Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Do you also eat vicariously?


Lee Soo-kyung of a cable drama series “Let’s Eat.” / Courtesy of tvN

Food-centric TV shows becoming hot trend

Ha Jung-woo in “Hwanghae”
Choo Sa-rang in “Superman Returns”
Yoon Hoo in “Where Are We Going, Dad?”
Webtoon-based film “The Hungry Woman”
By Chung Ah-young

Yoon Hoo, the son of singer Yoon Min-soo, was catapulted to stardom by “eating voraciously” on MBC’s high-rating reality show “Where Are We Going, Dad?” Choo Sa-rang, the daughter of Korean-Japanese combat sports star Choo Sung-hoon, is winning the hearts of viewers mainly for her “eating” scenes on KBS’s variety program “Superman Returns.” Ha Jung-woo is often portrayed as an actor who is good at “meokbang,” a new broadcasting term in Korean, which means “eating well” on screen.

Watching someone eat on TV is becoming a bizarre trend in Korea. As “meokbang” gives viewers vicarious pleasure, a growing number of TV shows are competitively obsessed with providing eating scenes.

First aired in November, a cable drama series “Let’s Eat” on tvN, the first of its kind, has been gaining popularity. The show features the eating scenes of characters who live alone. Based on romance and everyday routines, the drama portrays the female character played by Lee Soo-kyung relishing eating. In the drama, Lee plays the role of a 33-year-old divorcee who is happy to be living alone. One of her pleasures is food. Goo Dae-young played by Yoon Doo-joon, a member of K-pop group BEAST, is another foodie who lives alone too.

Park Joon-hwa, producer of the drama, said that Korean dramas have lots of eating scenes in which conflict erupts or settles down. “The drama focuses on building relationships between strangers through having a meal and ultimately relieving their solitude. It portrays the process of how people improve relations via food,” he said.

“The Hungry Woman,” based on the eponymous webtoon, deals with a single woman’s life in her 30s and connects it with food. It has so far had more than 3.2 million views on Naver’s TV cast. Yoon Sung-ho, director of the film, said that the recent trend is adding eating scenes to the ordinary story. “Isolated individuals find consolation by seeing others eating. Meokbang is a symptom of our society’s loneliness,” Yoon said.

The recent fad in watching someone eating is attributed to an increasing number of the one-person households in Korea. According to Statistics Korea, one-person households represented 9.1 percent of the total in 1990, 12.9 percent in 1995, 15.7 percent in 2000, 20.2 percent in 2005, and 24.2 percent in 2010.

The steep rise is attributed to the increasing number of young singles in their 20s and 30s who leave their parents, as well as those who don’t marry or get divorced along with the elderly who survive their spouses. Cultural critics said that those who live alone feel loneliness and find more vicarious pleasure by seeing someone eating.

The trend was provoked by Afreeca TV, the online channel, which aired the live-streaming service of eating enormous amounts of foods by its broadcasting jockey since 2009.
CNN reported in February that the show hosted by Park Seo-yeon airs hours-long eating scenes. After eating various kinds of large quantities of food such as pizza or beef, Park talks to her fans in a chat room which accompanies her live-stream channel.
“A lot of my viewers are on diet and they say they live vicariously through me, or they are hospital patients who only have access to hospital food so they also watch my broadcasts to see me eat. Fans who are on a diet say that they like eating vicariously through me,” CNN quoted Park as saying.
The program’s fans are mostly women and her show is more popular with women than with men.
CNN also quoted professor Park Sung-hee of Ewha University’s Division of Media Studies as saying that for Koreans, eating is an extremely social, communal activity, explaining why the Korean word “sikgu” means “those who eat together.” And Koreans hate eating alone.

Following Japan?

For a long time, cooking and food have been a central element of fiction in Japanese TV dramas. Korean shows seem to follow Japanese social and cultural trends to some degree.

In the 2000s, Japan’s NTV aired “Food Fight,” a popular drama series, based on an eating competition, and revolving around love and friendship. Also, “Late Night Diner,” which was first broadcast in 2009, deals with customers who come to a restaurant which opens at midnight. In the drama, people with diverse stories share them with others while eating.

