K-pop, society, and everything in between.

CALLING ALL K-POP FANS!
Petition for Infinite and Woollim Entertainment to cancel concert screenings and plans for release of "Inconvenient Truth": an awareness campaign for misogyny and rape culture
➔ BREAKDOWN OF "INCONVENIENT TRUTH"
➔ OPEN LETTER TO INFINITE & WOOLLIM
➔ BE A SIGNATORY & SPREAD THE WORD!
➔ UNSURE? VIEWS AGAINST THE PETITION

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사생 (sasaeng) fans series
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Celebrity sightings, fan meets and the epistemology of K-pop idols: What do we know and how do we know?
K-pop fan-fiction: Thoughts by readers and writers

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEWS
STAZ OF MAN
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IN THE MEDIA
"You can thank Google for your new obsession" (CNN Geek Out)
"When fans go too far" (CNN Geek Out)

SELECTED POSTS
K-pop fanart & fanfiction
Block B and media misrepresentation
Being branded as a 'K-pop fan'
Regulation & the KMRB's new policy
Fan behavior and decorum
"Plus size" in Korea
SNL Korea does blackface
Politics and Korean hiphop
Don't want to get AIDS? Masturbate!
"Skinny Baby" NOT hot
"Unwed mothers are ignorant whores"?
Shipping, fanfictions, and smut
"Getting an Abortion in South Korea"
South Korea's education system
Tablo, TaJinYo, and the implications of celebrity obsession
Jay Park, JYJ, and other issues that make you think twice about being a K-pop consumer
Block B and cultural silencing
Beauty standards and how idols propagate them
The multiple ventures of an idol
Korean indie vs. K-pop
Block B's comeback in a post-controversy framework
Idols tweeting about private matters
▪ The mentality of idol hopefuls [1] [2]
▪ Jay Park and being 'gangsta' in K-pop [1] [2] [3]
▪ Pursuing idoldom: AKF's advice [1] [2]
Shipping idols of the same sex
The role of visuals in K-pop
Can non-Asians make it in K-pop?
BEAST's 'racist' New York casting call?
Cultural insensitivity plagues K-pop
▪ English in K-pop songs [1] [2]
How 'Asian' are the MAMAs?
Thoughts on fan service
Plastic surgery: achieving 'natural' via unnatural means?
"National prestige" and the Hallyu Wave
Government takes action for sexual exploitation in K-pop?
Cracking down hagwons & education reform
The irony of the 'ethnic diversity' gimmick
BEAST & 4-Minute tells us not to watch porn?
The "Paradox of Korean Globalization" and K-pop
Japanese actor Sousuke Takaoka's "xenophobia" towards Hallyu?
Songs by BEAST, Jay Park, etc. banned
The "plight" of KoreAm idols?
Dalmatian's Daniel imitating accents: funny or "racist"?
What exactly makes K-pop "K-pop"?
Why "K-pop Secrets" sorta piss me off

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DISCLAIMER
The name and the concept was inspired by Angry Asian Man and The Angry Black Woman. In my posts, I cite my sources accordingly. All images I include are not mine. None of the gifs are mine. Nope, not even that green fan. Credits go to their original owners. Someone please make me a less artistically-deficient banner.

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Angry K-pop Fan's literary work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

(Venting since March 2011)
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radio-palava:

Two exciting announcements!

1) You can now catch me both here on RP and over at Beyond Hallyu!

2) This is the first official collaboration between me and MJ! MJ crunched numbers, dug up stats, and brought much-needed business sense to this article. She was also a fabulous thought partner and talked me through the details with patience and fastidiousness. Many thanks and props to her!

Also, follow-up to the marriage back in September between Kim Seung-hwan and Kim Jo Kwang-su: Marriage application unlikely to be accepted, so couple and rights groups preparing for legal battle toward legalizing same-sex marriage [The Hankyoreh]

Not only is this an excellent breakdown of “Inconvenient Truth” (which includes a provoking comparison to acts of violation by sasaeng), it’s another reminder of the responsibility all of us have the right to assume as fans of these idols and audiences of their products. That is, if the screencaps alone weren’t enough to make your blood boil. 

(Was also pleasantly surprised to come across a mention of the petition!   To author Huaxin, thank you so much - greatly appreciate it!) 

