Sunday, 29 June 2008

Review of Crossing: The Desperation of the North, and the Hypocrisy of the South

Crossing is a movie about North Koreans fleeing to China in desperation. Once in China, North Koreans are in danger of being caught and repatriated to North Korea, where they will be sent to a work/death camp for their treachery against the great leader/god Kim Il-Sung (by the way, how are those Olympics going, Beijing?) They must either get into another country's embassy and claim refugee status, or travel secretly through China, and escape either to Mongolia or head south, and claim refugee status in a southeast Asian country -- Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, etc., and hope that Seoul will take them.

The preview


Here's a summary from Koreanmovie.com and a synopsis from the site:

In the film, Yong-su (played by Cha In-pyo), a North Korean living in a mining village in Hamgyeong Province, crosses the northern border with China to get food and medicine for his ailing wife, only to find himself on the run. His 11-year-old son (Shin Myeong-cheol) also risks his life to trace his father in China.


Now, Korea loves melodrama -- I'm not going to theorize on why, but let's just say this, is a TYPICAL, not an exceptional Music video:



Anyway, because of this propensity toward bombast, my expectations weren't TOO high, heading into Crossing, because I knew the topic ran risk of veering wildly into melodrama, but it managed to treat its subject with at least a modicum of grace. This was good. Even when we saw that Yong-su has a dog, and everybody who knows Korea thought, "Heh. This is Korea. . . I know what's gonna happen to that dog". . . they managed to treat Whitey's mysterious disappearance as a sad surrender to poverty, without overdoing it until it became a punchline.

As with most sad movies, the first thing they do is show you some people living a basically happy life, and you see enough of them to decide you like them, and want good things to happen to them, before bad things start happening to them (cf Dancer in the Dark). In reading up for this post, I learned here that the film was written after extensive interviews with North Korean defectors.

At first, I was a bit cynical, thinking things like, "I like this character too much. . . she's definitely going to die." But, when bad things start to happen, the filmmakers mostly told the story, and didn't spend TOO much time telling viewers how to feel. Mom coughs. Later, she passes out during the town meeting. Turns out she's pregnant and has tuberculosis from malnutrition. Medicine for pregnant women with TB is hard to come by in North Korea, but Yongsu, the father, has a friend who is a trader bribing his way back and forth to China, who is also surreptitiously handing out bibles. Then other bad stuff happens, and some more bad stuff, until Yong-su has to go into China himself to try and get medicine. . . and then he'll come right back! But then other stuff happens, so that he might not be able to come back, and his son has some bad stuff happen to him (no more spoilers today!) and needs to cross into China to try and find his father. My favourite character was Misun, the cute daughter of the bible-smuggling trader. We see her at the beginning, and then we meet her again later, and her character arc is one of the sadder ones (though nobody's going to quite out-tragedy Yong-su).

I won't say the film is completely without melodrama: I'm sure one entire round of auditions for the actor who plays Joon (the son) consisted of nothing more than, "OK. I'm gonna point a camera at you, and I want you to cry convincingly, and say these words while you're crying". . . but the use of slow-motion and echoing shouts of despair as the world falls silent didn't slide into overkill, nor did the silent montages of "remembering the happier times," and frankly, the movie was touching, and the ending was very appropriate. The acting, too, was well done, and the two children especially impressed me, given that making bad things happen to children in a movie is the fastest way to generate pathos, but also runs the greatest risk of slipping into bathos (mawkishness), but the kids never quite went too far, nor did the filmmakers.

There are a few sad conversations about heaven prompted by the missionary character and his daughter: "a place where I won't be hungry?" "I hope they have still rain there" and by the end of the movie, heaven's function is mostly just to be the place where certain characters can finally see. . . certain other characters. . . again, if ever. In fact, that seems to be what's playing behind the ending credits: all the characters in the movie are eating and playing by a riverside, including the ones who wouldn't be able to attend an earthly riverside picnic. There's also one angry speech asking, "Why does Jesus only help the South? Is God's help also only for the rich?" Those questions remained unanswered in the film, and yeah, the hope of heaven is mentioned, but in the face of thousands of starving people who need FOOD, too much talk of heaven would become problematic, and the filmmakers were wise not to dwell on it.

But this is the puzzling thing:

I'm going to talk about this movie in my classes next week, and see how the response is: so far, the times I've sent out feelers, most South Koreans seem not to really want to see this movie. Too much of a downer.

I'm of two minds here:

In one way, I think South Koreans kind of think of North Korea the way one might think of a deadbeet brother who, every time you send him a christmas card, writes back asking if he can borrow money, or insults your kids. Yeah, he's family, but it's too frustrating, costly, and draining to expend mental energy toward him. I've sensed this kind of dissociation toward the North, even just in the time since I've come here, people in the south feel more ambivalent, less connected, with the north. Less willing to help. And yeah, if your brother either insults you or ends up costing you money every time you see him, wouldn't YOU dissociate yourself, too?

on the other hand, I'm also outraged that Koreans can be so complacent about SUCH a desperate situation, so close, to people who are their great-uncles and second-cousins. It's only by a trick of geography that South Koreans were lucky enough to be here instead of there when the Military Demarcation Line was drawn. . . how can you write off your own kin? In my darker moments, I think that South Korea's apathetic attitude toward what's happening in the North (other than insofar as Kim Jong-il might have weapons that threaten the south) is the ultimate refutation of Koreans' claim to have that mystical "jung" -- some deep connection between humans that only Koreans could experience or understand. How could you claim "jung" -- some deep, humanizing connection between Koreans, when many of your own are starving to death and eating dirt just to remember the feeling of having something in their stomachs, and you won't even go to a damn movie about it (prefer watching schmaltzy music videos where the tragedy's fictional, I guess)? The filmmakers had a hell of a time even finding funding for their movie, because South Koreans keep NK at SUCH an arm's length. Investors didn't think the film would make any money. No jung, gentle readers. No urgency? No feeling of need to have this story told? No jung.


It's not often I feel it quite THAT strongly, but those are the two extremes.

But the fact is, every Korean I've mentioned this movie to so far has been somewhere from passively reluctant to actively resistant to seeing it, and Girlfriendoseyo also told me that most Koreans probably WON'T see it, because they don't like to think about North Korea (which, in my mind, is EXACTLY why every Korean SHOULD see this film.)


And that's the puzzle of North Korea.

(PS: articles from 2001 and 2003 on human flesh for sale in North Korea's black market.)




(all photos from google images)




(Update: thanks, Joshing Gnome, for the link and the kind write-up)
(Update 2: after bringing "Crossing" into my conversation classes this morning, it's been about a 50/50 split between students who want to see the movie and ones who won't. Had to mention it, for the sake of fairness and full disclosure.)

Friday, 27 June 2008

Some videos and no commentary whatsoever.

