Extra! Korea

February 18, 2013

How To Waste Talent

Filed under: music — extrakorea @ 12:25 pm

You may not have heard of a young woman named Kim Sori. She’s a K-pop singer who debuted four years ago and is still looking to break through. She has some talent.

Granted, editing was used to make her look better than she really is. Seoul Beats expressed it well:

[M]ost of her audience base is only familiar with breakdancing on a superficial level and can be easily impressed with this. What I see, however, is selective camera shots of weak to nonexistant toprock and footwork, as well as heavy reliance on the same flips and freezes over and over again. And what was up with that kicking? She’s supposed to be breakdancing, not doing capoeira!

Still, she can actually dance, as opposed to just bumping-and-grinding. Yet this is how she’s being promoted.

And yes, you saw that at 0:08.

June 26, 2011

Big Bang’s Daesung accidentally killed a motorbike rider (so now what?)

Filed under: music — extrakorea @ 5:49 am

On May 31st, at around 1 am, a member of the boy band Big Bang, Daesung, was involved in a traffic accident. Daesung accidentally ran over a motorbike rider named Hyun who was lying in the street because of a previous accident. It was unclear whether or not Hyun was already dead before Daesung’s car ran him over.

On June 24th, the Yeongdeungpo Police Station held a press conference in which they revealed what they believe happened, according to an investigation by forensic scientists at the National Institute of Scientific Investigation (NISI). Hyun met a friend at a restaurant where they had some food and soju (Korean liquor). Hyun got on his motorbike and drove (presumably home). His blood alcohol level was 0.186%. (The legal limit is 0.05 percent.) Hyun collided with a lamp post and was knocked off his bike. Despite wearing a safety helmet, the impact was enough to hurt him. As he lay on the street dazed, some cars drove by him. One taxi drove by, but then pulled over. As the taxi driver was getting ready to help Hyun, Daesung (who was driving at 70-to-80 km/hr, over the speed limit of 60 km/hr) accidentally ran Hyun over and then collided with with the taxi. (Korea Times, Times again, Korea Herald, AllKPop, SeoulBeats, Joongang Daily; image and video below are from AllKPop)

So what now? Daesung is expected to face charges of involuntary manslaughter, which carry maximum penalties of five years in jail or 20 million won (approx. $20,000).

What about his career? In the short term, plans are for Big Bang to continue promotions without him (see here and here).

How about in the long term? I look to Vince Neil for comparisons and contrasts. In 1984, Neil, the lead singer for the heavy metal band Motley Crue, drove while under the influence of alcohol, leading to a head-on collision that killed a passenger of his car and brain damage to two passengers of the other car. Neil was sentenced to to 30 days in jail, five years probation, $2.6 million in restitution to the victims of the crash and 200 hours of community service. In 1989, Motley Crue released Dr. Feelgood, which became Crue’s most successful album ever. However, I don’t think that Daesung’s career can recover the way that Neil’s did. Crue was a heavy metal band with a reputation for being “bad boys.” Daesung, on the other hand, is part of K-pop. Members of Korean boy bands and girl groups have public images that are tightly controlled by their agencies because the Korean public is intolerant of anything controversial. When actor Hong Seok-cheon came out of the closet, he was immediately fired from all of his acting jobs, and he remains the only prominent Korean actor to have come out of the closet. By contrast, Lada Gaga has not only come out of the closet as a bisexual person, but the title track of her latest album has lyrics that say, “I was born this way …” For this reason, whenever K-pop stars appear on TV shows, it’s always to talk about their “ideal type” (seriously, how many f***ing times do they ask that question?) or to tell funny stories, like how one of their members fell asleep in a toilet cubicle. It’s never, and never will be, about their opinions or anything else that gives them any depth of character. It’s all superficial, all about S-lines, V-lines, “chocolate abs,” and the like. Recall that Krystal, a member of the girl group f(x), was savaged by netizens for allegedly not showing enough interest in what an elder was saying. Just imagine if she had, for example, told her elder, “I’m sorry but I disagree with your viewpoint on same-sex marriages.”

