Thursday, July 28, 2011

What DESERVES to lead the Korean Wave...

Kpop is fun and digestible.

but Korean film has always deserved to be the foundation on which the Korean Wave is built.

This sequence from Nowhere To Hide stands with any lovely bit of visual storytelling you can conjure.

The hallway fight scene in Oldboy is regularly namechecked on lists of great cinema fight scenes, I'm pretty sure I've seen it be the only non-American film to make the list.

It was even referenced for a viral video about anger over the 2008 US finance meltdown,

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Discussion of Women and Clothings

Inspired by

1. Slutwalk Korea
2. Women wearing bikinis in the Cheonggyecheon and shocking the world (or something)...

I've been invited to speak on TBS radio tomorrow on the morning show about it. And we'd love to have people calling in.

Now, the last time I tackled women's issues on TBS radio, back in February when I did "The Bigger Picture" on the evening show, I remember wishing more females called in... so this time, if you have something to say about the "short skirt" defense for sexual assault, or the burka philosophy (since we can't expect men to control themselves, pigs and animals that we are, we should just make women dress in burkas/wear longer skirts/hide away in women's subway cars/change their behavior so as not to bring sexual assault upon themselves [sarcasm]... I'd love to have you call in. Or send a tweet. Or at least tune in and listen. Contact information (and host Mike's handsome face) is here. -

It's a little early in the AM, but at about 8:05am, on Thursday, on 101.3, I'll be talking about the topic with Mike, and somebody named Eva John.

So... anybody in Korea anger Yahweh?


So did the president of Korea put shrines to Samsung products on the peaks of Korea's mountains or something? Because this latest rain smackdown looks like something straight out of the old testament. Dozens of people have died, and entire regions of Korea's richest area are literally flooded.

Fortunately, the place I've been teaching summer courses, and my home, are on high ground, and I can drive from one to the other without going through any of the floody low-ground.

Knock on wood.

More, including picture links, at the Marmot's Hole. ONE TWO

And Zenkimchi Joe's radio show was stopped midway when EBS got flooded and had to be evacuated. More here. Or here.

and youtube is FULL of these kinds of videos.


The guy who massacred so, so, so many people in Norway mentioned Korea and Japan as model countries that avoided multiculturalism.

Read more here.

This has spurred discussion of Xenophobic groups in Korea.

More at The Marmot's Hole here.

And The Artist Formerly Known as Korea Beat reports the difficulties foreign students have in Korean universities.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Monday, July 18, 2011

SlutWalk Seoul 2011

(possibly from here... anybody have an ORIGINAL original source?) (from here)

A police officer in Toronto said that women should protect themselves from rape by avoiding dressing like sluts. Toronto's feminist community called bullshit on victim-blaming, an all-too-prevalent attitude in assault safety discussions, and organized a response called "SlutWalk" -- a group of women dressed like "sluts" and walked through the streets of Toronto carrying signs, to raise awareness that those attitudes are really not cool, and possibly to reclaim the word "slut."

Since then, SlutWalk has spread to other cities, and it appeared in Seoul last Saturday, July 16, 2011.

I attended in solidarity, because I strongly believe that the idea needs to be introduced, championed, and spread, that it doesn't matter what a woman wears: nothing even remotely justifies sexual assault, and focusing on what a woman should do to avoid the attack implicitly acquits men (and other would-be attackers) of their responsibility to not be rapists, which is where every discourse about sexual assault should begin and end: with better education of what rape is, and what the consequences are, until the slogan "No means no" jumps to the lips of 20-year olds as quickly as other slogans, like "don't drink and drive."

The proceedings for Slutwalk Seoul started at 2pm. I joined up near Gwanghwamun at 4 - demonstrations aren't allowed in Gwanghwamun Square proper - during a welcome pause in the intermittent downpours in Seoul that day. There were speeches, some songs, a non-verbal performance, and then a march down to Deoksugung palace, in front of which there was a dance, and then a return to Gwanghwamun.

