Stories from Quick Reads and South Korea
Korean Air Lines vice president has made numerous headlines, both locally and internationally, for her arrogant behavior on a recent flight out. She randomly accused a crew member of serving macadamia nuts ‘incorrectly’ and even she ordered a plane back to the gate to remove the crew member out of the plane. No wonder this sensational story has become one of the trending topics in social media. Among numerous internet jokes, parody photos and even a cartoon by Japanese users, one stood out most would be a game mocking the Airplane nuts fiasco. A Korean web developer, Tai-hwan Hah (@duecorda) made a simple game entitlted ‘Crew Members’ Tycoon’ [ko]. However you play, you get the same result of the crew member being yelled at and hearing the sentence ‘You! Get out of the plane!’ — the very word the vice president allegedly said to the crew.
In South Korean capital Seoul, two subway trains collided last week, injuring over 200 passengers, mostly minor injuries. The accident occurred in the wake of the Sewol ferry disaster, and the timing of the event and passengers’ immediate responses to the crash have further fueled discussion. Noticeably, most of subway passengers choose to ignore an announcement to stay still and actively got themselves out of the subway car — the exact opposite of how Sewol disaster's victims reacted. Korea Bang's Simon Kim gathered and translated South Korean net users’ reaction to the news.
South Korean tech giant Samsung has launched a lawsuit against a local IT newspaper for publishing an unfavorable report. Marmot's Hole blog wrote about how things developed and the repercussion of Samsung's response to negative press coverage. Some of the highlights read;
I’d caution Samsung that in terms of PR, lawsuits of this sort often cause more harm than good[…] To make matters worse, a story at AppleInsider compares the Korean electronics giant rather unfavorably to the Cupertino Fruit Company, which—assuming the report is true—almost never sues newspapers/blogs despite the countless groundless rumors that accompany the release of just about every iPhone model.
Words adopted from another language, or ‘borrowed words’ permeate the Korean language. R. Elgin wrote an informative post about how borrowed English words are being used in Korea compared to loanwords in other countries; many English words are, instead of being completely or partially naturalized, phonetically rendered into Korean, often in forms of Konglish.
Disney's Oscar-winning animated film ‘Frozen’ is immensely popular in South Korea; it has become the second most-watched foreign film as of last weekend by crossing 10 million admissions. Korean fans have posted lots of parody images, as well as Korean artists who have chimed in by singing the movie's catchy hit song ‘Let it go’. This particular fan-made tribute video is rapidly gaining views on Youtube. The video was reportedly made by a 6th grader [ko] who took photos of her own drawings and added those 600 images together to make this video clip.
Timed with the start of President Park Geun-hye's second year in office, about 40 thousand South Koreans (police estimate 15 thousand) held protests across the country. The demonstration, spearheaded by Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, calls halt to a clampdown on labor groups, the government's move towards privatization of public sector and cover-up of the presidential election manipulation scandal. Prominent citizen journalist Media Mongu tweeted a photo of the protest (embedded below). More photos can be found in the union's Facebook page [ko].
국민파업. 서울광장 안입니다. 꽉 찼습니다. pic.twitter.com/ZwdJ9AFlYh
— 미디어몽구 (@mediamongu) February 25, 2014
General strike, at the Seoul City Hall Plaza. It is fully packed.
‘Koreans living in Japan‘ is a vague word glueing very different groups together under the same umbrella term. Based on their affiliation to North/South Korea and the timing of diaspora (whether it happened before/after the Japanese imperial rule during the World War 2 ear), each sub-group goes by a different name, sharing little similarities. Stark division between them is once again solidified by education system; North Koreans in Japan attend a special ethnic school that resembles ones that are in North Korea. Markus Bell, after visiting one North Korean school in Japan, wrote an extensive report on multiple threats those schools face, with some background information about the concerned ethnic group, as the financial help from their home country has been significantly reduced and also funding from the Japanese government was recently cut off.
Geoffrey Fattig of Jeollamite blog shares his brutally honest opinion on reverse and latent racism in South Korea, urging fellow native English teachers who under-appreciate a fairly good working condition to stop whining. Some of the highlights of his post are:
On the whole, though, Korea is a pretty easy place to teach English, and playing that foreign card has brought far more advantages than not over the seven years I’ve been in the country. I would add though, that being a tall white guy probably has a lot to do with it.