This really motivates you to sit down and think really hard about the effects of our actions and behaviors as fans, even when it comes to something as seemingly ‘harmless’ as candid photo-taking. Great food for thought. 

aerintine:

mintsheep said:

i was responding to your rant on “fansites”, which is to say, clarifying some of the misconceptions you seem to have. the “fans” who did that to the boys….they’re not fansites. they make take photos with their cellphones and watermark them but they are not the same. the actual fansites were just as livid about the situation, and several made lengthy rants about respecting the boys and their personal space. to paint them all with the same brush is…it’s not hard to find out which fans did what. of course i’m not trying to change your mind on your no fantaken picture policy, however i just wanted to let you know so that your anger isn’t misdirected. these fansites love and care for the boys, and infinite themselves recognize that (yeolae, sungyeol’s most well-known site, is given special attention by him entirely because she respects and gives him space - she won’t take pictures of him if she knows he doesn’t want it). it’s the fans who actually did it that you should be angry at - not them.

 Thank you for making the effort to rewrite your thoughts and send them again – I appreciate it because I think this is an important discussion we should be having in fandom.   I want to address your specific points regarding fansites and fan photography, but I am also going to talk about how my anger with this particular situation has as much to do with idol culture as it has to do with individuals carrying cameras. 

I want to reiterate what I said in that post.  I was excruciatingly clear about the fact that the people who did this to infinite are not fans.  They are criminals.  They are not fans and no one should ever confuse them with fans.  Their behavior makes me ill, and the system they operate in makes me even more ill.  Because that system sets up rewards for this kind of behavior and offers no consequences.  I am pretty ignorant on assault and harassment laws in South Korea so anyone who can help clarify is welcome to school me.  But my limited understanding is that it is not illegal to follow someone around in public, touch them, even slap them/trip them/etc.  So these people have no consequence other than if a manager happens to be present and happens to push them away.  Otherwise the police are not going to ever get involved.  Which is wrong, and I really hope I’m actually incorrect about that.

So we have a situation where celebrities can be mobbed everywhere they go without threat of legal consequences.

Add to this the idol culture which demands idols be (at least to a large extent) receptive to this kind of attention because it’s part of fan expectations. Whether they are in costume and performing, or on their way to or from their vehicles at the venue.  Even when they are not on their way to an official appearance, like when crowds wait at airports to film them and take their pictures.  Fan expectations require the idols to be available to be gazed at during these times.  They are expected to be dressed well, smile, and indulge the fans’ desire to see them out in public and take their pictures.  And what I have gleaned in the time I’ve been in Kpop fandom (which is only a little more than a year – I am v. green and don’t want to represent otherwise) is that fan expectations are the chains that bind all of idoldom.

Fans expect the idols to be single, to be the objects of fans’ fantasies without the inconvenience of real world relationships for fans to “compete with.”  Thus idols have stipulations in their contracts stating they are not allowed to date.  Fans expect idols to play up intra-band relationships in order to add to the fans’ fantasies.  So their companies arrange for displays of skinship.  I mean, I have no doubt that all the boys of Infinite really esteem and love each other as friends and coworkers and even brothers.  But no one is ever going to convince me that the big 3 otp pairings aren’t as contrived in their skinship as they would be if they were actors in a drama.  Many fans think the otps (I am speaking of Woogyu, Myungyeol, and Yadong pretty much exclusively) can and perhaps should be screwing each other because it doesn’t “count.”  Because idols are not gay (gasp!  no!  unthinkable!) – they just need a pretend sexual outlet while they obediently wait for the time that they are united with their one true love, plucked from a crowd of millions of fans who believe Oppa should realize she is the one.  Many fans believe that it would only be “real” or problematic if an idol were with another girl, who would then be considered competition and also a whore for moving in on the idols whose bodies and sexuality belongs squarely to the fans.  Fans demand this kind of ship pandering while denying the members legitimate means for romance and/or sexuality.  And because the fans demand it, the companies demand it.  And because the companies demand it, the fans demand it.  It is a cyclical ooze of grossness. 

I want to be clear that this kind of ship pandering is bothersome not because people ship things, because shipping is awesome 10/10 would recommend – fandom and shipping go hand-in-hand and as an ardent shipper in all of my fandoms and confident in the unproblematic nature of shipping as contained within fandom and fandom only, I’m pretty much not going to ever say that fandom shipping is wrong.  The difference here is that while I am shipping characters (not the real people.  I repeat, RP shipping is not about the actual people it’s about constructs – anything else is tinhatting and I’ll spare everyone by not getting into that here), idol otps are generated by companies, made into part of the performances, and they pander to fan expectations of the real people behind the performance.  That is incredibly problematic, and feeds into fans’ expectations that they be allowed to govern real peoples’ lives.

