Extra! Korea

September 11, 2010

Rep. Ahn: Girl groups’ agencies breaking the law

Filed under: gender equality, legal issues, music, rapid cultural change, youth — extrakorea @ 6:44 am

According to Rep. Ahn Hyung-hwan of the Grand National Party, the agencies of girl groups f(x), Kara, and GP Basic are breaking Korean labor laws. Sulli (of f(x)), Kang Ji-young (of Kara), and Henna and Janie (of GP Basic) should have obtained permits from the Ministry of Labour due to the fact that they are minors, but they did not, and thus may be summoned to court.

The current labor standard act states that no one under the age of 15 can be considered part of the workforce unless given presidential approval.

In response to Ahn’s charges, SM Entertainment released an official statement saying the company would make their next move only after looking into the matter with its legal team.

Management camps for both Kara and GP Basic said they too would quickly look into the matter with the help of legal representation.

I’m a little confused, because both Sulli and Ji-young are 16 years old (international age).

August 26, 2010

Are sexual crimes 8 times higher than officially reported?

Filed under: crime, gender equality — extrakorea @ 8:40 am

According to a recent report by the Korean Institute of Criminology, the rate of sexual crimes* may be eight times higher than officially reported (Yonhap News, Chosun Ilbo, Korea Times).

According to official police statistics, the rate of sexual crimes* per 100,000 women in Korea is 58.3.
Hwang Ji-tae, a researcher at the Korean Institute of Criminology, surveyed 5,559 women and found that 26 has been the victim of sexual violence. This translated into 467.7 out of every 100,000 women, which is eight times higher than the rate according to official reports.

* The terms sexual crimes, sexual violence, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and/or rape were used in the articles cited. I chose the term sexual crimes as it was the broadest.

August 25, 2010

Taiwanese singer talks about being forced to sexually entertain in Korea

Filed under: gender equality, music, prostitution — extrakorea @ 6:54 am

Taiwanese singer Estrella Lin used to be a member of a girl group, 3EP Beauties, in South Korea. Now she’s talking about how she, and other female entertainers here, are pressured to sleep with investors in the entertainment industry (Chosun Ilbo, Korea Herald).

“I was forced to ‘sexually’ entertain investors but I never allowed myself to do so. I’m not afraid of Koreans protesting because what I said is so true,” she was quoted as saying by multiple news reports.

[ snip ]

“I was asked to go out and meet someone. There was a man, about my father’s age, who said ‘I will let you become whatever you become, if you let me buy your youth,’” a 20-something actress was quoted as saying in the human rights report.

It sounds very much like what was described in Jang Ja-yeon’s suicide note.

The reopening of the sensitive issue of the coerced sex trade for work and benefits in the entertainment world brought back the question of why police and prosecutors have not got to the bottom of the sex trade issue, despite the suicide of Korean actress Jang Ja-yeon in March 2009. Jang left a note saying she suffered forced “sponsorship” by her agency owner.

At that time, the police said it had identified five corporate figures, including a securities firm executive, a CEO, a drama director and three media moguls as major suspects who might have had sex with the late actress.

However, the year-long investigation ended up finding “little evidence,” according to the police, and the case was closed in April this year.

Lin claims that it happens to both men and women, and to both famous and B-list performers.

Lin wrote that any popular singers in Korea, regardless of gender, are pimped for sexual services but claimed that despite being frequently asked to sleep with investors, she stubbornly refused.

(emphasis mine)

Yu Gi-na, a film critic and professor at Dongguk University, concurs.

“Men who have power and high rank seem to think their power is bigger if they have sex with popular female entertainers in secrecy,” Yu told The Korea Herald.

[ snip ]

For Korean female entertainers, receiving a proposal to have sex in return for fame or money from influential figures is an open secret. Korean model Lee Pa-ni early this year revealed in a TV show that she was once made such an offer.

