Must See Korean TV: 21st Century Family (21세기가족)

(Source)

Thank you very much to Maria, whose synopsis instantly sold me on this recent drama:

…I’ve seen a lot of Korean dramas and they almost always find a way to disappoint me in the way they portray women, sexuality or both. This little drama is quite refreshing. Unusual in that it’s only 8 episodes long, it openly talks about issues like teenage sex, puberty, the difficulty married couples have getting sex regularly, and even one episode about viagra. To be fair, I have taken the last nearly 9 months away from watching dramas, so maybe things have heated up out there when I wasn’t looking. But this is the first time I’ve seen sexually related issues being dealt with so frankly and humorously…

If you think it already sounds a lot like Modern Family, you’d be quite right — it’s explicitly modeled on it, albeit without a gay family. See here for a helpful family tree, starting with Lee Deok-hwa (이덕화) playing the father role that Ed O’Neill does in the US original, and DramaTic for some historical context on Korean sitcoms, which helps you better understand what makes this one so different. In particular:

…the word comedy [was removed] from the show’s promotion to avoid all the implications it brings to the table, at least in Korea – namely, the idea that sitcoms should all be about a relentless succession of mindless gags punctuated by the good old laugh track. It’s an intelligent expedient, which highlights this show’s priorities better than any trailer or presentation would. This, in other words, is a back-to-basics approach, while at the same time exploring different answers to the usual formula.

(Source)

Perhaps it’s no surprise that it’s so easy to find with English subtitles then — I just watched episode 1 here, and although frankly I found it a little slow after all that build-up, it was still quite enjoyable. Also, crucially, it only had precisely one cringe-worthy moment for me, when Oh Yoon-ah (오윤아) behaves quite childishly in the police-station towards the end. Considering how routinely women behave that way in most Korean dramas, making me turn the TV off in disgust within 5 minutes of watching, it was very refreshing not to see it for a whole 40 minutes here.

Anybody else seen the show, and/or like a detailed episode by episode discussion (à la Dramabeans) over the next 8 weeks? Please let me know!

FINALLY, a Way to Study Korean Through Dramas!

(Source)

If you’re a Western student of Korean, then probably you’ve experienced the same dilemma I have: you’d like to watch dramas to improve your listening ability and get a handle on everyday language, but are put off by their excessive melodrama, cliches, and often poor quality. Which is not to say that all of them are bad of course, but when you do find one you like, then you can struggle in vain to find Korean subtitles to them. For Korean torrent sites naturally don’t bother to provide them, and Koreans’ rampant illegal downloading means that it’s extremely difficult to find DVDs of Korean dramas (if they even exist).

So, either you have to watch dramas with distracting English subtitles, or struggle to understand the stories with none at all. If only there were some alternate way to study the dialogue in advance, or read it as you go along. Sure, Dramabeans’ detailed synopses of each episode of most dramas are very helpful for the gist, but I think I speak for most when I say we’re really after something more akin to transcripts…

Enter “드라마사진만화”, or “드라마영상만화”: a little like manhwa books, but with photo stills from the drama, rather than hand-drawn pictures. Please see Shanna’s post about them at Hangkukdrama and Korean here for more information, and which so impressed me that I immediately ordered some for Secret Garden. And you can just imagine how I felt when I read that she’s had some for over 3 years, when this is the first I’ve ever heard of them!

Does anybody else already used them? What did you think?

“I’m a Korean Girl”

Despite its title, this is simply a classic rendition of the way young women typically behave in Korean dramas.

The flip-side of the aegyo (애교) phenomenon, that behavior is precisely why I don’t watch them too, and have a real concern about the effects on my 2 daughters as they grow up seeing it every time they turn on the TV.

But don’t get me wrong: the video’s hilarious, and thanks very much to @Mentalpoo for passing it on!^^

Real & Presumed Causes of Racism Against Interracial Couples in Korea

(Sources – left: GR X Hermark; right)

Over at a recent post on Noona Blog: Seoul, an excellent blog written by a Swedish woman in a relationship with a Korean man, currently there’s several interesting comments about the sources of racism often directed against Korean female – Caucasian male (KF-CM) couples in Korea.