The SlutWalk crew moved on to Hongdae, where I was a little too wet and cold to catch up with them, though I met with a few of my feminist and/or supportive friends, including The Grand Narrative (from whom I found out about SlutWalk Korea) and Popular Gusts, for some burgers and drinks afterwards.

signs were carried, slogans were shouted.

At the event, there were almost as many cameras as demonstrators, and rain concerns may have caused the "costumes" or "slut" outfits to be less extreme than they might have been at other slutwalks; however, the crowd was enthusiastic, and people were generally OK with the different people who'd come - including males with cameras.

They ran out of the red ribbons which indicated a person didn't want to be photographed, so I can only publish pictures I took where no faces show... in that respect, the rain and face-obscuring umbrellas turned out to be a boon... and even if it hadn't rained, the point of going wasn't to take lots of pictures of women dressed like "sluts" anyway -- that'd kind of be missing part of the point of the event, that self- objectification for the male/appraising gaze is not the reason for the event, nor the reason women dress the way they do when they go out.

Here's a link that includes a video made by the Hankyoreh.

body-paint was used to interesting effect.

Why did I especially like this event? Two main reasons:

1. Because it was planned and promoted by Koreans for Koreans - the blog and the twitter account and the poster were all Korean only, and I think it's awesome that Korean women are speaking with their own voice.

2. Because when sexual assault comes up in Korea, even in my classes (I like bringing a lesson based on this article into my discussion classes), the discourses I've heard have overwhelmingly focused on the victim's side -- "she shouldn't wear short skirts" "she should not drink too much" "she should use the buddy system" -- what the woman did to bring her attack on -- and barely brought the attacker's side into it (things like stiffer punishments or public awareness campaigns). Overwhelmingly skewing the discourse toward the victim's responsibilities eventually results in an atmosphere of complicity and maybe even enabling, for would-be attackers, in which they figure they can get away with it, if she's drunk enough, or dressed sexy enough, because that's what they always hear when sex attacks are in the news anyway.

Blaming a rape on a short skirt is like blaming a pedestrian hit by a drunk driver for using the crosswalk. Especially in Korea, where short skirts are just about the norm.

I'm strongly of the opinion that for every time somebody says "she shouldn't dress that way" somebody should say "she has the right to dress how she likes and not be attacked for it" and "it's on the attacker's head" twice, and for every dollar spent promoting the former idea, two should be spent on the latter, and so forth. So that no sex attack ever happens again because somebody simply didn't understand, or hadn't had it impressed strongly enough upon them during that one class during high school, where the law draws the line.

It reads something kind of like this: "Sorry my body's not beautiful. Ha ha ha. -From an unsexy slut"

SlutWalk has, predictably, been controversial in many places where it's occurred, and I'd like to touch on a few of those controversies.

1. Maybe SlutWalk makes sense in Canada, where it was invented, but it's not culturally appropriate for Korea.

A journalist asked me if I thought this was an appropriate kind of demonstration for Korean culture, which (by asking it of a foreigner) turned into a kind of loaded question, given that the event was planned by Koreans: I think Korean women should be free to express themselves however they want. Cultural appropriacy doesn't come into it when a. people raised in this culture made the choice to express themselves this way, b. cultures change all the time, and c. some cultures systematically suppress women's rights, and ignore women's voices.

Deoksugung gate. Note the boys dressed as sluts.

2. Isn't this a pretty shocking and outrageous way of starting discussion about this issue?

Maybe it is... but sometimes controversy gets people talking in a way that doesn't happen when one minds their p's and q's, and sometimes something a little brash is needed to capture public attention. A hundred women walking past city hall in lingerie counts as such.