I present this as just one example aside from fan photos that exemplifies the really problematic ways that fans interact with idols.

Enter fan photographers.  You are here defending the “real” fansites from the “fake” ones, but I simply do not see a difference.  I am not castigating individual fans here – this is more about a system than any one individual.  I am sure some individual fan photographers are reasonable people who respect the idols’ privacy and don’t take any intrusive photos or get physically closer to them than they reasonably should.  I am sure that is the case.  But even the example you’re sharing – I visited the site and there are indeed photos there of Sungyeol in the street, in a private vehicle, and photos of him at the airport.  These photos are by their nature intrusive.  I saw pictures  at that site of Sungyeol at the airport with a hoodie on and his hand shielding his face.  And yet this individual stayed there, took the photos, and later uploaded them onto her site for others to gawk at.  She may be special to Sungyeol in some way, but we have no way of knowing if that is in fact true, or if Sungyeol merely treats her with the same courtesy he treats other photographers.  Again, it is part of the expectations placed on him that he smile, that he be receptive and open to fan attention.  It’s the life he lives and if he were flipping off photographers and yelling at them and demanding his space he would not be long an idol.  He just wouldn’t.  That’s not how it works.  Instead he’s forced to be at work, work at being an idol every single place he goes.  He has to be “on” whether he wants to or not, especially for the owner of his most well-known site.  That’s a fan expectation.  Fan expectations can make or break idols.  And that infuriates me.

Fan/amateur photographers, whether they are “legit” or not, are all there, in the crowd, either zooming in with their telephoto lenses or pushing in close with their cell phones.  They are all participating in the violation of the idols’ privacy when they are out in the street and at the airport and in hotels and anywhere not a soundstage basically.  They participate in creating the kind of frenzied atmosphere of fan entitlement that results in some members of the crowd getting in close and injuring the idols.  All are responsible.  The fansite owner you referred to may not be someone who got too close and as a result caused Sungyeol to fall.  And Woohyun to get hit in the face.  And Sunggyu to be grabbed and pulled.  But her site, and others like it, empower everyone who wants a piece of the idols - their faces, their smiles, their bodies - to take risks.  To get in close to get the better picture, capture the better smile, maybe even cross the final boundary of privacy and physically touch them.  And then post them on sites of their own.  All of these sites participate in a system that objectifies celebrities’ bodies and I simply do not and cannot see a difference between any of them, other than some can afford expensive cameras and some can’t.  And honestly?  I am willing to have individual fansite owners who truly are responsible and reasonable people feel disrespected and maligned by my words if it means that the process they participate in can be ended.  I am much less concerned with hurting their feelings than I am with the very real consequences of the behavior surrounding amateur idol photography.  Violations of privacy and bodily autonomy are not consequences I am comfortable supporting.  I will not continue to participate in the system that perpetuates these abuses by reblogging the pictures when they come across my dash, whether they are taken during an official event or not.  They really can’t be separated, and I won’t do it.

This is a very long-winded response to well-intentioned message, very possibly tl;dr.  So thank you for your thoughts and for sticking around for my reply.  While I do not agree with you I’m grateful you took the time to share with me so that this important discussion can take place.

Ask A Korean: “Anti-Fan Death Real?” ➔

A very insightful read about the “anti-fan” phenomenon in Korean entertainment by Ask A Korean!, one of the most informative and accessible (because you can literally ask him anything) websites out there on Korean culture and society in general. 

He attributes highly aggressive and intensive anti-fan behavior to two essential, and very interrelated, factors: the combination of the strong and passionate sense of collectivity in Korea and among Koreans; and the high interconnectivity among Koreans in Korea. This latter point is especially interesting, further broken down into three aspects:

  • Physical: "It is a 50 million people country in which nearly 20 million people live in Seoul metro area. Everything important — be it political, cultural, financial, anything — is located in Seoul, which means every important person is in Seoul as well. Public transportation is very well developed such that even a 14-year-old with no car can travel every corner of the city on his own."
  • Relational: "In Korea, if you belong to a group, you are expected to be friends with everyone in the group. This does not mean it happens all the time, but it definitely happens frequently. For every school you attended (and sometimes for every grade level,) reunions are frequent. For every job you have, there are frequent departmental dinners (nominally voluntary, but not really in practice,) aimed toward building more personal bonds. In practicality, this means that without even trying very hard, Koreans get to know a lot more people personally."
  • Virtual: "Korea is one of the earliest adopters of high-speed Internet — every interesting interaction between the Internet and the society in America happened at least 5 years ago in Korea. (e.g. social networking, political movements based on Internet, privacy issues, etc.) The Internet works in astounding speed. Smartphones are widespread. And nearly everyone is savvy about how to use and abuse the Internet. Anti-fans can organize over the Internet, further escalate their hate through dialog and even schedule flash mob meetings at the current location of a celebrity instantly."