Many of which were written by Jake of Asian Male Revolutions, who has the admirable and very necessary goal of challenging the racist and emasculating images of Asian men in the US media through that website.

But in the process of – in my view – very much contriving to paint racism against KF-CM couples in Korea in those terms, as well as global racial power relations, I found he made many extremely sexist assumptions about Korean women, which I’d like to challenge. As technical issues prevent me from doing so at Noona Blog directly however,* then – assuming that you’ve already read his comments – I’ll post my original response here instead:

Dear Jake,

it’s difficult not to sound offensive when critiquing someone’s opinions so harshly. But still, however legitimate your concerns about representations of Asian men in the US media are, it’s incredibly naive of you to assume that that these would exist in the same form and degree in the Korean media, or indeed at all.

Argue that they still have a role in expressions of racism against KF-CM couples in Korea nevertheless though, and you end up simply sounding like an apologist.

Much more seriously however, in so doing you also rely heavily on some extremely patronizing and sexist assumptions about Korean women, let alone racist ones against Caucasian men. Let me explain.

I’ll start with your acknowledgment that “there’s no denying that simple male jealousy plays a role in the bellyaching white men…encounter as one part of an interracial couple in Korea.” Naturally I fully agree, and while I consider it a little harsh to dismiss treating that “as simple jealousy from a bunch of Korean/Asian losers” as a “pretty foolish assumption” – after all, you get jerks like that the world over – I also agree that it is wise “to consider the historical and political implications and undertones of various types and permutations of interracial dating” to understand that bellyaching more fully (source, bellyaching pun above).

But what is that historical and political context you identify?

The Western media has a much longer reach than Korean media; in fact all Asian media is to an extent influenced strongly by Euro-centric beauty standards. This has been well-documented by all the plastic surgery, and by the glorification of media figures (singers, actresses) who are selected first and foremost for their vaguely euro-Asian looks (as opposed to supposedly ‘ugly’ Korean features) and then groomed by a team of trainers and managers to become media superstars like Girls Generation, Son Dam-Bi, and all the ‘flavors du jour’ pop-tarts you see on Korean TV shows.

And again I largely agree, having written many posts saying pretty much the same thing myself. But crucially not the “The Western media has a much longer reach than Korean media” part; and as we’ll see in a moment, I feel you have an extremely inflated view of the Western media’s power in Korea.

So given the fact that an embedded system of euro/white-worship permeates South Korean pop-culture, white males have more elbow room to work with in the global dating scene. Many come to the shores of Korea and Asia and have relatively little trouble finding willing women who having seen and internalized images of white beauty standards, would like nothing more than to experience the thrill of dating the mythic “white boy”. And white men who come to Korea are only too happy to take advantage of this fact.

Okaaay…I’ll deal with your warped view of the interracial dating scene in Korea in a moment too (source above: Gusts of Popular Feeling). But first, let’s focus on your views of Korean women which it relies on, which you expand upon in your next comment:

Asian female/white male relationships cannot happen unless both parties are willing to participate in it.

This can only mean one thing – that Korean women, having internalized media messages glorifying white men, are also actively seeking them out to satisfy their own ‘white fetish’. Therefore, we cannot simply categorize white men as “predators” for Asian flesh: instead, a significant number of Asian women are willing collaborators.

Interesting choices of terms you’re using, especially that last. Continuing:

Or at the very least, they are passively open to it – that is, they might not go out of their way to seek white men, but if one does hit on them they are psychologically “primed” to be much more open to their sexual and romantic advances, as opposed to a black or even Korean man.

This is just more evidence of the pervasive white worship in Korean society, and it illustrates just how thoroughly and totally many Korean women internalize this message.

You’ve seen them in the bars and clubs and lounges of Seoul. To them, white boys on their arm are the ultimate accessory to their personal crusade to be the “coolest” chick on the block.