A massive Disney hit movie, Frozen is rapidly gaining traction also in South Korea. However, more young Koreans are turning sour on typical Korean-style movie poster, which has long been criticized for being either too confusing or overly interrupted [ko] by extra-bold text dropping names or media/net users’ reviews ridden with cliche [ko]. One net user from the TodayHumor site compared different versions [ko] of Frozen poster (allegedly tailored for audiences in US, France, Japan, China and Korea) and Koreans exchanged heated discussions on what has made Korean movie distributors select such cluttered posters as one can see below. (In comparison, on the left is the poster released in France which has been lauded by many net users for its artistic simplicity)
Kwon Eun-hee, a policewoman and ex-chief investigator at Seoul Suseo Police station, revealed last summer that her team had received pressures and ‘unreasonable orders’ from superiors to reduce the scope of an investigation into the spy agency election manipulation scandal. Although net users lauded Kwon, her bold act seems to have taken its toll; local media reports [ko] that Kwon has failed to get a promotion which was considered ‘a sure thing for someone with Kwon’s resume and qualifications’, adding that if that happens one more time, by law she would be forced to leave her position in four years. Many suspect it is a politically-motivated decision, including prominent citizen journalist Media Mongu who commented it is ‘a scary revenge’ [ko] and embedded a highlight video of Kwon's revelations.
On June 22 at the World Cup 2014 in Brazil, Algeria defeated South Korea 4-2 to keep its chance of qualifying to the knock-out round alive. Scenes of joy were numerous in Algeria [fr] but also in France where a dynamic Algerian community resides.
The joy was tempered by rumors that a church in Lyon, France was burned down during the celebration. The rumors turned out to be a complete lie spread by extreme right groups based on erroneous photos. Adrien Sénécat explains the details of his fact-checking on the story [fr] :
Peu après le coup de sifflet final dimanche, des tweets ont indiqué qu'une église aurait brûlé dans le quartier de la Duchère, à Lyon. Message notamment relayé par le Bloc Identitaire et des sites proches de l'extrême-droite. Sauf que l'église en question n'a pas brûlé, comme l'ont signalé plusieurs internautes sur les réseaux sociaux. Une église a en revanche bien été incendiée à la Duchère… mais en 2006 (et sans aucun rapport avec un match de l'Algérie).
Shortly after the final whistle on Sunday, some tweets suggested that a church had burned down in the area of Duchère in Lyon, France. These tweets were relayed by Bloc Identitaire and other similar extreme-right group websites. The thing is, the church was still intact, as reported by several twitter users.A Church in Duchère was lit on fire … but in 2006 (and it had no relation whatsoever with an Algerian football).
Various artists have joined in paying tribute to the victims of the Sewol ferry disaster which cost over 260 lives, most of them high school students. This stunning sand animation video commemorating the victims and their families uses nothing but sand on a flat surface and artist's fingers to arrange the sand to create depth, shadow and density. The sand art, which brought some audiences to tears, was created by artist Shin Mi-ri and directed by Nam Ji-sun.
In recent months, particularly murky allegations over the royal gate restoration have unfolded in South Korea. The project's ‘chief carpenter’ is accused not only of using substandard wood, but stealing donated wood. Moreover, several government officials involved in the project were also indicted on charges of bribery [ko], and a civilian investigator who revealed details about the flawed operation committed suicide.
John Rodgers of Marmot's Hole blog wrote about how things have developed, sparking a rather interesting discussion on the country's issues of corruption in the comments section.
Although South Korea seems to be plugging unification with North Korea, experts are a little hesitant about projecting North Korea's imminent collapse. NKnews.org published a nice post on the chance of the dictatorial regime's disintegration, concluding that ‘Pyongyang's belated economic reforms make ‘middle-run’ scenarios more likely’.
Any international readers interested in North Korea would probably come across at least once this famous photo of Korean peninsula from NASA demonstrating a stark difference in the light emission of two Koreas at nighttime. NASA finally updated a new satellite image and it is ‘even more dramatic than the monochrome NASA satellite image of old’, writes North Korea Tech blog. The blog also introduces a video version of the image which shows North Korea in context with the rest of East Asia.
