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.
Latest stories from Quick Reads + South Korea
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.
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.
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 [...]
‘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.
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.
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 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)
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)
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.
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.
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.
Is South Korea government gearing up toward social media censorship? The latest official remark by President Park (full transcript [ko]) had Korean net users worried. Park, addressing “those rumors spreading via social media”, said “if the government let these things happen, it will bring chaos nationwide” and added “bear in mind that the authorities need to react fast and aggressively, and preemptively against those groups trying to distort the situations”. Many twitter users voiced concerns and pointed out the fact (such as @ppsskr's tweet [ko] which has been retweeted over 500 times) that the government bodies sent out over 24 million tweets to tip the scale in favor of Park in the latest presidential election.
South Korean movie ‘The Attorney’ which depicts the early life of ex-President Roh who started as a civil rights lawyer resisting against dictatorial regimes, has drawn over 4 million admissions in just ten days of screening. Movie critics even comment [ko] that its popularity in Korea is more explosive than that of Hollywood blockbuster ‘Avatar’ which made a huge hit in the country. Prominent culture critic Chin Jung-kwon (@unheim) explains via Twitter that the current administration and its multiple political scandals have ironically helped the movie by inspiring people to take interest in democratic values.
이런 영화 크게 흥행하기 힘든데, 변호인의 ‘폭발적’ 수용의 조건을 정권이 만들어줬죠. ‘화려한 휴가'가 민주화라는 낡은 구호를 재소환하려다 실패했다면, ‘변호인'은 그 낡은 구호를 낡은 걸로 여겨서는 안 된다고 가르쳐준 정권 덕에 성공한 듯.
— jungkwon chin (@unheim) December 23, 2013
It is hard for this sort of film to make a big-time (commercial) success, but the government has paved the way for public’s explosive responses to it. While movie ‘May 18’ (which is about the 80s democratic movement) have failed to re-summon the old slogan of ‘Democracy’, this movie was able to gain success as the government taught people that you should not be treating that old value as outdated.
Update: Read more in-depth coverage of this protest from Global Voices with many more photos here.
Several ten thousands have gathered at Seoul Plaza (as of 3 pm) to protest against the South Korean government's election manipulation scandal and the latest clampdowns on labor groups. The numbers are rapidly growing and the protest will continue throughout the day. Aiming 1 million Koreans to participate in ‘the December 28th General Strike', a detailed schedule [ko] of a series of protests held by different groups in major cities across the country has been widely shared in South Korean online venues in last few days.
— 방랑자 (@quegum) December 28, 2013
The December 28 General Strike (and protest) against the fraudulent election is being held at the City Hall Plaza, now as of 3:22 pm.
서울광장 안 아닙니다. 광장 밖 도로에까지 꽉 찼습니다 pic.twitter.com/LnDUhrMUfy
— 미디어몽구 (@mediamongu) December 28, 2013
Actually it can't be said people are ‘in’ the Seoul Plaza. Even the nearby road s are packed with people.
Opposition against the current administration's election manipulation scandal grows stronger every day, even enough to inspire conservative Protestant Christian groups to join the protest movement [ko] following the trails of Catholic leaders and Buddhist monks. On Christmas, this rare scene took place: in front of a Christmas tree which stood in the Jogye Buddhist temple, leaders from different religious groups held a joint prayer meeting/service lamenting the current political situation and denouncing the government bodies' systemic interference on the latest presidential election. South Korean net users in major online venues shared this running joke; President Park has achieved something that no other previous heads of the state were able to pull off– the ‘grand slam of unifying the three major religions‘ [ko] (of South Korea) for a shared purpose.
부처님이 계신 조계사에 켜진 성탄트리 앞에서 철도노조지지와 노동탄압을 중단하라는 종교계 합동예배가 진행중이랍니다.대통합은 바로 이런것 입니다. pic.twitter.com/M3gafYIHXJ
— 언론이 살아야 나라가 산다.(나친노) (@answer1219) December 25, 2013
In front of a Christmas tree, at the Jogye temple where the Buddha(‘s statues/relics) are kept, held a joint religious service demanding the government to halt clampdowns on railway workers and labor groups. This truly is a scene of ‘grand unification'.
