Extra! Korea

August 6, 2010

(Updated) New girl group has member in elementary school. Stop the madness!

Filed under: music, rapid cultural change, youth — extrakorea @ 3:17 am

According to K-Bites and AllKpop, a new girl group named GP Basic is set to debut next week. Since you can`t swing a dead cat without hitting a girl group or boy band member these days, what makes this noteworthy?
The youngest member is still in elementary school and the other five are in their second year of middle school/junior high.
Stop the madness! Please, for the love of God, can`t we let kids be kids before throwing them into the meat-grinding corporate gears of the Korean music business?


It looks like I’m not the only one who is concerned about the welfare of these young people.

Some believe that dressing prepubescent girls in tight pants and high heels is ethically wrong and should not be attempted.

No sh** Sherlock. And how about this piece of irony?

There is also a problem for GP Basic’s appearance on various music programs, since a handful of them require parental guidance for those under 15. The shows include KBS Music Bank, MBC Show! Music Core, and SBS Inkigayo. If all three shows ban young kids from even viewing the show, how will they be able to perform in the show?

That reminds of when the video for “Change” by Hyun-ah (of the girl group 4Minute) was deemed to be “inappropriate for those under 19 years of age” when she herself was under 19.

July 14, 2010

20-year-old Vietnamese killed by 47-year-old mentally-unstable husband after 8 days in Korea

Filed under: crime, rapid cultural change — extrakorea @ 6:55 am

A 47-year-old Korean man with a history of mental illness got himself a 20-year-old Vietnamese wife, brought her to Korea, and eight days later, murdered her (Joongang Daily, Korea Times).

The Busan Saha Police Station said the woman was found dead at her house, Wednesday, and that officers were questioning her husband identified as Jang, 47, for beating and stabbing her to death.

[ snip ]

According to investigators, Kim punched his 20-year-old wife in the face and then stabbed her in the stomach at 7:25 p.m. Thursday in Sinpyeong-dong, Saha District, after a quarrel.

[ snip ]

The couple was introduced on Feb. 7 through an interracial match-making company, and the woman decided to marry the man the next day, hoping for “the Korean Dream” despite the age difference.

She stayed in Vietnam to make arrangements for the marriage and arrived in Korea July 1. She did not know any Korean and her husband was her only contact here. However, she did not know of his history of mental problems. He was hospitalized for five days before returning to Vietnam to bring her to Korea and assaulted his parents five years ago after hearing voices.

[ snip ]

Kim told investigators that he suffers from mental illness and heard a ghost telling him to kill his wife while the two quarreled.

Police are investigating whether the matchmaking company that introduced Kim to the Vietnamese woman screened candidates for mental illness, as they found Kim received treatment in a mental hospital 57 times in the last eight years.

[ snip ]

The immigration office is expected to require Korean men to prove they informed their wives-to-be of any past record of domestic violence, mental disorders or human trafficking.

Good luck with that.

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!

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 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?!

April 3, 2010

Couple who let baby die while raising virtual baby plead guilty to negligent homicide

Filed under: rapid cultural change, technology, the Internet — extrakorea @ 12:02 pm

You might recall the story about the couple who were spent so much time playing an online game that their neglected baby starved to death. The biggest irony in the sad story was the fact that the goal of the game was to raise a virtual baby.

The couple was charged with negligent homicide, and they plead guilty. Sentencing will be on April 16. By the way, the CNN report features Andrew Salmon.

March 25, 2010

(Updated) How K-pop trainees are (mis)treated

Filed under: celebrities, music, rapid cultural change, youth — extrakorea @ 2:41 pm

Twenty-seven years ago, a plurality (23.3%) of Korean schoolchildren wanted to be scientists, followed by teachers, judges, doctors, and artists. Nowadays, 41.6% of kids want to be singers when they grow up. Considering that an additional 8.5% want to be actors, that means that over 50% of kids want to be entertainers. Those that want to be scientists amount to only a little over 1%.

Nowadays, groups manufactured by the star factories of SM, JYP, YG, and DSP Entertainment dominate the music scene, leading to large numbers of young people to enroll in “star academies,” hogwons for future pop music hopefuls, which cost trainees from 500,000 to 2,000,000 won per month (US$1=W1,137). On average, trainees attend for four or five years before being allowed to debut (if they debut at all). In addition to the monetary costs are other, more intangible ones.

During that process, the company may require the aspiring star to live in a boarding house with colleagues (or rivals), go on a strict diet with regular weight checks and put in more than 10 hours of practice a day.

[ snip ]

Park, the manager of Beast at Cube Entertainment, explained, “When registering as a trainee with our company, the trainee makes an agreement with us that they will comply with a set of rules along with an acknowledgement that we cannot guarantee when they will be able to make their debut as a full-fledged singer.