This brings me to my next point. Why do Korean entertainment agencies love boy bands and girl groups? Because their members are interchangeable and expendable. Unlike music bands which have guitarists, drummers, and singers, all members of K-pop groups do the same thing, that is, sing and dance. If a member leaves or is kicked out, the group can continue. Look at how the Wonder Girls and 2PM have continued on without Sun-mi and Park Jae-bom (now known as Jay Park). Jewelry continues to exist, but without a single original member. The same thing happened to Baby Vox. Dong-bang-shin-ki (DBSK, known as TVXQ in Japan) is now a duo now that three of the original five members have left to form their own group, JYJ. When it looked like three of the five members of KARA would leave the group, their entertainment agency filed to trademark the group’s name. To entertainment agencies, boy bands are girl groups are just money-making machines, and individual members are just replaceable cogs. Can you imagine the Rolling Stones without Keith Richards or Mick Jagger? Of course not. How about the Who without Roger Daltrey or Pete Townshend? Or the Beatles without one of the original members (and yes, that includes Ringo). Led Zeppelin chose to break up after John Bonham passed away. Yes, Deep Purple and Guns n’ Roses don’t have Ritchie Blackmore or Slash anymore, but unsurprisingly, they haven’t been very successful, critically or commercially, without them. In K-pop boy bands and girl groups, however, all members do the same thing (singing and dancing), and so if any members leave, the agency has a queue of trainees ready to replace them.

Of the “Big Three” entertainment agencies, YG Entertainment seems to me to be the most humane and the most caring of their artists and of their music, so I expect them to be as supportive of Daesung as possible. However, they are a company, not a charity, and despite their ambitions abroad, they live or die in Korea, by Korean society’s rules. As much as I’d like to see Korean society forgive Daesung for making a mistake that any young man his age could have made, I don’t expect it.

Some of you might recall that Daesung had the misfortune of being in another car accident in August 2009 (it was his manager who was driving). He strikes me as a true artist who takes his craft seriously and tries to broaden his horizons. He starred in the Korean version of Cats.

He’s also made trot songs. (Trot could be described as a kind of dance music for middle-aged Koreans, and is somewhat similar to Japan’s enka.) The first time I heard him sing “너무 섹시! 너무 귀엽다!” (at 2:15 of the video below) I almost fell out my seat laughing.

June 17, 2011

After School’s Bekah leaves group, UEE gets solo album

Filed under: music, What the hell?! — extrakorea @ 10:10 am

It’s been announced that Bekah, of the girl group After School, is “graduating” from the group to “return to Hawaii to pursue her original dream of becoming a designer.” “Graduating” is just a nicely-dressed-up way of saying that she’s leaving the group. If her true dream was designing, then why did she ever go through the trouble of becoming a singer? Maybe for the same reasons that Sun-mi left the Wonder Girls, just before the Girls sank without a ripple in America. I say this because I found After School’s latest song, Shampoo, to be very forgettable.

Meanwhile, another member of the same group, UEE (who was named by vocal professionals as the third-worst singer in all of K-pop) is going to release a solo album. Why UEE and not, say, Jung-ah, who can really sing? It’s too late for Bekah, who can also actually sing.

Because UEE is the money-maker of the group, famous for being an actress in dramas and her “honey thighs.” Speaking of such, her new drama, Birdie Buddy, will begin airing in mid-August. As you might expect, we get plenty of footage of her in mini-skirts which show off her pretty legs (not to mention the back end of her panties –starts at 0:15 of the video).

If you want to see real golfers doing something interesting (and for charity) then check out the Golf Boys.

May 10, 2011

Seven bar “hostesses” have committed suicide since July

Filed under: celebrities, drinking, gender equality, music, prostitution, suicide — extrakorea @ 12:56 pm

On March 24th, a young woman committed suicide, the seventh bar “hostess” (known as “jeopdaebu,”) to do so since last July.

In a suicide note, the 27-year-old said she was forced to have sex against her will and was no longer able to stand the abuse from customers and the bar owner.

Apparently, she was not able to quit because of a “slave contract.” In such bars, the owners are, or are connected to, loan sharks who lend out money at excessively high interest rates.

In the article, it is subtly hinted that the recent crackdowns on prostitution may have actually exacerbated the situation by forcing prostitution underground, leading to the exploitation of women who, unlike those in red-light districts such as Chongyangni and the now-defunct Yongsan, never had any intention of becoming prostitutes.

As shown in the crackdown by the Pohang Police, the sex industry has developed into a well-organized business run by bar owners, gangsters and loan sharks who exploit the women, they say.

