Extra! Korea

February 17, 2010

Updates on pop star’s epic FAIL at English

Filed under: celebrities, humor, languages, technology — extrakorea @ 1:15 pm

We have updates on a pop star’s recent epic FAIL at English.
First, you can see all four parts of the episode with English sub-titles (Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four)
Second, we have a screen capture. Show it to your students who are overly dependent on their electronic dictionaries and who think that said dictionaries are infallible. Tell them, “Don’t become like this.”

And guess what? At the very end of Part Four, we learn that they’re going to go to register at an English hogwon (private education institute). The hilarity may have only begun.

Edit/Update:

I was right.

February 14, 2010

Pop star’s English FAIL: “I want to kiss you and take a dump on your chest.”

Filed under: celebrities, humor, languages, technology — extrakorea @ 11:44 am

First, some background information: Jo Kwon, of the boy band 2AM, and Ga-in, of the girl group the Brown Eyed Girls, are playing the role of a couple on the reality show “We Got Married.” Such couples are given various challenges that they have to overcome. Today’s challenge was the fearful and difficult task of … meeting a foreigner.
When they first see the foreigner, an Afghanistani student, through their electronic peephole, they’re thrown into a panic. They slowly begin to get more comfortable, mostly because Kwon uses his iPhone to look up conversation questions. When Kwon goes out to buy some snacks for their guest, Ga-in tries her hand at iConversation, resulting in her telling him, “I want to kiss you and take a dump on your chest.” That’s some epic FAIL right there. You have to wonder who wrote or proofread those dictionary entries? The fun starts around 4:00 of Part 1 and continues into Part 2.

January 19, 2010

Korea has fastest broadband Internet speed while America’s has declined

Filed under: technology — extrakorea @ 1:42 am

Korea number one! And it’s for real. South Korea has the world’s fastest broadband Internet speed, while America’s has actually declined.

In the U.S., Delaware currently leads with 7.2 Mbps, though it remains far behind South Korea, where the average speed is almost 15 Mpbs. Currently, the U.S. is in 18th place, far behind Japan, Hong Kong, Romania and Sweden.

Romania? Romania ?! America is getting trounced by Dracula’s ‘hood?

(Hat Tip to this great website.)

January 10, 2010

Knowing it must adapt, LG will use Google’s Android operating system in its smartphones

Filed under: economics, technology — extrakorea @ 12:51 pm

LG Electronics is doing very well as a TV manufacturer these days, having displaced Sony as the number two producer and recently unveiling the world’s thinnest TV. But the electronics giant knows that it can easily be left behind if it does adapt, and quickly. Sony is planning to take second place back. More importantly, the product lines that are likely to be popular in the future, smartphones, smart TVs. and solar cells, are ones that LG is currently not strong in.

He [LG Electronics CEO Nam Yong] said the company would not be able to survive after three to five years if it fails to become a major player in those fast-growing market segments.

“There is a sense of crisis (at LG) that we may be left behind in the smartphone race should we be ill-prepared for the market this year,” he said in a meeting with reporters yesterday. Nam is in Las Vegas to attend the Consumer Electronics Show, the world’s biggest tech trade fair.

He expected smartphones to replace mid-end feature phones, LG’s stronghold. “There will be either smartphones or low-tier handsets in the future … Feature phones, in which we have had strength so far, may lose ground over smarpthones,” he said.

His remarks underline challenges facing Korean manufacturing giants, which are weak in software and content, key to smartphones sales. Despite a manufacturing edge, LG, the No.3 handset maker, and second-ranked Samsung are falling behind their smaller rivals Apple, Research In Motion and HTC in the smartphone market.

He noted that the handset industry is shifting from devices to content and software, driven by smartphones, a computer like-device that allows users to surf the internet and download applications from the Web. “We face a number of tasks at a time when a paradigm is shifting.”

LG and Samsung each account for no more than five percent of the world smartphone market. Worse, the iPhone, which was recently allowed into the Korean market, has quickly steamrollered the domestic competition in its own backyard.

To this end, about half of all new LG smartphones will use Google Inc.’s Android operating system. Google recently entered the cell-phone market with the Nexus One, which could change the way the entire industry runs.

Until now customers have been able to purchase cell phones only through mobile service providers. When they switch providers they have to buy a new phone, as phones have built-in locks that enable them to work with only the specified network. Handset subsidies are offered, but they must commit to a contract that requires them to use the service for a certain period. Google is changing all this and is selling its phone itself. The Nexus One has no built-in lock, allowing users to choose whichever service they like.