In sum, 

These three factors combine to create a huge synergy effect in which no one is truly beyond the reach of the public. Supposed there is a celebrity X, a handsome gentleman in his late 20s. Anti-fan Y hates X, for whatever reason. If X and Y are in the U.S., there is very little Y can actually do to X. X is probably located in either Los Angeles or New York. There is very little about X’s personal life that Y can know.

But in Korea, things are completely different. Y can join an anti-fan site with like-minded people, and keep her hatred burning for X by speaking with other people who also hate X. More people know X personally as he was growing up, and the stories involving the tiniest personal detail tell spread much faster over the Internet. Y can pick up those stories and tweak them into falsehoods that are much more personally damaging to X — which again spreads over the Internet. Y can coordinate the release of those falsehoods with other members of her anti-fan site, and the volume of falsehood alone can make the story seem more credible.

If Y’s motives are more insidious, Y can easily find out the whereabouts of X right at that moment, because the anti-fan sites could organize to spot X wherever he is. Both X and Y are probably within 30 mile radius, as they are likely to be both in Seoul — which means Y can easily get to any place where X is using nothing about public transit and less than two dollars. From there, it is but a small step for Y to offer X a poisoned can of soda.

I feel this is also extremely applicable to the case of sasaeng, specifically to why a setting like Korea’s make sasaeng activities* very possible (outside the structures and workings of the actual industry, that is, because that’s a whole different ballpark itself). We know that many sasaeng work in collectivities or networks, or at least, are incredibly connected with one another. 

*However, it’s important to keep in mind that sasaeng comprise a range of ‘types’. In other words, what’s the difference between chasing idols down in taxis and crashing weddings? What’s the difference if you do just one and both? Not trying to justify that one is ‘better’ or ‘less harmful’ than the other - in fact, if we were to revert back to the basic meaning of ‘sasaeng’ (‘private life’), essentially anything you pursue outside the celebrity’s ‘official work life’ will make you a ‘sasaeng’. Then again… recognizing that many think of K-pop idols as personalities beyond performers, in that everything about them is essentially ‘the celebrity’, do they even have such thing as a ‘private life’? Perhaps such distinction is absolutely lost in the minds of sasaeng. (You can read more here about how the human behind the idol may in fact one entire product her/himself). 

But in considering the rise of sasaeng activities among international fans as well (check out Yahoo! Singapore’s coverage on one fan who dedicates incredible amounts of time and money to travel to South Korea multiple times a year to “stalk JYJ”), I think the most salient aspect of interconnectivity is definitely virtual - specifically, the Internet. The case of the Singaporean fan demonstrates how physical access no longer has to be a barrier; and as we have seen with many of the more popular celebrities, personal connections with them are shared - or exposed by a third party - on the Internet, and may get picked up and translated for everyone else outside Korea.

Another point I want to bring up from the Yahoo article is the fan’s interesting take on how despite engaging in taxi chases or enduring long and (dangerous) waits in line with other sasaeng, she would personally never resort to violence or physical assault, or even the extreme invasion of their privacy. How, one might ask, would she and other similar fans see herself in relation to other sasaeng who commit the most extreme and unruly of acts? Surely they would not want to be bunched into the same category? Furthermore, how does this affect our own perception of sasaeng? With the recent unfortunate events experienced by EXO (not going to link anything here for the sake of minimizing its spread), mass attention is being drawn once again on the mental and behavioral state of sasaeng, which prove to be anything but functional. Why this intense lack of respect nor principled behavior, and why in the dozens? ‘Sasaeng’ is starting to denote way more than just instances of stalking, the invasion of privacy and other mere ‘misdemeanors’ - it is straight-up dysfunctional conduct, impaired judgment, and sheer violence, mentally and physically. For celebrities in general, constant surveillance and people pushing boundaries to probe into your business may be part of the job (doesn’t make it right though), but sexual harassment, intentional bodily harm, and the apparent lack of remorse certainly is not.