And especially in women's issues, where part of the problem is that women are programmed that being loud, and demanding their rights is unladylike, imprudent, or not "demure" the way a good filial daughter and dutiful wife should be, I'm all for women getting angry, and loud, until middle-aged, male middle-managers feel ashamed to say "well I think women's rights have come far enough in Korea because women have taken over every entry-level position in my district office, and I can't find a single man at the entry-level to promote into division manager," and until women feel empowered enough to confront them on actually believing Korea's come far enough when Korea's Gender Empowerment Measure was woefully low in the last year it was measured (61st of 109 in 2009 - shockingly low when compared to its very HIGH Human development index (26th in the world).)  (for the record, yes, Korea does better when you include women's access to quality healthcare and education here)

Sometimes a vanguard comes along with a pretty strident message, and acts as the shock troops for an important idea. After they've put the idea out there, it becomes OK to talk about it, where before people just changed the subject. Once it becomes OK to talk about it, very smart, less brazen voices (hopefully) appear to present the idea in a way that is palatable to those who feel accused and attacked by the stridency of the vanguard. Over time, idea enters the mainstream. I'm OK with that process taking place. I'm OK with there being a noisy vanguard for important ideas. I'm OK with some screeching about important ideas, especially because marginalized populations are marginalized because people don't listen to them: clearing their throat and raising their hand and saying please hasn't worked.

I liked this boy's sign.

3. But isn't it true that women who dress that way are dressing that way because they want men to look at them? Why would a woman dress like that if she wasn't looking for sex?

Hmm. Something I've learned: despite how I like to think the world is aligned, it's not always about men.

There are any number of reasons a woman might dress up nicely/sexy (and let's not forget that what's sexy to one person may be absolutely modest to another):

1. To pick up other women
2. To impress other women
3. To make their friends jealous
4. To make their boyfriends jealous
5. To display status
6. For their own damn selves
7. To feel more confident
8. To enjoy being admired by other women
9. To enjoy being admired (and only admired) by men
10. To balance feeling bad by looking good
11. To show off those bitchin' new heels she just bought, the sixteen pounds she finally lost, the hairstyle she's been waiting to try, or the great (name accessory) she got as a gift
12. To live out a Sex And The City, or similar, fantasy she has
13. Because of a bet she won or lost
14. Because going out and flirting with boys or girls helps her forget something that's bothering her
15. Because most women dress that way at the place where she's going
16. Because she was raised to believe looks were the only important thing
17. Because she was taught that sexual attractiveness is the best way for women to gain power over men
18. Because she grew up in a culture where people judge women who don't dress up and look good as "lazy" (I've had a man say that in class)
19. To attract the attention of men, because she wants to talk to men
20. Because she likes getting free drinks when she goes out (jeez. I'd dress in a tube top and high heeled boots if it meant I drank for free every Friday night. Wouldn't you?)
21. To turn on the boyfriend/boyfriend prospect who came out with her that night
22. To advertise she's looking to make whoopie with some guy she meets that night

That's twenty-two I thought of just now, and I'm not even a woman, and only one of them invites a proposition from a stranger who was ogling her across the room.

I wasn't catching every word, but the point of the event wasn't man-hating, as far as I could tell. I had an interesting conversation with a journalist about it, and the fact is, this is a really complex issue with a lot of variables...

1. There are any number of ways women can dress and behave, for any number of reasons (see above)
2. There are any number of ways that dress and behavior can be interpreted by the (usually male) observer (though too many automatically assume reason 22, and act accordingly)
3. There are any number of ways a male can act on their interpretation of a woman's dress and behavior
4. There are any number of ways that male's behavior can be interpreted by the woman he approaches

And clearly some things are out of line from the start, but there are others - certain types of compliments, certain types of eye (or not-eye) contact, and other kinds of movement and attention, that can be easily misinterpreted, on either side, at numerous points in the interaction... and it's unfortunate that the amount of alcohol flowing increases the chance signals will be misread.