Also, “Lonesome Gourmets” began airing its season 3 in 2012, and “Ms Hana’s Cooking” portrays a housewife’s cooking recipe, while “Just Eating” focuses on the eating binges of a man and a woman.

However, this is a cultural difference compared with TV shows from Western countries. On Western TV, cooking or food on screen is basically nonfictional, usually seen in teaching how-to-cook to the audience, except for cases in which characters gather to eat in a certain restaurant or bar.
Source: The Korea Times

Throwing new light on old treasures (Korean Culture)


“Human Figure,” China, early 8th century

National museum’s latest acquisitions highlight traditional Asian art 

By Baek Byung-yeul

The National Museum of Korea (NMK) has been ambitious in purchasing of Asian artworks since moving into its massive complex in Yongsan, downtown Seoul, in 2005. The museum’s new exhibition, "New Acquisitions of Asian Art," provides the first glimpse into this expanding collection.

The display features 66 items, including highly-rated treasures from China, Japan, India and Southeast Asian nations. They represent the cream of the crop of the museum’s assemblage of non-Korean artifacts, now at around 400, says NMK director Kim Young-na.

"I think this will provide a great opportunity for visitors to expand their knowledge of the artistic heritage of other Asian nations and celebrate the diversity in cultures," Kim said.
“Goddess,’’ India, 10th century

About half the artifacts in display are from China, from the bronze ware of Shang Dynasty (1,600 B.C.-1,046 B.C.) to artworks of Qing Dynasty (1644-1912). For visitors, sophisticated ceramic works, paintings and calligraphies can be educational as they are beautiful, with the museum providing a smooth explanation on how Chinese styles influenced the artifacts of Korea in respective periods.

''Human Figure,’’ an 8th century pottery piece from the Tang Dynasty (618-907), could be argued as the highlight of the museum.

The 37.7-centimeter horse-rider figure with fading colors is valuable because it is believed to depict a woman, judging from the round cheeks, beardless chin and make-up on the lips.

"It’s notable that the woman is dressed in male attire for horse-riding. These were during a time when horse riding became more common among women and male garments would have been more convenient for such activities than women’s dresses of that time," said one of the curators at the museum.

The museum’s new acquisitions from Japan include pottery, masks and paintings from the Edo Period (1603-1867).
“Merrymaking in a Grand Mansion,” Japan, 17th century
/ Courtesy of NMK

“Merrymaking in a Grand Mansion,” 2.8-meter long folding screen painting created in the 17th century, is another must-see, portraying people of high social status enjoying themselves in a luxury leisure mansion. There are people dancing to music and playing card games and women taking a bath.

"Goddess," a 10th century statue from India, is one of the eye-catching artifacts in India and Southeast Asian art corner, most of which are about Buddhist arts.
The 81-centimeter-tall statue is made of red sandstone and is notable for its voluptuous description of the female body.

Other than Indian arts, statues of Buddhist gods and goddesses from Thailand and Indonesia are also displayed, representing each country’s independent characteristics in Buddhist art.

The exhibition runs through June 22. For more information, call (02) 2077-9552 or visit

Love is __?


institute invites complaints from sexual minorities

By Chung Hyun-chae, Park Ji-won, Nam Hyun-woo

Love seemed to be a universal concept that embraced all. Recently, however, a national institute released a new definition of the concept that excludes minorities, in particular same-sex partners.

The National Institute of the Korean Language (NIKL) came out with a new definition of the word love — a feeling or affection for a person of the opposite sex.

According to the institute, which establishes language policies and updates the national dictionary, the concept of love exists only between a man and a woman, except when referring to love for friends, family, inanimate objects or country. The NIKL announced the new definition on March 31.

This is not the first time the institute changed the meaning of the word. Love used to be defined as a “feeling or instance of longing passionately for a partner of another sex by being attracted to the partner’s allure.” Five university students asked the NIKL to expand the definition because it seemed “discriminative to sexual minorities.” Thus, in November 2012, it replaced the phrase “partner of another sex” with “somebody.”

Given that Korean society is still closed for the most part to sexual minorities, the NIKL’s move was a bold step toward acknowledging that same-sex partners can love each other in a romantic or sexual way.

