Thursday, February 28, 2013

Clothes speak volumes

On her inauguration day, President Park Geun-hye was seen wearing five outfits.

While Park cannot be charged guilty of vanity for changing so frequently ― each event did call for attire appropriate for the occasion ― those who had looked forward to a fashion moment or two from the country’s first female president were largely let down.

Wearing a lightly padded coat to the Seoul National Cemetery was a fashion faux-pas: Such a solemn occasion calls for a classic long coat, in wool or cashmere.

The olive green jacket with gold buttons that flared slightly from the waist worn at the swearing-in ceremony recalled for many her late father, a former general who seized power in a coup. If the intention was to elicit nostalgia for father Park Chung-hee who modernized Korea, the new president succeeded, for the military allusion of the jacket was not lost.

Style-wise, however, this outfit was not flattering. The lavender scarf and the purple butterfly brooch, perhaps an attempt to soften the harsh look of the jacket, were just confusing. The jacket-coat was too casual for the momentous occasion.

The red long coat and blue skirt hanbok ensemble shown at Gwanghwamun Plaza was more flashy than stately, but captured the festive mood of the event, though the reference to the national flag was perhaps too obvious.

The intense color of the deep red hanbok worn at the banquet seemed to overpower Park. A more regal look could have been achieved with a modern silhouette. Park could take a few pointers from her late mother, who wore hanbok most elegantly.

Clothes assume symbolic meanings. As the country’s leader, Park, wittingly or unwittingly, sends messages with her sartorial choices.

With time, and perhaps with some expert advice, Park’s style should better reflect her substance.

Remembering the colonial period and the Korean War

Theater troupes present shows featuring turbulent periods of modern Korean history in the month of March 1 Independence Movement Day

The month of March opens here with the March 1 Independence Movement Day, a national holiday dedicated to commemorating the 1919 nationwide uprising against Japan’s colonization.

The uprising, known as the March 1st Independence Movement, was one of the earliest public displays of Korean resistance against Japanese rule ― which ended in 1945 at the end of World War II.

This month, Seoul’s theater scene is presenting a number of plays featuring the turbulent period of Korean history. One of them is “Red Poetry” by Theater Company Gorae. The play deftly links the controversial suicide of the actress Jang Ja-yeon in 2009 to the stories of elderly women who were forced to be sex slaves for the Japanese military during World War II.

A promotional image of Theater Company Gorae’s “Red Poetry” (Theater Company Gorae)

Jang, who had just starred in the TV drama series “Boys over Flowers” at the time, killed herself leaving a seven-page handwritten note claiming she had been sexually and physically abused by high-profile media executives.

The play is being told from the perspective of fictional character Dong-ju (played by Kim Dong-wan), a reporter who is deeply disturbed by the sudden death of a popular actress, a stand-in for the late Jang. The story unfolds as he goes to the next world through a mistake by the angel of death, and meets up with the actress as well as the former sex slaves who still seek an apology from Japan.

“The victims in the play repeatedly emphasize the importance of speaking out,” said the troupe’s promoter.

“This play strongly believes in the power of words, as well as speaking out. The two cases that appear in the play may seem like they have no relevance to each other, but they do. Those who committed the violence never properly apologized, and many of us, the public, still remain silent about what happened.”

Meanwhile, another local troupe, Mirage Kaleidoscope, is presenting “Flying of a Bee,” which delves into the Act on the Punishment of Anti-national Activities, established in September 1948 to punish pro-Japanese collaborators during the Japanese colonial rule. The act, however, was suspended by South Korea’s first president Syngman Rhee’s regime ― just before the Korean War in March 1950. Rhee also suspended the execution of those who had been found guilty.

“The Syngman Rhee government found itself having to respond to the division into two Koreas by crafting a strong state that could play an active role in the establishment and maintenance of a powerful anticommunist system,” writes local scholar Oh Il-hwan, in his 2011 paper “Anticommunism and the National Identity of Korea in the Contemporary Era: With a Special Focus on the USAMGIK and Syngman Rhee Government Periods” published in the Review of Korean Studies in 2011.

“Here, administrative officials and policemen who had gained valuable experience during the Japanese colonial period would inevitably have been perceived as useful resources through which to secure such objectives. … Under such circumstances, the Act on the Punishment of Anti-national Activities in 1948 to weed out pro-Japanese elements could only be regarded by Syngman Rhee as a proverbial thorn in his side.”

“Flying of a Bee” features the court trials of Bae Joeng-ja (1870-1952), a Korean-born woman who was raised as the adopted daughter of Ito Hirobumi (1841-1909), who served as Resident-General of Korea during the Japanese colonial period. He was assassinated by Korean nationalist An Jung-geun in 1909.

Bae worked with Ito Hirobumi as a spy for the annexation of Korea by Japan, and became the first female pro-Japanese collaborator to be arrested by the law enacted in 1948. She was released upon the suspension of the law in 1950. The spy has been featured in a number of local films, Jeong In-yeob’s 1973 biopic “Femme Fatale: Bae Jeong-ja” and Jang Yoon-hyun’s period drama “Gabi” from last year which dealt with the death of King Gojong (1852-1919).

“We did not create this play to punish Bae,” said the play’s director Ryu Seong-cheol. “It’s more about those we could not ― or chose not to ― make the just decisions about history of the period.”

Meanwhile, homegrown musical “The Goddess is Watching” concerns itself with the Korean War (1950-1953) and its brutality. Created by local troupe Stage Yeonwoo, the show takes place on a remote island during the war. It tells the story of six different soldiers, some members of the North Korean army, who end up living together on the uninhabited island after a shipwreck.

The plot develops as a solider named Soon-ho, the only member of the group who knows how to fix the ship, suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder after witnessing his brother’s death in a battle. Another member of the group named Young-beom creates a story of a beautiful goddess to console Soon-ho and ease his fragile mental state.

“Everything that happens in the show is fictional,” said the director Park So-young. “The goddess does not indicate an actual person or a spiritual being, but symbolizes the universal femininity. We believed that it can bring an immense healing and empowering effect in extremely violent and devastating situations like the war in our history.”

“The Goddess is Watching” runs until March 10 at Chungmu Art Hall in central Seoul, while “Flying of a Bee” also runs until March 10 at Kijakeun Sonamu (Little Pines) Theater in Daehangno, Seoul.

“Red Poetry,” on the other hand, runs from March 22 to March 31 at Daehangno Art Theater, also in Seoul’s Daehangno district.

By Claire Lee (

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Exporting literature

Terry Kim, COO of leading literary agency Imprima Korea

'Foreign readers want contemporary and universal themes'

English translations of “Please Look After Mom” by Shin
“I Have the Right to Destroy Myself” by Kim Young-ha
“Tongue” by Jo Kyung-ran
Courtesy: The Korea Times

Koreans have long coveted the Nobel Prize in Literature as poet Ko Un has been nominated for it over the past few years. The hope has created a media frenzy in which journalists wait for the annual prize announcement in front of Ko’s house. Ko might be arguably the most well-known Korean author in the world. But how many of his works which mostly deal with Korean history or abstruse philosophy have been read globally?

Korean bestsellers are stories inspired by nationalistic and historic subjects but when it comes to the overseas market, it is totally different.

A few successful cases such as Shin Kyung-sook’s “Please Look After Mom,” and Kim Young-ha’s “I Have the Right to Destroy Myself” and Jo Kyung-ran’s “Tongue” show how Korean literary works can go global. All these works represented by Imprima Korea, a leading literary agency in the nation, have gained international recognition.

