Extra! Korea

July 18, 2010

These “singers” are busy with non-singing activities

Filed under: actors/actresses, movies, music, television — extrakorea @ 1:10 pm

According to this post, the members of the girl group T-ara are so busy acting in dramas, movies, and variety shows that they can’t sing on stage or record in the studios.

Jiyeon has already been in a lot of movies and dramas, Eunjung has been in a drama and preparing for a movie, Hyomin has been preparing for a drama, and Qri, Boram and Soyeon have been regulars on variety shows. When album activities occur, the girls become very busy.

A representative said, “T-ara’s Hyomin is preparing for a drama shoot and future individual activities,” he said, “in this case, it means they girls can’t regularly be on stage or record often or else members would be missing and that’s why we recruited a new member to hold activties and keep interest in T-ara and not the dramas/movies.”

I thought that they are, you know, singers. It reminds me of the time that Uee, of the girl group After School, was so busy with her acting that she couldn’t join After School in performances.

This kind of thing, combined with the fact that most girl groups only have one or two members who can really sing well, reinforces the notions that:
a. to be a “singer” in South Korea you don’t need to be able to sing well
b. South Korea doesn’t really have singers and actors like other countries do. That is, in other countries, singing and acting are professional careers that require ability and specialized training. In Korea, there are just “celebrities” who both sing and act, but don’t dedicate themselves to either and don’t do either particularly well.

Why haven’t we heard of pianist Lim Hyun-jung before?

Filed under: music — extrakorea @ 11:10 am

Via the Marmot’s Hole comes a video of a young woman, Lim Hyun-jung (임현정), playing an impressively fast version of “Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Despite some naysaying (for every Korean apologist there’s someone who criticizes Korea unfairly), she is more than about speed. Here are a couple of comments under this YouTube video:

This is not a about speed like argerich or richter, they play just so fast without music feelings, a bit like a machin [sic] that you can’t hear any details and music.
Here I can distinguish and hear the harmony, the rubato, the accents, the music of Chopin indeed! My favorite rendition, 1000/5!
– “medtnerlovesme”

Wow! In an age when note-perfect young piano virtuosi are a dime a dozen, she is a rarity. She not only has phenomenal technical skill, but she also plays with wonderful expressiveness and imagination. She puts her own personal aliveness into each performance, in an exciting and captivating way. She is the Real Deal.
– “HarpoMarx22”

Why haven’t we heard of her before? Under this YouTube video was this comment:

The reason why you’ve never heard of her is because she hates competitions. She doesn’t want to become a part of business and I respect that. Watch her Rachmaninoff Etude on Utube, and you’ll be AMAZED.
– “marie1109s”

And under this video was this:

She is certainly no automaton, despite an astounding technique- she has a real feeling and understanding of the music, which is rare. She seems relatively unknown outside Europe but I hope that changes!
– “2ndAveLine”

(emphasis mine)

So it seems she’s known in Europe. According to her Facebook page she moved to France for the sake of her studies and, as far as I can tell, she lives there still.

This twenty three year-old Korean pianist began her musical studies at the age of three under Jong-Sun Kim. Her prodigious talent was quickly recognised and she moved to France at the age of twelve. Five months later she graduated from the Conservatoire National Région de Compiègne with First Prize and highest distinction in the class of Marc Hoppeler.

She became the youngest ever person to obtain the “Diplôme d’Etudes Musicales Complètes” of Normandy in France, aged fifteen.

So can we in Korea ever see her perform?

In August 2010, Hyun-Jung will perform the complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas over eight consecutive days in Paris and November 2010 will see her return to Korea to make her eagerly awaited recital debut at the prestigious Seoul Arts Center.

(emphasis mine)

I’d like to know:
a. how much will tickets be, and
b. how can I get them?

You can see a collection of her performances here, and if you watch only one video, it should be the one below, as it has both Rachmaninoff’s Etude op.39 n°9 and Bumble Bee as an encore.

Like Kim Yu-na, this one one young Korean who actually lives up to the hype.

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.)

July 7, 2010

North Korea wins Justin Bieber world tour contest

Filed under: music, North Korea, the Internet — extrakorea @ 5:02 am

North Korea has won the online contest at Justin Bieber’s world tour site. See here for yourself.



Of course, the effect will be limited. First of all, while North Korean bureaucracy decides whether or not to issue young Mr. Bieber a visa, there will be time for the guffaws to die down. In the unlikely event that an invitation is actually offered, he can just come out and honestly admit that he’s been pranked. And let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that he actually decides to go. It wouldn’t be the first time that foreign pop artists have performed in the north. Check out the now-defunct K-pop group Baby Vox performing there.

The Norkbots will, as in the video above, just look on impassively* and then give polite applause, as instructed to, and then they’ll recycle the footage as evidence of western decadence.