South Korean Military is infamous for banning books, films and songs which they find ‘controversial’ or ‘subversive’ and their recent decision to ban the nation's most beloved and historically important songs, ‘Arirang’ (which even has the famed nickname of ‘unofficial national anthem of Korea‘) met with fierce backlash. The military explains it was because Arirang's sad tune is ‘too depressing‘ [ko] to be played in the army and some versions of it derive from North Korean music. However, one journalist lashed out [ko] that such decision demeans ‘the song's rich history of empowering and consoling the oppressed and mobilizing the grassroots'. As a sign of protest, South Koreans living abroad sang Arirang together during their latest demonstrations held across five different countries against the presidential election manipulation scandal. Here are links to video clips of the singing during a rally in New York city and in Germany. (English subtitles are not yet available)
Marking a year after the latest presidential election tainted with allegations of political tampering, attorney Han Woong, together with 610 plaintiffs, filed a civil lawsuit [ko] against those who are allegedly responsible for the election manipulation scandal. Han accused ex-President Lee Myung-bak, former head of the NIS (National Intelligence Service), ex-Commissioner of the Seoul Metropolitan Police and spy agents of violating civil rights of South Koreans [ko] by orchestrating and executing the election manipulation and he vowed to continue a series of compensation suits with more plaintiffs. [*note: The number '610' -- a total number of plaintiffs and also suggested damage claims of 610 million Korean Won (about 574 thousand US dollars) -- has been employed to remind people of the nation's iconic June 10 democratic movement back in the 80s] Twitter user @soonhearim tweeted [ko] an image of Han holding court papers.
인터뷰하는 한웅 변호사!, 12월19일(목), 오전11시, 국정원사건으로 정신적손해 610명 손배소송기자회견, 대한문 앞 pic.twitter.com/uLqkyNdfNb
— 임순혜 (@soonhearim) December 19, 2013
Lawyer Han Woong is having an interview now, as of 11 am on December 19 (Thursday). This press conference held in front of Daehanmun (Gate), was about 610 plaintiffs who filed a compensation suit over emotional distress caused by the NIS scandal.
As South Korean university students’ ‘We Are Not Fine!’ poster movement spreads like wildfire across the country, even up to the point of motivating high, junior high and elementary students [ko] to write their own, the Ministry of Education has given notice to schools to control students’ poster-making in order ‘not to ruin good studying atmosphere'. Notable citizen-participatory journalism site OhmyNews posted images [ko] of the authorities’ guidelines, which have been shared by Twitter users as below.
— 임윤경 #바보가꿈꾸는세상 (@djaak2002) December 20, 2013
The Ministry of Education, claiming that ‘We Are Not Fine’ posters would ‘damage good studying atmosphere', has ordered each city and province's Office of Education to deliver such notice to each school. They say ‘they cant tolerate controversial issues being introduced to and influence schools'.
By holding candlelight rallies across the country, frustrated South Koreans have voiced flooding concerns over current political developments and series of scandals, including the snowballing election manipulation allegations. @Emfla505 tweeted [ko] this stunning photo of protest in Seoul (below) and WikiTree.com site gathered more photos of rallies on December 19.
오늘 서울시청 광장입니다! 민노총의 깃발이 빠져 나가고 난뒤 순수한 시민촛불의 사진입니다! 촛불시민이 대한민국의 잘못된 역사를 바꿀거라 확신합니다! pic.twitter.com/vGJJztbHSP
— 12월의 노래! (@emfla505) December 19, 2013
Today at Seoul City Hall Plaza! After Korean Confederation of Trade Unions’ flags have all retreated, only citizens’ candlelight were left as you can see from the photo. I strongly believe that these citizens with candlelight will change the derailed history of Republic of Korea.