“Psy is a good example of a cultural export. Familiarity and universality in his song ‘Gangnam Style’ enabled him to succeed in other countries. Korean literature should be approached like this. Foreign readers want contemporary and universal themes,” Terry Kim, COO of the agency, said in an interview with The Korea Times.

Since opening the doors 20 years ago, the agency has focused on introducing foreign titles into Korea such as bestsellers “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell, “Cosmos” by Carl Sagan and “Your Best Life Now” by Joel Osteen.

But from 2005, it began selling the rights of the Korean publications particularly literary works to overseas markets.

After accumulating the know-how and skills of importing foreign literary works to Korea, the company knows the tastes of foreign readers. Historic and nationalistic subjects are shunned the most by foreign readers.

“Many Korean bestsellers are turning to nationalistic and patriotic emotions or major historical events such as the Korean War. But nobody in other countries cares about such stuff,” he said.

Instead, universal topics that have a close connection to contemporary senses found in Shin’s novel are the most sought-after items by foreign literary agents.

But as “hallyu” (the Korean wave) is becoming a universal phenomenon in the world, some unique elements from the Korean identity mixed with mystery genre are likely to appeal to foreign readers as Shin shows in her work.

“Shin’s case is very meaningful in that it was published through a major publisher (Knopf) of the United States which is regarded as the largest market with worldwide networks with the highest price. Once infiltrating into the U.S., it is easier to make inroads into other parts of the world,” said Kim. Shin’s novel has been sold in more than 20 countries.

Before Shin, Kim’s and Jo’s fiction was regarded as pioneering works which gained positive reviews in the U.S. and European markets in 2005 when contemporary Korean literature was almost unnoticed in the world.

However, the agent said that it is a pity that now there are few literary pieces to be introduced in other countries after Shin’s blockbuster hit. “The domestic publication market is now suffering from the lack of bestselling literary works like Shin’s novel. But at the same time, we might fail to discover hidden literary gems due to the current structure of the publication industry dominated by trendy genres,” he said.

Many publishers tend to generate similar books such as “healing” essays or self-help books, from some 10 years ago. “Such a trend seems to hamper discovering talented authors and quality works. Discovering a good work here is crucial for exporting literature to other countries,” he said.

Lack of literary translators

As many critics point out numerous times, finding skillful translators is the most daunting task particularly when it comes to translating literary works than any other genres. “It is obvious that if Koreans, even if they are superb in English, translate literary works into English, it seems very awkward to read for English-speaking readers. It is best for native English speakers who have a good command in Korean to translate them,” he said.

Japan has a translation agency with a large pool of veteran translators but Korea lags behind in training literary translators. There are only a handful of experienced literary translators such as Kim Chi-young who worked on Shin’s and Kim’s novels.

“Even if there is a good story, if not properly translated, it can’t be sold from the start. Even just the rough draft translation for the introduction of the book is very crucial to appeal to the foreign agency,” he said.

Role of literary agency

When exporting literary rights to other countries, the agency plays a key role in representing authors and their works for foreign counterparts. In Korea, the literary agency is less known as many publishers are doing this with their in-house teams.

However, it is important to use a local literary agency to gain access to worldwide networks and to protect the rights of authors.

“By individual, Koreans are extremely well-performing in various fields. But most of them are unnoticed because the system doesn’t support them well. We are helping them gain the right appreciation both at home and abroad,” he said.

Kim said that this job is already well-known in other advanced countries but in Korea it is beginning to be noticed since Shin’s novel. “This is a promising job in the future as Korean literature has yet to be well known to other countries,” he said.

The agency not only introduces established authors to overseas markets but also discovers potential or rising authors and helps them debut on the world stage.

Now the company is preparing to make rising author Yoon Seo-jeok’s work debut in the foreign markets. Yoon’s “Seoulite Affair” is set in the nation’s capital and the plan is to make it into a film first.

Samsung Unveils New Galaxy Note Tablet PC

Samsung has vowed to top its rival Apple in the tablet PC market this year as it unveiled its latest model at the Mobile World Congress, which kicked off on Monday in Barcelona, Spain

Shin Jong-kyun, the head of Samsung's mobile communications business, expressed his confidence in becoming the market leader in tablet PCs and smartphones at a press conference on Sunday.

"The Galaxy Note 8.0 to be unveiled at this year's MWC embodies productivity and portability," Shin said. "As we diligently pursue innovation and new technology, the day will come when we become No. 1 in tablet PCs just as we are in smartphones."

Last year, Samsung sold just 16.6 million tablets compared to 65.7 million for Apple.

The Galaxy Note 8.0 weighs just 338 grams and comes with an eight-inch screen, about the same as the iPad Mini's 7.85-inch display. It also has rounded edges to differentiate itself from the iPad in terms of design.

Models pose with Samsung Electronics latest tablet PCs and smartphones at Fira Gran Via in Barcelona on Sunday, a day ahead of the opening of the Mobile World Congress. /Courtesy of Samsung Electronics 
Models pose with Samsung Electronics' latest tablet PCs and smartphones at Fira Gran Via in Barcelona on Sunday, a day ahead of the opening of the Mobile World Congress. /Courtesy of Samsung Electronics 
LG Electronics vice president Park Jong-suk also proclaimed a bold goal for his company. "We sold 8.4 million smartphones during the fourth quarter last year, and our goal is to sell 10 million every quarter this year," he said.

LG saw its profit shift into the black for the first time in three years in 2012 after expanding the production of fourth-generation LTE smartphones and cutting low-tech phones.

Meanwhile, Samsung decided to scrap its own operating system known as Bada. Instead, the company said it will focus on the Tizen OS that is being developed jointly with Intel.

"The Bada 2.0 will mark the end of our operating system project," Hong Won-pyo, president of media solutions at Samsung, told reporters at the MWC. "It will be terminated when Tizen is released."

Bada was launched in 2010 to compete with Google's Android and Apple's iOS but never gained momentum.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Culture to be groomed as next growth engine

German fans sing along to Korean singer Kim Joon-soo at his concert in Oberhausen, Germany, last month. Extending the boom for Korean pop culture, commonly referred to as “hallyu,” and firmly establishing cultural products as export items have been identified as a policy priority by Park Geun-hye, who will be sworn in as president today. Korea Times

 While pursuing an economic powerhouse in the last few decades, Korea has longed for international recognition for its cultural achievements.

As far as overseas recognition is concerned, incoming president Park Geun-hye has it easier than her predecessors. Through the YouTube sensation Psy's "Gangnam Style" video, the hallyu sweep has entered a period of rejuvenation. In various areas of culture such as fashion, classical music, literature, Koreans are making a name for themselves on an international level.

Park arrives at Cheong Wa Dae today with an array of policy goals for advancing the nation, and cultural development is one of them. In particular, sustaining the popularity of hallyu and expanding it beyond Asian borders will be a key cultural agenda for the incoming administration.

Supporting creative industries

While Park has remained almost silent on cultural affairs, she is mindful of the increasing role of the economic value of cultural exports as well as culture’s role in promoting Korea’s image abroad.

During an appearance at the screening of the 3D film “Pororo: The Racing Adventure" last month, she expressed her intention to place more support for bringing innovation, creativity and wealth to the cultural sector.

She met with industry leaders and university students majoring in animation before the screening of the film version of animated TV series “Pororo the Little Penguin.”