August 24, 2010

Some teen entertainers coerced into wearing revealing clothing, skipping studies

Filed under: gender equality, music, rapid cultural change, youth — extrakorea @ 6:34 am

The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family surveyed 88 teen entertainers, 47 boys and 41 girls (Chosun Ilbo, Dong-a Ilbo, Korea Times). About ten percent of them were found to have been coerced into wearing revealing clothing. Remember how some performers have been too young to legally watch their own performances (e.g Hyun-ah and GP Basic)?

Korea’s Broadcast Law is geared at protecting children and adolescents from viewing programs containing sexually explicit or violent content, but does not have any clauses regarding children or adolescents depicting such content.

It seems that some have also suffered sexual harassment and pressure to go on diets or to have plastic surgery.

Moreover, 9.1 percent said they had to caress, cuddle or kiss someone on stage and on the set.

Another 4.5 percent said they have experienced sexually insulting words or sexual harassment.

Many are encouraged to go on a diet or undergo plastic surgery. Among female teen celebrities, 56.1 percent were pressured to go on a diet and 14.6 percent to have cosmetic surgery.

Are these teens being allowed to keep up with their schooling?

Among 85 celebrities who are attending primary or secondary schools, 40 percent said their right to study is not guaranteed. In addition, 47.5 percent said they skipped a quarter of a day’s classes per week in a semester, and 34.1 percent said they have no time for homework.

The trend is that young singers drop out of school and get into college by taking a qualification exam because their right to study is not protected. Yet 65.9 percent said it is important to attend classes.

Sun-mi (ex-member of the Wonder Girls) and Minzy (of 2NE1) are two examples of dropping out of school and taking a qualification exam.

So what do Korea’s child labour laws have to say about this?

Among teen celebrities under the age of 18, 39.5 percent worked eight hours or more per day and 10.3 percent worked for 40 hours or more per week. Though the Labor Standard Act stipulates the working hours of a youth under 18 as less than seven hours a day and 40 hours a week, the law does not apply since entertainers are categorized as special workers such as insurance agents or salesmen.

(emphasis mine)

Lastly, some seem to suffer from insomnia and/or depression.

Fifty female teen celebrities and aspiring wannabes say they experience insomnia (64.3 percent) or take anti-depressants (14.3 percent).

August 8, 2010

Maybe that cartoon about short shorts isn’t quite accurate after all

Filed under: gender equality — extrakorea @ 6:07 pm

You might have seen the cartoon below (from the ROKetship blog) and/or the post by Grand Narrative that included and discussed it. The idea is that Korean women aren’t shy about showing a lot of leg, but won’t reveal much cleavage, and that for western women, it’s vice-versa.

Maybe it isn’t quite accurate after all. I’ve been in Canada for a couple of weeks, and I’ve seen a lot of young women in short shorts (though very few in miniskirts). Mind you, I’ll be the first to point out several limitations to my observations, based on the fact that I’ve been mostly in Montreal and Ottawa:

– I’ve seen mostly city-folk, and not as many from the suburbs or small towns.

– Montreal is in Quebec, and Ottawa is in Ontario, but next to the border with Quebec. Quebec has a French culture, which doesn’t have as many hangups about the human body as Anglo-Saxon culture. Further west in Canada, it might be a very different story.

– Of course, Canada is not America.

August 2, 2010

Damn you, Grand Narrative!

Filed under: gender equality, music — extrakorea @ 3:56 am

This might seem like a strange thing to say, considering that I left a complimentary comment under one of his posts.

In a follow-up to this post, I was intending to point out yet another example of how so-called “sexydances” are a staple of Korean variety shows, to the extent that they are evidence of either laziness or a lack of imagination on the part of the staff writers.

But Grand Narrative beat me to it. He basically mentions everything that I intended to, plus a whole lot more. The only thing that I would add is this: When Hyun-ah finished her “sexydance,” she covered her face in embarassment. This might seem strange, considering that she has defended her choice of revealing stage outfits, saying, essentially, that she should be able to wear what she wants. However, I think that it`s not incongruous, because there`s a big difference between performing for one`s fans, out of choice, and having your arm twisted to do a “sexydance” for pervy, middle-aged, B-list celebrities.