South Korea's state-owned railway operator, Korea Railroad Corp. (KORAIL), has laid off an unprecedented number of more than 7,600 workers [ko] within a week as it decided to set up a subsidiary for new high-speed train operations, which critics call ‘a prelude to privatization of the nation's rail system'. Inspired by a student at Korea University in Seoul who posted on his school's offline bulletin board a message– a longtime symbol/traditional way of voicing students’ dissent– criticizing the government's such decision, many universities have started posting similar messages on their respective school bulletin boards. A Facebook page entitled ‘안녕들하십니까?‘ [ko] (formal way of saying ‘how are you?’ in Korean) was set up to share images of messages posted across various universities’ bulletin boards. In less than two days, the page has already received more than 41 thousand likes.
Spurred by the latest revelation about South Korean government's systemic interference in the latest presidential election, more and more religious leaders have begun to speak out. Following Catholic leaders’ mass candlelight vigils, the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism held a protest at Jogyesa- the chief temple of the Order. Prominent citizen journalist @Mediamongu tweeted this image with short description [ko].
한국 불교 1번지이자 최대 종단인 조계종 승려 1,000여명이 대선개입 규탄, 박근혜 정부 참회, 민주주의 수호를 염원하는 시국선언을 하고 있습니다. 여기는 조계사 입니다. pic.twitter.com/9YTs45Ex0A
— 미디어몽구 (@mediamongu) November 28, 2013
The biggest order of Korean Buddhism- the Jogye Order's 1000 monks [note: local article tells [ko] that is about 10 percent of the total number of monks from the Jogye Order] called for Park Geun-hye government's apology and denounced the election manipulation and prayed for protection of democracy', here at Jogyesa (or Jogye Temple).
Twitter user @zarodream has been receiving congratulatory messages from fellow South Korean Tweeters for providing crucial leads in unraveling the spy agency's election manipulation activities done via Twitter. According to interview [ko], @zarodream, a 40-year-old ordinary office worker with zero professional knowledge nor special interest in politics, has spent about a year following the spy agency trails on Twitterphere and was able to track down their key accounts and connected accounts’ online activities.
‘Wide Goose Father’ is a commonly-used term in South Korea referring to sacrificial fathers who send their wife and children abroad for better education, but themselves remain in South Korea to work and cover all the expenses. The number of wild goose fathers has been steadily increasing over the years and recently, local media revealed that 70 percent of them suffer from depression and 77 percent from inadequate nutrition. Simon Kim from Korea Bang site translated related articles and net users’ responses to the news.
North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un has an impersonator in Hong Kong. Hong Wrong interviewed the Australian Hong Konger, ‘Howard’, who had performed Kim Jong-un for an Israeli burger chain. Howard likes to wander around in Lan Kwai Fong and takes picture with passer-by so don't be surprise to run into Kim Jong-Un.
Although K-drama (South Korean soap opera) seems doing well internationally, South Koreans’ discontent and complaints on its repeated patterns and cliched scenarios and characters are bubbling under. Recently, as major network TV, KBS decided to extend a poorly-written soap opera ‘Princess Aurora’ which many call an ‘insult to viewers’ intelligence', net users have started gathering signatures. And this rather unusual online petition [ko] calling to end the show and overthrow an extremely powerful screenwriter, Im Sung-han, is gaining traction; the first round of petition already surpassed its target of 10 thousand signatures in about a week, and seven thousands have signed in its second round.
North Korea’s recently-launched Android-based tablet, Samjiyon appeared on eBay, listed by a Canadian account with a shipping location of Yanji in China. North Korea Tech blog also reports that the worlds's one of the best-selling applications, Angry Birds, was included on the tablet without proper permissions from the game maker.
A special webpage ‘NIS 2012‘ [ko] was set up by savvy net users to host an interactive timeline explaining how the NIS (National Intelligence Service)’ election manipulation scandal has unfolded over the year. The site also features a diagram displaying relations and dynamics between concerned interest groups and political powerhouses and a list of top ridiculous quotes made by politicians and spy agents.