“Watching the growth of Pororo over the years, I have come to have great hopes for our creative industries,” Park said during opening remarks at the meeting.

Pororo has also become a symbol of hope for the local animation industry, which has yet to produce globally-popular characters. In the last decade, the TV series has been exported to more than 120 countries. The film will open in 6,000 theaters in China in late January, becoming the most widely-released foreign animated film there.

“One of my pledges as a presidential candidate was to promote cultural industries, including animation, as a new growth engine for our country, and I will try to realize my word," Park added.

For this, Park has pledged that she will work on expanding national budget for cultural projects and investments. Many experts in the field have pointed out that the chronic problem with implementing cultural policy objectives has been budgetary limitations.

Her administration will seek measures to allocate 2 percent of the national budget to culture, according report of Park’s major policy goals released on December, 2012. Currently, around 1.14 percent of the national budget is spent on culture.

Park's nominee for culture minister is Yoo Jin-ryong, a former vice culture minister whose key achievement is the establishment of the Korea Creative Contents Agency.

Diversifying hallyu sources

As a recent state survey indicates, there are many who believe that the popularity of hallyu faces an uncertain future.

Around 66 percent of 3,600 respondents in nine countries (China, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, U.S., Brazil, France, U.K. and Russia) said that the popularity of Korean culture will subside in the next four years.

To assuage concerns about the longevity of hallyu, the Park administration is expected to focus on diversifying it, so that relatively unknown areas such as Korea’s fashion, literature and traditional tourism assets can be more promoted outside the nation.

As a record number of foreign tourists in the final year of the Lee Myung-bak administration visited Korea, the culture ministry is likely to keep its drive to promote tourism under Park’s presidency. Park's nominee for secretary of cultural affairs is Mo Chul-min, a career bureaucrat and a tourism expert.

One of the top policy goals of the culture ministry has been to transform Korea in to a pleasant and visitor-friendly destination for foreign visitors. The number of tourists visiting Korea last year surpassed 10 million in November, for the first time ever.

Park’s policy report reiterates its commitments to advancing the nation’s tourism by increasing infrastructure and undertaking better maintenance of traditional tourism assets across the nation, many of which are Buddhist-related relics.

Closing cultural gaps

 The Park administration will keep working on closing the cultural gap between Seoul and the rest of the country, particularly the economically backward parts of Jeolla Provinces.

To elevate Korea's status as a cultural leader in Asia, mega cultural infrastructure such as the Asian Culture Complex in Gwangju will open in 2014.

Park has also promised more support for professional artists and institutions, and to develop the unique cultural assets of provinces and rural areas as tourist attractions.

Make the Most of the Oyster Season

Oysters are known for their rich nutritious value. Fresh, fragrant oysters on a bed of warm rice with soy sauce seasoning are not only delicious but also full of goodness.

Oysters are rich in calcium, protein, iron and copper and are therefore good for sufferers from anemia.

Due to the high zinc content they were long believed to be an aphrodisiac, and Casanova is said to have eaten them in copious quantities.

One substance in oysters destroys melanin, so it brightens skin tone.

The best way is to eat them is raw with a squirt of lemon juice. The vitamin C in lemon juice helps absorb iron and prevent loss of taurine.

Samsung to unveil Galaxy Note 8.0

Models hold up Samsung Electronics’ new mobile devices, including the Galaxy Note 8.0, left, at its booth at Fira Gran Via at the Moile World Congress Barcelona, Sunday.                                                    / Courtesy of Samsung Electronics

LG to display full range of handsets in to stay alive at MWC

BARCELONA - Samsung Electronics said Sunday that it will showcase its new Galaxy Note 8.0 tablet at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) that starts in Barcelona, Spain, Monday.

At the world’s biggest mobile trade show, the Korean technology giant will also unveil enterprise handsets and wireless solutions, two areas where it has recently shown aggressive pushes.

Touting an 8-inch screen, the firm said that the latest entry into Samsung’s popular Note series also has a titular stylus.

It operates on Android Jelly Bean 4.1.2, powered by a 1.6 gigahertz quad-core processor, has 2 gigabytes of RAM and supports internal memory up to 32 gigabytes and has a 4,600 milliamp hour battery.

Samsung said it has also strengthened multitasking ability by supporting dual windows, where users can upload two screens at once, compared to previous tablets.

It will have a liquid crystal display (LCD), not its active-matrix organic light emitting diode (AMOLED) ones reserved for flagship devices, indicating that the firm is aiming more at keeping Apple’s tablet line at arm’s length rather than increasing sales.
Models pose with LG Electronics’ new handsets during a photo session at Fira Gran Via, the main venue of this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday.                                                                         / Courtesy of LG Electronics

It also indicates that Samsung wants to secure some revenue for its LCD division, which is suffering from a lack of demand against better-quality displays.

“The Galaxy Note 8.0 is another innovative device that has increased portability while aiming for a large screen,” said Samsung’s mobile chief Shin Jong-kyun in a statement. “With the Galaxy Note 8.0 as the spearhead, we will lead the global tablet market with a variety of products.”

The world’s largest electronics maker by revenue will also unveil enterprise phones _ the Galaxy Grand and Galaxy Express. A waterproof outdoor phone called Galaxy Xcover 2 and the design-oriented Galaxy Fame and Galaxy Young will also be displayed at the firm’s booth.

It shows that Samsung is not done milking the popularity of its Galaxy series as well as boasting its massive manufacturing prowess, aimed at cementing its market share in total handset volume.

It will also hold a developers’ day on Wednesday to try and enliven its currently non-existent ecosystem.

Other attractions include mobile solutions and network equipment, which aim to challenge Nokia and Ericsson.

The theme of Samsung’s booth is “People Inspired Innovation” at Hall 3 of the Fira Gran Via.

LG goes all out to stay relevant

LG Electronics has suffered two difficult years partly because of its late entry into smartphones but aims to prove that it is still alive at the mobile trade show.

It said Sunday that it will unveil a wide variety of new handsets, represented by the G, F, L and Vu series.

The highlight is the 5.5-inch Optimus G Pro “phablet,” a device that blurs the line between a smartphone and a tablet, the titular phone in its high-end G series.

The phablet was launched in Korea last week but will be released in other markets by the second half of the year. The MWC will be an important opportunity for LG to judge initial reactions from an international audience.

The electronics maker has said it is looking to move 10 million of its flagship Optimus G series and positive reviews will be imperative for its long-term marketing plan.

The previously launched Optimus Vu and Optimus Vu II tablets and up to 80 budget and mid-ranged phones will be displayed at the company’s booth in Hall 1.

In a statement LG highlighted user experience for its phones, especially its multitasking Q-slide feature on smartphones, and a large amount of long-term evolution (LTE) patents.

“We will put our best-quality displays, LTE core technology and creative user experience as our main competitiveness to expand in the global smartphone market,” said LG mobile chief Park Jong-seok.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Korean extincting heritage

About disappearing jobs

Baek Chun-tae paints a mural of a film. The painter lost his stance
due to the rising multiplex theaters and the actual images which replaced the old-style cinema artwork from the 1990.
                                                                                   / National Folk Museum of Korea

Books published on different kind of extinction 

The Uiseong Seong-gwang Match Manufacturer which was established in 1954 is the only
remaining firm of its kind in Korea.
Dye expert Lee Byung-chan
By Chung Ah-young

No jobs seem to be permanent.