Again, there must be more at play here. We’ve explored psychological factors, but perhaps they’re not enough. The fact that this is allowed to even happen, that individual dispositions are given the opportunities to manifest in such ways, tells a bigger story. 

"The industry blows so much hope into these kids with all the audition shows… and now this is what they come out with?"

"Kids should learn composing and writing lyrics instead of trying to become singers… You make a lot more money that way."

"A dose of reality for the students of today… Is it worth the gamble to risk your futures for that 0.1% chance? How are they going to apply singing and dancing to the real world? By becoming karaoke girls?"

"Well, it was their choice to give up studying to become singers so they’ll figure out a way if it doesn’t work."

"I find it hard to believe that there are really a million trainees at the moment… That means 1 out of 10 teens are a trainee. I bet the number also includes people who make passing statements about wishing to become a trainee but aren’t actually…"

"Even the 70-80% who do make it into college have a difficult time finding jobs in the real world.."

What should be done about this? Perhaps heighten the standards for K-pop hopefuls? It’s not enough to just now how to sing and dance - anyone can develop sufficient skills  if they train hard enough over a number of years. 

It seems like an endless cycle - the fact that the number of K-pop debuts per year is on the rise gives off the impression that anyone be an idol if they ‘try hard enough’. Agencies are too constantly on the lookout for more potential ‘hit-makers’ to make it under their name. The reality is, not everyone will go as far as debuting, let alone making it big as the likes of SNSD or Super Junior. Oversupply and under-demand. 

There’s also the problem of restraints as both a trainee and an idol. As mentioned in the article, many young hopefuls and stars can barely make time for school. Many are also prevented by both contractual limitations and time itself from pursuing other ventures, both professional and personal. The detriment of this is the most salient when one’s future as an idol star looks dim. They’re expected to invest so much time and energy on their K-pop career, a path that they themselves have the least amount of control over as others manage them from head to toe. And when it doesn’t work out, the individual is casted aside, left struggling with a loss that wasn’t entirely her or his own doing. On top of that, what do they have to fall back on when they’ve spent the last several years doing nothing but train? If they were allowed to pick up or work on other projects outside the authority of their management, they would have so much to fall back on. Individual control and agency over the products you are making is so important in terms of your sense of personal achievement and self-worth. In the world of K-pop, the product is literally you. It’s messed up that you are the one most estranged from yourself.

(article found via TGN)

Watch with English subs here

If you’re subscribed to The Grand Narrative’s Facebook, you’ve probably already seen this. I wanted to share this none the less because it needs to be noted the way foreigners are being portrayed by mainstream media: the usual shitty-ass offensive shit, just as suspected. Not to mention xenophobic. The reporting is biased — completely one-sided (and it’s obvious what some of the intents are behind this — to shed a bad light on foreign men and, again, subtly pin the HIV epidemic on the growing population of non-Koreans); there’s no factual evidence, just testimonies and opinions; the narration is filled with misleading questions (“Do you think their relationship is based on trust or curiosity?”); and in general, perpetuating the negative image of cross-cultural intermingling and relationships. Yes, this happens, but I’m very sure there are just as many Korean assholes who have walked out on their girlfriends after impregnating them; and the two or three foreign men MBC interviewed should not warrant some ignorant moral panic to keep the streets free of anybody non-Korean. Really, “victims of foreigners”? What the flying fuck. 

There’s just way too many wrongs about this — just watch and see for yourself. 

Also, check out the comments on this Facebook thread

(reblogged from maddieloveskpop):

A recent incident highlights the mixed modern attitudes towards both “foreigners” and “other races” in South Korea (and sheds a little light on some attitudes on this side of the Pacific as well).

On Korean-language Internet sites, many called for swift punishment. Though there are few guns in South Korea and the incident lacked the bloodshed that might have played out in other places, for many it was still unsettling.

“Why are these people acting in such way in a foreign country?” asked one. Others reserved judgment. “I’ve seen many cases where Koreans act rudely to foreigners, staring at them as if they were some amusement,” one commented. “Let’s look at ourselves and think of the foreigner, a black man living in Korean society. He probably has to endure a lot of stress.”

And another link from the same column that I found interesting, though it’s about China: Jonathan Kos-Read is ‘the token white guy’ in Chinese cinema, i.e. he experiences the flip side of what, say, Randall Duk Kim does here:

Today, it’s not so much that foreigners are regarded as bad — on the contrary, many are heartily welcomed and at least outwardly respected as harbingers of economic success. But they are decidedly other. As workers and students from around the world take advantage of relatively lenient visa policies — more than half a million lived here in 2007 — there is an acute sense of who is foreign, and who is not.

