Extra! Korea

June 19, 2010

Man videotapes sex with 3 girls, then tries to blackmail them

Filed under: crime, gender equality — extrakorea @ 12:56 pm

A man videotaped himself having sex with three young women (in separate incidents, as far as I know), and then threatened to send the videotapes to their families unless they paid him 100 million won (approximately 100 thousand dollars).

According to police in North Chungcheon Province, the man identified as Lim deceived the daughters into believing that he was a successful businessman in the United States, but then threatened to send the tapes to their parents if they did not give him money.

The lesson of the story? Korean girls give it up for Korean guys who are successful in the United States. Hey, don’t shoot the messenger.

May 16, 2010

America now has its own Wonder Babies

Filed under: gender equality, rapid cultural change, youth — extrakorea @ 8:11 am

Remember Wonder Baby?

Well, it seems that, in at least one way, Korea truly is leading the world.

A video showing a group of 8- and 9-year-old dancers performing to Beyonce‘s “Single Ladies” has been creating controversy in the U.S. As it should.

I think the best quote came from the child psychologist, Dr. Michael Bradley, who said that “the parents were asleep at the switch, that they don’t even see what’s going on there.”

Here is the video in question. I include it only so that people can see, first-hand, for themselves, what the fuss is all about. Personally, I couldn’t watch more than ten seconds of it.

Here is the underage Miley Cyrus. As the child psychologist put it, society is giving the message that the way to be a successful female is to be a sexual creature.

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.”

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?!

I’m sure the rape at the MT (“Membership Training”) is just the tip of the iceberg

Filed under: crime, culture, drinking, gender equality, safety, suicide, youth — extrakorea @ 9:59 am

Not too long ago, Brian (formerly) in Jeollanam-do reported on the university student who committed suicide after being raped on an MT. MT is short for “membership training” and they have nothing to do with any sort of training. Groups of students who are associated in some way (e.g. are members of the same club or have the same major) go somewhere, stay the night, and then return the next day. Participation is supposedly optional, but declining could get you ostracized, which is a big deal in Korea, particularly among university students. What do they do there? Drinking alcohol. Lots of it. Again, you’re pressured to conform and participate. If you don’t drink, or only a little, you will be angrily accused of “spoiling the mood” by your superiors (“seon-bae”). In Korea, subordinates (“hoo-bae”) basically have to do everything that their seonbaes demand, or risk the aforementioned excommunication. It’s common for male seon-baes to try to get female hoo-baes drunk so as to make sexually harassing them easier.

You say, “Wait a minute, they stay overnight? I thought that Korea was a conservative society. I thought that Korean parents are worry-warts with regards to their children. What do they think about that?” Good question. I think it’s a combination of: a) naivety (“Just because a big mixed-gender group stays somewhere overnight doesn’t mean that they’re having sex.”), b) denial (similar to a)). Korean parents don’t want to think about the fact that their kids might be humping like rabbits.), and c) people know, and it’s kind of a dirty little secret. Have you ever seen the movie “Memories of Murder“? (If you haven’t, be sure to.) In one scene, two police officers speculate on what might be happening on these MTs.

I’m sure that it’s well-known among Koreans that sexual harassment is widespread at MTs. You might remember the Japanese student who shocked the nation by publicly describing when her Korean teacher offered her a sex-for-grades exchange. You might not remember that another girl on the show, a Chinese student, Shang Fang (“상팡”), said that she was sexually harassed by the same teacher while on an MT (“상팡 “문제의 교수에게 MT서 성희롱 당했다””). People here don’t want to talk about it in much the same way that they don’t want to talk about the special barber shops (which don’t offer haircuts), “anmas” (a kind of massage parlor), “room salons” (an expensive bar-brothel mash-up), etc. It’s embarrassing to talk about it, so the problem is not addressed.

Kushibo has written that the problem isn’t as bad as it used to be. Let’s say that he’s right. “Not as bad as it used to be” can still describe a serious problem. Near the school that I teach at, I still see students at the big supermarket loading up for the weekend MTs with snacks like chips and booze. Lots of cheap, strong booze. Kushibo certainly knows the seriousness of the problem, from this story that he reprinted:

Well, one other woman began to pass out while they were all at a noraebang in L.A. Koreatown. My friend noticed what seemed like shallow breathing, but she wasn’t sure. She asked some of her sŏnbae (‘senior’) if the passed-out hubae (‘junior’) seemed all right. She actually got barked at that she was ruining the punwigi (mood/atmosphere) of the party. After a couple minutes, still nagged by concern for the passed-out friend, she decided to call 911.

According to my accountant friend, the call saved the woman’s life. She was rushed to a nearby hospital and her stomach was pumped. The E/R doctor told them that if they had waited another twenty minutes, the friend might have died of alcohol poisoning. Her blood alcohol level was stratospheric, having downed all these “one-shot” drinks, egged on (without any real choice without being ostracized) by her supposed friends.

