Friday, February 10, 2012

Links: Old Korean Music, Tact, and More

Here are some of the links I discussed on my radio show, "Blog Buzz" on Thursday mornings at 8:35am:

1. James Turnbull at The Grand Narrative, is talking about all the body-part-lines used to sell things in Korea, and how S-line is now being used not just to sell health products, but non-human things like phones.

Do you know what your X-line, M-line, D-line, V-line (or second V-line) are?

2. After covering Girls' Generation's Letterman appearance last week, this week it was nice to assure readers/listeners that Kpop was not the only kind of Korean music getting blog coverage: The Atlantic and Wall Street Journal recently wrote about K-pop, but The Economist has a piece about a true Korean virtuoso (how's that, Mike Hurt?), writing about Korean guitar legend Shin Joong-hyun. Even better, the piece included a video clip of Shin playing "미인," his most famous song, from a 2006 concert, and even in 2006, well past his youth, the man absolutely rocks the hell out of the song.

The video's a bit out of sync, so scroll down, and just listen instead of letting it annoy you as you watch.

Along with that, Yujin Is Huge wrote a post titled "K-pop before it was K-pop" with some songs his dad used to play him from his record collection, and I'm happy to tell you about a newer blog I've come across (I think via Popular Gusts)

G'old Korea Vinyl is taking out of print Korean music from the 70s and 80s and putting it in Mp3 or Youtube video form so that the world outside of those few amazing vinyl classic Korean music bars, can still enjoy the old sounds that formed the foundation on which the K-pop altar (alter?) was built. I've added them to my sidebar and I love how every new post has something to listen to. Their latest is another Shin Joong hyun post, just by coincidence.

3. Ms. Lee To Be has a fantastic post that demonstrates why knowing the culture, and working within what you know of Korean culture, dramatically increases your chance of getting what you want, instead of just having a frustrating confrontations.

Mr. and Ms. Lee's baby dragon is in the hospital, and a hospital with an absolutely draconian policy for baby contact: you're allowed to look at your baby for 30 minutes a day. And that's it. No cuddling, no touching, until you check out.

When informed that modern medical pediatric science is generally concluding that skin contact, and touch, in really important for babies, and really good for their health, the doctor they spoke to threw up a storm wall that amounted to "nuh-uh, it isn't!"... as could be expected, given Korea's culture of saving face, and the fact they'd just told a doctor that her methodology was out to lunch.

But rather than trying to get through that wall by butting their heads harder, Mr. and Ms. Lee circumvented all that pain and uselessness by providing a side door that let the Doctor feel smart, and let them cuddle their baby, by appealing to the doctor's expertise and asking if someone at the hospital could help "teach" them about proper bottle feeding and nursing, during their baby visiting period.

Just like that, they went from butting heads, to getting a chance to cuddle their baby during visiting time, with a lot less conflict and frustration, than if they'd just tried again, louder, with their original tactic.

An impressive negotiation of "face" and hierarchy, and extremely well played, says I, and a lesson for us all, to try being a little more strategic instead of obnoxious, loud, or accusing, when trying to get what we want and need.

So remember, folks: if you're tempted to write a ten page letter to your boss about how wrong they are about everything... don't, unless your bags are already packed, and you already have your ticket home. And even then, don't, because you're going to make your school's work situation 40% harder for the next foreign worker they hire, who'll come into a situation where everyone they need to work with has a sour taste in their mouth about foreign workers. Even if you're really sure you're right about everything you say.

Go read Ms. Lee To Be's account.

4. American in North Korea has a great series of photos from their tour of the captured US Ship Pueblo.


Bluebird said...

Regarding Ms Lee to Be post you linked... you personally said yourself that understanding the culture aids in communication, but it sounds like you don't understand the Korean culture of hospitals. Doctors don't do that just to "save face," but it's because doctors have education and the hierarchy, and also in other cultures such as Latin American culture, people don't really say anything back to the doctor or complain as a way of respect.
that's why Mr. Lee was wise and was thinking in a culturally appropriate way to find other means to have Dragon get more time with his parents.
I feel like many foreigners use "saving face" often as they can to generalize many things they see in Koreans in higher positions....

Roboseyo said...


The idea of "face" is intrinsic to hierarchy, where someone in a lower position isn't allowed to tell someone in a higher position they're wrong, even if they ARE wrong, because that breaks the hierarchy, and embarrasses the person in the higher position: the very definition of "maintaining face".

Especially in a case like this, where medical consensus is growing that skin contact, and touch, are crucial for a baby's health, and the doctor clearly IS incorrect, both about how Canadian hospitals are run, and about the benefits of skinship (to use Japenglish on a Korea blog), Face and Hierarchy combine to create a difficult obstacle for a mom who wants to hold her baby.

I don't mind if you come on here and try to correct me on things... if I'm incorrect... you're welcome to do so, because I learn a lot from my readers and commenters that way...

but if you're the same "unknown" who's commented here before to tell me I'm incorrect about something, (perhaps on specious grounds) a few other times before, I'm asking you right now to change your ID name to something other than "unknown," which is a step sideways from "Anonymous"

I'm much more receptive, and much less likely to delete, comments from people who actually identify themselves in some way or another.

Bluebird said...

Okay.... I don't really know how to fix that since I write this through my google account and I don't see any options for writing in my name or something like that. I will figure it out. Sorry if it bothered you

Bluebird said...

Okay. Finally got that sorted out. At first I thought I had to edit my actual google account settings or something.

Anonymous said...


If google accounts/logging in is inconvenient/a pain in the ass for you (blogger does that sometimes), you are welcome to identify yourself the way I do in this comment, just so I know who I'm talking to, and so that you're differentiated from the Anonymouses/Unknowns who clutter the internet with unhelpful comments. I have a few other loyal commenters who simply sign their comments at the bottom, too.