But in the end, it'd be great if responsibility for those misreadings and misunderstandings were blamed equally on the dudes thinking with their one-eyed trouser-snakes (that's penises, y'all), as on the ladies who supposedly "brought it on themselves." And until responsibility for those misreadings and misunderstandings is shared by both sides, and moreover, until it is recognized that men are capable of better than acting on every sexual urge that comes along, and thus share more responsibility, women have a reason to hold slutwalks, and whatever other demonstrations bring these issues back to the forefront, where people have to be confronted by them**, and think about them, and hear ideas they don't necessarily agree with, that might force them to change some of their ideas.

And that's the point of SlutWalk, to me.

**I'm lucky, as a man, because for me, these issues are things that I can touch on from time to time, read about at my leisure, and comment on when it suits me. It's not something that confronts me every time I dress up to go out, or get leered at in a bar; it's not something that casts a bit of suspicion and even fear on every night out, or every up-and-down I get from a stranger. I'm lucky to be able to approach the topic so academically, because I've never in my life felt like I'm three, or two, or even one decision from being raped. And the fact I haven't, and many males in these conversations haven't, means (I think) that some of us wildly misjudge what's at stake for others taking part in the conversation, because they, or someone they love, was. Because I'm not confronted by these issues every Friday night, I'm still learning about them. Somewhere stewing in me is a post, or maybe a series, about why these discussions get so fraught, and dramatic, and (frankly) ugly, when people go beyond preaching to the choir... but for now, suffice it to say I know I'm in a lucky spot, to be approaching the topic so casually. That bears on everything I write about it.

Comment moderation is on. I don't like deleting comments, but I also don't like trolls, flames, misogyny, misanthropy (that'd be man-hating) and general disrespectfulness of either the host (me), women, men, or other commenters.

And by the way: If you're about to go into the comments and say that "Yes, well, it's still true that women should be careful etc. etc."
To save you some time, I know. I never said otherwise. Everybody in the presence of strangers should use their smarts. Public awareness campaigns can help people who don't understand their choices, or who wrongly think their justifications are enough, but they won't stop pure predators. I know that, and I'm not saying parents and teachers should stop teaching would-be victims to get reckless... I AM saying that message should be a distant second to "Don't sexually assault people" in emphasis, but right now I don't think it is.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Epic Battle: Sleep vs. Play

From time to time Wifeoseyo shows me a video I can't resist posting.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Random bit: Do You Know Shakira

So in my class, we read about Shakira, who (according to what I learned in the article) richly deserves to be a world star. (and frankly, who deserves to replace Britney Spears as the shorthand name-check to reference a top sexy female popstar - from now on, she's Korea's Shakira, not Korea's Britney Spears.) Among other things, she sang the theme song for the 2010 World Cup, the video of which probably set a record for star power that won't be topped until world cup 2014 (sorry, We Are The World. you're number 2 now). It's a pretty good video all around, too...

However... I couldn't help but laugh in my sleeve, because Shakira, doing a few African dances, made me think of "Aldous Snow" (the fictional rockstar character played by Russell Brand), and the video which ruined his fictional career somewhere between his show-stealing performance in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and the movie "Get Him To The Greek," in which he was the central character.

Well-meant, but completely racist and wrong-minded... how NOT to approach the Other, the best satire of dumb rockstars getting it wrong since "Christmas Is All Around," and maybe longer.

If I have time, I'll write up my thoughts on Sohn Hak Kyu's idea of including North Korea in hosting the Olympics this weekend. But as a good starting point, I agree almost completely with this great write-up from One Free Korea. Any group or organization that sidesteps or ignores North Korea's human rights situation has thrown any and all of its moral authority right out the window.


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Pyongchang Olympics Predictions and Perspective in Question and Answer Format

Well, it's very convenient that Pyongchang was awarded the 2018 Olympics just now, as I just finished reading over 600 pages worth of books and articles on the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup, so I have lots to say...