Freddie Mercury

Another One Bites the Dust

This completely unrelated Korean ad was on approximately every five seconds in 2006.
Every single student I had could sing the song.


(must. . . not. . . make. . . commentary)

Elton John

I'm Still Standing

Sunkist Lemonade: a Korean ad that really sticks in your head.



Liberace, baby! (sweet mercy I wanted to post this one, but embedding was disabled)


Barrel Polka

Finally, the topper: these are members of the big-time Korean pop-bands Super Junior and Girls' Generation.


finally, in another completely unrelated link, Korea Beat, debunking a widespread (though not as widespread as before) myth some foreigners are told about Korea.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

How important is Education to Koreans, Roboseyo? (my emphasis added)

This important. From the front page of the International Herald Tribune.

An article about a Korean "Cram School" - a school entirely focused on preparing for the University Entrance Exams.

Here, the students are denied everyday teenage items in South Korea. No cellphones, no fashion magazines, no TV, no Internet, no game machines.

Dating, going to concerts, wearing earrings, getting manicures, or simply acting their age - all these are suspended because they are deemed distracting for an overriding goal. Instead, the students cram from 6:30 a.m. to past midnight, seven days a week, in a campus kilometers away from the nearest public transportation, to clear one hurdle that can determine their future - the national college entrance exam.

South Koreans compare their obsessive desire to get their children enrolled in top-notch universities to "a war."

...School background looms large in the life of a South Korean. What university people attend in their 20s can determine their position and salary in their 50s. Top-tier schools like Seoul National, Yonsei and Korea Universities hardly register in the global lists of top schools, but at home, their diplomas pass as a status symbol, a badge of pride both for the students and their parents. On exam day, mothers pray at churches or outside the exam halls.

The life of a South Korean student, from kindergarten to high school, is shaped largely by the quest of doing well in standardized examinations to enter a choice university. That system is often credited with fueling the nation's economic success but is also widely criticized.

When massive anti-government protests shook South Korea in recent weeks, first over President Lee Myung Bak's agreement to import U.S. beef and later over his other policies, many of the demonstrators were teenagers protesting the pressure-cooker conditions at school. Among students between 10 and 19, suicide is the second most common cause of death after traffic accidents.

Lee's trouble started when people accused him of filling many top government posts with people who have ties with his alma mater, Korea University. Still, when he replaced his entire presidential staff this month, all but one of his 10 senior secretaries were graduates from the nation's three best-known universities. When the news media report government appointments, they always highlight the officials' school backgrounds.

It is no surprise that most students in this cram school say they enrolled voluntarily.

(my emphasis added)

Among students between 10 and 19, suicide is the second most common cause of death after traffic accidents

Among students between 10 and 19, suicide is the second most common cause of death after traffic accidents

Among students between 10 and 19, suicide is the second most common cause of death after traffic accidents

Among students between 10 and 19, suicide is the second most common cause of death after traffic accidents

Among students between 10 and 19, suicide is the second most common cause of death after traffic accidents

Among students between 10 and 19, suicide is the second most common cause of death after traffic accidents

Among students between 10 and 19, suicide is the second most common cause of death after traffic accidents

Among students between 10 and 19, suicide is the second most common cause of death after traffic accidents

(my emphasis added)

sigh.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Weekend pics (stay on till the end) . . . and a story.

I had two interesting classes in the last week: see, I have two free-talk classes, which are the highest level we offer at my school. One of them is what my sister-in-law calls a "clam bake" -- that is, the opposite of a "sausage party," an all-female class. It's actually a wonderful class, and we've had some really lovely conversations about family, woman issues, whatever, as well as a few good laughs.

Well, one of my students came into class all steamed becasue her boyfriend (in very poor form) not just looked at a poster of a hot model in a bikini (which are rife these days, and which, being a guy, I would have defended him for doing -- those posters are specifically designed by advertisers to ensnare us dink-havers into looking, so it's difficult to say he was out of line for that. . . however, he also COMMENTED on it to his girlfriend, which isn't cool -- ogling whilst in the presence of one's girlfriend should ALWAYS be done surreptitiously, if at all.

Well, to balance that gripe out with a laugh, I told a story about a time I was out with girlfriendoseyo:

We were walking by a bus stop, and I spotted, as we approached, one of those long-legged, beskirted sort of specimens that keep some men in Korea way longer than they need to be. . . but I was with girlfriendoseyo, so I thought very specifically, "MUST. . . NOT. . . OGLE!" and focused my gaze with laser-intensity at the pedestrian overpass nearby.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Girlfriendoseyo giving that very same h-h-h-hawttie a big-old up, down, and back up again.

"LeeeEEEEEEeeerrrrrr" would have been the sound-effect, if this were one of those old 1960s Batman TV episodes.

So I turned to her, with a hurt look on my face, and said, "Were you looking at that girl?" Girlfriendoseyo knew she was busted, so she nodded.

"Do you think she's prettier than me?" I said, and made my chin tremble.

We had a good laugh then, and had another good laugh with my all-ladies class, and we started talking about girls checking people out on the street, which is a conversation I've never had before.

(ps: Magnetic Fields is playing as I write this, and they just used the word "unboyfriendable" -- sweeet)

So, anyway, here are the things I learned, and sure, it's only a sample-size of four, so I'm not going to be writing any scholarly papers, but it was interesting nonetheless:

1: Women look at other women more then they look at men, when they're out walking the street. (Usually for the sake of comparison.)

2: In the street, (at least these) women's attention isn't caught so much by a man's looks, as the way he acts: particularly, a women's attention will be caught by a guy who's acting sweetly to his girlfriend. (talk amongst yourselves as to why this might be; for now, it was interesting enough just to learn that)

however

3: When watching TV, women look at the men more than the women. At least these ones did. That was interesting, too.

We theorized as to why that might be, and we came up with this:

Women (to be broad-brushy) are more interested in a man's character (though we all know men are generally more visual); the men seen on TV are generally celebrities that (these) women have seen before -- they get a chance to kind of gather a series of impressions about the men on TV, to get a feeling for what their characters might be like, which makes them more interesting to watch, while the men passing in the street are probably impossible to meet, impossible to get to know, so the mere look of them isn't as interesting.

Anyway, that's what we hypothesized that day. It was a really interesting class, and I learned something about women. Cool.

Next: I had ANOTHER free-talk class which (that day) was all men, and we talked about drinking (may as well throw a proper sausage party, you know?) The two men also REALLY got a kick out of my teaching them the phrase "sausage party". Well, I mentioned how I love Korean drinking culture -- you never see Korean men more friendly and jovial than when you're drinking with them (and if you can somehow dodge being goaded into drinking WAY more than you planned to, it's a fantastic experience). I've argued here before that I'd love to see Kora's drinking culture separated from its business culture, for various reasons (though I'd be sad to see Korea's drinking culture vanish completely).