Park Bom (Bom), Sandara Park (Dara) and the other two members of 2NE1 are forbidden from having boyfriends. That’s fine for, say, 15-year-old Minzy, but Bom and Dara are in their mid-20s.
The members of After School were forbidden from having cell phones. Ironically, Uee (Ms. “Honey Thighs“) appeared in commercials for cell phones. When this ironic fact became publicly known, their management relented and let them have cell phones.

“The toughest part is getting only five hours of sleep,” said a 16-year-old student. “I feel like I’m in hell every time I get up in the morning.”

Kahi, the most senior member of After School, once fell asleep right on national television. She’s not the only member that goes with little sleep.

Kahi revealed, “UEE only got 1-2 hours of sleep daily because of all her drama filmings, After School activities, and dance practices. Because of that, she falls asleep as soon as she gets home.”

And falling asleep in front of camera might not be as embarrassing as dozing off in a toilet cubicle.

She continues “when she was sleeping at the toilet, we had no idea where she was. So we kept searching the whole building for our leader. Suddenly our staff member said she fell asleep inside the cubicle.”

Eunjung responded, “Honestly, I fell asleep because I was so tired. But the seat was so comfortable and I didnt even smell any bad odors.”

I’ve nodded off while watching movies, riding the bus, studying in the library … but on a toilet seat?!

In fact, these no-holds-barred training regimens – and the hold they give managers over young performers’ careers – have caused numerous scandals over the years. Last year, when actress Jang Ja-yeon committed suicide after allegedly being forced to act as an escort for VIPs at the behest of her manager, it led to an investigation by the Fair Trade Commission, which found last July that most entertainment contracts, including those for idol groups, infringe on performer privacy and limit their ability to change agencies.

According to rumor —rumor!— the reason that Park Jae-beom was permanently kicked out of 2PM was because he divulged details of his “slave contract” to his friend during that infamous MySpace incident. JYP Entertainment finally stopped having “slave contracts” only in November, 2009, after such contracts had become such a big public issue.

One manager for the entertainers said, “The reason why the trainees are often punished and shouted at is so that they are driven to succeed in a very competitive industry.”

They can be punished like schoolchildren even after they successfully debut. Look at the way Park Jin-young treated members of 2PM not too long ago, making them kneel and hold up their arms.

Experts say it is worrying to see these budding entertainers grow up under such conditions and develop a distorted set of social values. Ji Jung-soon of the Bright Youth Center, said, “Young kids who want to be stars grow up being punished and pushed around, so if they become famous, they may become fixated on power and influence, while suffering from low self-esteem.”

The power that manager or producers wield over these group members seems to extend over every aspect of their private and public life:

“Every time we record a song, our boss Park Jin Young emphasizes that we should sing very emotionally. During those times, there are specific emotions that he assigns to each of us 2PM members. To me he said, ‘Taecyeon, you show anger. You show anger no matter what.’”

You’re told what emotion (not emotions, plural, but emotion, singular) to exhibit while performing?! What if I don’t want to be “anger”? What if I want to be … angst? Or schadenfreude? It’s almost like that scene from the movie Reservoir Dogs:

A: Here are your names. … and Mr. Pink.

B: Why am I Mr. Pink? … Why can’t we pick our own colors?

A: No way. … I pick. You’re Mr. Pink. Be thankful you’re not Mr. Yellow.

B: Mr. Pink sounds like Mr. P***y. How about if I’m Mr. Purple?

They don’t get any control over, say, lyrics either. Seo-hyun, of Girls’ Generation, was so uncomfortable with the lyrics of Oh! that she could hardly sing the song:

“The part where the lyrics go ‘Oppa I love you’ was really difficult for me to record. … No matter how much I practiced, when it came time to record, I couldn’t sing it!”

After letting out a sigh Seohyun said, “The lyrics were just so embarrassing that I couldn’t do it at all.”


Artists also have no control over what clothing they will wear

T-ara members HyoMin and EunJung participated in the filming of SBS Strong Heart recently and they said, “When we first received the animal costumes during our first performance, we were really embarrassed and don’t know what to do with it.”

T-ara had followed cute concept with various animal costumes and gloves for their performance of ‘Bo Peep Bo Peep’. They added, “There is something we have to clarify. There are many who raised their doubts about how our stylists are antis. The truth is our codi unnies have no wrong in this. All the costumes were ideas of our boss.”

… or dances that they will perform

Ga-In also shared her feelings on the Saucy Hip Swaying Dance in their song, “Abracadabra”. She said that when she first saw the choreography, she was so shocked by how racy and sexy the whole dance was.