In Question and Answer Format, then:

1. People in Korea are, like, REALLY excited about this. Why?

Almost every Korean you talk to wants Korea to be recognized as a world-class nation. Whatever that means*. Every Korean you ever meet wants foreigners to think well of Korea, and in order for MORE foreigners to think well of Korea, Korea needs to attract their attention. Big events like the Olympics are a great opportunity to do this. Koreans like to see Korean-related things high on lists comparing  countries, and get distressed when Korea's position on such comparative lists are low. Here's a list Korea now belongs to:

Countries that will (by 2018) have hosted a Summer Olympics, a Winter Olympics, and a FIFA World Cup:
France, Germany, Italy, USA, Russia, Japan... and South Korea. That's more exclusive than the G20!

Not only is Korea now on a very very exclusive list (absent: famously "highly advanced" nations like Sweden, Canada, Australia, Netherlands, and even the United friggin' Kingdom!), but Korea gets to show that anything Japan can do, they can do, too. Which is important to some people here.

*Usually, what "world-class nation" means is a nation that resembles nations universally recognized as "highly advanced" - usually in terms of technology, economic and military power, and cultural influence. These nations tend to be "Western" nations like the USA and European nations. And Japan.

2. That's a lot of talk about prestige and status, Roboseyo. But The Olympics are about peace and harmony through sport, aren't they?

Actually... whether the Olympics are successful at bringing peace and harmony and cultural understanding to the world is debatable -- during the 60s and 70s, the Olympics were extremely politicized, with major boycotts to the 1976, 1980 and 1984 games, a political hostage situation at the 1972 games (Munich), and a massacre of protestors just days before the opening of the 1968 games (Mexico City). There are also constant rumors of corruption in the International Olympic Committee, and the IOC is known for turning a blind eye on some horrific stuff: the Seoul Games were awarded to Korea only a year after the horrific Gwangju Massacres in 1980, and the IOC very nearly gave the 2000 Summer Games to Beijing, only four years after the Tiananmen Square massacre: a bid which China submitted after being actively encouraged to bid by IOC leaders.

Meanwhile, though Olympics bring lots of nations together, it's debatable whether one sees an increase in international understanding during the Olympics, or whether one simply sees nations gathering to root for their own tribe. Pride gets involved. Winning at all costs becomes more important than fair play and excellence.* The Olympics and similar events warm over old national rivalries, and when things don't go the way one or another nation wants, especially when one of those old rivalries is in play, it can lead to an international incident (see also: Ohno, Apolo).

(For the record, FIFA has generally, but not always, been less political, but especially recently, even more corrupt and unaccountable.)

The one thing the Olympics are SURE to bring is not peace and harmony, but a jump in international visibility, which acts as a blank canvas on which the host (and anyone else with some media savvy) can paint their messages. Beijing 2008 used the Olympics to make some bold declarations about China's rise. The 1988 Seoul Games, the 1968 Mexico City games, and the 1964 Tokyo games did likewise. After World War II, the Olympics were held in a series of former Axis nations, to show their return to normalized relations with the world (Rome 1960, Tokyo 1964, Munich 1972). The Olympics are also a great opportunity to do a little national swaggering, as in the 1936 Berlin "Nazi" Olympics, the cold war Olympics (Moscow 1980 and LA 1984 - which featured Sam the Eagle, the most nationalist mascot ever), and some might argue, the 1948 "Who just won a world war?" London Olympics.

(Sam the eagle: 1984 LA's mascot. A bit flag-wavey, no?)

*Lest I be accused of finger pointing, Canada is also guilty of focusing on winning. Canada's "Own the podium" project missed the point of the Olympics, if it really IS about understanding, harmony, excellence and fair play.

3. But fair play and excellence comes into it, right?

Somewhere in there... but with few exceptions, the medal counts have become more a reflection of who puts money into their Olympic program than anything else. And why do governments and corporations think it's worth it to support Olympic programs? Swagger, not sport. Look at the change in China's medal counts that have happened since the 1980s, leading up to China's 2008 gold frenzy - directly connected to national "glory" and prestige. If medals weren't a way of building national prestige, why would countries strategically focus funding on less popular, high medal-count events (swimming, diving, rowing, and skating events) in order to pad their totals?