However, Kos-Read’s attitude is, for me, questionable. He’s othering as much as he is (taking advantage of being) the other:

“It struck me how cool it would be to be that guy who speaks fluent Chinese, to be that cool guy. That was still rare enough then as to be almost nonexistent,” he said. “I thought, ‘Hey, I could go to China and be awesome — to be the guy who goes to the weird foreign country and integrates himself into the culture and gets it.’”

Interesting article. Just on a mere side note, it sounds like a weird parallel to incidents that happen here in the West. I’ve personally heard countless tales of immigrants conversing in their mother tongues being publicly confronted by white Americans in America or white Canadians in Canada and told to “speak English.” Though in many eyes it’s only appropriate to “do what the Romans do,” it nevertheless remains a heated issue.

Celebrities have helped to drive the trend, as they scramble to keep ahead of digital technology that mercilessly exposes not only their physical imperfections, but any attempts to remedy them, said Rando Kim, a professor of consumer science at Seoul National University.

“Wide-screen and high-definition TV put pressure on them to look good in close-ups,” Mr. Kim said. “And with the Internet, where people like to post ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures, they can no longer hide it. So they go public, often talking proudly about it on TV.”

That, in turn, has encouraged greater openness among ordinary South Koreans.

But in recent decades, cosmetic surgery has become a weapon in Koreans’ efforts to impress others, “like buying an expensive handbag,” said Whang Sang-min, a psychologist at Yonsei University.

Doctors say their main patients are young women entering the marriage and job markets. “As it gets harder to find jobs, they’ve come to believe they must look good to survive,” said Choi Set-byol, a sociologist at Ewha Woman’s University.

Talked about this issue countless times before, I know. However, this article is one that was recently released. Just sharing for those who are interested. 

Think about what this relatively new “openness” can do to how people set standards and criterion in the realms of friendships, employment, relationships, marriage… or just to how people perceive each other.

Usually low levels of education, with an unstable job. Lives by herself or in a boarding house, has open and impulsive sexual values. A person whose socioeconomic situation is low, and who lives apart from her parents,” is how a website health guide operated by the past Ministry of Health and Welfare defined unwed mothers.

…according to the survey “Koreans’ attitudes toward and perception of unwed mothers and fathers,” carried out in 2009 by the Korean Unwed Mothers Support Network and the Korean Women’s Development Institute, unwed mothers were found to be the group that experienced the most prejudice, after homosexuals.

Also, of the 2,000 people who participated in the survey, over 60% answered that unwed mothers “are people who lack judgment and a

sense of responsibility.”

Things are changing (ie. organizations are starting to mobilize against this derogatory perception of the “미혼모” (mi-hon-mon/”unwed mother”)), but to think that as recent as 2009 there were pre-1900s attitudes floating about… 

In South Korea, it has come to this. To reduce the country’s addiction to private, after-hours tutoring academies (called hagwons), the authorities have begun enforcing a curfew — even paying citizens bounties to turn in violators.
South Korea’s hagwon crackdown is one part of a larger quest to tame the country’s culture of educational masochism. At the national and local levels, politicians are changing school testing and university admissions policies to reduce student stress and reward softer qualities like creativity. “One-size-fits-all, government-led uniform curriculums and an education system that is locked only onto the college-entrance examination are not acceptable,” President Lee Myung-bak vowed at his inauguration in 2008.

This is such a surprise, though I’m not sure if it’s a nice one. I like how the country’s finally stepping up and doing something about its messed up education system, but “hagwon crackdowns”? I know this is just a part of the entire system of reforms they’re implementing, and I do agree that shutting down hagwons is part of the remedy, but I can’t help but feel something is off here.