Jobs that flourished once would eventually disappear, leaving behind confounded workers. To shed light on this, in a cultural aspect, the National Folk Museum of Korea has recently published three books featuring jobs ? match manufacturing, wall painting, dyeing and traditional fishing.

The books are ?Uiseong Seonggwang Match Manufacturer and Playhouse Wall Painter Baek Chun-tae ? Jobs That Are Being Lost,? ?The Dye Expert Lee Byung-chan?s 30 Years Life for Dyeing? and ?Traditional Fishing Techniques and Fishermen of the East Sea.?

?Uiseong Seong-gwang Match Manufacturer and Playhouse Wall Painter Baek Chun-tae ? Jobs That Are Being Lost? features the match manufacturing company, which is the only remaining firm of its kind in Korea, and the life of a theater signboard painter.

The company was first established in Uiseong, North Gyeongsang Province in 1954 in the aftermath of the devastating Korean War (1950-1953). It was the only factory in the region where agriculture was the primary economic activity, and thus offering jobs to the young. The company flourished in the 1970s and the ?80s in the hey days of industrialization.

But in the late 1980s, the advent of heating and cooking systems and wide use of disposable lighters spelt the industry?s decline. The number of employees shrank to 11 in 2012, from the peak of 270 in the 1970s. The book illustrates the brief history of the company, the processing tools and the changes of the lives of its workers.
The book also highlights Baek Chun-tae, a theater mural painter who lost his stance due to the rising multiplex theaters and the actual images replacing the old-style theater artwork from the 1990s.
Lee Byung-chan’s works dyed with native plants

Baek gave up college because of financial difficulty and started working at a theater as an assistant painter in Incheon, west of Seoul. At that time, the job was fascinating as the signboard art actually determined the success of the films in the 1960s-70s.
And each theater had its own style. In southern part of the nation such as Busan, film posters and signboards featured rough brush touches while dark and subduing colors dominated the painting styles in Gwangju and Jeonju regions. Undoubtedly, Seoul was the center of the mural painting styles in fineness and aesthetics.

So he decided to learn painting in Seoul at the age of 22. In Seoul, a hub for culture and art, he worked in Jungang Theater. His debut work in Seoul was the signboard painting of the American film ?Madame X? and then he moved to Dansungsa, the first movie theater in Korea. In Dansungsa, Baek reached his peak by generating numerous paintings of films which ended up being big successes. However, after a 40-year career, he faced a crisis as the multiplex theaters sprang up and real images replaced the paintings in the 1990s. With the last piece in 2000, Baek left Seoul and went to Danyang, North Chungcheong Province in 2002. He said that at that time, he couldn?t endure such a drastic change in Seoul where his paintings were very common displays on the signboards of theaters.

?The Dye Expert Lee Byung-chan?s 30 Years Life for Dyeing? portrays the life of Lee Byung-chan who has devoted her life to dyeing using natural ingredients. The book is based on her individual case as a special professional that has conducted dyeing experiments over the last 30 years.

?In traditional society, dyeing was mostly done in houses. But in the modern times it has almost disappeared. Lee has tried to recover the dyeing tradition with her own efforts using native plants,? Park Hye-ryeong, curator of the museum, said. Her founding and dyeing tools were donated to the museum as she couldn?t sustain the job anymore.

?Traditional Fishing Techniques and Fishermen of the East Sea? introduces fishermen who caught pollack and gathered seaweed in a traditional way on the East Coast, which was a major means of living in the region in the past. But from the 20th century, the two fishery techniques have been rapidly declining.

Collecting seaweed has two different methods ? by divers and from a boat. The seaweed gathered by divers is still used in many parts of the nation but the on-the-boat technique is rarely used lately.

Pollack has been one of the most favorite fish for Koreans. But the amount caught inshore has dramatically decreased beginning in the 1990s. The book documents traditional skills and tools through interviews with fishermen who worked in the mid and late 20th century.

Hot pink: fashion's latest hue

Hot pink has been spotted on actresses Yun Eun-hye, far left, and Soh Yi-hyun, left, who appear in popular television dramas “I Miss You” on MBC and “Cheongdamdong Alice” on SBS. 
NARS Schiap Lipstick, above, one of the best items, brings a bright pink to the lips with semi-matte finish.                                                                             / Courtesy of Han PR

Tired of the classic red, isn't it ?

The good news is that an alternative hue has emerged: hot pink. As if to mock the cold, the color brings a more flirty and playful feel, especially around the year-end party season.

The color has been spotted on such celebrities as actresses Yun Eun-hye and Soh Yi-hyun who appear in popular television dramas “I Miss You” on MBC and “Cheongdamdong Alice” on SBS, and countless other stars have been wearing variations of it. The two play upper-class women who opt for bright, hot pink lips, often to offset a chic, monochromatic outfit. 

“One point makeup, which focuses on one part of the face, is a growing trend that will go on till next season, and hot pink lipsticks are surely one of the best ways,” said celebrity makeup artist Lee Kyung- min Wednesday in a telephone interview. 
Chanel Rouge Allure Le
Rouge Intense 93 Exaltee
             / Courtesy of Chanel Korea
It’s pretty simple to pull off hot pink lipstick, even for those who are not particularly familiar with makeup tools, and it’s an investment everyone will make good use of it till next spring. 

Except for the lips, everything else should be kept to a minimum, which means the eyes and skin should look as natural as possible.

“Make sure your eye makeup is subdued and not competing with bright pink lips. So I suggest you try mascara without liner or trade dramatic shadows for neutral colors that blend with the skin tone,” said the beauty expert who runs a makeup studio in Cheongdam-dong in southern Seoul.

Skipping lip liner will give the lips a more youthful appearance. Apply the color on the back of the hand before applying it to the lips with a brush, which will give a subtler effect. For those who want to enlarge the look of the lips, it’s better to apply a bit of dewy gloss in the center of the lower lip.
Giorgio Armani Lip Maestro
504 Courtesy of L’Oreal Korea
The overall styling matters as well. The look shouldn’t be too matching so the hot pink lipstick can be too much if the same color is worn from head-to-toe. It should be used as an accessory to pull together outfits like a little black dress.

However, some women with darker skin tones are still afraid of trying hot pink lipsticks because they believe it might look tacky.

“Some of us think hot pink only looks good on fair-skinned people, but that’s wrong. The color of your lips is more important when deciding which color to put on them than the natural skin tone,” said Lee. “Everyone has different colored lips so don’t forget to try the color on your lips, not on your hand before you buy lipsticks. You will see the color more clearly.”

Among the wide variety of shades out there, NARS’s Schiap Lipstick is one of the best. The product brings a bright, fuchsia-pink with a semi-matte finish. It also has a slightly glossy sheen that keeps the lips from drying out while keeping the true color. The product has been one of the most popular makeup items since it was featured in the two previously mentioned TV dramas.

Other cool products to try include Giorgio Armani Lip Maestro 504, a liquid lipstick that is also available in 11 other colors, and Chanel Rouge Allure Le Rouge Intense 93 Exaltee. For those wanting a softer look, Dior Addict Lip Glow is ideal. It’s not exactly a lipstick and more towards a color-awakening lip balm that reacts to the moisture level of the lips that makes them appear rejuvenated, fresh and shiny.

Korea-beauty expo targets foreign tourists

Pavilion of Life and Beauty of the Osong Cosmetics & Beauty Expo shows the variations in the meaning of beauty, providing a space for directly reproducing makeup skills.