* Or stifle laughter, as at 0:39 in the video above.

Some K-pop trainees begin as young as 10 years old

Filed under: music, youth — extrakorea @ 2:44 am

Via OmonaTheyDidn’t comes an article from the Straits Times of Singapore about K-pop. Readers of this blog are probably familiar with most of what they say, though the following stood out:

Although there is no age limit, Ms Mei Han, JYP Entertainment’s publicist, says the hopefuls are getting younger, with some just 10 years old.

For how long might they train for?

They can train for anywhere between one and seven years, or sometimes even longer, in courses organised or sponsored by the talent management agencies which have cherry-picked them for grooming.

Jo Kwon, leader of ballad boyband 2AM, for example, trained for seven years and 10 days before he was selected to debut.

You might remember him.

How much does it cost to manufacture train one of these young wannabe stars?

Industry insiders in Singapore estimate that the total costs can range from SGD50,000 to SGD300,000 (USD36,000 to USD215,500) or more for each trainee, depending on how long he trains.

One of the Wonder Girls talked about something I’ve written about before: lack of sleep.

As Park Ye Eun, 20, from popular girl group Wonder Girls says: ‘Being a star now, I get very tired as I have to wake up early a lot. We have to wake up at 4 or 5am and catch up on sleep on planes. I miss sleeping comfortably on my bed the most.

With very few exceptions (e.g. the Wonder Girls in the United States), they don’t go on tours, so what keeps them so busy?

After they make their debut, there is yet more work. Their daily lives will revolve around promoting their albums, attending television and radio shows, appearing for autograph sessions and travelling to different parts of the world to meet their fans.

[ snip ]

Boyband F.cuz’s members agree, saying in an e-mail interview: ‘Our everyday life consists of going to the television and radio stations, going to the dance studios to practise our dance steps and vocals and going home to rest.’

(emphasis mine)

Yeah, they seem to make appearing on lowbrow slapstick “comedy” shows a higher priority than going on tours, learning how to play musical instrument, writing their own songs, etc.

Incidentally, here’s another example of how K-pop performers have no control over what clothes they wear (among other things).

Raina was recently featured for an interview with T-News, “At first when I heard about the concept of Orange Caramel, I was shocked. Honestly I was flustered and shocked. I didn’t know that we will end up doing such a concept. It was not a style I like.”

(from K-Bites and AllKPop)

Interestingly, representatives of SM Entertainment (who were responsible for some of the most infamous examples of “slave contracts”) have publicly appeared with National Assemblyman Cho Moon-hwan to promote better working environments for entertainers.
(from OmonaTheyDidn’t, AllKPop, and the Chosun Ilbo)

July 5, 2010

(Updated) Netizen pranksters are trying to sent Justin Bieber to North Korea

Filed under: music, North Korea, the Internet — extrakorea @ 3:40 am


There are only a few hours left to vote, and North Korea is still in the lead.

The BBC did an article about it, and got a quote from the North Korean embassy!

A spokesman for the North Korean Embassy in London told BBC News that any application for 16-year-old Bieber to tour would be dealt with by its mission to the United Nations, although the matter would be referred to Pyongyang.

Incidentally, some of the pranks that have been played upon him have gone over the line (e.g. rumours that his mom would be posing for Playboy. Leave the guy’s family out of it.)


Original Post:

This post incorporates two things the Marmot hates: Canada and North Korea.

Justin Bieber is an inoffensive young man from that hotbed of R&B, Stratford, Ontario, Canada. He’s huge in North America, and if, like me, you didn’t know that, then I guess that’s evidence that Korea really has dropped an iron curtain in front of foreign music. He (or his PR people) decided to generate interest in his upcoming world tour by having an on-line contest to get the fans involved. They could vote for him to come to their country, and Bieber would promise visit the winning country. Some netizen pranksters decided to have a little fun by doing some virtual ballot-box stuffing. As of this writing, the country in the lead is North Korea.

The Wonder Girls might get a chuckle out of it. You might recall that one of their former tutors in New York came forward with some allegations that might be disconcerting in America, but are par for the course in South Korea, where the music business has become more business than music. Said tutor allegedly wrote a letter to K-pop blog PopSeoul.

In an attempt to gain some popularity in America, JYPE paid Justin Bieber’s company to open for him, but Bieber’s fans hated the Wonder Girls and sometimes chanted: “We want nobody, nobody but Justin!”

I’m sure that Bieber did not want any of his fans to mistreat the Wonder Girls, and I’m equally sure the Girls don’t blame him for the rude behavior of some of his fans. Still, the irony might be a source of amusement for them.