They’re commodifying race – and according to their rather twisted logic, being seen with a white guy the equivalent of having the latest handbag or shoes.

(Source)

They ought to stop and think about the implications of their choices. To them it’s a confirmation of their own belief that “being with a white man = COOL + URBANE + COSMOPOLITAN + TRENDY”… but it’s actually an expression of a colonial mindset – they are psychologically and mentally colonized, dominated, and enslaved.

They’re not setting the tone on what is cool – they’re doing the exact opposite: setting the tone on what is sick, twisted, and unwholesome.

Disclaimer: I am in no way claiming that ALL Korean women with white men are like this. But there is also no denying that a significant number of these women do exist. So please take my comments for what they are, and don’t take them out of context. Thanks.

Hey, no-one is denying that there are some Korean women who seek a White boyfriend for much the same reasons they would a Gucci handbag (or various types of Korean men either for that matter). But a “significant” number of Korean women with White men are like this you say? What percentage of them do you mean by that term roughly? 10? 25? And do you actually have any evidence whatsoever that they represent anything but the tiniest fraction of all KF-CM relationships?

Also, I’m rather confused: what percentage don’t want a White boyfriend as an accessory, but like you say just want to experience the thrill of dating one instead (which apparently is bad, even though we’re all attracted to the exotic)? What percentage are simply psychologically “primed” to spread their legs more readily for a White man “as opposed to a Black or even Korean” one? And finally, presuming you even allow for the possibility, what percentage of Korean women would you say aren’t passive, unthinking dupes of media messages of White male supremacy and are thus able to have genuine loving relationships with White men?

More to the point, have you asked so much as a single Korean woman of what she thinks of your characterization of them above?

I have asked one myself actually, my wife, and I’d wager that her reaction to you on the right is pretty representative. But I’ve asked many many more about interracial dating (including many who only speak Korean), and I think you’d be rather surprised at the far greater numbers of Korean women who have little interest, even a positive distaste at the possibility of dating White men.

Moreover, while global racial patterns of hegemony and privilege certainly ensure that more White guys end up in South Korea than, say, Indian guys, and that  stereotypes of both exist that encourage and discourage Korean women to form relationships with them respectively, it doesn’t automatically follow that Korean women assessing them as potential partners don’t do so by pretty much the same criteria that they do for any men, including Koreans.

Most South Asian men in Korea, for instance, are laborers, which obviously puts them at a big disadvantage to middle-class White teachers. Also, as one Korean female friend put it to me, while White guys tending to be taller has a great deal to do with their attraction to some Korean women (albeit a disparity that is rapidly disappearing), that still isn’t enough to overcome the anticipated language and/or cultural difficulties for most others. And another acknowledged that while White men in Korean tended to have more money (and freedom) than Korean guys in their early-20s, with the ESL industry in Korea being the joke that is, then, financially-speaking, in fact Koreans make much better partners by their late-20s and early-30s.

In short, while the specific mixture of the fish in the sea may well be determined by forces beyond their control, women are very much the arbiters of which ones they reel in so to speak.

To be fair, you do somewhat acknowledge this in your next comment, and which I admit I misinterpreted in the first draft of this post. But still, it is interesting how you force that into a narrative of Korean female submissiveness and White men’s sexual colonialism nevertheless. You say of the relationship between one commenter’s German father and Korean mother’s relationship, for instance:

…until Korean male/German female relationships become just as commonplace as what’s already out there (that is, WM/AF relationships), you can’t exactly hold that up as a ’shining example’ of “colorblindness”. It’s not — it’s more of an expression of racialized power structures and a neo-colonial history.

No, actually it can be colorblind, and both relationships and the people behind them are more then mere expressions of vast, impersonal forces. But if you’d like a more specific critique of your twisting facts to suit your narrative however:

(Source: Baby Black)

It’s the German man’s knowledge when he goes abroad that his country is wealthier and more powerful, compounded with the Korean woman’s knowledge that her’s is less wealthy (particularly back in those days), that makes the Western-male/Asian female (WM-AF) relationship so numerous.