Osong fair aims to lay ground for spreading bio culture

Governor of North Chungcheong Province Lee Si-jong also serves as co-chairman of Organizing
Committee for Osong Cosmetics and Beauty Expo

Amid the growing popularity of hallyu (Korean wave), a local provincial government will host a massive cosmetics and beauty fair from May 3 until May 26.

The organizing committee for the Cosmetics and Beauty Expo aims to attract around a million visitors, 70,000 of which it hopes will be from overseas.

It is to be held in Osong, North Chungcheong Province and will also seek to induce interest from some 300 companies, domestic and foreign, and up to 2,000 buyers.

The event’s overall theme, “Healthy Bio, Beautiful Life,” is the only exposition of this type acknowledged by the government, international associations and organizations. The Korea Food and Drug Administration, Cheongju City and Cheongwon County will co-host the expo to be sponsored by several government ministries.
Pavilion of Hallyu Culture displays style and beauty throughout Korean history alongside the everyday lives of Koreans.

Provincial governor Lee Si-jong and former health and welfare minister Kim Hwa-joong are co-chairs of the organizing committee. Lee and other officials plan to visit China, Japan and Southeast Asian countries to engage in public relations efforts there next month, because the region accounts for more than 80 percent of all foreign tourists.

The organizing committee plans to invite officials and artistic performers from 12 countries in 22 regions that have sisterhood relations with the province to jointly host cultural, artistic and sports events during the fair.

“We plan to actively participate in various international trade fairs to engage in PR efforts for the Osong expo with the goal of raising the cosmetics and beauty industries as a strategic field on the occasion of the incoming event,” said Lee Woo-jong, director in charge of trade and economic affairs at the provincial government.

The nation’s cosmetics, equipped with high quality, diverse products, have been leading the global trend. The cosmetics market here grew to $7.9 billion in 2011 from 4.9 billion in 2006, registering an annual growth rate of 10.4 percent on average.
General view of the site of Osong Cosmetics and Beauty Expo

The nation’s cosmetic industry, composed of bio technologies such as oriental medicine and stem cells and advanced nano and information technology, has emerged as a key future growth engine for Korea, along with the beauty industry.

“We aim to promote the region as a hub for K-beauty, one of main themes of hallyu in time for the expo,” said Nam Kil-woo, in charge of PR affairs for the committee.

The expo might succeed in attracting more foreign visitors given the increasing popularity of hallyu. In particular, Myeongdong in central Seoul, has surfaced as a symbolic marketplace for Korean cosmetics and beauty-related products, bustling with foreign visitors throughout the year.

North Chungcheong Province has emerged as a new center of bio industry accommodating some 60 leading cosmetics companies such as LG House and Health Care. Osong is also home to six national institutes – the Korea Food & Drug Administration (KFDA), the National Institute of Food and Drug Safety Evaluation (NIFDS), the Korea Health Industry Development Institute (KHIDI), the Korea Human Resource Development Institute for Health and Welfare (KOHI), the Korean National Institute of Health (HIH) and the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (DCD).

Osong also has optimal transportation conditions such as the KTX Osong Station and Cheongju International Airport.

Themed exhibitions will provide information about the significance of beauty throughout history. The industrial exhibitions will provide opportunities for trade between domestic and foreign companies in high technology cosmetic and beauty products. The interpretation and reverence for different forms of beauty in many countries as well as beauty as defined in Korea will be exhibited.   

The “World Beauty Pavilion” displays variations in the meaning of beauty as seen throughout history and culture. It also provides space to directly reproduce the makeup techniques of beauties from the past.

The “Beauty Innovation Pavilion” will display the development of cosmetic science and technology driven by the continuing desire for beauty, and shows the future and vision of the bio-cosmetics & beauty industry.

The promotion of products and sales of participating cosmetic and beauty businesses will be held in the Industrial Exhibition Pavilion. These halls will display finished cosmetic products, raw materials, equipment and other related beauty commercials goods.

The “Beauty Market” is a venue at which the participating cosmetic beauty businesses can promote their products. Visitors to the expo can buy new products from various enterprises at affordable prices.

The “Korean Culture Pavilion” will display the style and beauty of tradition that has been created and maintained during 5,000 years of Korean history. It will display the everyday lives of Koreans through various episodes as a space in which to find simple but stylish beauty.

The expo will feature a variety of performances, events and contests in which visitors can participate and enjoy around the clock. Top body painting groups from around the world will participate in the ‘World Body Performance,’ providing a splendid show.

Besides the exhibition, a series of special events including domestic and international seminars and academic conferences such as the ISO/TC217, which be held on May 3 and May 26.

For more information contact: or call at +82-43-249-4519

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Vegetarian meals make their mark

Not mainstream yet, but vegetarian diet attracts health, environment-conscious eaters around the world.


Although, for we Indian vegetables are abundant and people enjoy platters made by colorful and healthy vegetables rather than red or white meats. “These days, people know what vegetarianism is, one can call a Chinese restaurant and ask for black bean sauce noodles with only onions and sauce,“When one goes to a restaurant, one can ask for dishes to be made without meat and people do not react negatively to such requests.”

Yi also believes perceptions of vegetarians have shifted.

If six to seven years ago vegetarians were seen as somewhat extreme, now, in Yi’s opinion, vegetarians are seen in a positive light.

People, according to Yi, see vegetarians as healthy and environmentally conscious individuals.

The positive attitude towards the vegetarian diet seems to be due, in part, to Korea’s “well-being” and “healing” trends, both of which have fueled societal interest in health.

“Among the masses, health is still the biggest impetus behind interest in vegetarianism,” said cable channel Olive team head Seo Won-ye. “I think people are interested in vegetarianism for their own health, for dieting, for digestive reasons or to change their physical constitution.”

Seo added that “people are very interested in vegetarianism and detoxification as a means of dieting.”
Some of the vegetarian temple food dishes that are offered at Baru restaurants.(Baru)

Though the food channel does not devote entire programs to vegetarianism, Seo said Olive plans to frequently address it in upcoming and new shows like the revamped “Homemade Cook,” where doctors help provide recipes that address various health concerns.

“Vegetarianism is not a minor phenomenon,” Seo, 36, said over the phone. “We cannot help but touch upon the subject more frequently.”

Indeed, Olive has addressed vegetarianism most notably with “Lee Honey Vegan Recipe,” a segment of its celebrity-fronted cooking program “Food Essay.”

When the segment aired over a year ago, “people were familiar with the concept of vegetarianism, but the lifestyle was not widespread,” said Seo.

“We did our homework and discovered a lot of people were interested in vegetarianism, so we focused on providing recipes for those just starting out.”

The segment showcased pescetarian recipes and, according to Seo, the response was good.

“Repeat airings were also well received, and the recipes were especially popular among women in their 20s and 30s.”

Recipes, it appears, are important to practicing vegetarians in Korea. Vegetarian magazine Begun also devotes a substantial number of pages to recipes, partly to provide diverse eats for vegetarians who might be bored with their current repertoire, said Yi.

Another reason behind the focus on vegetarian-friendly recipes both on television and in magazines like Begun might be because vegetarian, particularly vegan, options are not the norm when eating out.

Yet, even though vegetarian restaurants are not widespread and vegetarianism is not mainstream, various signs point to its increased presence in South Korean society.

In 2010, Seoul National University saw the successful launch of an on-campus vegetarian buffet.

Operated by the Seoul National University Cooperative, an independent, nonprofit corporation, the buffet was so popular that a second vegetarian locale was opened last year.