And one of my students asserted (without any prompting), "I don't like drinking culture as much these days: it seems more extreme, and there's more rudeness and violence in drinking districts than I seem to remember when I was younger." Such a frank admission was really refreshing, and then he followed that up by saying, "But my boss is trying to curb that kind of unhealthy alky-culture: he's encouraging us to be more moderate during office dinners" -- a pair of sentences that filled me up with hope and happiness.

Then we got back to telling hangover stores.


aaaand. . . pictures.

From the Puk'hak expressway, where I went with Girlfriendoseyo (avoid the Italian restaurant at the lookout point there: the service was awful. Not the worse we've EVER experienced, but definitely the second worst. [you have to ask nicely if you want to hear those two stories]):











look at all the colours of green (pics from my flickr account)




. .. a mulberry tree?

The weather on Sunday was the most perfect I think I've ever seen. Just look at that sky.
I climbed Buram mountain with Matt in the morning:


We could see all the way to Gwanaksan (way south of the city) from Buramsan (way north of the city)


And, for good measure, there in Gyungbokgung station. . . a naughty horse from the Shilla Dynasty. I guess we know what was on their minds back then. . .

I didn't realize C&B stood for Cannon and Bells.
Now do I need to include the close-up, for any who doubt what it is?

Yeah. Surprising, unexpected appearances of phalluses occur in Korea from time to time (see here for more)-- you just never know when one will, um, pop up.



Anyway, that night, one more of that cute neighbourhood I walked around with Girlfriendoseyo

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

A little more about the Korea Herald Hallyu Circle-Jerk: Final Entry in the Series

[THE HIGH TIDE OF THE KOREAN WAVE(36)] The Korean Wave and Korean-Americans

The epicenter of the Korean Wave was East Asia, but gradually Korean popular culture has reached the shores of other continents as well.
Although its popularity in non-Asian regions is not as pronounced as it has been in East/Southeast Asia, the growing interest in and visibility of Korean popular culture in different parts of the world signifies its emerging position in the global cultural landscape.

In this increasing dissemination of Korean culture, the role of overseas Koreans is noteworthy since they are usually at the center of the consumption of their culture in foreign countries. Before the emergence of the Korean Wave, it was mostly introduced to the local population by Koreans living in other countries.

Since the Korean Wave has grown internationally, overseas Koreans have become crucial forces behind its promotion, as they are probably the most enthusiastic and closest followers of Korean pop culture in most non-Asian countries.

Korean-Americans' role in the spread of the Korean Wave deserves attention. Their residence in the United States, the center of the global pop cultural industry, their close connection with Korea and their extensive travels enable them to effectively take part in trans-Pacific cultural exchanges.

Some of them, including Korean "yuhaksaengs" (students who study abroad), have been creative forces behind the Korean Wave as they became successful pop stars or influential producers in Korea. There have also been indications that they may become effective bridge-builders between the Korean and U.S. entertainment fields. A few Korean-Americans have had promising receptions in Hollywood in recent years.

Since the United States is the most coveted market for ambitious Korean entertainers and production companies, Korean-Americans' success and their potential mediating power in Hollywood are considered significant. Let us focus on their roles as consumers, disseminators and creators, and discuss how Korean-Americans have been involved in the trans-Pacific flow of Korean pop culture and what that means to the pop culture world.

It is common for immigrants to make an effort to retain their heritage. Often they consume news and cultural products from their countries of origin. Hence, long before the emergence of the Korean Wave in Asia, Korean-Americans had extensively enjoyed Korean pop culture, at least in metropolitan areas where access to it was relatively easy.

Ethnic media including TV, radio and newspapers, as well as ethnic video stores, proliferated in big cities where Korean-Americans have been concentrated and provided a variety of cultural information from Korea on a daily basis. In this sense, Korean-Americans' consumption of Korean pop culture is not a new phenomenon.

However, the success of the Korean Wave attracted new groups of Korean-American followers (such as the U.S.-born young Korean-Americans who previously showed little interest) and facilitated the circulation of Korean pop culture beyond the boundaries of ethnic Korean-American communities.

Their consumption is related to several factors. The first is the increasing availability of Korean pop cultural products and the amazing speed of information sharing. As mentioned earlier, in U.S. metropolises a variety of ethnic media is available depending on the region and the size of the ethnic media market. In addition, various ethnic businesses such as ethnic video rental shops, bookstores, and different types of ethnic cultural spaces (including cafes, clubs, clothing stores, hair salons, etc.) contribute to Korean-Americans' easy and extended access to "homeland" popular culture.

Then there is the internet, which offers completely new possibilities. Through the internet, simultaneous and interactive consumption of pop culture has become possible. For instance, some Korean-Americans consult with their friends and family in Korea for their selection of pop cultural products through online communication and are actively involved in cultural spheres through their online interaction. (Many young Korean yuhaksaengs have blogs or home pages on the Web, which are important sources of transnational connections and cultural flow. They also tend to actively participate in various online communities.)

Information is shared at the speed of a click, and the delayed cultural gap caused by time lag is a matter of the past for the internet generation. Korean-Americans who are not familiar with the internet may still rely on traditional sources, such as ethnic TV or newspapers. Yet the speed of information transmitted by those media has also accelerated, so they are not far behind in getting the latest news from Korea, either.

Second, the development of communication technology and transportation has reduced the distance between Korea and Korean-Americans not only in a physical, but also a psychological sense. Visiting Korea has become much easier than ever before and contacts with family and friends in Korea have increased significantly through phone calls, online chatting, and home page postings, as well as actual visits.

Thus, despite geographical separation, Korean-Americans and Koreans have multiple means of reducing the gap. The common cultural references created by the shared consumption of Korean pop culture across borders provides a foundation on which they can construct a sense of a transnational community.

Third, for some Korean-Americans, their consumption of Korean pop culture is related to their search for an identity and a community. As minorities, many Korean-Americans experience a sense of marginalization. Even those born and raised in the United States often feel that they lack full-fledged cultural citizenship in the United States.

Moreover, it is difficult for Asian-Americans (including Korean-Americans) to find a positive role model in the "mainstream" U.S. media because Asian-Americans have long been almost non-existent or portrayed stereotypically. In this light, Korean popular culture could provide them with a way to learn about their heritage and, to some extent, a reference base on which they could build a sense of identity and belonging.

Korean-Americans also take an important part in the dissemination of cultural information and products across the Pacific. For example, ethnic Korean TV channels, which are mainly geared toward Korean-Americans, unwittingly attracted non-Korean viewers. Indeed, when the Korean Wave became a phenomenon in Asia, the programs became important sources for curious viewers to get a taste of Korean pop culture.

Moreover, at school or at work, Korean-Americans expose their friends, classmates and co-workers to Korean culture. Among the younger generation, in particular, the dissemination of cultural information is a natural and widespread practice, so young Korean-Americans and yuhaksaengs are pivotal in the spreading of Korean pop culture among American youths.

