Extra! Korea

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.

October 15, 2010

Jang Ja-yeon’s former manager faces a maximum of one year in jail

Filed under: actors/actresses, crime, gender equality, prostitution, suicide — extrakorea @ 2:34 pm

Jang Ja-yeon was a young actress who committed suicide on March 8, 2009. In her suicide note, she described how her former manager, Kim Sung-hoon, beat her up, embezzled money that she had earned, threatened her and her friends, and forced her to sleep with directors, executives, and CEOs. Kim fled to Japan but was caught and extradited. The trail has begun, and he faces a maximum of one year in jail. Verdict hearings will begin on October 29th.

One year? That’s it? He abused a young woman terribly, and probably drove her to suicide, and that’s the maximum punishment that he’s facing? Something isn’t right.

August 26, 2010

Korean women in their 40s happiest; men in their 40s unhappiest

Filed under: economics, health, rapid cultural change, science, suicide — extrakorea @ 7:37 am

According to a study by the Korean Psychological Association, Korean women in their 40s are the happiest Koreans, while men in their 40s are the unhappiest.

Why are the men so unhappy?

“Korean men get stressed in work to survive in the competitive world and take responsibilities for families, but they lose interest in anything in their daily lives and just endure day by day,” Suh [Eun-kook, a psychology professor at Yonsei University] said.

And also …

[U]nlike the emotionally opened women, Korean men have suppressed emotion. In Korean custom, men are socialized not to reveal their sentiments to the public in any circumstances.

Why are the women so happy?

The housewives answered “satisfied” mostly when they are left alone at home during the daytime, when all family members are working outside.

“As kids are growing up to be independent from their mommies, women become more free from house chores and child-care, giving them more spare time,” Suh said.

The analysis indicated that the woman’s ability of expressing positive feelings can make a happier life.

In the world-at-large, Koreans are quite unhappy, as much so as people from much poorer, less-developed countries. In other news, the sun rises in the east in the morning.

Referring to the statistics of World Values Survey Association, Korea’s happiness ranked 58th out of 97 countries.

Korea has almost the same level of happiness as Peru, despite its developed scale of economy of $19,504 GDP per capita – about four times that of $4,452 in Peru.

Ed Diener, a psychologist visiting Seoul for a seminar, said Koreans have low satisfaction despite their high standard of living.

“When asked if they had a nice day or not, only 64 percent of Korean answered positive. Even the people of Zimbabwe scored 4 percent more than that,” said Diener.

The researchers said Koreans are concerned too much about what other people think of them, leading to unhappiness. Respondents who valued inner peace of mind were seen as having better relationships with others and stronger self-respect.

“However rich, educated, or hired by a famous company, a person who feels unhappy is living in misery,” said the researchers.

June 30, 2010

(Updated) Actor Park Yong-ha, latest celebrity suicide?

Filed under: actors/actresses, suicide — extrakorea @ 12:16 am

Edit/Update:

K-Bites has numerous updates, including reactions from Jo Kwon (of boy band 2AM) and his friend Jae-joong (of boy band DBSK (a.k.a. TVXQ)

——————————————————————-

Original Post:

It looks like there’s been yet another celebrity suicide: actor Park Yong-ha (Korea Herald, AllKpop)

He was found this morning by his mother, hanging from a cell phone recharging cable. He was only 32.*

He earned his fame as a hallyu celebrity through TV drama “Winter Sonata.” Park was particularly popular among fans in Japan and Southeast Asia.

He was also scheduled to play the lead role in upcoming drama “Love Song,” a remake of the film “Chum Mil Mil,” with actress Yoon Eun-hye.

R.I.P.

* Keep in mind East Asian age reckoning.

May 15, 2010

Nine suicides in two days, eight done in groups

Filed under: suicide — extrakorea @ 11:54 am

In South Korea, nine people have killed themselves in the last two days, and all save one involved group suicides. On Wednesday, four men and one woman in their 20s and 30s committed suicide by inhaling toxic fumes in a car. Two of them left notes saying things like, “I have no more hope and no more dreams” and “please find my identification card in my back pocket.” That same day, eight men in their 20s also committed group suicide by inhaling poisonous gases, but this time in an apartment. The next day, a 72-year-old man hanged himself.

Police believe that the two group suicides had their beginnings online. Such news is not rare in a country that has the highest suicide rate among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the third-highest in the world, and the leading cause of death among young people.

“There’s a huge gap in this country because the speed of materialism spreading is much faster than the speed of cultural maturity that must grow together. It all comes from stress of rapid modernization,” said Jeung Taek-Hee, an expert and consultant at Lifeline Korea.

[ snip ]

“Naturally, these busy parents end up spoiling the child who ends up self-centered and incapable of dealing with competition,” Jeung said. “But the reality is that this society is very, very competitive.”

Along with the miraculous rate of economic growth in the past decades, many South Koreans have become driven by materialism that has been passed on to their kids, Jeung said.

He noted that most of the people who commit suicide, especially the young teenagers, find themselves dangerously distressed by not being able to keep up with others materialistically and eventually become anti-social.

April 14, 2010

Nearly 40% of actors have considered suicide

Filed under: actors/actresses, suicide — extrakorea @ 2:02 pm

Park Jin-hee (a really hot actress who became famous among expatriates due to a brouhaha surrounding some Nazi-themed cosmetics advertisements) is working on her Master’s degree at Yonsei University (so she’s smart as well as hot).  For her study on depression and suicidal tendencies among actors, she interviewed 260 actors, and found that 38.9% had suffered depression and had considered suicide.  About 20% had bought pills or other means through which they could potentially kill themselves.

Why did they think about harming themselves?

