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.

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.

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).

July 15, 2010

SM Entertainment manager literally could have killed member of Super Junior

Filed under: legal issues, music — extrakorea @ 5:40 am

Hang Geng, who used to be a member of the boy band Super Junior (until he took legal action to try to leave their company, SM Entertainment), talked about the actions of a manager at SM Ent.

“I went to a Korean awards ceremony with other members of [Super Junior]. I was seriously ill that day. Both Choi Si-won and I were ill that day. I had only two hours before having to walk the red carpet to the ceremony. I went to the hospital with Si-won. I went to the emergency room and the doctor asked me to have an intravenous drip. That day a manager at SM Entertainment followed us to the hospital. He shouted four times, ‘We don’t have time! Be quick!!’ And he adjusted the intravenous drip to increase its speed to the maximum. I really felt dazzled, but he still shouted, ‘Be quick! We don’t have time!!’ Before half of the liquid in the bottle had gone into my vein, the manager pulled out the needle and asked me to leave the hospital and go to the awards ceremony.”

Do you know what could happen if you monkey with the IV drip like that?

Fluid overload

This occurs when fluids are given at a higher rate or in a larger volume than the system can absorb or excrete. Possible consequences include hypertension, heart failure, and pulmonary edema.

This idiot could have literally killed Han Geng with his stupidity and ignorance. It is not, however, the first time that managers have displayed such inexcusable behavior. CN Blue’s manager whacked in the head a female fan whose only “offense” was getting too close to the band, and shortly thereafter a manager with SHINee (another SM Entertainment boy band) did the same. (Go to the links to see still photos and videos of these punks caught in the act.)

May 12, 2010

The Wonder Girls, JYP Entertainment, accusations of mistreatment, and more legal action nonsense

Filed under: legal issues, music — extrakorea @ 12:10 pm

The Korea Herald has published an article in which the former English tutor of the Wonder Girls (while they were in New York), Daniel Gauss, claims that the Girls were poorly treated by JYP Entertainment. Here are some of his allegations, and responses to them.

“I was shocked when one of the girls told me that the girls are not covered by health insurance in America,” he wrote. “I once saw one girl in extreme pain — due to a pre-existing problem stemming from a previous operation — who received no professional medical treatment for the pain and I saw others with minor ailments go untreated.”

Ye-eun (“Yenny”) responded:

One day, while recording, I said that I felt a cold coming on and he gave me a bottle of vitamins and told me to always take one vitamin everyday. Then, on another day, he bought five jars of organic honey and told me to always eat one spoonful every morning. Because it was good for my throat.

The fact that Park Jin-young gave her some multivitamins and honey is no refutation to the accusation that health insurance was not provided.

What Sun-ye later wrote on her website more directly contracted Gauss:

When Sunmi was still not well after receiving a surgery in Korea and flying to New York, although she was against it,
because of our opinion and the company’s opinion she visited hospital frequently until she was fully cured.
We had no trouble with going to hospital over even little things like problems with our skin.

So did Sun-mi receive medical treatment or not? Sun-ye says yes, Gauss says no. Remember, Sun-mi was the member who recently left the group. Also keep in mind that JYP Entertainment only did away with “slave contracts” six months ago.

Gauss further wrote that after the group acquired a sponsorship deal with Sony Ericsson, JYPE had Sun-ye perform in Sanya, China, for Sony Ericsson executives, shortly after her father was rushed to hospital in a coma.

He wrote that Sun-ye had told him “her father had stopped breathing and had to be rushed to the hospital. In the ambulance, (Sun-ye) and her family had to decide whether the father should be given treatment to be kept alive since he had lapsed into a coma. The family chose to keep him alive and I was told by the girl that he was never going to come out of the coma.”

“Very shortly after that trauma, she was performing for Sony Ericsson executives in Sanya,” Gauss wrote. “I did not have the heart to ask her whether it was her idea or JYPE’s idea for her to perform.”

Sun-ye later wrote:

My father was suffering from a long-term illness and few months ago, he was rushed to the hospital when it suddenly worsened.
Upon hearing the news, I immediately flew from New York to Korea to visit my father,
and it so happened that other members were to return to Korea after a week in order to attend an event set up in Korea.
I watched after my father for a week and thankfully he got better, so after consulting his doctor I was able to attend the scheduled event.
He had the illness for almost 20 years, and it wasn’t something that could be dealt with immediately,
so after seeing that he got better, I could settle my mind and return to performing.

Maybe Sun-ye’s father got better, and then Sun-ye performed, but Gauss never heard about the recovery? The two stories don’t necessarily contradict each other especially considering that Gauss, by his own admission, “did not have the heart to ask her” about the matter further.