Speaking of Justin Bieber, IU (아이유), whom I’ve mentioned before, reminds me a bit of him, in that she can actually play musical instruments well enough to do it live. Unfortunately for her, she lives in South Korea, where everyone has to be pushed into a limited number of cookie cutter molds. If she had been born in Canada or America, I think that her talent would have received more commensurate appreciation.

July 2, 2010

BoA, Girls’ Generation, and f(x) use the same songwriting company. Uh-oh

Filed under: intellectual property, music — extrakorea @ 12:55 pm

It turns out that BoA, Girls’ Generation, and f(x) (all of SM Entertainment) use the same songwriting/production company. Uh-oh. We know what that could lead to.

In case you’re wondering, its name is Dsign Music and it’s based in Trondheim, Norway. The Girls’ Generation hit song “Genie” was written by European composers who work for Sweden’s Music Publishing Group. SM Entertainment seems to like Scandinavia.

June 30, 2010

What do an intangible cultural asset and girl group 2NE1 have in common?

Filed under: music, rapid cultural change — extrakorea @ 2:52 am

Can you guess?










Here’s a hint.

Renowned Korean dancer and intangible cultural asset Kong Ok-jin, 79, known for her “Beggar” dance, came back on stage for the first time in five years.

[ snip ]

Kong is a talented pansori singer and learned dancing from a former great, Choi Seung-hee. Her “Salpuri” dance is particularly perceived as the best.

Kong became an intangible cultural asset of South Jeolla Province last May.




Give up?


(from here)

Madam Kong Ok-jin is the grandmother of 2NE1’s Minzy (공민지). She has clearly passed her dancing talent genes onto her granddaughter.

According to the description, this video was filmed when Minzy was 12 years old, and based upon the information in her biography, I’m inclined to believe it. Look at that little kid go!

June 29, 2010

All chicken franchises have endorsements, so now it’s pizza

Filed under: advertising, economics, music — extrakorea @ 3:49 am

Almost every fried chicken franchise in South Korea has a commercial endorsement from a boy band or girl group, and some have more than one (though it could be because one group’s has expired). Of all of them, it seems that Goobne Chicken has spent their money the most wisely. Here’s the score so far:

Girls’ Generation –> Goobne Chicken

Super Junior and Shinhwa –> Kyochon Chicken

SHINee –> Mexicana

2AM and Big Bang –> BHC (Big Hit Chicken)

U-Kiss –> Vons Chicken

BEAST, Wonder Girls, and DBSK (TVXQ) –> BBQ Chicken (They’re really hedging their bets!)

T-ara –> Nene Fried Chicken

KARA –> COB Chicken

As the Grand Narrative once put it:

Yes, those are indeed shapely buttocks firmly thrust into our faces 3 seconds into the commercial.

4Minute –> Dasarang (“All Love”)

Secret –> 9ers Chicken

SS501 –> Hotsun

ZE:A –> Mom’s Touch

With every chicken outlet spoken for (up to three times over), it’s time to move on to greener pastures: Pizza!

June 28, 2010

Lee Hyo-ri deletes 7 songs from album due to plagiarism accusations

Filed under: intellectual property, music — extrakorea @ 9:33 am

You might recall how some of the songs on Lee Hyo-ri’s album have been accused of being plagiarized. In addition to admitting that they were copied (unprecedented in Korea), she has now announced that she will delete the accused seven songs from her album, H-Logic, leaving it with seven songs left.

I’d say that she’s taken a lot of responsibility. If you deleted 7 songs from the Wonder Girls’ latest “album” you’d have -3 songs, as it consists of So Hot, Tell Me, three versions of Nobody, and five (!) versions of 2 Different Tears. They worked for a year on one new song?

One of the problems was this:

Chang said Bahnus, who introduced himself as “a Yonsei University graduate who had sold numerous songs to foreign artists during his stay in the U.K,” lied about other things too.
“He was not a Yonsei University graduate and the contracts he had suggested for potential song sales were also fabricated,” he told a local daily.

The guy introduces himself as a graduate of Yonsei University* and people want to buy music from him? Did Keith Richards or Paul McCartney graduate from Oxford or Cambridge?

Another problem is that when one of these agencies has someone who actually has talent, they literally don’t know what to do with them. Take, for example, IU (아이유), below:

And what do they do? They waste her ability by making her sing a pop song about candy while dancing around with a guy in a marshmallow costume.

Even she doesn’t seem to expect to have her talents appreciated. When she co-won a music show contest, beating strong contenders like f(x), Seo In-young, and 4PM, er, I mean, 2Minute, I mean 2Minutes-Past-4 … she was so stunned that she had to be led to center stage, and when presented with the microphone, she tried to hand it off to somebody else.

* Yonsei University is one of Korea’s top three universities, known by their acronym SKY (Seoul National, Korea, and Yonsei). Graduate from one of them, and you’re set for life.

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