However, the institute’s decision invited complaints, mostly from conservative Christian groups. The Commission of Churches in Korea urged the institute to scrap the revision in October, saying, “Deleting ‘partner of another sex’ from the definition of love can be interpreted as defending homosexuality.”

In response, the NIKL said the revision was not intended to promote homosexuality, but to reflect the current use of the word in Korean society. Nevertheless, the institute said it will review the definition of love once again and change it to reflect conventional perception.

“We change the meaning of words after receiving revision requests from many people through various means such as the Internet and telephone,” said an NIKL researcher surnamed Han.

The NIKL reviews the definition of words every quarter. During the reviews, researchers and linguists discuss the definitions based on their use and opinions from citizens and experts.

Han explained that the institute’s latest revision of the definition of love reflects opinions that the term “somebody” was too broad and vague.

“If they changed the meaning based on ordinary usage, they had to stand by that revision,” a Korean language teacher at a university said on condition of anonymity. However, the teacher questioned how much people’s use of the word love could have changed significantly in less than two years.

The Solidarity for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Human Rights of Korea released a statement on March 31 that limiting the meaning of love to something that exists only between a man and a woman clearly discriminates against sexual minorities.

“The NIKL’s move is against the new Korean society, which accepts differences,” it said in the statement.

Young Koreans interviewed agreed that defining love is quite difficult but that the definition of love should not be limited in terms of gender.

“When I was younger, I believed there was only one type of love — Eros,” said Hwang Dan-bi, 23, a senior at a four-year college.

She said she is straight but doesn’t think the word love should be defined as a feeling only between a man and a woman.

“As I grew older, I realized that love isn’t just about the heart beating fast. I think love can be enjoying delicious food, strolling down a street and sharing thoughts with someone else.”

“If I share those feelings with a friend of the same sex, shouldn’t I call it love?” Hwang asked.

She said she has a number of gay and bisexual friends whom she met during her stay in Canada last year. At that time, she realized that people of other sexual orientations are no different from straight people.

“They longed for love and boasted about what they did with their same-sex partners. And they were excited to plan their next dates, just like me. If the word love is defined as affection between a man and a woman, what should we call their feelings then?” she said.

A college freshman surnamed Lim, a lesbian, also said love is just an honest emotion.

“I can express my feelings, without display, to my girlfriend. We are just who we are to each other, and we are not just same-sex friends. I think it is love,” Lim said.

Regardless of one’s sexual orientation, some people say that love doesn’t have one exact definition. They have their own meaning of love based on their experiences.

“Love is the feeling of deep affection toward all creatures,” said Gil Min-sub, 29, an office worker.

“I think love is an irrational, illogical emotion because it is something that’s hard to define,” said Kim Yeon-joo, 24, a college senior.

Older citizens interviewed, however, have mixed opinions about the NIKL’s new definition of love.

“I am a Christian, so I’m just being honest when I say I’m anti-gay,” said a civil servant in her 50s. “But I’m still unconvinced that deleting the phrase ‘partner of another sex’ promotes homosexuality,” she said.

“In Korea, love is still widely considered as a feeling between people of opposite sexes. If the NIKL reflects that, then it’s an appropriate move,” Kim Chang-hwan, 48, said.


Should we define love?


Renowned linguist Roland Barthes said language is “quite simply fascist.” This is because words affect how people perceive a concept. When we refuse to accept a different meaning of a word and regard it as wrong, we are tacitly allowing ourselves to be compromised by discrimination.

As the NIKL said, a word’s definition should reflect its current use. However, many people have pointed out that the NIKL’s new definition of love disregards the existence of sexual minorities in the country. It implies that a gay couple’s relationship is not love even though they do the same things a straight couple does.

Barthes also said, “To try to write love is to confront the muck of language; that region of hysteria where language is both too much and too little, excessive and impoverished.”

A gay man in his 30s who declined to be named said love is a simple, unsophisticated feeling.

“For me, the feeling of love isn’t something big. It is the feeling of wanting to take off my jacket and cover my partner because the weather is cold,” he said.

“I think love is the desire to take good care of someone, which comes from the heart,” he added.

Perhaps this issue may be meaningless to those who do not have a special someone, but it is nevertheless something worth thinking about. 
Source : The Korea Times