He also claimed JYPE illegally housed the members at the company’s Manhattan office — for which he said the city of New York slapped the company with a $2,500 fine.

An online link to the New York City Department of Buildings provided by Gauss confirms that the company had not only been issued a class-2 citation (violation No. 34765862, infraction code 208, section of law 28-118.3) on May 28, 2009 and fined for altering and changing an occupied building for residential use without a valid permit, but also defaulted on the violation.

The company was scheduled to appear in court for a hearing last month, but failed to do so, which has resulted in the case being given a default status.

JYP Entertainment responded:

“The JYP Center in Manhattan is the same structurally as the one in Korea.

So what? We’re talking about American regulations.

We proposed to the Wonder Girls that they stay in a New Jersey house, but the girls told us that they preferred to stay in Manhattan so we let them. A two story housing structure is built there.”

It doesn’t matter if the Girls were OK with it. American law said that it was illegal, as evidence by the fact that they paid a fine.

Based on his own eye witness accounts and conversations with the members of the band, Gauss also stated that the members were not allowed to leave the JYPE building without permission.


JYPE does not set limit on us entering and exiting the building …

He said, she said.

He said that JYPE had sold the band’s CD at a bargain basement price of $1 at retail clothing chains around the United States, which significantly boosted both its sales and its performance in the Billboard Hot 100 charts.

On Oct. 23, 2009 the group’s single “Nobody” entered the top 100 at No. 76, something widely publicized by the local media.

This was confirmed by Wonder Girls’ former manager and current JYPE marketing department employee David Hyun.

“That was part of our distribution deal and that is definitely one of the reasons why they cracked the top 100,” Hyun said.

Bwa ha ha ha ha!

Sorry. That was petty and small of me.

Bwa ha ha ha ha!

Sorry, I just can’t help myself!

And the icing on the cake:

The representative also stated that the company plans to pursue legal action against the person who raised these allegations.

Oh, more legal nonsense, along the lines of L’affaire Breen. JYP Entertainment had better keep in mind that in America, the truth is a defense. To paraphrase Brendon Carr, America is a free speech society, not a “sit down and shut up” society.

They have to prove that they didn’t house the Girls illegally (highly unlikely, as they have already paid a fine) and that they did provide medical insurance. They have to prove that Gauss had lied, not that he had embarrassed them or hurt their little feelings.

Incidentally, the teenage commenters over at that K-Pop-loving blog are just lapping up everything that JYP Entertainment is ladling out. Gosh, was I that lacking in critical thinking skills when I was a teenager? Don’t they realize that JYP Entertainment is a business, so of course they’re going to use PR to exercise damage control? And don’t they realize that the Girls work for that business? And that company loyalty and superior/subordinate relations are stressed hard in Korea?

By the way, the Korea Times has articles that summarize both the accusations and the denials.

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 15, 2010

Rain accused of embezzling 2 billion won

Filed under: legal issues, music — extrakorea @ 1:27 pm

Poor Rain. First he was sued for canceled concerts in Hawaii. Then he starred in an awful Hollywood movie, Speed Racer. Then he starred in another clunker of a movie, Ninja Assassin. Now he has been accused of embezzling two billion won (approximately $1.8 million)

August 3, 2009

Human rights activists helping Indian who was victim of racial discrimination

Filed under: legal issues, multicultural society, rapid cultural change — extrakorea @ 2:12 pm

The Korea Times brings us the story of Bonojit Hussain, an Indian research professor at Sungkonghoe University. While riding a bus with a Korean female friend, he and his friend were continually harassed by a Korean man, Park, who said things like, ““What a disgusting odor! You’re dirty. … You must be an Arab. It’s dirty. F*** you! … You Arab, you Arab. … Are you Korean? Are you happy to date with a black man?”
They asked the driver to stop, and then they took Park to a police station. The police wanted them to apologize to each other, but Hussain would have none of that because he did nothing wrong. So he has filed suit, and human rights activists and NGOs are investigating.

“It was not my first time to be subject to racial abuse. I have had many similar experiences. But this time was serious,” he said.

[ snip ]

Hussain said, “Any behavior and language looking down on foreigners constitutes racial discrimination originating from an imperialist point of view, which should be eliminated.”

He urged the government to pay keen attention to the issue, as South Korea has been rapidly transforming itself into a multi-racial society.

His use of the word “imperialist” is interesting because Koreans would never, ever, think of themselves as behaving like imperialists. And being from India, Hussain would know what imperialists are like.

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