And since women generally look to marry “up” while men look to marry “down” (socially and economically), you can see why the inequality between the white and Asian races makes the WM-AF relationship so easy to forge.

Put simply, I call bullshit on women marrying up and men marrying down: in virtually every society, both historically and today, the vast majority of men and women marry someone within the same socioeconomic group as themselves. Earning much more money than women however, then men are certainly freer to marry down, but that doesn’t at all mean that they aim to do so, or that they don’t aim to marry up any less than women.

But this critique pales in comparison to your reaction to the commenter after that, who wonders where the inconvenient reality of increasing number of Korean male – Caucasian female pairings like her own fits into your diatribe?

If you take some time to analyze our message instead of reacting emotionally, you’ll see just how out of line your thinking is, and how little time and effort you put into trying to understand something that is admittedly *highly, highly* complex. It’s a difficult concept for anyone to wrap his or her head around, so I guess I can’t blame you for taking the lazy way out with convenient and disjointed logic.

But then I said I’d talk about the Western media’s influence in Korea, and so I’ll do so now by contrasting the different impacts you feel it has on Korean men and women (my emphasis):

But the rub for Korean men (in general) is that men in places like Madison Avenue in New York City and Hollywood who control the images that go up on billboards and on TV and movie-screens are white – and they invariably make those images in their own image: White, Male, and BLOWN WAY OUT OF PROPORTION. In short: welcome to the world of Hollywood and the White Male Action Hero.

Keep in mind that while this is happening, Asian males are either completely excluded or used as a foil to make the white male look better in comparison. So Asian males in America or Korean males living in Korea internalize this subliminal message in the media and think that they can’t possibly step up to a blonde girl (or whatever white chick). They live their entire lives being psychologically castrated, in sharp contrast to a white male from where ever, who is emboldened or even arrogantly empowered by the jumbo-sized images made in his likeness, in the embrace of gorgeous white, black, latin, and of course Asian women in movie theatres all over the world.

(Source: Somang Cosmetics, 2003)

Hey, again I completely agree about the representations of Korean and Asian men in the US media. But I’m curious as to how you think this affects Korean males in Korea exactly, and what’s more upon whom you – very tellingly – imply that there is an equal effect as on Asian males in America. Pray, have you actually watched or read any Korean television, movies, magazines, or websites recently? It’s not like they’re lacking for strong, macho images of Korean men getting the Korean girl; or indeed, frequently getting the White girl these days, creating hypersexual stereotypes of them in the process.

Moreover, for a domestic media supposedly at the mercy of the global/Western media and its emasculating imagery of Korean men, it’s just bizarre how nevertheless it still has the ability to effectively censor all expressions of women’s sexual interest in foreign players during the 2002 World Cup; to not allow a single positive representation of KF-CM relationships in advertisements until July this year; to give a free voice to groups that, under the belief that Western men are all diseased sexual predatorswill literally stalk them with the aim of catching them doing illegal tutoring, thereby getting them deported; producing “documentaries” that show that Korean women will invariably get raped if they date White men; and so on.

Am I also “emotionally reacting” in pointing that out?

And simultaneously (being human and all) many white women are conditioned to shoot for white men as the “gold standard”, since all the glorified images of ‘male sex appeal’ feature only white males. Some even view Asian males with contempt or pity, and this of course spills over when white chicks go abroad – though to be fair, I’ve noticed this racist bias more in North American white females than European ones. So it is any wonder we see a “global sexual marketplace” that is DOMINATED by white males (figuratively) ‘raping’ and exploiting these loopholes to their sexual advantage?

Given the above dynamics of a GLOBAL system of media brainwashing that favors white males, is it any wonder that some people in Korea or elsewhere might secretly (or openly, in some cases) resent a white male for doing what he does? It’s not unreasonable, or completely out of the realm of possibility.

