donuts, etc.) offer the same deal: buy a cake and get a free hat. They’re all competing to offer the same product to the same demographic. Why not buy-a-dozen-donuts-and-get-big-mittens-that-look-like-bear-paws? Or buy-a-mini-cake-and-six-pastries-and-get-a-scarf-that-looks-like-candy? Honestly, I would have bought a box of donuts (which I would have given away) just for another hat to send home. But no, you have to buy a cake.

Neither Brian nor Zen Kimchi took a picture of the cake I bought, so here is the container and cake:

As Zen Kimchi pointed out, unlike Baskin Robbins cakes in North America, which are a combination of cake and ice cream, the ones here are just ice cream. At first I was annoyed by this (and still am). However, cake goes stale, so my cake should keep better.

September 6, 2009

North Korea closes ten restaurants in Southeast Asia because of “flirtatious waitresses”

Filed under: food, North Korea — extrakorea @ 1:44 pm

North Korea has closed ten restaurants in the countries of Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos. The restaurants had been specializing in North Korean cuisine, were earning dollars for the communist country, and were popular with South Korean and Japanese customers. The official reason given was the global financial downturn. However, there are reports that waitresses have been recalled and punished for being “flirtatious” with customers.

July 14, 2009

Safety standards? Safety schmandards! Those evil Canadians

Filed under: food, safety — extrakorea @ 3:42 pm

The Canadian government has forced Lotte Confectionery and Crown Confectionery to recall some of their cookies and biscuits.

Enterobacter sakazakii, which was found in the Maeil powered milk, has been red-flagged by health experts as it could cause meningitis or severe gut infections in newborns. The health risks are greater for infants less than a month old or weighing less than 2.5 kilograms.

[ snip ]

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) issued a warning that people with allergies to milk, eggs, or tree nuts should not consume various snack foods from the Korean companies Crown, Lotte and Surasang. The 10 items include popular products such as Lotte’s Pepero biscuits and Crown’s Sando Choco and Couque Dasse cookies, which contain allergens that weren’t declared on the labels.

Of particular interest is the accompanying illustration, a blond man with a miniature Canadian flag on his jacket arrogantly pushing away beloved Korean products. Those evil Canadians. Safety standards? Safety schmandards. Don’t you people know that our snacks are well-being?

July 2, 2009

Korean food prices second-highest in OECD

Filed under: economics, food — extrakorea @ 2:51 am

Korea has the second-highest food prices in the 30-member OECD. One reason is undoubtedly the fact that Korea pays four times the global average for rice. However, about half of Korea’s remaining farmers (400,000) engage in rice farming, so importing cheaper rice would certainly hurt them. Then again, in the 1960s, 70% of Koreans were farmers. Obviously, Korea is wealthier now than then.

June 30, 2009

Looking for ethnic restaurants? Here you go!

Filed under: drinking, food — extrakorea @ 12:10 pm

If you’re looking for ethnic restaurants, the Korea Herald has made a nice chart.

I also recommend the following pages from the website Galbijim.

—> Restaurants

—> Ethnic Restaurants

—> Ethnic Restaurants in Seoul

Just go to a link that appeals to you and navigate your way around.

Another excellent resource is this map that Roboseyo made.

June 5, 2009

Chili pepper powder not good for losing weight because …

Filed under: food, health — extrakorea @ 3:35 am

According to two chief nutritionists, one at a medical center and the other at one of Korea’s most respected universities, chili pepper powder, in and of itself, may be good for losing weight. However, most restaurants add a lot of sugar to the powder when making their sauce. Also, the spicier the food, the more rice you may want to eat.

Kim Hyung-mee, chief nutritionist at Severance Hospital, said, “It’s true that the capsaicin in powdered chili has a lipolytic function. But most restaurants put the same amount of sugar as powdered chili in the food to give it both a hot and sweet taste, so people who have to watch their sugar or calorie intake should be extra careful.”

Asan Medical Center chief nutritionist Kang Eun-hee said, “The more spicy or salt food you eat, the more rice you will eventually crave, and that could threaten your health as you take in excessive sugar and high calories from rice. Therefore eating spicy or salty food is not so helpful to dieting.”

It should be noted that Koreans often use the word “dieting” when they ought to say “losing weight.” (For example: “What’s a good way to diet?” // “Skipping rope.”)

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