While we`re on the subject … I`ve always wondered why Hyun-ah`s video for “Change” was deemed inappropriate for those under 19 years of age* but the same thing was never done to the Brown Eyed Girl`s “Abracadabra”? Watch the two videos below. Are the hip-thrusting movements really that different?

* Since she herself was under 19 at the time, that meant that she would have been too young to watch her own video!

July 28, 2010

Lawmakers to be urged to take anti-sexual harassment education

Filed under: gender equality — extrakorea @ 3:00 am

You may have heard about this incident, which took place earlier this month:

A group of students who attended a dinner with disgraced Grand National lawmaker Kang Yong-seok last week confirmed yesterday that the lawmaker made sexually inappropriate remarks, corroborating an earlier JoongAng Ilbo report that has rocked the nation.

The 41-year-old first-term lawmaker has found himself in hot water after the JoongAng Ilbo reported on Tuesday that he made lewd remarks at a dinner with university students last Friday [July 16].

[ snip ]

Kang was quoted by students at the dinner party as telling a female student who wanted to become a television anchorwoman that she’d have to be prepared to “go all the way” to succeed in the profession.

He told another student who visited the Blue House that President Lee Myung-bak probably would have asked for her phone number “if the president’s wife hadn’t been there.” About half of the 20 students at the dinner were female.

Because of it, lawmakers are going to be encouraged to take anti-sexual harassment education.

“Upon the request of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, lawmakers will be asked to participate in annual mandatory sex crime-prevention education for the first time since the National Assembly provided the training in 2004,” an official of the National Assembly Secretariat told The Korea Times, Tuesday.

She said the training will consist of two two-hour sessions and will take place on Aug. 19 and 23.

[ snip ]

Lee said the Secretariat will only be able to encourage participation of lawmakers and it is doubtful whether it can force them to receive the training.

[ snip ]

Cho said the ministry may announce the participation rate of lawmakers in the program and even summon the person in charge of running it at the Assembly, should the turnout rate be disappointing.

She claims that the ministry has the authority to notify the public as to the outcome of the program and can go as far as making a list of lawmakers who have dodged it.

Good luck with that. I think you might need it.

Jung pointed out those with more power recorded a much lower participation rate, with that of the prosecution hovering around 79 percent, roughly 15 percentage points below the average.

The participation rate among the heads of state-run bodies was 87.2 percent, while that of the heads of police officers was 68 percent, he said.

Police chiefs have the lowest participation rate?! Geez. Then again, maybe that helps to explain why the police in South Korea don’t take sexual harassment as seriously as those in some other countries do.

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!

June 25, 2010

Things I’ll miss about Korea: having a man bag

Filed under: gender equality, things I'll miss about Korea — extrakorea @ 3:18 pm

I think this will be the first in a series: Things I’ll Miss About Korea. I’ve decided to start with something unconventional, the fact that in this country it’s OK for a man to carry a man bag.

(from ROKetship)

June 24, 2010

(Updated) 16-year-old Sulli has the most ajeosshi fans. Ewww …

Filed under: gender equality, music, youth — extrakorea @ 2:56 pm


Somebody has monkeyed with f(x)’s Wikipedia entry and taken out all of the members’ profiles. Is someone trying to hide something?


Original Post:

You might have heard of Sulli, of the girl group f(x). While fifteen years old (international age), she danced to the lyrics “Crash into me real hard”* and showed a lot of leg in a photo shoot. (As one commenter pointed out, they didn’t try to make her look older.)

Now sixteen, Sulli had done another leggy photo shoot, and according to a poll, from amongst all the members of f(x), she has the most ajeosshi** fans.
Ewww …

* Notice how the cameraman tries to get underneath her skirt at 0:35 of the video below.

** Translated as “uncle,” it refers to a middle-aged, married man.

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