Park said most of these symptoms derive from their “unstable status” in life. They thought their employment status was too rocky and that their talents weren’t received well enough by the public and industry insiders.

The gap between the general public’s perception that entertainers “live flamboyant and happy lives” and their actual life being “not so glamorous” also caused them mental anguish.

They were often forced to hide their real characters or feelings from others to remain “likable” and some of them thought “having to stay young and blissful” was self-consuming.

Her conclusion:

“The numbers show that people, who seem to be in the middle of amiability, love and glamour, are some of the most lonesome and troubled,” Park said in the paper.

April 11, 2010

I’m sure the rape at the MT (“Membership Training”) is just the tip of the iceberg

Filed under: crime, culture, drinking, gender equality, safety, suicide, youth — extrakorea @ 9:59 am

Not too long ago, Brian (formerly) in Jeollanam-do reported on the university student who committed suicide after being raped on an MT. MT is short for “membership training” and they have nothing to do with any sort of training. Groups of students who are associated in some way (e.g. are members of the same club or have the same major) go somewhere, stay the night, and then return the next day. Participation is supposedly optional, but declining could get you ostracized, which is a big deal in Korea, particularly among university students. What do they do there? Drinking alcohol. Lots of it. Again, you’re pressured to conform and participate. If you don’t drink, or only a little, you will be angrily accused of “spoiling the mood” by your superiors (“seon-bae”). In Korea, subordinates (“hoo-bae”) basically have to do everything that their seonbaes demand, or risk the aforementioned excommunication. It’s common for male seon-baes to try to get female hoo-baes drunk so as to make sexually harassing them easier.

You say, “Wait a minute, they stay overnight? I thought that Korea was a conservative society. I thought that Korean parents are worry-warts with regards to their children. What do they think about that?” Good question. I think it’s a combination of: a) naivety (“Just because a big mixed-gender group stays somewhere overnight doesn’t mean that they’re having sex.”), b) denial (similar to a)). Korean parents don’t want to think about the fact that their kids might be humping like rabbits.), and c) people know, and it’s kind of a dirty little secret. Have you ever seen the movie “Memories of Murder“? (If you haven’t, be sure to.) In one scene, two police officers speculate on what might be happening on these MTs.

I’m sure that it’s well-known among Koreans that sexual harassment is widespread at MTs. You might remember the Japanese student who shocked the nation by publicly describing when her Korean teacher offered her a sex-for-grades exchange. You might not remember that another girl on the show, a Chinese student, Shang Fang (“상팡”), said that she was sexually harassed by the same teacher while on an MT (“상팡 “문제의 교수에게 MT서 성희롱 당했다””). People here don’t want to talk about it in much the same way that they don’t want to talk about the special barber shops (which don’t offer haircuts), “anmas” (a kind of massage parlor), “room salons” (an expensive bar-brothel mash-up), etc. It’s embarrassing to talk about it, so the problem is not addressed.

Kushibo has written that the problem isn’t as bad as it used to be. Let’s say that he’s right. “Not as bad as it used to be” can still describe a serious problem. Near the school that I teach at, I still see students at the big supermarket loading up for the weekend MTs with snacks like chips and booze. Lots of cheap, strong booze. Kushibo certainly knows the seriousness of the problem, from this story that he reprinted:

Well, one other woman began to pass out while they were all at a noraebang in L.A. Koreatown. My friend noticed what seemed like shallow breathing, but she wasn’t sure. She asked some of her sŏnbae (‘senior’) if the passed-out hubae (‘junior’) seemed all right. She actually got barked at that she was ruining the punwigi (mood/atmosphere) of the party. After a couple minutes, still nagged by concern for the passed-out friend, she decided to call 911.

According to my accountant friend, the call saved the woman’s life. She was rushed to a nearby hospital and her stomach was pumped. The E/R doctor told them that if they had waited another twenty minutes, the friend might have died of alcohol poisoning. Her blood alcohol level was stratospheric, having downed all these “one-shot” drinks, egged on (without any real choice without being ostracized) by her supposed friends.

Also, I’m sure that someone as knowledgeable about Korea as Kushibo is knows that there’s optional, and then there’s “optional,” with big, fat quotation marks around it, which basically means, “It’s your choice not to, but if you don’t, we’re going to make your life f-ing miserable.”

Now, due to this unfortunate tragedy, perhaps the problem will be addressed like it should have been long ago.

March 29, 2010

Choi Jin-shil’s younger brother may have committed suicide

Filed under: celebrities, suicide — extrakorea @ 9:48 am

As if the Choi family hasn’t suffered enough

The younger brother of Choi Jin-shil, Choi Jin-young, was found dead at his home Monday. He supposedly hung himself, though no suicide note was found at the scene.
(Joongang Daily, Korea Herald)

As Brian who-used-to-be-in-Jeollanamdo reported earlier, Korea reportedly has the highest suicide rate in the OECD and one of the highest in the world, and also did so in the years 2004 to 2009.

August 17, 2009

Suicides are down, but those among young women has doubled in four years

Filed under: gender equality, suicide — extrakorea @ 3:34 am

According to the National Police Agency, the number of suicides is down from last year, but the number of suicides among women in their 20s is up, and has nearly doubled in the last four years.

August 15, 2009

(Updated) Somebody stole Choi Jin-shil’s ashes!

Filed under: actors/actresses, crime, suicide — extrakorea @ 8:53 am

You probably remember late actress Choi Jin-shil. Well, somebody stole her ashes.

Edit/Update:

We have some updates thanks to Korea Beat and the Korea Times. Somebody smashed a hole in the tomb to get the ashes. Empty soju* bottles were found and are being checked for fingerprints. The police suspect that it may be the work of a fan of Ms. Choi.

* cheap, nasty spirits

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