The main groups of people who show interest in Korean pop culture are usually other Asian-Americans. Like many Korean-American youths who are knowledgeable of Korean pop culture, many young Asian-Americans are also well-informed of what is going on in their countries of origin.

If the Korean Wave has been big in their countries of origin, Asian-Americans youths tend to develop interest in Korean pop culture through their transnational connections and sometimes seek information from their Korean-American friends. Hence, the popularity of the Korean Wave in Asia is transmitted to the United States through transnational Korean/ Asian populations.

Korean-Americans' dissemination of cultural information and products does not flow only one way, however. They also disseminate American pop culture to Korea - from food to even drugs. In particular, the yuhaksaeng and their family members (especially mothers) play a key role in the trans-Pacific cultural flow because they are truly "footloose" transnationals who frequently cross national and cultural borders.

The role of overseas Koreans as creators is not as clear-cut as their roles as consumers and disseminators. One the one hand, it is undeniable that Korean-Americans have been crucial creative forces at least in certain genres of Korean pop culture. On the other hand, it is arguable whether their contribution to and role in Korean pop culture is truly creative rather than merely an interpretation and dissemination of U.S. (to some extent, Western) pop culture.

Since the 1990s, Korean-Americans and yuhaksaengs have left remarkable footprints in Korean pop music. R&B, hip-hop and rap were either introduced to or popularized in Korea by Korean-American musicians starting in the mid-1990s, and many Korean-American and yuhaksaeng musicians have been the leading voices in those genres ever since.

The limited opportunities Asian-American musicians face in the U.S. pop music industry, combined with the Korean music industries' active recruitment of Korean-Americans (they are viewed to be more familiar with the previously-mentioned genres), resulted in their proliferation, especially in groups such as H.O.T., G.O.D., Drunken Tiger, Shinwha, and S.E.S., just to name a few.

Solo acts such as J, Lee Hyun-woo, Lee Jung-hyun and Crown J are also from the United States. Additionally, transnational Koreans educated in American institutions or strongly influenced by the American music style have played a crucial role in the construction of Korean music trends. Seo Tae Ji and Boys, Cho Pd and Psy belong to this group.

Moreover, some aspiring actors and actresses who face serious obstacles in the United States due to the lack of opportunities and role models for them have headed for Korea and become successful. Some even gained international fame in Asia due to the Korean Wave.

They have then utilized their success in Korea/Asia as a stepping stone to enter the U.S. market as a Korean or an Asian star. Kim Yunjin, who appears in American TV series Lost is a good example of this.

As these examples demonstrate, Korean-Americans have played an important part in the making of contemporary Korean popular culture. However, if we ask whether they are truly creative agents of Korean pop culture, the answer is somewhat dubious because, thus far, what they have done is not too far from disseminating information (for example, hip-hop and rap) from the United States to Korea.

They largely remain students or imitators of Western artists in the same genre instead of independent artists with their own voices and styles. Of course, this maturation will take time and it will be interesting to see if they can come up with innovative cultural products. Until that is accomplished, the evaluation of Korean-Americans' creative role in the Korean Wave remains open-ended.

Korean-Americans and other Asian-Americans have long tried to establish their niche in the U.S. cultural scene. In recent years, such efforts came to partial fruition as the visibility of Asian-Americans and the representation of their own voices, based on their unique experiences and heritage, began to improve. The U.S. media's increased featuring of Asian-Americans is partly related to domestic changes such as multiculturalism and the increased purchasing and cultural power of Asian-Americans.

Perhaps more importantly, the media conglomerates' interest in the Asian market, the hottest media market in the world in terms of its potential and size, propelled the increasing presence of Asian/Asian American entertainers.

The interest also facilitated Hollywood studios' selection and appropriation of Asian themes. They shot films on Asian locations, added more Asian characters (though many of them still stereotypical), and even remade successful Asian films and texts (including animation and comic books).

Asian and Asian American stars are hired as lead characters in movies because of their marketability in Asia and beyond. In this environment, Korean/Korean-Americans actors, actresses and other cultural workers have increasing opportunities to expand their horizons in the United States and eventually in the world market. Yunjin Kim, Rick and Karl Yune and John Cho are just some names with whom U.S. audiences have become familiar. In Wolverine, the upcoming X-men spin-off film, Daniel Henney will test his luck in the U.S. market as well. Then there is Rain (Bi), whose Hollywood film was recently released and another is in the making. In the fashion world, too, a growing number of Korean/Korean-American designers have begun to attract the mainstream fashion industries' attention (take Doo-Ri Chung, for example).

The door has opened, although still only for a selected few. But such a possibility is a crucial one, and how this opportunity is seized and how the momentum can be developed into a system of reliable networks could determine whether more Korean/Korean-American faces and voices can be represented in the global media.

Of course, the success of individual entertainers is not equivalent to the success of Korean pop culture. It is possible that they could become mere tools for Hollywood to more effectively sell its products to Korea and Asia. At the same time, however, it is true that they have great potential to become significant bridge-builders and cultural agents between Korea and the United States (and the East and the West) and even creators of global pop culture.

Considering the fact that we are living in a transformative time in which Western cultural hegemony continues to linger, but, simultaneously, local/regional cultures' power and influence are growing, their potential is indeed quite great. If this potential materialized, Korean/ Korean-Americans may contribute to the spread and development of the Korean Wave in a new way.

By Park Jung-sun



2008.06.20

Let's not get TOO down on Korea.

Before we get too down on Korea's media for this mad beef mess. . .

Yeah, PD Diary's staring down the barrel of a legal investigation for its arguably slanderous reporting on American Beef. . .

but they got nothing on this guy.

Journalist in Macedonia charged with committing murders he wrote about

from the International Herald Tribune

"A Macedonian journalist has been charged with murdering two elderly women — crimes he wrote about for his newspaper — and police said Sunday they were investigating his possible involvement in a third death.
. . .Police began to suspect Taneski, 56, after reading his articles about the crimes in the national daily Utrinski Vesnik and noticing details that had not been released to the public"


This is where I'd put some flip comment or wisecrack, but what an awful story! I don't think I can bring myself to make light of it.

Now go watch some silly commercials (next post) to cheer yourself up.

Monday, 23 June 2008

More goofy Korean ads

This one features the lovely "Go Ara" - acting like a baby



This one. . . I don't really know WHAT to say about it


and its partner



except that it resembles this screensaver that James Turnbull showed me, which is ridiculously, awesomely, addictively random.

and they match this one (posted before) for sheer weirdness.


meanwhile, on a bet to see whether sex really can sell anything, next proof:

gas heaters! (this company had a big promotion smack in the middle of insadong for about four months in spring, playing that ad and the "making of the sexy gas heater ad" video on constant loop, along with a person dressed up as the robot walking around while some poor schmoe followed it with a stereo around his neck playing that awful, stuck-in-your-head-like-a-burr song, also on constant loop. (James Turnbull on 'why do they have 'making of the ad' ads going around?)