Ah. So while Korean women are mere passive dupes of the Western media, in contrast Korean men are savvy, knowledgeable consumers of it, and for whom calling a Korean woman walking down the street with Caucasian male a whore, say, is hence a justified response to their symbolic castrations and emasculation therein? As is the way the Korean media treats Western men?

(See Gusts of Popular Feeling for an explanation of the above video)

To put it mildly, that sounds rather apologist to me. But then considering what you write about White guys in Korea, then what would I know, right?

But here’s the funny thing: to him, he’s just ‘innocently’ going about his personal life – but of course he also doesn’t see (well, probably chooses not to see, that is, ignore) that the entire System is built for HIS personal advantage. It’s custom-built for his white male needs – and that is very racist, no doubt.

And on that note, I’ll put this response to rest. Regular readers may well wonder why I devoted so much time to it: after all, its flaws speak for themselves. But then I’m only human, and I reacted partially because it reminded me of how a commentator on this blog also conflated the 2 issues in an earlier post for instance, and whom I simply gave up reasoning with. Much more though, because it was annoying to spend 60 minutes on a comment only to have it disappear (see below), and finally especially because I was angered by comments on a similar post on Noona Blog not only gushing with enthusiasm for Jake’s comments but also implying that he had “a fact-based academic writing style”, when if anything it’s marked by their complete absence.

Combine that with being a White man married to a Korean woman blogging about gender issues in Korea too, who as a result has had trolls insulting the both of us incessantly for 3 years, or even being sent 3000 word emails patiently explaining that the vast majority of  White men in Korea (but always excluding myself of course) have yellow fever, and that I’m just being emotional in not acknowledging that…then hopefully you can see why I get very tired and angry at hearing that sort of thing sometimes!^^

Update: See I’m No Picasso and Roboseyo for two excellent posts written in response to this one.

Update 2: And now Gusts of Popular Feeling too.

You’ve seen them in the bars and clubs and lounges of Seoul. To them, white boys on their arm are the ultimate accessory to their personal crusade to be the “coolest” chick on the block.

They’re commodifying race – and according to their rather twisted logic, being seen with a white guy the equivalent of having the latest handbag or shoes.

They ought to stop and think about the implications of their choices. To them it’s a confirmation of their own belief that “being with a white man = COOL + URBANE + COSMOPOLITAN + TRENDY”… but it’s actually an expression of a colonial mindset – they are psychologically and mentally colonized, dominated, and enslaved.

They’re not setting the tone on what is cool – they’re doing the exact opposite: setting the tone on what is sick, twisted, and unwholesome.

Disclaimer: I am in no way claiming that ALL Korean women with white men are like this. But there is also no denying that a significant number of these women do exist. So please take my comments for what they are, and don’t take them out of context. Thanks.

*Actually, my original intention was just to leave a comment at Noona Blog, but as soon as I hit “submit reply” then it disappeared into the ether. As the same thing happened on a different post last week however (my first there), then wisely I’d saved it first. Of course, it’s annoying that I can’t seem to comment at all there then, but normally I’d just chalk that up to the idiosyncrasies of  the individual website. Yet then the same thing happened on Seoul Beats yesterday too (thanks for the link guys!), which I have successfully commented on before. Do any technically-minded readers have any possible explanations?  A plugin issue perhaps, or something to do with the most recent version of WordPress? (Switching from Firefox to I.E. didn’t help) Thanks in advance!

Ah! (아!) by After School (애프터스쿨): Lyrics & Translation

After School’s (애프터스쿨) debut track from last year, of which I again include both DJ Areia’s remix above and the original below for you to enjoy while I explain the lyrics. But note that the remix is not actually trance this time, but rather the disco-like “vibrating analog synthesizer sounds and the helicopter-like basslines” of the late-1980s and early-1990s, so please do give it a try if you’re normally put off by dance music.

As for the music video itself, its theme is a little strange: schoolgirls in skimpy clothing coming on to their increasingly flustered young teacher, whom they are very happy to have ‘accidentally’ burst into their locker room later? It sounds…nay, looks like Japanese manga, and reminds me that student-teacher relationships (including dating and marriage) are a common trope of mainstream Korean popular culture (see here, here, and here for example), which only serves to both glamorize and normalize them.