Many of them first start working at a bar or club to earn “easy money” without knowing it will put them in a trap from which they can’t get out, they say.

“Most of these hostesses regret starting the job,” Lee Jung-mi, the head of the Korean Shelter for Women, said. “They first thought they would make a lot of money by simply talking to male customers at bars or karaoke, serving drinks and singing for them. But the reality is they are forced to sell sex and they can’t say no due to money they have been loaned in advance.”

Here is a statistic that, if true, is interesting:

According to Statistics Korea, one out of 60 economically-active women work in bars, clubs and karaoke rooms, or in red light districts.

Also, in case you were wondering, the Korean music industry, despite all the rhetoric since the suicide of Jang Ja-yeon, still harbors sexual exploitation. Here is a report from this past February, in which journalists went under cover to find out what happens to young trainees.

The trainee was also asked to call the director of her agency without alerting him that he was being recorded. When asked about the contract fee she was forced to pay, he replied, “There are no agencies these days that support you financially 100%. Since we do support you 100%, don’t leave us. Even if you say that we forced you to provide sexual favors, you really have nothing to say in the end.”

Upon hearing his shocking statement, reporters visited the agency themselves while hiding their cameras. They found that the agency, on the outside, looked no different from any other agencies, and when asked to name the celebrities they housed, they had no trouble listing the names.

[ … ]

Another trainee hoping to become an actress later gave her own account, revealing, “The agency said they were looking for a small role and wanted to meet me in person. They instead dragged me to their home and force fed me various drinks, claiming that they needed to check my limit. After a while, they taped my mouth shut so that I couldn’t scream, and further claimed that in order to become a celebrity, I needed to have sex with him.”

What was even more shocking for viewers was that this all happened before she entered her third year of junior high school.

November 4, 2010

Netizens apoplectic with fury at suggestion that Girls’ Generation may have done sexual favors

Filed under: celebrities, music, prostitution, youth — extrakorea @ 10:27 am

A Taiwanese television show had an program in which they discussed the notion that some female celebrities in South Korea do sexual favors as a way to get ahead, or have it virtually forced on them. Taiwanese singer Estrella Lin, who has previously spoken about her experiences in Korea, was a guest speaker. Unfortunately for them, they used an image of Girls’ Generation, and Korean Internet surfers, “netizens,” are furious. I mean, they’re absolutely apoplectic with fury. The AllKpop post on the topic has over a thousand comments, with new ones arriving literally every thirty seconds, and the YouTube video of the program (below) rising by the hundreds every hour.

It seems that there may have been two problems:
1. While AllKpop may have done a decent job of translating Sports Chosun’s piece, Chosun may have mistranslated the original Chinese.
2. The TV program may have gotten its image of Girls’ Generation from a Taiwanese newspaper. If so, then it might be the newspaper who ought to shoulder the blame.

I’m wondering this: Where was this fury when Jang Ja-yeon committed suicide? Where was the fury when it became known that her ex-manager faces a maximum of one year in prison? How about when it became known that an SM Entertainment manager could have literally killed a member of boy band Super Junior? How about when another entertainment agency seemed to admit to forcing an underage trainee into virtual prostitution? How about any of the other examples of trainees’ mistreatment? Or how about the recent survey that suggests that over 60% of female entertainers are pressured into giving sexual favors? But slander some pretty girls, and the rage is like an inferno. I’m glad to see that some people have their priorities straight.

While I’m at it, I might as well express my incomprehension as to why K-pop fans are cheerleaders for entertainment agencies.  Can you imagine the following conversation between three teenagers in America?

A: I like Interscope Records.

B: No way!  Sony Music is the best!

C: You both have your heads up your arses!  Warner Brothers all the way!

Ridiculous, huh?  When I was a teenager, we talked about which artists we liked.  However, K-pop fans will get into heated debates over whether they like YG Entertainment or SM Entertainment better.

October 28, 2010

Hilarious video of 2PM fan

Filed under: humor, music, rapid cultural change, youth — extrakorea @ 1:30 am

Recently, the boy band 2PM had a meet-and-autograph event with fans, and one young lady was happy to meet them. Really, really, really happy.

October 27, 2010

Korean in Will.i.am’s video makes sense. You listening, K-pop?