There have been mounting criticisms on both local and international media's coverage of rampant plastic surgeries in South Korea; many reports are highly sensational, describing how reckless and ignorant plastic surgery patients are (focused on females ones rather than male) and have successfully generated numerous crass jokes and harsh comments not only about patients, but also about the country as a whole. Wangkon936's post in Marmot's Hole blog leads readers to drop the narrow ‘good’ and ‘bad’ value position and approach the issue from a purely business perspective. Some of the highlights are:
When it comes to South Korea, much of the press is negative and borders on reporting mostly on the strange and/or weird such as the so-called “tower of jaw bones”[…] However, is it all bad? If we are to take perhaps subjective values out of the equation and just look at economic impact, then is this all “bad,” per se? From an economic and business perspective, Korea’s highly demanding aesthetics culture is creating an expertise, technology and infrastructure base […]
In an article that lists Global Voices as one of several “non-legitimate”, “foreign media websites” who “spread rumors about South Korea” abroad, South Korean pro-government newspaper Chosun falsely describes our Korean editor Yoo Eun Lee as, “a dark-haired Korean-American blogger, who goes by a last name starting with L”.
Lee's identity is not in the least secret – she's a Korean media professional currently living in the United States (and actually she currently has light brown hair). We stand by her coverage of an election manipulation scandal in South Korea, clampdowns on labor groups, and an increasingly hostile environment for Korean journalists.
Chosun further tries to demonstrate our untrustworthiness by saying that Global Voices misrepresents itself as having an affiliation to Harvard Law School, but that their “own investigation” shows we are “just a blog site”.
Apparently there is an outdated description of Global Voices on a major Korean website (with no connection to us) that describes us as a Harvard Law School project. The truth is that Global Voices was founded in 2005 at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, which is indeed housed at Harvard Law School. But today, Global Voices is an independent non-profit organization incorporated in The Netherlands.
A special exhibition on ‘comfort women‘- Korean girls forced to work as sex slaves for Japanese army during the World War 2 era- was featured at one of the leading cartoon festivals in France. It made several headlines as the Japanese government tried to block it, but failed. Korean net users have shared an English translation of Park Gun-woong's cartoon ‘Tattoo- A Story of a Comfort Woman’. (The cartoon- which is based on a true story- depicts violent assault, torture and rape. Viewer discretion is strongly advised)
Personal information of about 20 million people, which amounts to two fifth of the entire South Korean population, has been compromised in the country's worst identity theft. Customers of the affected three major credit card firms gasped at the sheer extensiveness of the breach; it is not just the user's real name, home/work address, cellphone/home/work phone number, social security number, but in many cases, even user's credit limit, credit history, credit card expiration date, and credit records have been stolen. Korean online venues flooded with angry users’ comments and one net user even set up a fake website entitled ‘Trade My Info; the No. 1 Online Personal Info Trading Venue’ [ko]. Its intro sarcastically proclaims that instead of letting the identity thief sell your personal info, users should rather trade their info by themselves and make a a modicum of money out of it. Most of the site's links lead to related news articles on the breach. An extensive post on Korean reactions to the country's worst ID breach will soon be posted on Global Voices.
A ruling party lawmaker, Kim Jin-tae proposed a bill [ko] that either denies or greatly limits the right to counsel for criminals who are accused of committing ‘anti-state activities’. It has already drawn harsh criticism from civil rights lawyers who call it ‘utterly unconstitutional idea’ [ko] and sparked heated debates in major South Korean online venues. Vice chairman of the Lawyers for a Democratic Society's Judicial Committee, Lee Jae-hwa (@jhohmylaw) tweeted [ko] as below.
김진태 의원, “反국가 헌정질서 파괴범, 변호인 접견권제한 발의” http://t.co/Nz2MLIsNfA 김진대, 단단히 미쳤구나. 이 다음엔 고문을 허용하자는 법안 발의하겠구나.
— 이재화(변호사) (@jhohmylaw) January 3, 2014
[After linking to news article [ko] about the bill] Kim Jin-tae is totally delusional. What would be his next step? He may even propose a bill legalizing torture.