4. But the 1988 Olympics were really good for Seoul, and Korea in general. Why wouldn't these Olympics be equally good for Korea?

A few reasons.

First, in 1981, all anybody knew about Korea was the War, and MASH, and Western news coverage on Korea at that time focused on North Korea, civil unrest in South Korea, and visits to Korea by heads of state. That's about it. There was nowhere for Korea's national image to go but up, and by putting on a helluva good show, Korea's national image DID go up.

Were the Seoul Games the "foundation for an Advanced Nation" advertised in the 1988 Olympic Museum (Olympic Park)?

place of prosperity - final conclusion

Hard to say. A lot of other things were going on at the time. The games were a convergence point for forces that had been gathering speed in Korea for a long time, towards democratization and internationalization and a new stage of economic development, but those forces existed before the Olympics, and would have had their effect on the national trajectory without them, though in different ways and with different timing. The Olympics definitely gave Koreans a better story to tell themselves about Korea's rise in status, acting as a tidy turning point in the national narrative being constructed.

The 2002 World Cup also provided a nice turning point in the narrative of Korea's recovery from the 1997 financial crisis... but that was a constructed narrative, too. Not necessarily an objective truth. Often, that's what big sports events are best for - national storytelling.

5. So why wouldn't the same happen to Korea this time?


Now, Korea already is a prominent nation. You don't see Mongolian TV dramas sweeping their time-slots in Taiwan, you don't see Laotian pop bands hitting top ten charts all across Asia, and you don't see Burkina-Faso's top popstars getting headlining roles in crappy Hollywood movies, do you? Park Jisung even has his own chant from Manchester United fans, which, while as crass as any other soccer chant, is at least aware enough of Korean culture to choose the correct ugly stereotype.

Korea has much less to gain this time, and much more to lose if the games go poorly, or if something embarrassing happens, like the 2008 Beijing Torch Relay fustercluck, or closer to home, the Byun Jong il boxing brouhaha, during which a Korean security guard hit a boxing official. (More on that) ... do you know how close they came to canceling the rest of the Olympic boxing tournament in 1988?

6. So what do you think is going to happen during the 2018 Pyeongchang games?

I think they will be a successful games, but not enough to be considered among the best ever.

Predictions will wildly overestimate the number of tourists and dollars the Olympics will attract. But that's true of literally EVERY Olympics.

I think Koreans have overestimated the Winter Olympics - they're nowhere near the importance, length or scale of the Summer Games. They have much fewer events, and they only appeal to nations with winter sports.

It will raise Korea's profile, but not as much as expected, and not only in the ways hoped for: that visibility gives EVERYBODY a platform, not just the official party line, and protesters and dissenting voices WILL be a part of these Olympics.

If this article is on base, the region has its work cut out for it, to develop a venue area that will impress people from winter sport regions, rather than just Koreans who can't afford to travel to Whistler.

I think there will be a lot of talk, but the Olympics will not help improve North/South Korea relations. Nobody will win the Nobel Peace Prize because of these games.

I think North Korea will do some big stunt a few months before the games, to get attention and try to piss on the Olympic party, but be relatively quiet during the games. I don't know whether they'll send a team (they didn't in '88)... too many variables in play, particularly in terms of succession.

I think negotiations to send a unified Korean team to the Olympics won't work out, and both sides will blame the other. As usual. This one might hinge on whether the president at the time is lefty or righty (politically).

I think the facilities will be completed ahead of time, but over budget. Either that, or early and under budget, with problems in workmanship cropping up close to the opening day. This would be very embarrassing to the nation, especially if it was discovered that construction funds were funneled elsewhere. However, due to TV revenues, etc.,  the games will pretty much break even.

Then, I think Pyeongchang will not know what to do with the extra facilities, and mad surplus of hotel accommodations no longer needed after the games, and maybe tear down things like the bobsled track, once all the Olympic jobs evaporate and public funds have to go into maintaining mostly unused facilities. Best case scenario? Pyeongchang becomes an Olympic training complex for future Olympians.  Pyeongchang's nearby ski resorts will become WAY overpriced and overcrowded.