And the classic: "Let's get a really hot star to act like a total infant" ad (note especially the awful English "everyday new face" at the very end)

and in case you doubt her hotttness credentials after that atrocity:

(link: this one got banned. Not nude or anything, but sweaty and suggestive. Follow the link if you want. Perv.)

17 tea: she's talking about good health here


another for 17 tea. . . what this has to do with tea, I don't know, but I wanna buy some.


But this one's my favourite of the day: from mongdori (see sidebar), this is an ad for raspberry wine, and it makes me laugh every time I see it --


the "intentionally silly deadpan delivery" thing is kind of new in Korea, and a welcome change if it catches on, considering it's a layer more subtle than what passes for comedy these days: (from a game show)


(from a movie. I think 70% of Korean movies are either gangster films or sex comedies. I'm waiting for a gangster sex comedy to come out and make the entire Korean movie industry implode)

boy, living here is fun!


(oops; almost forgot the reason I started this post:)

by the way. . .
the. greatest. korean. ad. ever. (from about 2006)

that dance was imitated for two years by my kindergarten students, and every time that song by the Pussycat Dolls came on in a club, I cracked up the dance floor with the "Don'Cha" dance, for a good six months. Pure joy.


(update: brian: is this the weird hajiwon commercial you wanted? It's the oddest one I found)


she says bang bang in this one. That's almost the same.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Great news:

I got a digital camera!

Now, you can see me expose my hairy chest and leer wantonly in crystal clear focus! Isn't this picture WONDERFUL?
(photos from my newly opened flickr page.)

(uh, that is, the clarity and stuff. Sorry my belly button isn't quite Lee Hyoris (from here)


The crappy cameraphone images will not disappear entirely, fear not: I have a bunch I took that are still waiting for their turn in the sun, and doubtless there will be times when I forgot my camera at home, but see something that must be shutterbugged -- but at least now, when I go somewhere cool, I'll bring my camera along, and give you some nicer eye candy than I have up until now.

Along the pukhaksan expressway (I think it's called) -- the sky was so gorgeous today, I just wanted to be outside all day. The weather was a dream, from morning (climbed Buramsan with Matt) to night (wandered around the Anguk area with Girlfriendoseyo.)




I love swirls in lattes.

Changdeokgung from the side.


a little villa behind/beside changdeokgung is full of fantastic old hanok houses.



Neighbourhoods like this are the perfect stroll-venue at night.


(near changdeokgung)

Friday, 20 June 2008

To Korean shop clerks selling to Western customers:

If you follow us around at a distance of closer than two and a half meters, and smile expectantly each time we glance over at you to determine, "Is she still following me?"

You actually decrease your chance of making a sale.

Just thought you'd like to know.

(p.s.: and if you watch my every move, it makes me feel like you suspect me of shoplifting. . . another detriment to your closing percentage.)

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

An Illustrated, solipsistic riddle: What do you get when...

'cause I can't do social commentary all the time, and what's a blog without a few off-colour innuendoes from time to time?

What do you get when you cross Bono and A Clockwork Orange?




Roboseyo getting his teeth whitened.

Before

AfterPretty dramatic difference, eh? I'm thinking about starting to smoke, just so next time, the change will be even clearer.

The dentist was also pleased: she'd just started a new clinic, and was still trying out all her shiny new equipment, and was quite impressed with the result.

While I'm being narcissistic anyway. . . I also got a haircut.

Haircuts are always an adventure in Korea, because Korean stylists (outside of Itaewon) don't run into naturally curly hair very often, and some of them really have NO idea what to do with it. This guy thought a blow-dryer would be the best way to finish off my cut.

Not. Quite.


Once more, for fun, after he tried to save it with a spritzer:
Later, in the bathroom, I got my hands cupped full of water and used my fingers, the way you're supposed to handle curls this length.
Those short and curlies look MUCH better now. ;)

After I got a chance to shower, I could do it up proper, as you can see in this cleverly framed nude picture.Hope that wasn't too shocking for you.

-roboseyo

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Props to Tiger Woods, and why I think people love sports

Soundtrack time: Eye of the Tiger, from Rocky III

by Survivor. Hit play and start reading.

Congrats to Tiger Woods, playing in visible pain (still recovering from knee surgery) to win the U.S. Open (more video after link), in a sudden death playoff: the regular 72 holes weren't enough, the next 18 on the playoff round wasn't enough, on the 91st hole, on a gimpy knee, Tiger finally finished off his upstart rival, Rocco Mediate. This was Tiger's ugliest, but also his most beautiful major. He had so many bogeys and double-bogeys that he got behind during the front nine of just about every round, but then pulled so many beauties like this one out of his hat to catch up again on the back nines:

This, to me, was the shot that won it -- somehow, despite ALL the strokes played, these golf tournaments still seem to turn on some one, unforgettable shot.

It hit the flag and went in.

Tiger has the eye of the tiger (bwahahaha) -- that smell for the jugular, like I've rarely seen (Michael Jordan. . .who else, really? Roger Federer)? He finishes. Period. Wills his knee to hold up, and gives us shots like the one above.

But jeez, Roboseyo, isn't this a Korea blog? I mean, why are you writing about sports?

Actually, while it's often a Korea blog, in the end, it's my blog, so I'll write about what I darn well please. Today, I'm impressed by Mr. Woods.

Some of my friends don't understand why I follow sports and watch highlights, go down to Rocky Mountain Tavern and watch hockey games, care at all about what a bunch of muscleheads get paid gajillions of dollars a year to do. Well, first, they're not ALL muscleheads, but even if they are, who cares? If you want somebody who says clever stuff on video, watch a stand-up comic, not a hockey game. If you want witty words, read me, instead. . . though Steve Nash is funny (wait for it: 42 seconds in)


For one thing:

Sports never asks more of you than you're willing to give. Somehow blogspot ate this part of my post twice, so I'm only giving you the summary now, but believe me, the first two tries were pretty darn funny -- maybe my best writing ever! Seriously!

If I get involved with women's rights, or saving the environment, there might come a point where doing what I feel is right might not be convenient any more -- heck, what if I feel it's my moral imperative to turn into this guy? Sports is the perfect vent for my bottled-up passion, because it will NEVER ask me to go farther than I want -- buying the jersey won't necessarily force me to eventually go in for the season tickets, too. In the meantime, I'm more fun at parties, arguing about Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning, A-Rod vs. Albert Pujols, and whether I'd want to build my team around Sidney Crosby or Dion Phaneuf, while the "sponsor acres of rainforest. . . think about the children" guy makes everyone feel guilty. That makes sports a perfect partner.