[ snip ]

This is expected to change the very landscape of the mobile communications industry. The days of mobile operators controlling prices will likely come to an end soon. With customers able to freely choose the cheapest service, telecom companies will see their role shrink to mere suppliers of cellular networks and their profits drop accordingly. As companies like Apple and Google expand into the handset market with their own software, existing handset manufacturers will see their powers diminish as well. In 2009 Samsung and LG Electronics boosted their shares of the global cell phone market to the 30-percent level for the first time and pulled in record earnings. But they account for no more than 5 percent of the world smartphone market. They may be riding high now, but there is no telling when they might be knocked out of the saddle. The only way to survive is to innovate, innovate, and innovate.

January 5, 2010

Why is Korea Telecom reluctant to give iPhones to foreigners?

Filed under: expatriates, technology — extrakorea @ 4:12 pm

You may have read my previous post, “Can foreigners in Korea get an iPhone?”, in which we found out that foreigners, not just ones on F-series visas, but even ones on other types, such as an E-2 (teachers’) visa, can get the iPhone. They need to: a. have a Korean credit card, b. get a one-year plan, and c. pay in cash up front.
So why is KT so reluctant to give iPhones to foreigners? The Joongang Daily mentioned in my previous post said:

[T]he simple fact is that the overdue payment rate for our foreign customers is much, much higher than for locals,” said a KT official who declined to be named. “They [foreigners] are able to leave the country at any time so for us, it is frankly quite a risk to take on foreign customers.”

So we have no specific numbers from a source who insists upon remaining anonymous. It could be a load of nonsense made up to save face and explain away discriminatory practices.
However, the Korea Times now has an article that gets a little more specific.

Although KT officials declined to give out any specific numbers, other industry sources in previous years estimated that around 20 percent of foreign mobile users left the country without paying their final bills.

(emphasis mine)

First, the officials of KT, the only company that we’re concerned with, won’t give out any numbers even though they’ve been pressed. Second, the statistics cited seem to be, given the wording, outdated. What’s the delinquency rate for foreigners these days ? Third, where’s the corresponding delinquency rate for Korean nationals, so that we can have some kind of comparison? If, for example, it’s 10 percent, then people could spin foreigners’ delinquency rates as double for that of Koreans, when in fact it’s only 10 percent more. Lastly, consider the source, the Korea Times, which recently brought us articles about Demi Moore’s hips, an unretouched photo of a a nude person, how to pronounce 2010, a bra for finding a husband, and finally, a flatulent pig.

The chief [of the firefighters] added that the pig got very excited when it all saw the commotion and continue to pass gas and squeal.

“I haven’t heard too many pigs (pass gas) but I would describe it as very full-on,” the chief says.

January 3, 2010

Can foreigners in Korea get an iPhone?

Filed under: expatriates, technology — extrakorea @ 3:32 pm

Let’s look at this article from the JoongAng Daily.

Many expats here who have tried to buy the device in Korea have been turned down at the cash register or were blocked from pre-ordering the iPhone before it went on sale. Take Robert Koehler, an American citizen who has lived in Korea for over 10 years on an E-7 visa and currently works at a publishing company. Last week, Koehler – who recently penned a guidebook in English about Korea – tried to buy an iPhone at the Apple store in Myeongdong but was turned away.

“Basically, KT has made it so that the only foreigners who can get an iPhone are either married to a Korean or are gyopo [foreigners of Korean descent and Korean emigrants],” he said. “I have lived here for a decade and pay taxes. I even wrote a book about Korea, but I can’t get a cell phone?”

If you’re married to a Korean or have a significant amount of Korean heritage, you can have an F-series visa. Can people with those get an iPhone without difficulty?

Even some foreigners who have one of the required visas are having a hard time getting their hands on the iPhone through KT. Michael Hurt, who has been in Korea for more than a decade, has an F-4 visa. Three weeks ago he tried to purchase an iPhone at several different KT booths in the Yongsan area, only to get rejected. “The people there kept saying that their computer system is denying my visa,” he said. Offended by KT’s handling of the situation, Hurt even wrote a letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs and posted the contents on his blog.

So they can’t get an iPhone either? But wait …

After getting denied the iPhone, Hurt was strolling around the Gildong area in eastern Seoul, spotted a KT vendor and decided to try one more time. In less than 10 minutes, he had one.

Okay, people with F-series visas can get iPhones, but how about the other foreigners? The blogger called The Chosun Bimbo (a.k.a. Stafford, who I believe is on an E-2 visa) got one. Here’s his summary:

To cut a long story short, KT Show WILL let a foreigner sign up for an iPhone but only on a 12 month contract [as opposed to a 24 month contract]. You can still get the plans they offer (in my case I’m looking at W90000/mnth for 500minutes, 300messages and 3GB of Data), but the Gotcha is that KT will only subsidise the handset to the tune of W70000, meaning you, as the foreign customer has to pay W744000 for the handset, up front, and in CASH.