I think it will be run better than that F1 Racing event (racing events remain a mess), because the President will see to it that extremely capable people will be involved in the olympic project.

7. What are some pitfalls that you think should get some media play during games preparations, so that Korea doesn't end up in a media standoff like they did with NBC during the 1988 Olympics?

Here's the thing:
I'm sure the planning and execution of the games will go well. And I'm sure the "official version" of Korean culture will be well represented during the opening ceremonies and such.


There will be some bad calls during the games. Some of those bad calls will go against Korean athletes.

Some journalist will do a piece on the nearest dog meat market to Pyeongchang.

Another will report on the gender empowerment gap, and the prostitution industry here. And maybe even the intellectual crime (pirated DVDs and such) or the continuing corruption of the high-and-mighty elites. Or the mistreatment of migrant workers. If people try to suppress these stories, there will be instead a series of stories about how Korea is not ready to take criticism the way a truly developed nation should (as happened to China when they lashed out at BBC). Western media likes to position non-western nations as "Other" and somewhat "inferior."

People will talk about North Korea more than South Koreans would like.

A few Koreans will act like hypernationalist asses, and it will get a little play in the international news, like the "USA" chanters at the Atlanta summer games.

If North Korea sends a team, they'll send a squad of beautiful cheerleaders who attract a lot of media attention.

Some athletes or guests will act like asses, and get into some kind of scuffle with locals or local police.

Some protestors will jump in front of cameras and talk about the Korean issue of the day: the 2018 equivalent of the 4 rivers project, or the US Agent Orange dumping.

Some Koreans will dislike the style of foreign nations' reporting on Korea, and try to stir up a nationalist outrage like the one that led NBC to advise its reporters to hide the peacock logo during the 1988 games.

Somebody's going to write a cheeky article about Korean culture that seems mocking to a reader without enough English skill to pick out nuances of tone, or write some stuff that's overwhelmingly positive, but has a few critical lines in it. (see also: Hohleiter, Vera)

How the Korean internet, and media, respond to these things, will demonstrate Korea's true level of advancement as a nation either confident in its status as a major player, or still insecure about whether EVERY person likes EVERYTHING about Korea - an impossible goal for a high profile country. Will the media and public response be different than it was in 1988 (exactly 30 years earlier)? That'll be a test of whether Korea's truly comfortable in its own skin as a player on the world stage.

8. So how can Korea prepare for those kinds of unexpected things?

With a preemptive series of media discussions about why it's unsporting, and makes Korea look bad, to crash the websites of countries, athletes, or sport governing bodies, that are party to decisions that go against Korean athletes or say bad things about Korea, or to threaten the lives of, well, anyone, over something as inconsequential as sports, and a series of media discussions about the fact people coming to Korea will be behaving by different norms than Koreans behave, which doesn't mean they're bad, inferior, immoral, or trying to insult their hosts: it just means they're not from around here.

9. Do you think that'll happen?

I don't know. But it'd be refreshing if it did.  We saw during the 2008 Beijing Games, as well as the 1988 Seoul Games, that host nations do not have complete control over the messages conveyed about their countries during such global events. Responding by taking it on the chin, with a "Yeah, maybe that's true. Everybody hosting the Olympics this year raise your hands!" instead of with prickly defensiveness, would demonstrate a kind of confidence Korea hasn't always demnostrated, and didn't in 1988. The point of big event hosting is swagger... so swagger! Korea would do well to bear this in mind while preparing for the games, and to aim for a populace ready for this inevitability, come games time.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

One Week Vacation

Got back from my anniversary trip to Canada.

It was great... I don't particularly like telling the entire internet when I'm going to be away from home for a week, but now that my locked doors are once again attended, I'll tell you I had a great time.

And something about the Olympics? Did any of you pick up on that?

I'll have something to say about that, too.