Reason 2:

Your average newscast:

6:00pm: begin.
rape
death
corruption
disaster
robbery
corrupt politicians
economic uncertainty
other sad stuff
something about somebody's puppy (human interest story)
death
rape
corruption
disaster
sports:
HOLY CRAP,GUYS! LOOK AT WHAT THIS GUY DID!!! That was AWESOME!


I remember watching Dwayne Wade score that basket, back in 2005 and thinking "that's it. It's only the semi-finals, but that dude already won the championship, right there." Three weeks later, I was right.

Watching something amazing is sure a lot easier than digging the downers in the rest of the news, and dude, you NEVER KNOW when something brilliant might happen -- you turn on the TV, and you just don't know whether it's going to be a dull, dreary game, or a wild shootout that ends in quadruple overtime, or a no-hitter, or a historic record-setter -- that's the tease of sports. And if you bought tickets, it might just be another workmanlike win, loss, or tie for the home-team. . . but you might see something like Lebron scoring 29 points in a row for his team to break the will of the Detroit Pistons in last year's playoffs:



and be able, for the rest of your life, to say "I was there. I was at King James' Coronation Game." "I saw Babe Ruth's called shot." "I saw Manning to Tyree"
(superbowl 42)


"I saw Willy Mays make 'The Catch'" "I saw Tiger win the 2005 Masters on the 17th hole":



(with apologies to Billy Shakespeare)
And mild-sports-fans in houses now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That cheered with us upon Air Jordan's day.



That tease hooks you in more -- you watch more, to see something like that again. Humans are incredible, and what they can do is incredible, and sports packages that wonderful potential in a way you can see from your couch -- it's hard to gasp in wonder at specs on a new hybrid engine; it's much easier to see "Michael Jordan just jumps higher". (Yes, there are a lot of basketball highlights on here, just because in my opinion, basketball highlights are possibly the most fun to watch on youtube. Hockey's second. Soccer and Golf, (surprisingly), tie for third, and American football and baseball are just a little above car-racing. In my opinion.)

Sports gives us the chance to see something incredible, and to participate along with vast numbers of people seeing the same thing. Plus...
(an old MJ ad)


There are other reasons sports captivate us -- the collective experience is also significant -- I've met nary a Canadian who hasn't watched this game, for example:



You know the one. . .

And sure, there's bad stuff about sports -- it's sad when corruption, doping, or crimes by players dominate sports pages -- but joy this pure, shared with fifty-thousand people (Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees, Game 5, David Ortiz's walkoff hit) is hard to find. Twelve years later, anybody who was at that game might still share a giggle of glee, remembering that moment. What else can do that for two total strangers?



More fun than reading alone.

this never happens when you're reading:



(though this might: from Araby - maybe the most perfect short story I've ever read)

We waited to see whether she would remain or go in and, if she remained, we left our shadow and walked up to Mangan's steps resignedly. She was waiting for us, her figure defined by the light from the half-opened door. Her brother always teased her before he obeyed, and I stood by the railings looking at her. Her dress swung as she moved her body, and the soft rope of her hair tossed from side to side.


Back on topic, then:
Finally, sports are hopeful:

Every season, every team has a shot at winning. Unlike in the real world, where America positioning itself during 1900-1950 led to a ridiculous run of world dominance where nobody's had a chance at challenging for fifty years, in sports, in October, every Hockey Team has an equal 0-0-0 record, and (technically) a shot at the championship. This is different from the real world, where a new filmmaker trying to take on Disney, or a new programmer gunning for Microsoft has a ten, fifty, or hundred-game deficit before the first game of the season is even played. That's comforting: there's always next year, you know? Sports are ever-renewing, and that's nice. Even if the Leafs blew last season, they might just turn it around this season. Who can say?

That's why it's fun to watch. Not important. But fun.


(Update: by the way, in case it wasn't impressive enough already, here's an article about just how hurt Tiger was when he played.)

ack.

the computer ate half the text of a post I just wrote about sports. . . friggin' twice.

i'm pretty choked.

until I can bring it back. . .

1. Livewithpassion: I'm serious, if you're still around, contact me at the e-mail address on the sidebar. I'd like to discuss something with you.

2. Need a new computer. And a new watch. Thinking about digital cameras, too. Gonna be an expensive month. Maybe I'll save the mp3 player for next month.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

More mad cow. Cripes I'm tired of this.

Soundtrack time: hit play and start reading. From Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim: West Side Story: The Prologue - Korea's taken to the streets!


OK. There are a few things:

1. for background, Ask A Korean has a pretty good summary of how this mess began, and what Koreans are saying and reading about the Mad Cow Scare, which has blown way out of proportion here, as opportunist rabble-rousers use it as a hook to hang their anti-americanism/anti-president-lee-ism upon.

There's a good article about it in the Asia Sentinel, and another one in Reuters that calls out Korean netizens for being irrational and spreading misinformation/believing lies. NYT has also tried to put it into some historical perspective, though perspective seems to be something lacking right now among netizens and protesters. Whether netizens start to open their eyes and investigate other sources of information, or respond the way Chinese netizens did to CNN's critical reports on China's handling of Tibetan protests (counterattack, rather than pause, listen, and have a moment of self-reflection that might lead to a teachable moment) remains to be seen. (most of these links courtesy of either ROK Drop or The Marmot's Hole - see sidebar for links)



This is the best article I've read so far about the way the internet can spread misinformation in Korea (because it's exciting, and makes good copy) more easily than sober-minded information -- the better story gets forwarded more often than the more rigorously researched article, because stories are more fun than statistics. This is why, as I wrote here before, the internet, as it is now, will not reach its full potential for social change.

If this situation continues, there will be more reports like the above from international sources, each in turn more incredulous at how irrational the discourse is, and how driven it is by myths, rumors, and bald-faced lies, and maybe Korean netizens will start a site called anti-reuters.com, the way Chinese netizens started anti-cnn.com. Blog buddy Brian has been attacked personally by the same irrational netizens who still believe a single bite of US Beef will kill you, because they read it on the internet, even though it's been scientifically proven that kimchi kills mad cow prions. (More scientific evidence here.)

2. It's now the anniversary of the deaths of two girls who were run over by a U.S. Armoured vehicle near an army base north of Seoul. ROK Drop has a really amazingly excellent write-up on what happens when misinformation, lack of critical thinking, and toxic nationalism intersect (re: that 2002 armoured car incident) that shows just how far you can go on anti-american emotion here in Korea (all the way to the presidency, for Roh Moo-hyun - as mentioned also in the NYT article linked above). See here also for more on anti-americanism in general, and see here for more about the armoured vehicle incident, and how the demagogues and politicos hijacked these two little girls' lives to promote their ideology, with the media mostly complicit. Those two girls were invoked again, concerning this, as well as Lee Myung Bak being likened to Korea's last dictator - Chun Doo Hwan. Ironically, those saying Lee Myung Bak is worse than Chun Doo Hwan have done so without fear of being arrested, or having their names put on a watch list, for saying so. (also ironically, people are protesting Lee MyungBak at the head of Chunggyecheon Stream, the public park area that President Lee built, back when he was Mayor of Seoul.)