[ snip ]

Come to think of it KT Show won’t give any foreigner any contract unless they have a credit card issued by a Korean bank.

Actually, the JoongAng Daily said that, too, though it’s buried in the text.

For foreigners who do not have a F-type visa, they need to pay for the device and some of the service charges up front.

[ snip ]

“Because many of the KT booths across the country are not directly run by KT, we admit there is a lack of understanding on the employees’ part when it comes to foreigner subscriptions,” said the KT official.

This sounds like the kind of treatment you get at immigration and at banks. That is, the people dealing with you don’t know the rules or don’t care, and what’s more important is what kind of mood they’re in, whether or not they had a good breakfast, whether or not they’ve gotten laid recently, etc.

If I were the president of KT, I would be annoyed with these people because:
a. Foreigners want to give me money, and these incompetent employees are standing in the way. People are always complaining about foreigners earning money here and sending it abroad. Here is a way to keep that money in Korea and they’re messing it up. And
b. These people are making Korea look more xenophobic that it really is.

Kushibo pointed out:

[I]n Apple’s home country (the USA) there are similar restrictions for foreign nationals who are not permanent residents (say, people on student visas or temporary work permits).

In fact, here in Hawaii, I have been asked by more than one student visa holder to allow them to piggyback a two-year iPhone 3Gs plan with AT&T onto my own …

But there’s a big difference between someone on a student visa and someone who has lived and worked in a country legally for more than a decade, paid taxes all of that time, wrote a book promoting said country, and edits a magazine that, again, promotes said country.

Chris in South Korea said:

While there are two different rules in place, there’s reasons for that. We are a flight risk at any time, and yes, a company does have a reason to be wary with a heavily subsidized and demanded phone.

And Stafford replied:

In the case of the KT people Mike had to deal with it’s more a case of ignorance, and putting things in the too hard basket because theirs a foreigner involved. In my case, my good name (and credit) is not being recognised because of some dumb Canadian* f**k who screwed over KT 10 years ago. (Or whatever).

Had KT turned round to Mike and said, look sorry, because you are a foreigner we can’t give you a 2 year contract but we CAN do this, this and this I’m pretty sure he would have had at least LESS of a problem.

In my case I went into KT knowing there would be no 2 year contract available and didn’t take the blanket “no” for an answer. There is always an alternative. However it seems to becoming more and more of an art to get Korea and Koreans to look for that alternative.

All good, but I have to say that yes, he’s correct about the phone companies getting screwed about ten years ago by foreigners who fled the country with huge cell phone bills. However, they were not Canadians or westerners but people from developing countries who came here to do 3-D (dirty, dangerous, and difficult/disgusting) jobs. These days, they are still treated poorly, but back then, some of them suffered horrendous injuries, such as fingers or hands cut off in industrial accidents, and the compensation that they would receive from their employers was a big, fat nothing,** so I can’t blame them too harshly for getting out of Dodge and sticking it to a place where they had experienced such exploitation. Of course, the price had to be paid by those of us who stayed or came later.

* I’m not sure why he assumes that the perpetrator is Canadian.

** There were newspaper articles, with accompanying pictures, published, but this predates the days of the widespread Internet in Korea.

September 10, 2009

Student sexually harassing teacher caught on video

Filed under: crime, education, gender equality, rapid cultural change, technology, youth — extrakorea @ 12:04 am

This story was first broken by Korea Beat, but now we can read about the story in much more detail in the Korea Times. A high school student was caught on video sexually harassing his female teacher. It seems that the student, a sophomore (and yet already taller than his teacher) approached the teacher, putting his arm around her shoulders. After trying, unsuccessfully, to push him away, she walked away. He followed her, putting his arm around her.

After the video clip triggered criticism online, the school decided to slap a 10-day suspension on the student along with the person who taped it.

I wonder what why the student who taped the incident was also disciplined? Because he didn’t intervene? I’d say that posting this video was a form of intervention, since it is what let to the student being disciplined. And students should not be under any obligation to insert themselves into that situation, especially since the student was big and getting physical.
This is not the first time that there has been a major incident involving students getting physically abusive with their teachers. When the current generation grows up, I have my doubts as to whether I will want to remain here, teaching. If students are going to act like that, then I might as well be back in my own country. At least I’ll be close to my family, old friends, and in my own culture and language. Not to mention moving towards home ownership.

Edit/Update:

Thanks to Korea Beat commenter DynamicallySparkling, we can now see the video. Brian in Jeollanam-do and Korea Beat, respectively, made these comments:

I can guess Korean teachers might say this is symptomatic of kids being less disciplined in years past—maybe true, I don’t know—but this is testament is also to the chaos that is the classroom between periods. Not sure how it is at your public schools, but at mine it was a lawless 10 minutes where kids ran around, wrestled, fought, threw stuff out windows, raced with chairs, and sometimes destroyed the furniture and books in the room.