Filed under: languages, music, rapid cultural change — extrakorea @ 11:10 am

“Check It Out,” the latest video from Will.i.am (a member of the Black Eyed Peas), features Korean written in hangeul, the Korean alphabet.

According to some reports, the Korean actually makes sense. Perhaps he got inspiration, or even proofreading, from when he worked with Korean girl group 2NE1.

Here they are meeting Will.i.am for the first time.

Here they are working on a song in his studio.

“Ke$ha and Lady Gaga will be jealous for this song. … Cool, like Korean fashion. Like foreign. … Like Europe, that’s not foreign. Korea is foreign. You can’t even read that writing. That’s how foreign that sh** is. … People will say, ‘You know that song, you know, with Will.i.am and the girls from Korea, you know, 20 … 24-what? 24-Anybody? No, 2NE1, the song …”

Looks like he sees their “foreignness” as an advantage, and that he definitely had help with the hangeul.

So, if he could have hangeul that makes sense, then there’s little excuse for professional Korean artists to produce things like this:

I wanna gossip girl
I wanna gossip, sexy and pretty
listen boy 1,2,3 go!

everyday 도도하게
everybody 바라보게
항상 stylish하게 나나나나
언제나 자신있게
모두들 미소짓게
어디서나 Spotlight

kill hill 예쁜 높은 구두에
hot pleats skirt
cherry color lip gross

짙은 sense mascara에 흩날리는 머릿결
pretty, sweety, sexy

I do wanna say wanna say wanna say wanna say
날 보는 eye stop it

See the complete lyrics here.

October 14, 2010

Girl group Nine Muses adds unnecessary member, must change name

Filed under: eye candy, gender equality, music — extrakorea @ 1:05 pm

You might have heard of the girl group Nine Muses. As their name suggests, there are nine members, and they have pretty legs, which makes them completely different from Girls’ Generation.

Girls’ Generation

Nine Muses

Girls’ Generation

Nine Muses

You see? Completely different. Anyway, they will be adding a new member (which would make them Ten Muses, no? I guess they’re trying to prove that in girl groups, the number of members is inversely proportional to the amount of talent per member.) And why would they do so?

Because some of the members who performed the song ‘No Playboy’ are currently working as models, we decided to add Hyuna to Nine Muses to provide a new energy to the group.

In other words, some of these so-called “singers” are so busy with non-singing activities that they can’t, well, sing.

October 13, 2010

Did H-Line Entertainment obliquely admit to pimping out an underage trainee?

Filed under: crime, gender equality, music, prostitution, youth — extrakorea @ 4:47 am

Recently, “Kim,” the CEO of an entertainment company, referred to as “H,” was accused of pressuring two of his trainees, aged 17 and 20, to perform sexual services for the owner of a clothing company.  After doing this over ten times, one of the trainees (the 17-year-old, I believe) tried to refuse, but the CEO forced her to continue, saying,

“If you don’t show up for work, you will be paying an extreme amount of penalties.”

Some trainees are under very stringent contracts, some as long as 13 years. Some contracts stipulate that if the trainee quits or is let go, they have to pay back the costs that the company has spent on their training, housing, etc so far, or would have spent on them had they continued onto a successful debut.

The clothing company owner gave Kim $46,000 US for “sponsorship expenses” of which Kim kept $30,000 for himself.

Kim rejected all claims by stating that the money in question was earned from his shopping mall, and not from forcing the two trainees into sexual acts. Authorities investigated his bank account, however, and found that he was deceiving them, as they failed to find any connections between the shopping mall and the amount held in his account.

Internet surfers, called “netizens” in Korea, began trying to discover the identities of H and the two trainees. Many of them believe that H is H-Line Entertainment, and that the two trainees are members of the new girl group Chocolate. Two of Chocolate’s members, Cheryl and Meng, are the correct ages, 17 and 20. Furthermore, back in August, Chocolate, which had not yet even debuted, managed to secure a prestigious endorsement deal with a clothing brand, NUZZON.

Since then, Cheryl and Meng have spoken publicly about the issue, denying that they are the trainees in question. Their company backed them up, stating:

The two girls mentioned, ‘A’ and ‘B,’ were former trainees, and have already left the company. They are definitely not Cheryl and Meng.

Wait a minute. Did they obliquely confirm that they did in fact pimp out two of their trainees (one of them underage), just not specifically Cheryl and Meng?

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.

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