Still, overly hormonal school students do sometimes have crushes on their teachers, and there’s nothing wrong in itself with portraying those in a music video. But while this one does obviously cater more to men’s sexual fantasies than to women’s (would having the group members vying for the affections of a handsome male student instead appeal more to women?), the lyrics demonstrate that there is much more to the song than meets the eye…

Again, for reasons outlined last time, I’ll provide very literal translations:

이렇게 둘이, 너와 단 둘이
언제나 둘이, 달콤한 이야길 하고파 둘이
둘이, 오늘밤 둘이, 사랑해 우리 둘이 둘이 baby

This way the two of us, with you only the two of us

All the time the two of us, I want us to tell a sweet story

The two of us, tonight the two of us, I love you we the two of us the two of us baby

“단” in the first line confused me for a while: it has a dozen meanings, including “bunch” or “bundle” which would (sort of) go with “the two of us”, but ultimately the meaning “only” is the most appropriate here. After that, the “~ㄹ 고파 하다” verb ending in the second line was the first time I’ve ever come across it personally, nor is it in any of my grammar books, but my wife says it simply means “~하고 싶다”, or “want to”.

잘빠진 다리와 외모 너는 내게 반하지
그대를 향한 윙크 한번 내게 빠지지
니 높은 콧대, 내 몸맨 어때
내 앞에선 니 모든게 무너지고 말껄

You have fallen in love with my slender legs and outward appearance

If I wink towards you one time you will fall (further)

The bridge of your nose is high (you have high standards)

How is my body?

Everything about you is going to crumble in front of me anyway

It feels a little hypocritical of me to critique other translations of songs here, as I very much rely on them to try and understand anything I might be having difficulty with myself, and especially because the translators may lack my increasingly annoyed Korean wife to constantly ask questions of in the next room. Nevertheless, those of whomever DJ Areia uses in his remixes (Yeeun2Grace perhaps?) really do seem a little sloppy sometimes (recall the big mistake in the 5th line of Bang!), and certainly disguise the subtlety of the original.

Take the first line for instance: “빠지다” has 13 meanings according to my dictionary, but “sexy” isn’t one of them; rather “잘빠진 다리” are “legs that have lost a lot of weight”, or “slender”. Sure, you could argue that this is just being picky, but it’s just as plausible to think that there is something culturally significant in the fact that “legs that have lost a lot of weight” was said rather than “섹시한다리” for instance, or more literally “sexy legs”. Also, “외모” is not “face”, but is actually the “outward appearance” of your entire body.

Next, putting line 4 as “I know you’ll crumble in my presence” completely ignores the “모든게” (or “모든것” + “이”) in it, or “everything”, and although “I know you’ll fall for me” is fine I guess, the verb ending “~고 말껄” (annoyingly not in any of my grammar books) means more “[the verb] is going to happen anyway”. Hence “everything about you is revealed in front of me” seems much better, as per the translation available on the AfterSchoolPlay fansite (registration required)

Finally, not a translation mistake, but in line 2 annoyingly the meaning of “빠지다” is different to that in line 1; and learners of English complain about the multiple meanings of words!

사랑한다 말만 말고 보여 주겠니
나도 니가 맘에 들어 춤을 추겠니
너와 난 왠지, 자꾸만 왠지
통할 것만 같아, 너를 사랑 할것 같아

Don’t just say you love me, aren’t you going to show me?

I like you too, aren’t you going to dance for me?

You and me for some reason, only again and again for some reason

I think we will only be connected, I think I will love you

My wife tells me that the verb ending “~겠니” in line 1 and 2, again not in any of my grammar books(!), means “aren’t you going to [verb] for me?”, So where on Earth “If I didn’t like you would I dance up on you like this?” below comes from I have no idea, no matter how appealing the thought!