According to SNU Co-op headquarters director Lee Gyu-sun, the latest spot, a student restaurant where a vegetarian menu is provided as one of four menu options, was chosen because students wanted more access to meat-free meals.

Dongguk University also has an on-campus vegetarian buffet that opened in 2011. Operated by major food service company OURHOME, the buffet started off in a small room.

“During the buffet’s pre-official launch, it was hard to estimate how many would use it,” OURHOME manager Lee Sang-min explained via email. “After the pre-launch, there was not enough space for customers during peak hours so the buffet was moved to a larger space.”

“Lots of students who are curious about vegetarian cuisine and who are dieting or concerned about their health use the buffet,” said Lee, pointing to the possibility that vegetarianism or “flexitarianism,” otherwise known as semi-vegetarianism, might be gaining serious momentum, particularly among those who are health conscious.

According to Lee, this is OURHOME’s first and only time operating a vegetarian buffet. But after the campus buffet opened, other cafeteria operations have expressed interest in vegetarian options, asking OURHOME about the menu, costs and average number of customers.

Some might say that this is where vegetarianism-at-large stands. People and businesses are curious about it but view vegetarianism as unknown territory.

However, the recent launch of a blind date event for vegetarians by matchmaking agency Sunoo points to an alternative perspective on vegetarians as a niche community on the rise.

Approximately four months ago, Sunoo started holding blind date meetings once every two months for vegetarians. To date there have been two events where eight to 10 women were set up with the same number of men. The third event is slated for mid-March.

According to Sunoo founder and CEO James Lee, eight people have already signed up for the upcoming meeting.

“Response has been great,” Lee, 47, said over the phone.

Lee explained that a rise in the number of vegetarians starting three to five years ago was an impetus behind Sunoo’s vegetarian blind dates.

The agency’s decision to provide blind dates specifically for vegetarians seems to signal that the vegetarian community has grown significantly.

When vegetarian magazine Begun put out its first issue two years ago, there were 40 regular subscribers and around 100 copies were sold at bookstores in Korea. Now of the 1,200 copies printed, according to publisher Yi, around 1,000 are sold. That means that within the past two years, sales have gone up tenfold.

In fact, a pro-vegetarian community seems to be growing, in keeping with current trends, in an even more health-conscious direction.

VegeDoctor, an organization of doctors whose purpose is to promote a vegetarian diet as a healthy means of eating, was established nearly two years ago, and, according to Yi, vegetarian mothers who want to raise their children on a meat-free diet have built up a strong community through the Internet by sharing research and data on what to feed their children.

Actress Park Min-young attends a graduation ceremony at Dongguk University in Seoul Park Min-young

My favorite Korean actress Park Min-young of "Sangukwan Scandal and Glory Jane fame graduated recently , so happy to see these pictures.



Sneak Peak at Mobile World Congress

The Mobile World Congress, the world's biggest mobile-focused trade show, starts on Feb. 25 in Barcelona. If the Consumer Electronics Show in the U.S. and Internationale Funkausstellung in Germany showcase TVs and home appliances, at the MWC mobile devices take center stage.

Around 1,500 telecoms and handset makers will participate in this year's exhibition.

◆ Bigger Screens

Market researcher Strategy Analytics cites three trends that will dominate the exhibition. The first is the disappearing boundary between smartphones and tablet PCs. Most of the new devices will feature five-inch or larger screens.

LG Electronics will showcase its Optimus G Pro smartphone with a 5.5-inch full HD screen. China's Huawei and ZTE will also introduce smartphones with five- to six-inch screens. More and more smartphones have bigger screens as their uses go beyond mere mobile communication and are increasingly being used to watch movies, play games and search the Internet.

Samsung Electronics will unveil the Galaxy Note 8 with an eight-inch screen, which is meant to compete with Apple's iPad Mini that comes with a 7.9-inch screen.

Samsung's strategy is to apply the "core features" of the popular five-inch Galaxy Note smartphone to a tablet PC, a company spokesman said. "There are going to some changes in the tablet PC sector, where Apple has the lead."

Analysts say Samsung came up with the gadget because it needs to boost its miserly share of the global tablet PC market.

◆ Chinese Companies

The second marked trend is the growing competitiveness of Chinese smartphone makers. Huawei will introduce the Ascend Mate featuring a 6.1-inch screen, as well as the Ascend P2 and Ascend D2 with five-inch screens.

ZTE hopes to take the market by storm with its 5.7-inch Grand Memo. Strategy Analytics said Huawei and ZTE are trying to improve their technologies in a variety of areas from hardware and software to services. It also cited Lenovo as a Chinese firm to watch out for.

The third trend is the transformation in operating systems. Google's Android OS, which accounts for 70 percent of the global market, is expected to face serious challenges. Microsoft’s Windows 8 and Samsung-Intel's Tizen are the key rivals that are appearing on the horizon. ZTE will showcase the world's first smartphone equipped with the Mozilla Firefox OS.

◆ Heavyweights

Among many big industry figures to attend the congress are the CEOs of Korean telecoms. KT CEO Lee Suk-chae will be the first of them to give the keynote speech at the MWC. SK Telecom president Ha Sung-min and other executives are also planning to attend. SK is the only domestic telecommunications service provider to open a large, independent booth at the MWC.

The CEOs of Qualcomm, Nokia, Vodaphone, Ericsson and AT&T are also attending to discuss the latest issues in the industry.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Earth Tones Can Warm the Gloomy Season

The winter months are often a drab time for fashion as vibrant colors give way to mournful black. But earth tones such as beige, brown, and gold can help the fashion-conscious maintain a touch of elegance and sophistication in the slushy streets.

Beige may not be eye-catching, but it is a versatile color and easy to wear as it resembles the color of skin. It is elegant, mellow and luxurious. For a soft, feminine look, match it with a simple pearl necklace or a beige watch, and add just one or two bold splashes of color.

Brown represents the earth and is a calm and casual color. It goes well with yellowish skin tone of Asians, so is ideal for those who want to look warm and luxurious, especially matched with beige or red.

Let's taste the Korean Chilli Paste called Gochujang

Gochujang to Be Classified by Spiciness

The Korean food industry has agreed to five standard levels of spiciness for gochujang, or Korean chili paste, for international customers.

But Korea's two biggest food companies, CJ and Daesang, find it difficult to agree on the terminology and unit they will use. CJ says it will use "medium" for the third level, while Daesang says it wants to use "moderate." And the two companies are also debating over whether to use a Scoville unit or PPM, which both measure the spiciness in a dish

 Korea's  ginseng are set to become internationally recognized products. According to the government the  traditional Korean foods have passed seven of the total eight steps of reviews by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, which defines international food standards.

Korean chili paste is expected to receive international protection of its Korean name gochujang. And Korea's ginseng products will now be exported to more countries as they will no longer be classified as medicinal products.

The government says the new-found recognition will hopefully lead to people around the world knowing more about Korean food.

The Rich Goodness of a Plain Bowl of Rice

Steamed rice is the staple dish in the Korean diet, alongside rice combined with other grains. A bowl of rice can be eaten in many ways, sometimes even without side dishes.

Steamed rice in cold water makes a nourishing kind of porridge. It can also be a filling snack with just a bit of seasoning such as soy sauce or red chili paste.

A tradition of regarding the main staple dish much more highly than the side dishes continues to this day.