Exactly what I experienced as well. It was always a complete madhouse/zoo.

September 8, 2009

Jae-beom quits 2PM after some netizens demand that he commit suicide

Filed under: celebrities, technology — extrakorea @ 6:25 am

Jae-beom has officially quit 2PM. This comes after some netizens actually called on him to commit suicide over four-year-old MySpace comments. Un-freaking-believable. Some fans have started a petition to bring him back, but it remains unclear as to whether or not it will have any effect. Personally, I doubt it. Some people will not be satisfied unless they see blood.

September 7, 2009

Despite apology, fans refuse to forgive 2PM member for four-year-old comments about Korea

Filed under: celebrities, music, technology — extrakorea @ 9:37 am

The Korea Times and Herald have the story of fans who are enraged at a member of boy band 2PM, Jae-beom. Four years ago, when he was still a trainee at JYP Entertainment, waiting to debut, he wrote some negative comments about Korea on his MySpace page. (You can see screen captures of them here.) He apologized profusely, in a way that bordered on grovelling, but that’s not good enough for some fans. As a result, the promotional activities of 2PM have been put on hold for an unknown amount of time. However, Park Jin-young (JYP) has said that neither he, nor the other members of 2PM, want to kick him out of the group.
Personally, I can understand how he could have felt culture-shocked and upset. He was, at that time, an 18-year-old kid, in Korea for the first time and all alone, since his family was still in America, where he was born and had grown up. While his comments from four years ago are definitely childish and show very poor judgment, it’s clear from his apology that in the years since he’s become much more mature and articulate.

July 23, 2009

New Anti-Piracy Law; Earnings of Top Songwriters

Filed under: intellectual property, music, technology — extrakorea @ 11:17 pm

A new law meant to crack down on intellectual property piracy went into effect yesterday. So how strict is it?

Your five-year-old daughter mimmicks a popular song at home. She is so cute, so you pick up your camcorder to record her one-minute performance. You upload the clip on your blog to share it with your friends and relatives. This seemingly benign act, however, is in violation of the Korean copyright law. No kidding. Last month, there was an actual incident in which a video clip showing a five-year-old kid singing Son Dam-bi’s “Crazy” – for 58 seconds – was uploaded on a blog run by Naver.com, and the Korea Music Copyright Association asked the country’s biggest portal to block public access to the video clip.

[ snip ]

Under the revised rules, the Culture Ministry can shut down an online community or service in connection with copyright violations, even without a complaint from copyright holders.

[ snip ]

But what ordinary bloggers fear the most is the threat from law firms. A host of Korean law firms are currently representing copyright holders in the fields of music, images, and video, and they often send an email to users, asking them to pay a settlement fee in return for dropping the lawsuit.

In April, a local law firm threatened to file a suit against 8,047 users on the charge of copyright violations, and earned 7 billion won in settlement fees, a tactic that turned out to be illegal.

However, some web-sites can get a kind of “stamp of approval” from the government if they offer copyrighted material but protect it from downloading.

Regulators are rewarding those protecting cultural content. Soribada (www.soribada.com), a music content Web site, became the first online service provider (OSP) to be officially designated a “clean site” by the authorities.

Soribada was chosen for having functions that protected copyrighted content, including a filtering system that blocks the transfer of illegally copied material to other sites.

Once labeled clean, OSPs are able to enjoy a variety of benefits including exemption from governmental monitoring and supervision. But it can maintain its clean status when it passes the re-examination every six months. Visit http://www.cleansite.org for more information.

Despite this, this is expected to increase the exodus of Korean users from Korean sites (such as Naver) to foreign sites (such as YouTube) which began earlier this year. Heck, even the Blue House is doing it.

Since we’re on the topic of intellectual property, how much do Korea’s top songwriters earn?

According to the Korea Music Copyright Association (KOMCA) on Monday, Park [Jin-young, also known as JYP] earned W1.078 billion (US$1=W1,249) from copyrights in 2008.

[ snip ]

The top earner was composer Cho Young-soo, who made W1.109 billion. Lyricist Ahn Young-min came in third with W928 million.

[ snip ]

At least 100 composers and lyricists earned over W100 million a year, and the top eight made over W500 million a year. With the growing digital music market led by an increase in sales of karaoke machines and mobile phone ringtones, the income of songwriters has been growing fast.

[ snip ]

Compared to Japan and the United States, what these songwriters are making in Korea is mere 1/10 and 1/100, leading to calls to come down harder on piracy.

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