Also, I’m sure that someone as knowledgeable about Korea as Kushibo is knows that there’s optional, and then there’s “optional,” with big, fat quotation marks around it, which basically means, “It’s your choice not to, but if you don’t, we’re going to make your life f-ing miserable.”

Now, due to this unfortunate tragedy, perhaps the problem will be addressed like it should have been long ago.

April 3, 2010

Is TV program “Misuda” (“Chat with Beauties”) on its way out?

Filed under: gender equality, television — extrakorea @ 12:36 pm

You may have heard of the Korean program “Misuda” (미녀들이 수다) which could be translated as “Chat with Beauties.” In it, foreign women talk about Korea. Usually, they have nice things to say, but sometimes controversies come out of their stories or opinions, such as when one panelists talked about how a sexually-harassing professor offered her a sex-for-grades exchange, another wrote a book, and yet another gave her humble opinion about some disputed islets, the Liancourt Rocks.

The show may be on its way out the door. Why?

The program has been really popular with Korean viewers which introduced the perspectives and opinions of foreigners living in Korea. But the “short guys are losers” controversy in November 2009 damaged the program greatly and it has never quite recovered since despite changing the entire production team and format.

The speculation was confirmed by a KBS representative who expressed, “We boldly tried to change the show but it didn’t work. So now we’re pondering whether or not to completely abolish the show or to consider switching things up.”

Edit/Update:

It’s looking like Misuda will change its time slot, from Monday at 7 p.m. to Saturday at 7 p,m. Why would they put a struggling TV show into a more competitive time slot? I don’t know.

March 19, 2010

Cambodians banned from marrying Koreans (and only Koreans)

Filed under: gender equality, multicultural society — extrakorea @ 11:14 am

The Cambodian government has at least for the time being, banned its citizens from marrying Koreans, and only Koreans. Why?

The restriction pertains only to Korea because nearly 60 percent of international marriages in Cambodia involve Korean nationals, and most of them are arranged through brokers, the official said.

Cambodia has banned marriage brokerage since 2008, allowing only “love matches.” Despite the ban, the number of Cambodian women marrying Korean men more than doubled from 551 in 2008 to 1,372 last year.

The latest measure came amid news reports in the Southeast Asian nation that a clampdown on marriage brokers in Vietnam has made neighboring Cambodia the new destination for Korean men seeking to “buy” wives. They denounced the practice of men choosing mainly poor women as wives, calling it “human trafficking.”

So if Vietnam, and now Cambodia, have clamped down on marriages with Koreans, where will unmarriageable Korean bachelors find their brides? Perhaps the Philippines. Maybe Thailand?

February 15, 2010

Fashion photos show off 15-year-old Sulli’s legs

Filed under: gender equality, music — extrakorea @ 9:44 am

You might recall that recently, 15-year-old Sulli, of the girl group f(x), did pelvic thrusts to the lyrics “Crash into me real hard.”
Now Sulli has done a fashion shoot for Oh Boy magazine, and some of the photos show off her legs. Of course, this is not the first time that such has happened. When the Wonder Girls debuted, the three 15-year-old members were the ones wearing shorts or miniskirts in promotional pictures. And Girls’ Generation member Seo-hyun just graduated from high school earlier this month. I am a little disheartened that this kind of thing seems to be becoming the norm. Why doesn’t anybody take the likes of Park Jin-young or Lee Soo-man, of JYP and SM Entertainment, respectively, to task? Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt.

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.

December 24, 2009

You’d better get a Korean girlfriend before 2014

Filed under: gender equality — extrakorea @ 8:00 am

According to this article in the Chosun Ilbo, the combined effects of the selective abortion of female fetuses, and of the growing number of women who delay marriage or choose to remain single, is going to reach a tipping point around the year 2014.

One in every five men is likely to have trouble finding a spouse by 2014, a study suggests, when the ratio of men to women at the ideal marriage age will reach a record high.

[ snip ]

The number of men in the age group stands at 1.98 million this year, some 70,000 more than women (1.91 million), but that gap will widen to 134,200 next year and reach a record 381,300 in 2014, the institute forecast.

It attributed the imbalance to the country’s traditional preference for boys. It was the most conspicuous among the third and fourth child in a family. The overall gender ratio stood at 106.4 boys to 100 girls last year, within the normal range of between 103 and 107. The ratio for the first and second child also fell in the normal range with 104.9 and 105.6 boys to 100 girls.

But for the third and fourth child, the institute said it was an “open secret” that couples have pre-natal sex screening and sex-selective abortions. “In addition, a continued growth in the number of single women over the proper age for marriage is making the situation worse,” it added.

So, in short, by 2014, there will be 381,300 men who can’t find women.

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