Extra! Korea

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 14, 2010

Holy crap! A Korean newspaper printed a correction and apology!

Filed under: (lack of) journalistic integrity, education, expatriates — extrakorea @ 7:02 am

You might recall that Brian (formerly) in Jeollanam-do and Gusts of Popular Feeling wrote posts about the wildly divergent statistics cited by Korean newspapers when describing the number of native English teachers in Korea who quit. Since some of them contradicted each other, some were clearly inaccurate.

If you don’t live in Korea, you might be unaware of the fact that Korean newspapers, unlike their western counterparts, never print retractions even when they are clearly wrong. At least, they didn’t, until I read something in the Hankyoreh that knocked me out of my seat and onto my back.

The Hankyoreh English Online Edition published a News Briefing entitled “Over half of native English teachers quit job after six months, Education Ministry says” on Sept. 30.

Due to both a misinterpretation of the both data and source of the report, the article erroneously stated that up to 66 percent of native English teachers in public schools, while the number of teachers quitting is in fact less than 5 percent.

[ snip ]

We would like to issue an apology for our mistake and our late correction, and look forward to more active responses, comments and participation of readers of the Hankyoreh’s English Online Edition.

Wow. I mean, wow. I guess Brian, Gusts o’ Feelings, and the Hankyoreh all deserve standing ovations.

Kang Shin-who, who’s the man now?

September 15, 2010

Kang Shin-who is at it again

Filed under: (lack of) journalistic integrity, idiots, media irresponsibility — extrakorea @ 5:41 am

You know him. You love him. (Well, maybe not.) He’s the two-time Journalist of the Month, Kang Shin-who, and you’ll never guess whom he’s trained his cross-hairs on this time. Go on, guess. Foreign teachers! I bet you never saw that coming, since he’s never done that before.

The government has made efforts to set up more foreign schools as a means to create an environment friendly to foreign investors. However, these schools?accounting [sic] and other operations have not been supervised by the authorities.

Actually, the article does bring up some points that are valid discussion topics. For example:

“Teaching without a license could be problematic, but we cannot intervene in the matter as it should be handled by the education ministry,” said an immigration official.

“We, as a law enforcement agency, are just checking drug and criminal records of teachers.”

At the same time, experts say the turnover rate for teachers is very high compared to those of Singapore and other nations. In the case of Singapore, many teachers at international schools stay for more than 10 years on average, but it comes down to two to five years for teachers at foreign schools here.

However, there are just a few problems with the article.

– It’s written by Kang Shin-who, so we don’t know if the information is accurate.  He has been outright wrong with his facts before.

– It’s written by Kang Shin-who, so we don’t know if the quotes are accurate.  If the quotes are not to his liking, he’ll just make them up.

– It’s written by Kang Shin-who, a member of the hate group Anti-English Spectrum.  He claims that he became a registered member only for the purpose of gathering information. I’m sure that we can trust that 100%.

– It’s written by Kang Shin-who, who, in the past, has both used his own, personal definitions of “unqualified” as well as shifted from the term “unqualified” to “ineligible” to “inadequate” so as to make sure that the umbrella term is large enough to put whomever you want under it.

– It’s written by Kang Shin-who, who in the past has conflated two different, unrelated topics (e.g. “unqualified” teachers and sex crimes against minors; “unqualified” teachers and consensual sex between Koreans and foreigners).

– It’s written by Kang Shin-who, and so some people will, after seeing the author’s name, not want to read it.

December 9, 2009

Looks like someone contacted the Korea Times’ advertisers

Filed under: (lack of) journalistic integrity — extrakorea @ 1:44 pm

An editor at the Korea Times has written a piece called “Setting the Record Straight.” Here’s a taste:

The Korea Times has recently learned about some “misunderstandings” regarding our coverage of foreigners in general and native English teachers in particular.

The excuse, “It’s a misunderstanding,” is second in popularity only to the “I was drunk” defense. It’s so commonly used that even foreigners begin to parrot it.

Since some of the misunderstandings[1] stem from inconsistencies in data, we want to make our rule clear that extra effort is made to crosscheck figures and facts[2] with more than two sources in dealing with sensitive stories.[3] But there are inadvertent and occasional exceptions: when these important pieces of information come from reliable sources, and we believe they don’t have any hidden agenda or axes to grind.[4]

When a case is made by the parties involved that raises a reasonable doubt about these fact sheets, we go back to the sources and double-check their stories.[5] We have an additional built-in vetting system with our foreign staff playing the role of addressing foreigners’ sensitivities in our coverage.[6]

(Numbers are mine.)

[1] There’s the word “misunderstanding” again. It’s repeated once more near the end.

[2] Gust of Popular Feeling would have a field day dissecting these so-called “cross-checked facts and figures.”

[3] Who would these two “reliable sources” be? Let me guess: Kang Shin-who (sorry, Reporter of the Month Kang Shin-who) and the editor.

[4] Why would false, made-up quotes lead us to believe that there might be hidden agendas?

[5] And then they promptly print a sincere retraction/correction. Oh wait, they don’t. Ever.

[6] I wonder a few things: a. Who are these foreigners, assuming that they’re not fictional characters? b. How much input/influence do they really have? c. How much do they earn? Because I imagine that putting your dignity and integrity up for sale should come with commensurate compensation.

October 23, 2009

What Kim Yu-na eats, according to her FORMER coach (?!)

Filed under: (lack of) journalistic integrity, health, sports — extrakorea @ 11:46 am

Korean journalism never fails to surprise me by its utter lack of professionalism. I thought I had seen it all, but no.
The Chosun Ilbo has a piece in which they describe what world figure skating champion eats everyday, according to her former coach and former doctor.
Kim Yu-na has been living and training in Canada, under Canadian coaches, for the last two or three years. How they hell do they know what she eats?!

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