The culinary custom of dividing a meal into the main rice dish and side dishes took on a clear class meaning during the Chosun Dynasty. A bowl of white steamed rice is now the most basic staple rice dish in Korea, but it used to be a very expensive option for ordinary people as rice was precious and often more expensive than other grains that they mixed into the rice with to keep the cost down.

For many of them, a bowl of white steamed rice was served only on special occasions such as birthdays or feast days.

Today, nutritionists appreciate the goodness of steamed rice. It is nutritionally superior to wheat, the staple in the west.

While both are a rich source of carbohydrates, rice also has good-quality protein that helps body to digest, and high levels of lysine, one of the essential amino acids that reduces cholesterol. It also contains Vitamins B6, D, E, and folic acid.

Many people think of rice simply as a source of carbohydrates. But when digested in the body, the carbohydrates in rice turn into glucose and supply energy for the body and brain to function. Rice has more protein and carbohydrates than wheat but 3.5 times less fat.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Taekwondo stays in Olympics, Park gets his bronze

South Korea’s Hwang Kyung-Seon celebrates after defending her Olympic women’s under-67 kilogram title with a victory over European champion Nur Tatar of Turkey at the London Games last year. Taekwondo, a traditional Korean martial art, will remain an Olympic sport for the foreseeable future after surviving the latest scrutiny by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).            /Yonhap
Korean footballer Park Jong-woo stirred controversy by hoisting a sign that read in Korean, "Dokdo is our territory,’’ attacking Japan’s historical claim over the tiny islets, while celebrating Korea’s 2-0 victory over Japan in the London Olympics bronze medal match last year. The IOC bans athletes from displays of any political statements and prevented Park from participating in the medal ceremony. The IOC’s Disciplinary Commission issued a warning against Park after its meeting Tuesday, but decided to give the player the medal he had been barred from collecting for six months.
Taekwondo will become one of the 25 Olympic core sports on the back of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) final scrutiny, while Greco-Roman wrestling lost its Olympic status, officials said Tuesday.

London Olympic national football team defender Park Jong-woo will receive a long-awaited bronze medal, which had been put on hold after his controversial celebration at the Games.

With the decision made at the IOC Executive Board meeting, taekwondo, Korea’s traditional martial arts, is expected to remain as an Olympic sport unless “exceptional circumstances,” such as a drug issue or a radical popularity drop occur according to IOC President Jacques Rogge.

For the 2020 Summer Olympics, the IOC will decide on a new sport to be represented with baseball-softball, roller sports, squash, karate, sport climbing, wushu and wakeboarding competing for an Olympic spot at the general meeting in Buenos Aires of Argentina in September.

Since it became an Olympic medal sport in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, taekwondo’s status has been threatened as it was embroiled with judgment controversies.

However, with a newly-adopted electronic scoring system and instant video replays for precise judgments in London, the sport swept aside such concerns.

Park had been in a bind after holding up a sign, which read “Dokdo Is Our Territory,” in the flush of victory. Dokdo are Korea’s easternmost islets which Japan has also laid claim to.

After the Disciplinary Commission reviewed Park’s action last year, the IOC decided to give him the medal.

“The IOC gave Park a strong warning,” an official with the Korean Olympic Committee (KOC) said. “Also, the KOC was told to map out plans to prevent similar incidents.”

Before the meeting, Park and his team of attorneys and KOC officials explained his case to secure the medal. Tension remained until the very last minute as Park refused to answer questions from reporters, noting that he did his best to convince the IOC officials.

In December, FIFA suspended Park for two matches and fined him 3,500 Swiss francs ($3,810) as a penalty.

K-pop venue to be built in Goyang

A rendering of the “K-pop Arena” to be built in Goyang by 2016.
                                            / Courtesy of Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism

A performance venue dedicated to K-pop will be built in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, northwest of Seoul.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism announced Friday that it selected the city to host the long-desired project for the Korean pop industry.

The venue, tentatively dubbed “K-pop Arena” is expected to be completed in late 2016. Once finished, it will have a main concert hall capable of holding 18,000 and a second venue with about 2,000 seats.

The ministry and Gyeonggi Province are expected to sign a memorandum of understanding sometime in March.

The decision was made after the concept was proposed by the Korea Culture and Tourism Institute and reviewed by music and performing arts experts as well as academics regarding the size of the lot, accessibility, the environment and economic viability.

K-pop is a booming industry with fans from around the world flying in to watch concerts, and K-pop stars spending months each year performing abroad. Industry insiders have long called for building such a performance venue for the further sustainable growth of K-pop and “hallyu” or the Korean wave.

'Hallyu' in Japan at a fork

The Korean melodrama “Winter Sonata” sparked a frenzy for Korean cultural products after first airing on Japanese television in 2003.
                                                                                                                  / Korea Times file

It was a decade ago when the Korean melodrama ``Winter Sonata’’ first reached a Japanese audience through NHK television and triggered a massive frenzy for Korean cultural products that soon exploded across Asia and beyond.

Hallyu, or the Korean wave, proved to be more than just about soap operas as international demand for Korean films and pop music, or K-pop, has risen sharply in recent years.

Fast forward to 2013 and the picture surrounding the Korean cultural boom is entirely different. There’s an irony in that at a time when Korea celebrates the emergence of its first globally-transcendent entertainer, “Gangnam Style” rapper Psy, hallyu is facing its most serious challenge where it all started ― Japan.

The Japanese taste for Korean cultural products has been affected by the icy diplomatic relation between the two countries. Things took a turn for the worse last year when South Korean President Lee Myung-bak made a surprise visit to Dokdo, the tiny islets Japan argues it has a historical claim to, and demanded an apology from the Japanese Emperor over the nation’s wartime atrocities.

Lee’s actions sparked anti-Korea rallies in front of Tokyo’s Fuji TV, with protestors demanding the network yank its Korean dramas off the air.

Japanese satellite channel BS Nippon postponed its plans to air the Korean drama, ``A Man Called God,’’ which stars Song Il-gook, after the actor joined dozens of other swimmers in a relay swimming event to Dokdo in protest of the Japanese claims over the island.

And last year was the first in several years that no Korean singers were invited to participate in NHK’s Kouhaku, the famous end-of-year singing program.  

Experts say hallyu is most sensitively affected by political and historical issues especially in neighboring Asian countries.

“We researched last year how many Japanese people believed hallyu was no longer culturally relevant in their country. In March, 15 percent of the 400 people surveyed answered hallyu was already moving toward its end. That percentage jumped to 41 percent by November,’’ said Park Sung-hyun, a researcher at the Korea Foundation for International Culture Exchange (KOFICE).

“We interpreted this result as to be linked with President Lee’s demand in August last year for the Japanese Emperor to apologize. It seems that historical and political issues can have detrimental effects on the consumption of Korean cultural products abroad.’’ Even Psy’s popularity was lower in Japan than in other countries in the thick of the Gangnam Style fever.

Although the strained relations between the two countries are denting the popularity of Korean cultural products in Japan, other factors are in play as well, according to Jung Duk-hyun, a pop culture critic.

 “The one-way flow of content and its quality can be reasons why hallyu isn’t doing so well in Japan. Of course, the tense diplomatic relations is by far the biggest reason,” Jung said.

He said the export of cultural content had been lopsided until now with Korean content flowing in to Japan but not much Japanese content flowing back to Korea.