(chorus)

짧은 시간 가까워진 우리 둘 사이
그대와 난 이제 하늘이 맺어준 사이
두말 할 필요 없어, 다가와 내게 어서
조명이 나를 번쩍 비추면
그댈 유혹하는 내 눈빛이 뜨거워지지
다른 남자들은 니가 너무 부러워지지
말은 안해도 난 알잖아 표현 안해도 다 알아
빨개진 니 얼굴이 다 말을 해주잖아

In just a short time we have become close

We are a match made in heaven

We don’t need to say it twice, come to me

If a light suddenly shines on me

It heats up the light of my eyes that is seductive to you

And other men become very jealous of you

You don’t have to say it or show it in your expression, I know everything

You red face shows it all

Not much to say here actually, other than both the translators at Yeeun2Grace and AfterSchoolPlay separated the above into two verses between lines 4 and 5. But I think that was mistaken, as line 4 ends in “비추면” or “if the light shines (on me)”, which is why the singer’s seductive eyes light up in the line 5. Lacking that connector, then I think that their own versions of line 4 and line 5 – “I’ve been illuminated by the light… You see my burning seductive eyes” and “When the lightning strikes me…My eyes which are putting him into temptation are becoming hotter”  respectively – don’t really make any sense.

(chorus)

나나나~

After school in the house, 모두 같이 make it bounce
들어봐 지금 내 말, 오늘밤 tonight
다가와 말못했던 얘기, 우리 둘만의 작고 작은 속삭임
그래 넌 지금 날 너무 원하지, 가벼운건 싫어 내 모습이
다른 장소 after party, 걱정마 이런 내 스타일에
오늘밤은 후회안해, 내 맘을 뺏어봐 baby boy

(chorus)

Na na na~

After School in the house, everybody together make it bounce

Hear my words now, this night tonight

Come to me, and all the things you (we?) couldn’t say, all the little whispers we said only to each other

Yes, you really want me now, I (you?) don’t want just light stuff

Different place after party, don’t worry this is my style

Don’t regret tonight, try to take my heart baby boy

Again, the Korean seems pretty straightforward here. On a final note then, given how targeted it is towards male audiences I was very surprised not to find any screenshots of the music video either via Korean or English search engines, leaving me with the onerous task of producing my own. Despite the visuals however, the lyrics in this debut song are clearly just as much about girl-power and being confident and assertive as they were in Bang! a year later, so the possibility remains open that After School may actually have a sizable female fan base (and I rather hope that they do).

In light of that then, you imagine what I thought of three members’ most recent song in which they pour on the aegyo (애교), basically looking and behaving like 12 year-old girls. Like I said in the comments to a post about it at SeoulBeats:

I’d have to give it a thumbs down. Not so much for the music in itself, but because I’ve always liked After School for the assertive, confident, girl-power theme of their songs, and so this “candy coated aegyo overload” as you well put it really seems to dilute their brand.

And most other commenters there agreed with me. But what do you think of it? Feel free to disagree with me of course, and diversity is the spice of life and all, even for music groups. But still…

(Source)

As always, thanks in advance for pointing out any mistakes I may have made or providing alternative translations!

What a Difference a Region Makes

( Source: The Japan Foundation )

With thanks to Philip Gowman of London Korean Links for bringing it to everyone’s attention, I’m literally ordering this book as I type this just for the Korea-related chapters alone!

UK-based readers, note the book-launch in London next Wednesday: see the The Japan Foundation for more details, and make sure to email jd.mackintosh@bbk.ac.uk by Monday if you’d like to attend.

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The Kafkaesque Korean Beauty Trends of 2009

(Source: Unknown)

Confused about all the new buzzwords used to describe Koreans’ bodies these days? Here’s my translation of an article that gives a quick guide.

The author implies that most of them arose organically from the public’s interest in certain actors in Korean dramas. Whereas in reality, it’s companies and the media that are overwhelmingly responsible, as they’re in a constant quest to create new consumer trends (read: new reasons for people to feel dissatisfied with themselves). Yet while most of these have no basis in reality, are essentially useless, and/or are so contrived as to be quickly forgotten or ignored, some do stick.