Why are hagwon owners getting criminalized now? After all, they’re only responding to the natural supply-and-demand forces of the bigger economy. What needs to be focused on is what’s currently taking place — this shift of values. Police are snooping around sending kids home from midnight private schools, but does society really understand what exactly is going on? People do things in reaction to their immediate reality — that is, merely on the basis of their personal lives. They see authorities shutting down their businesses, they’re not gonna think, “oh, they’re doing this for the better” — no. They’re going to get mad, ask why the government is taking away their jobs (remember, South Korea’s not faring so well in the employment sector), and they’re going to either re-open business or succumb to darker means of sustaining a livelihood. It’s just going to be this endless cycle of delinquency. What the government needs to do is ensure that their people a) understand that new values are emerging and will be enforced, b) assure (and enforce the assurance) that their kids will receive the education they need, and c) convince (and prove) that putting the kids through extra hours of studying will really not do anyone any good. How can this be achieved? Government-funded seminars, public awareness campaigns, strict enforcement on universities to drop the current admissions process and integrate the unacademia-based approach into their regulations, and, well, in my eyes, abolish the entrance-exam system, although that may be going out on a limb. But seriously, that may exactly be one of the biggest igniters of competition among students… and by that, I actually mean among parents.

Parenting is probably the most important area of concern — it’s the values Korean parents are instilling into their children. But in order to target that and attain significant results, you’re probably gonna have to dig deep into the East-Asian mind and not only sort through the many tenets of Confucianism and Hobbesianism, but attempt to uproot some of them as well. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done.

This was so heartbreaking to read. Regrettably, like in many other places around the world, South Korea still has a long way to go in terms of women’s rights. 

The following week I re-visited the clinic but this time a different doctor checked the fetus. And what she said made me upset. Basically, she told me that I shouldn’t have such a loose lifestyle, that I should care more about contraception, why I had waited so long before coming to visit, and so on and so forth. But I had no choice, since if I go to a different clinic I have to pay for the ultrasound again.

This part was especially disturbing. I perceived it as a micro-example of ‘shaming the woman’: it’s her own fault she got pregnant, her sexually active lifestyle is an irresponsible one, and just a bunch of other bs ‘moral’-injections this young university student doesn’t deserve to hear.

I remember watching an episode of MiSuDa a while back in which there was a discussion about female reproductive health in South Korea. (I couldn’t find the video online, unfortunately.) While the foreigners were saying how regular visits to the gynecologist was not only normal but also important, the Korean female celebrities on the show confessed that they are incredibly intimidated from seeing the doctor even for a routine checkup because in many people’s  eyes, it suggests possible pregnancy (and the gossip gets especially ‘scandalous’ when it is known that the celebrity is not married). If this is the case for the nation’s biggest stars when it comes to something like pregnancy, I can only imagine what regular girls and women must endure when the issue at hand is abortion. According to Roboseyo, women get reprimanded by their local pharmacists even if they’re only buying birth control pills! (By the way, check out the rest of his post for a good overview of his thoughts of what should be done in terms of making reproductive health services more available to women in South Korea.)

Also, I’m not so sure about the availability of family-planning services in South Korea, but based on the following stats, it seems that the lack or inefficiency of such services is having quite a detrimental effect:

… the reasons why married women, who make up 58 percent of the women who have undergone abortion procedures, chose to have abortions are because they do not want children (70 percent) and financial difficulties (17.5 percent). In the case of unmarried women, 93.7 percent said they underwent an abortion procedure because they were not married. They are saying that having children is difficult because of child-rearing and economic burdens in the case of married women, and because of social prejudice and financial difficulties in the case of unmarried women.

(source: originally The Hankyoreh, via The Grand Narrative)

I say “detrimental” because why is it that more than half of the married women who chose to go through abortions have it because they didn’t want kids? Though abortion is a choice to rid yourself of an unwanted pregnancy, this huge percentage suggests that the forms of birth control available are shitty because they don’t seem to be working, or women are not even aware of its availability; therefore making abortion the only choice, and that in itself is wrong.  

And as for that whopping 93.7% of unmarried women who got abortions, holy shit! Who says it’s absolutely necessary for you to be married in order to rear a child? (A society that stigmatizes unmarried women (and pregnant women in the workplace)  does!) Regardless, again, what happened to birth control? (Oh wait, nevermind.)

You know what else sucks? Apparently South Korea has one of the lowest birth rate in the world, and the Lee Myung-Bak administration actually believes one of the causes of this are abortions, which is why it decided to reinforce its anti-abortion laws in 2009. A closer analysis of the problem will reveal deeper and more fruitful reasons than this (then again, we’re talking about the same guy who condemns homosexuality as abnormal, so yeah): 

But first and foremost, what is needed is a change of mindset. People need to be educated and enlightened about reproductive health and the importance of its awareness. The stigma surrounding gynecology and birth control methods need to be removed, and people need to understand that part of the core of female empowerment is the right of a woman to have full control over her own body. To quote Change.org (via The Grand Narrative, thank you very much ^^), 

Abortion shouldn’t be the only, desperate choice of women whose voices are silenced by their society, and it shouldn’t be used as a form of population control by the government. It should be one option for women who have the power, education, and awareness to make informed decisions. Unfortunately, it seems South Korea still sees abortion as one more issue for men to deal with, one more choice they make when and how they feel like it.