“These uneven exports must have cooled down the Korean wave. Too much Korean content could have offended the Japanese when theirs didn’t affect Korea. Also, the content of hallyu is becoming less impressive than when it first began. The K-pop groups that enter the Japanese market are quite similar and they might be boring Japanese consumers,” he said.

Park also said, “K-pop is still popular but Korean TV dramas became less popular due to their same old melodramatic storyline. Despite famous celebrities like Jang Geun-suk and Yoona starring, the TV series Love Rain showed low ratings.”

For hallyu to continue flourishing overseas the quality of it must evolve and the exchange should go both ways.

“Until now, hallyu was propelled by star power. Famous entertainers led the trend. But the content was unable to support them. We need to develop something unique to Korea because from now on, content will define the path of hallyu,” said Jung.

“We’ve seen from Psy’s example that one good song can overturn the trend. Just because something doesn’t succeed in Japan doesn’t mean it can’t do well elsewhere.”

The content distribution also must go two-way.

“It’s more important to smoothly progress two-way cultural exchange between countries instead of the government taking the helm to spread Korean culture,” said Park.

With the advent of Psy on the global market, the perception about the hallyu market has changed drastically in the past year. Until now, Japan and neighboring Asian countries have been considered major hallyu consumers. Now the market has expanded to the whole world, as the song first gained popularity in North America.

But this does not mean the Japanese market can be overlooked as it is still the biggest consumer of hallyu. To continue a hallyu presence in Japan, friendly diplomatic relations seems like a prerequisite though.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Seoul City in Bid to Save Tradition in Insa-dong

The Seoul Metropolitan Government wants to crack down on the cosmetics stores and Chinese-made tat that are taking over the historical area of Insa-dong and squeezing out traditional businesses.

Some 100,000 tourists visit the picturesque area in downtown Seoul every day. The enclave is a symbol of traditional Korean culture contrasting with the gleaming towers of the bustling city. But stores that sell traditional handicraft have been gradually pushed into smaller alleys as the main thoroughfare has been taken over by cosmetics shops.

The owner of a traditional tea room said, "After the area was designated a cultural zone, the price of real estate and premiums on leases for store spaces almost doubled. Cosmetics retailers offered appealing prices for leases and premiums, so the landlords told stores selling traditional goods to leave."

The number of made-in-China "Korean" handicraft has also grown. A staffer in a shop that sells high-priced handmade crafts said, "Around 50 to 60 percent of the products are made in China." Traders apparently believe that tourists will not know the difference.

Visitors shop in Insa-dong, Seoul on Monday. 
Visitors shop in Insa-dong, Seoul on Monday.
In April 2002, Insa-dong became the first specially designated cultural zone in Korea. That means the Seoul city government can ban businesses that can damage the purpose. Seoul city plans to use this regulation to enact an ordinance prohibiting the sale of low-quality products manufactured overseas.

It also plans to include cosmetics stores on the list of businesses prohibited from operating in Insa-dong. Over the last four years, 11 cosmetics stores opened in Insa-dong. Already banned are newly booming businesses such as mobile phone stores and private crammers.

But many are skeptical whether the measures will enable Insa-dong to regain its identity. One merchant who has sold traditional handicraft there for over 20 years said, "We may be able to stop cosmetics stores from opening, but it’ll be difficult to stop sales of Chinese-made goods. Vietnamese-made products are even cheaper. Can you stop people from selling them?"

Daughters-in-law vs. mothers-in-law

Haha , I enjoyed a lot this K drama at KBS ....and get to know many things about day to day life of the Koreans.
The daughter-in-law, is portrayed by Kim Nam-joo, and the mother-in-law portrayed by Yun Yeo-jeong.                                                         /  Courtesy of KBS

Wives forced into ‘temporary slavery’ during holidays

The 2012 KBS drama “My Husband Got a Family” dealt with the frustrating relationship between a woman and her mother-in-law.

Around this time of year, daughters-in-law around the country start to panic as they travel to their mothers-in-law’s house to feed and serve their husbands' family members, even dead ones, through the ritual called "charae."

Major holidays continue to be a cause of stress and anger for many housewives in Korea. For them, the Lunar New Year holidays entail an endless series of kitchen chores that husbands rarely help with.

"Holidays are when many housewives in Korea are made to feel like maids," said a 35-year-old mother of a girl toddler who preferred to remain anonymous. "During the years I have been married, it never occurred to me to have some time to myself or take a vacation during the 'myeongjeol’ (holiday) season."

Like every year since 2009, she will travel with her family to be with her mother-in-law for the Lunar New Year. Unlike many Korean families, her in-laws do not practice charae, a ceremony that involves bowing to deceased ancestors and offering food and drink prepared for their spirits. But this doesn't mean her time with the in-laws is stress-free.

"During the holidays, I feel an unbearable amount of pressure. Even without charae, I have to prepare all the meals during family gatherings. It's not easy trying to make huge meals in another person's kitchen."

One housewife The Korea Times spoke to said she feels sick because of the stress she endures around this time of the year and other major holidays such as Chuseok. She said that she normally starts having panic attacks and headaches a few weeks before the holidays begin.

The mother of two girls, aged 6 and 7, in Mok-dong, Seoul, also spoke on the condition of anonymity. She deplored the misfortune of having in-laws from some of the most conservative parts of the country in Gimcheon, North Gyeongsang Province.

"For the first three years of marriage, I traveled to Gimcheon for the holidays and did what I was told to do, without feeling much resentment," the 40-year-old stay-at-home mom said.  "But then as the years went by, I started to feel an uncontrollable sense of anger. These holiday visits are a huge waste of time and money, but unless I intend to divorce my husband, these visits are an indispensable activity in our marriage," A former journalist with the economic daily Money Today, she has been married since 2004.

"It's not so much the kitchen chores that make it so hard. It's the stress that I feel when I am with my husband's mother and his siblings," she said.

Normally, the Daegu native is forced into the kitchen the minute she arrives at her mother-in-law's house, making heaps of “jeon” (traditional Korean pancake) and other holiday dishes for family meals and charae. In addition, she has to make side dishes for drinks that the male members of the family invariably will have after dinner and clean up after all the meals.

It was interesting that while these housewives were willing to speak frankly about their experiences as "holiday maids," they were fearful of having their names printed in the newspaper.

"Speaking ill of the in-laws is like spitting on my own face because they are people I have chosen as my family. That's why in many cases, housewives will not openly speak ill of them."

One housewife who did give her name had somewhat of a traditional view of a women's holiday duties.

Cheon Yeong-hye, 35, said that she would teach her three girls to be mindful of what it means to be a daughter-in-law.

The banker plans to visit her mother-in-law in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, for the holidays.

"Usually my mother-in-law prepares most of the holiday meals and I usually just clean up afterwards. Because I grew up in the conservative Gyeongang Province, I don't harbor much resentment about these kinds of activities," the mother of three girls said.

"Korea isn’t a country that respects daughter-in-laws. But I would still urge my girls to fulfill their basic duties of a daughter-in-law and refrain from placing personal comfort before family duty."

So how do mothers-in-law feel about all this?

"Daughters-in-law are a part of my family and I want all family members to take part in the holiday celebrations," Yoo In-sook, 65, said. "There is no rule that says they absolutely have to visit during the holidays. But ideally, a woman should perceive myeongjeol duties as a part of her obligation as a daughter-in-law."

The holiday stress is in some cases so extreme that it sometimes leads to divorce.

A new term "myeongjeol divorce" has been circulating in the media, referring to the rise in divorce rates in February and March following the Lunar New Year holidays.