In both the 2002 incident, and this year, the thing I've come away with more than any other impression, is how shamefully the korean media has acted. The Korean left wing has proven their savvy in mobilizing young people using comment boards, internet connections, and even text messages -- that's arguably how they got Roh Moo-Hyun into the blue house as president (see NYT article linked above) -- the way the internet in Korea has been manipulated by agenda-driven yahoos blows my mind, but it's also pretty impressive -- ya gotta hand it to the activists, you know? Now, if the conservative President and his party had any wits about them, they'd get on the web too, because right now, in the war to influence the thoughts of Koreans, controlling the internet and message boards is about tantamount to having superior air power in a real war.

(generalization time:) Because of Korea's very confucian culture, the people are raised, all the way from childhood, not to question authority -- asking a question in class is bad, because you could embarrass the teacher if he doesn't know the answer. Anything that might embarrass the teacher is Wrong. It's the same with newspapers and TV's -- my students (some of them well-educated and quite intelligent) have admitted to me, point blank, that they don't usually question what they read in the newspaper -- even when it's one of the hot-button issues where biases usually come up. I had an interesting conversation with one class, where I ended up explaining to my student, a mother and substitute teacher in her forties, that critical thinking, though it includes the word "critical" does not simply mean criticizing everything, and looking for flaws in everything, but questioning the sources of information, and possible agendas those distributing the information might be hiding, at the same time as taking in the raw data. (She was the same one who came into my class two months later and regurgitated literally every myth, half-truth, and lie pertaining to American Beef that she'd heard on the internet, or on the slanted news-reports, one after the other, as I calmly answered her objections.)

This deference to seemingly authoritative sources is compounded by the collectivism prevalent in Korea, wherein people will go along with the crowd, because it's a crowd, and if they disagree with the crowd, they'll stay quiet rather than object, for the sake of the group harmony. An example of this is going out for dinner with a group of Koreans: I had an interesting talk with Matt and his wife about this cultural disconnect.

Let's say, my eight Korean buddies and I are going out for dinner. They want to eat pork cutlets, but my pet iguana died of food poisoning after eating a stale cutlet, so I hate them, because the taste reminds me of the porky-smell of poor Izzy's death rattle.

Now, if my eight buddies and I were Canadian, Matt and I agreed that the thing we would do, in that case, is to say, "well, you guys have pork cutlets, but I'm gonna pick up some drive-thru on my way to the cutlet place; I'll sit with you, but not eat."

or "I'll grab a bite at my favourite burger joint, and join up with you guys when you move on to the pub where we'll drink together after dinner." This would be the most considerate thing to my Canadian sensibilities -- rather than eat cutlets and sulk, or insist all my friends ignore their cutlet jones and come with me to White Spot, I just do my thing, let them do theirs, and join up later.

but Matt's Korean wife interjected, "but that's so selfish! To go away from the group maybe the group will think you don't like them! You'll ruin the group atmosphere by putting your own needs first!" -- basically, in Korea, for the sake of group harmony, if you disagree with the crowd, you shut up and bite the bullet. Even getting out of the way to let them do their pleasure isn't good enough: you have to go along with the crowd, and pretend you're having fun. Dissent = wet blanket = killjoy = why do you hate us?

And so, you have a population where the credulous are more than ready to get demonstrative when somebody pushes the right buttons, and the more sensible are perfectly content to stay quiet until it all blows over. This gives the ones who do get excited free rein to go beyond the pale, if they so choose, because they can basically retort "why are you spoiling my fun" to anyone who questions their actions. When nationalism is mixed in, the retort is often the over-simplified, black-and-white, "why do you hate Korea?"

In such a climate, a great, great deal of responsibility is placed upon the leaders and media of Korea: in a place where people have been programmed from childhood not to question authority, it behooves those in positions of influence to use their power responsibly. So far, Korea has had the exact opposite of that, on both sides. Mike Hurt, again, on the Korean media, part of which I'll quote here:




...the American media is more responsible, and holds itself up to higher
journalistic standards than the Korean media. Has it always been? No. Are
there markedly different histories between our democratic traditions and the
government's relationship with the media? Of course.

But that doesn't change the force of my critique. One side is still markedly unprofessional, doesn't double-confirm sources, doesn't take notes or record during interviews, and even regularly engages in the making up of facts in stories as a common practice. The other side engages in such practices at great professional peril. The blacklisting of a photographer for altering a piece of foreground in a West Bank
picture, or the infamous Jayson Blair case are actually examples of overall journalistic integrity in the US, and reassuring. Because the exact practices that caused the ends of careers and huge professional embarrassment to entire organizations are common practice in Korean journalism.

And hence, one point of my argument -- that the Korean media's unprofessionalism was a huge source of the problem in this case -- should be clear, and it is a problem particular to Korea, not a function of the dismissive "well, it's the same anywhere." No, it isn't.

And if you push a Korean friend on the opposite side of the fence, as
I have started to very recently, by asking the question, "Do you mean to tell me
that you think Korean journalism has the same standards as American journalism?"
the answer will be clear. Koreans are very dissatisfied with their OWN
newspapers and journalism.

Korea has been betrayed again, by a media more interested in sensationalism than truth, following the emotion, or the narrative they want to follow, rather than exploring a topic without any pre-conceived notions they seek to confirm. A media's duty is toward the truth, not toward one political party or the other (easier said than done, but even as they take sides, America's news sources don't intentionally spread brazen lies; they just over-report some stuff and under-report other stuff.) Here in Korea, most of the papers have taken sides unashamedly: the Choson Ilbo, Joongang Ilbo, and Dong-a Ilbo, Korea's three conservative papers, have actually had their reporters chased from protest sites, because the protesters don't like the way those three papers have reported the situation. The crowds took a break from chanting "Lee Myung-Bak, Get OUT!" to chant, "Choson, Joongang, Dong-a are CRAP!" in the middle of their protest.

For me, when the Choson daily reports 70 000 people came to a protest, and the Hangyoreh (the left wing paper) reports 400 000, I lose a little faith in the credibility of both papers. My student asked me if I thought the congressional political system (like the USA) or the parliamentary system (like Canada) works best, and I realized that it doesn't really matter which system is in place, if the media is doing its job, digging around, asking questions, calling out the finks, and plugging away towards true accountability and transparency, and TRUTH, and that's where most of my disgust lies in this situation, because the MEDIA should be saying that Korea deserves better leadership, more accountability, and actual statesperson-like behaviour frome their lawmakers, instead of some barely-read blogger.