… or who leads the group

Jo Kwon continued,

After “This Song” was released, JYP decided I should be the leader of 2AM for marketing reasons.

… or which songs will be released as singles

She revealed that Lee Hyori had decided with ‘U-Go-Girl’ while their company boss had wanted the song ‘Mister Big’ as Lee Hyori’s 3rd album title song.

… or their lyrics or music

Everything about the Wonder Girls, from writing lyrics and composing music to costumes and choreography is controlled by Park’s magic hands.

… or even their music genre.

At first we [the Brown Eyed Girls] went with R&B, hip hop and ballad. This time, we felt that electronic should be our thing.

In the video below, the Wonder Girls are being interviewed. When asked about their favorite music, Yoobin replied that her favorite band is Muse, and that she likes rock.

Finally, there is this story, which should make anyone consider carefully about sending their daughters to these “star academies.”

Taeyeon explained, “During practice, there was a missed call from an unknown number waiting for me. Initially, I thought it was a prank call so I disregarded it. Later, I received a text message that read, “I am __ oppa.” He kept sending me text messages so, out of curiosity, I dialed his number using the office phone to confirm his true identity. It turned out that he really was the man that he claimed to be.”

According to Taeyeon, he is a famous celebrity that can easily be identified by his name alone. However, she has never met him face-to-face before.

She continued,

“He told me that he happened to find my number and asked if it was okay for him to contact me. Of course, I consented because he has always been a sunbae much older than I am.

Despite him being a sunbae with a large age gap, he continued to contact me. He would send me texts like, ‘Let’s meet sometime’ and ‘I’ll buy you some ice cream,’ almost like a child abductor

What was most upsetting, though, was the time when he called me in the middle of the night while he was drunk. He said he knew a lot about my private life by talking to the people around me. Hearing this, I grew really angry. I asked him, “Why are you being like this? There is no need for us to keep in contact any longer” and quickly hung up the phone. He replied a few weeks later with a text message that read, “If you plan on continuing your life as a celebrity, do you really think you can cut ties with me, just like that?”

Taeyeon’s confession shocked viewers, including fellow SNSD member Seohyun who shared that it was her first time hearing it as well.

As she wrapped up the story, Taeyeon expressed that she received a huge shock from this ordeal and wished that the mystery man would not create such a tramautic experience anymore to other hoobaes in the future.

(emphasis mine)

Tae-yeon certainly showed strength. It should be noted that she’s undoubtedly the best singer in Girls’ Generation, and that a young woman with less talent may have relented and ended up being like Jang Ja-yeon.

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 28, 2009

White girls *heart* the Brown Eyed Girls’ Abracadabra

Filed under: multicultural society, music, rapid cultural change — extrakorea @ 2:37 am

Thanks to the awesome http://koreannewsfeeds.com/ site, I stumbled upon this video. She says that she didn’t practice very much, and that she’s nervous about her performance, so be kind, people.

Don’t worry, Miss, you’re just as good at “sexy dances” as most Korean girls. That includes Goo Ha-ra (of Kara, one of Brian’s favorites, though it was Rainbow that made me laugh till I cried).

Fast forward to 3:54 (and especially 4:13) of the video to see her mad dance skillz. (Hat Tip)

And here is a young lady singing the song with English lyrics that she wrote with help from this video. She has but one humble request:

Anyway, since this song is hard to sing, BE NICE! You can make fun of my lyrics, but don’t make fun of my singing because it makes me feel bad. 😦 And try not to be a jerk or mean for no reason and don’t be racist either! I only like nice and happy comments. ^^

Sounds reasonable to me.

Notice how both girls used Asian poses. Members of these sites will probably be very happy.


If you want to want to learn the dance (since it’s so difficult ), there’s a tutorial on YouTube:

Hmm, within hours of my posting, somebody took down all of the Goo Ha-ra videos. Looks like someone is trying to hide the embarrassing footage. Oh, well, they succeeded, as least temporarily, though someone might find it again later.

December 27, 2009

Over 26% of Koreans Plan to Buy Imported Cars

Filed under: economics, rapid cultural change — extrakorea @ 1:18 am

According to this article, over 26% of Koreans plan to buy imported cars. This is a far cry from when I first arrived in Korea. Back then, anyone who bought a non-Korean car was regarded as a national traitor. Such back-stabbers could expect to receive a vindictive tax audit (not to mention many “accidental” scratches).

The highest percentage of those surveyed, some 22 percent, said safety was the most important factor that figured into their purchase of a car, followed by design and fuel efficiency.

This is good news for Toyota, who plan to sell more cars in Korea.

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