Only a woman can make decisions about what to do with her own body, not society. 

[Edit: Read Depressing Facts’ reblog of this post, who elaborated with insightful reasons behind Korea’s strict regulations]

(Sorry I’ve been posting nothing but links to articles these days. I’m currently working on a new post, but it may still be a while. I’m really preoccupied with packing and goodbyes as I’m about to fly back to Canadaland for school T_T)

A quick rundown of the banning spree the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family seems to be having fun with nowadays (extracted from the article):

  • More than 2,600 songs have been banned in the past two years after being flagged for ‘hazardous media content’…
  • This month, 24 songs have been banned as a result of their references to alcohol - 160 for this year alone…
  • The Korean public have also blamed the Ministry’s unclear standards and inconsistency in censoring music. While the aforementioned songs were categorized as “hazardous” due to references to drinking, Nam-jin’s “Empty Glass” and Lim Chang-jung’s “A Glass of Soju”, whose major themes are alcohol, escaped the regulation [ko]. 

Agencies have already taken matters into their own hands. In fact, SM Entertainment has already won their lawsuit against the Ministry for issuing a ban on “Another Day,” by SM The Ballad group, while Cube Entertainment plans to follow suit for the condemnation against BEAST’s newest album. 

And it’s about time, too. I understand the intent here, but banning songs and restricting creative rights and freedom of expression is honestly not the best way to battle society’s ills

(found via The Grand Narrative)

It may take you a while, but it’s soooooo interesting. I definitely learned a few new things today. 

A particular point of interest is in the final installment of the series, where The Korean argues that Confucianism is not "the only mode of thought that guides Korean society…”

In fact, the Korean would say Confucius is not even the philosopher whose ideas guide modern Korea the most. Any guesses about who that philosopher might be? Buddha and Dharma, based on Korea’s long Buddhist tradition? Lao Tzu and Zhang Tzu, the pillars of Taoism?
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Would you have guessed… Thomas Hobbes? In his book Leviathan, the 17th century British philosopher described the state of nature: bellum omnium contra omnes, “the war of all against all.” In such state of nature, life of a person is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

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Hobbes might as well have been speaking of the way Korea found itself as it began its venture as a modern nation in the 1940s, devastated by Japanese imperialism, World War II and Korean War. Just how ugly Korea was post-World War II is described in harrowing detail by a recent book, “Birth of the Modern Man." The book, which chronicles the history of Korea’s public medicine, recounts the disastrous state of Korea’s public health. Within one year of the liberation, 2.3 million Koreans from overseas (mostly from Japan and China) returned to Korea. During Korean War, 500,000 people escaped North Korea to come to the South. Cholera epidemic covered the country. Seoul, in particular, was a crowded sea of bodies, alive and dead. In 1950, there were 800,000 refugees in South Korea without a home. Out of the 440,000 infants born in 1948, 180,000 died before their first birthday. During Korean War, American medics reported that a surgery for a Korean soldier shot in the stomach usually entailed catching hundreds of parasites that were crawling out of the dying host.

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In the face of these Hobbesian conditions, Korea dragged itself to where it is now by, in significant parts, allowing the war of all against all to happen. The winners of that war — the Lee Byeong-Cheol (founder of Samsung) and Chung Joo-Young (founder of Hyundai) of the world — have built the empires that few in the world, and even fewer in the shithole that was Korea, could dare to envision in their wildest imagination. The losers barely carried on with their lives with no one else to alleviate their misery, or simply died off.

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Understanding the mindset created in this process — of brutal competition and (literal) survival over the next person in every aspect of life — is the more important to understanding Korea than understanding any other Eastern philosophy, including Confucianism. This survivalist philosophy — crude and uncivilized, yet pragmatic and efficient — pervades Korean mindset more than any other philosophy. Like a black hole, this survivalist philosophy (or is it an anti-philosophy?) pulls in everything around it and twists its surroundings in accordance with its pull.

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(source)

Please take the time to check out the rest of Ask A Korean! as well. Real interesting stuff. So adding him to the recommendations list

(Found via The Grand Narrative