Meanwhile, Korea's leaders are leaning on authority or emotion, rabble-rousing or shouting slogans, rather than being leaders and lawmakers and statesmen and stateswomen. This is not how a nation's leaders should behave! Misinformation campaigns? What the hell! A good statesman should be digging to the truth of the matter and spreading that information as much as possible, rather than chanting slogans and twisting the words of their opponents. Korea deserves better than the grand-standing, pissing contest they have, where the minority is currently refusing to report to the national assembly before their demands concerning beef laws are met -- blackmail, basically (probably because they know they're outnumbered in the house, and will be overruled) -- preferring to mill about with the angry crowds over doing their job in the assembly.

Yeah, Korea's democracy is young (21 years), and the media is also only 21 years from being an arm of the government, and they're still figuring things out, but this kind of political brinksmanship, this kind of irresponsibility has got to stop, and Korea deserves better than the leaders and the media they have right now. How can anything get better when politicians are throwing chairs in the national assembly, refusing to show up until their demands are met, or going on hunger strikes? Cut the crap!

Soundtrack: Wallzeys dance remix: Anarchy in the UK

woo hoo.

That being said, there are three good things that have come out of this mad beef mess:

1. Ex-CEO Lee Myung-Bak is learning that you can't run a country the way a CEO runs a company. This is a good thing. His entire cabinet tendered their resignations, and this is a chance for him to become a statesman instead of a CEO, to bring in the best people instead of his old buddies and yes-men. He has the opportunity to become the pragmatic president he promised to be from the beginning. I sure hope he learns his lesson. He's gone from the biggest landslide election victory in Korea's history to the shortest time from inaguration to impeachment calls.

2. The protests have, by and large, been more peaceful and orderly than any other protests of this scale in Korea's history, and that's a really good sign. Hopefully, next time, the people will, you know, vote, and contact their representatives, rather than taking to the streets to be heard. And hopefully those representatives will be where they should be, in the National Assembly, communicating what their constituents are saying. But peaceful instead of violent protests is a good thing.

3. most exciting of all: on Tuesday, June 10th, we had what is, as far as I and my students know, a first: a counter-demonstration. While masses gathered for the anti-LMB demonstration in front of Gwanghwamun, a group of Lee Myungbak supporters mustered (surrounded by national guard police four-deep, to keep the factions from having a west-side-story-style rumble) in front of City Hall to show support for the president, American beef imports, and the KorUs Free Trade Agreement. As far as I know, this is the first time we've seen the other side sound out their voice at the same time as the protesters are shouting, rather than staying quiet during the histrionics, and then coming out of the woodworks later, during the post-riot hangover, when the rabble-rousers have been discredited and everyone feels a bit foolish, crowing, "I knew it all along"! Public discourse, instead of storms of public emotion, a true representation of both voices rather than the angriest side shouting down the other side with slogans, would be a welcome change to the way public discourse is done in Korea. Democracy's still taking root here, but this is a good sign.

The artists are in on the mad beef mess: warning. Some of these images are not for kids.

this sculpture has been up around City Hall all week. It's grotesque, disgusting.

This painting was displayed prominently at other Anti-American protests (I got it from Brian in Jeollanamdo's page) -- it was at City Hall on Saturday,But some pro-US supporters had had enough of it.Ditto for this one: the painting shows an armoured car, and the image on the right is of the two girls killed in the 2002 armoured car incident: a lurid, disgusting picture that was spread ALL around the internet and printed up on protest signs in huge, graphic, disgusting detail. I'm not linking or showing the picture here, because it's revolting: there are viscera strewn around and you can see that the girls are literally crushed. The parents actually had to beg the crass activists to stop flashing around the picture of their daughters' eviscerated bodies to promote their causes. Well, somebody'd also had enough of this one.More referencing the 2002 armoured vehicle incident: the empty schoolgirl shirt has the nametag of one of the girls killed.The good old mad cow.

This sculpture had notes posted to it.
I'm guessing it's modeled on this photo, which I think is a still-capture from the piece of yellow journalism MBC documentary that started this whole outrage.

Ironically, that same image (if it is the same one) has been debunked: MBC erroneously posted the caption "Mad Cow" at the bottom of the screen; it's a downer cow, and slaughtering downer cows is also illegal in American slaughterhouses, but it's not mad. But then, what do facts matter? It sure is a striking image! Another partner piece:
No explanation needed there, except:

Close up of the stars on the second picture:on the first one (red white and blue), on the left side are images of American products -- coke bottle, razer blade, umbrella -- they look nice and norman rockwell.

On the right side, each of the images from the left are used in some violent way -- the coke bottle's smashed on someone's head, and let's not forget America's third favourite pasttime after baseball and football: umbrella sodomy! On the other one (the black flag) there isn't even any attempt at irony or juxtaposition. Just lurid, disgusting and shocking images of violence, which I assume are intended to be associated with the US. Who need umbrella sodomy when there's umbrella rape to be had? Note the man dressed in green on the left: presumably a soldier?
Meanwhile, every single other person who's ever had a gripe with the president has thrown their complaints on top of the pile: I bumped into this paramedics demonstration (really loud: they ALL had their sirens going, while the first one had a speaker playing patriotic songs on that managed to actually be louder than the sirens. Police were lined up to block the ambulances from entering the City Hall block.
Dog-piling the president doesn't seem like the most productive thing to me: if the trucker's union, and the teachers, and the media, and the opposition party, and the Korean farmers association, and the anti-canal people, and the democracy demonstrators, are all shouting different things, it turns into static, and decreases its chance of affecting change.

Meanwhile, Sohn Hakkyu has overplayed his hand, and (in my opinion) stands to lose the most in this mess. Once international sources notice how he's playing the masses like a violin, with slogans and rhetoric, twisting words and stirring up fears rather than leaning on hard facts and logic, he'll take the blame when Korea gets embarrassed by more reports like the Reuters "Look at this silliness" piece. He'll lose all his credibility, for playing to the home crowd so much he forgot how he looks on the outside, allowing misinformation to be the basis of his platform.

This is bad, because he has some legitimate gripes about the president's headstrong ways in his first 100 days, but by lumping that together with the FTA, and the mad cow stuff, he runs the risk of having ALL his points disregarded, once people really realize how stupid and unscientific the mad-cow junk is. He comes across like the irrational one in a lover's argument, who starts hauling up junk from the past when he/she realizes s/he's losing the current argument: "What about when you forgot my birthday last year?"

The president has a lot to lose, too, but in the end, he still controls the national assembly, and he's still the president, so he stands to lose less than the minority leader.

Every time I write about this, I hope it's the last.

Saturday's protests were smaller and more sedate than last weekend. I'd be really happy if this fustercluck finally blows over.

Update: It does look like it's blowing over; sunday night the roads in front of Gyungbok palace were open for the first weekend night in a while. Finally.

Joshing Gnome: duly noted, sir. I, too, hope this is the last time I write about it.