Of those that do though, if they have some English in them then it often makes them more interesting from a sociological standpoint. For whether by accident, mistranslation or design, they both reflect the way the term is already usually misused in Korean and further influence they way in which related English-language popular culture gets filtered into its Korean counterpart.

A good example from this article would be chongsoon-glaemor (청순글래머), or “innocent glamor,” which at first glance doesn’t seem all that strange: in her television commercials for instance, the ice-skater Kim Yuna (김연아) below manages to project an innocent image while having a seemingly glamorous lifestyle (I wonder if she’ll find the former stifling as she grows older however, like actress Moon Geun-young?). But it emerges that “sexy” would be a much better translation of the English word “glamor(ous),” and although I’m sure readers are well aware of the number of ways  in which women are presented as pure and innocent but somehow also lustful in Western popular culture, and effectively are in Korean, there are still problems with assuming that that is what the term means, as the word “sexy” isn’t construed quite the same way here. Instead, we seem to be left with an obscure term for Korean women that look more virginal than normal(?), but yet still do the mechanical “sexy dances” virtually required of them on Korean talk shows.

Anybody with more familiarity with the term and/or the actress Shin Se-kyung that supposedly spawned it, please feel free to correct me on my interpretation: after all, this is the first time I’ve looked at its origins, and just based on one article at that (Update — with thanks to Seamus Walsh for pointing it out, I did indeed make a mistake: “glamor” actually means “busty” in Korean). But with the proviso that the next means I may be cherry-picking the facts to suit my own views, it does still seem very consistent with the Korean media’s overall trend towards discouraging or outright banning of assertive displays of women’s sexuality, i.e. genuinely sexy behavior.

꿀벅지·미중년·꽃남…2009년 연예계 뷰티 트렌드는? 2009-12-31 by 두정아

올해 연예계 트렌드를 이끈 핫 키워드는 무엇일까. 꽃남과 미중년, 꿀벅지, 베이비페이스, 청순글래머 등 어느 해보다 개성있고 다양한 트렌드가 공존했던 한 해였다.

드라마 ‘꽃보다 남자’로 ‘꽃남’이라는 단어가 사람들 입에 오르내렸고, ‘내조의 여왕’의 윤상현은 ‘미중년’이라는 찬사를 받으며 남성들의 뷰티 열풍을 이끌었으며 그룹 에프터스쿨 멤버 유이의 매끈한 허벅지를 일컫는 ‘꿀벅지’와 배우 신세경의 ‘청순글래머’ 등은 여심을 자극하며 바디 열풍을 일으켰다. 여전한 ‘V라인’ 강세 속에 동안(童顔) 열풍 또한 이어져 ‘베이비페이스’라는 단어가 자주 회자됐다.

What were the hot keywords that led trends in the world of entertainment in 2009?

With kkotnam (flower man) and mijoongnam (beautiful middle-aged man), ggoolbokji (honey thighs), babyface and chongsoon-glaemor (innocent glamor) emerging, there were many very distinct trends compared to most years.

From the drama Boys Over Flowers the term “flower man” was on everyone’s lips; from Queen of Housewives the actor Yoon Sang-hyu received a lot of praise for his looks, spawning the word “beautiful middle-aged man” and a strong following among men wanting to emulate him; and women were similarly interested in the After School member UEE’s smooth and velvety thighs known as “honey thighs” and actress Shin Se-kyung’s “innocent glamor.” Finally, in addition to the eternal “V-line,” a strong interest in youthful faces has been shown by the new word “babyface” that is often talked about.

(Source: Unknown)

‘꽃남’·’미중년’, 남성 뷰티(美) 열풍

KBS 드라마 ‘꽃보다 남자’ 신드롬에 힘입어, MBC 드라마 ‘내조의 여왕’ 태봉이 (윤상현 분)가 일으킨 ‘미중년’ 열풍까지 남성들의 뷰티 열풍이 어느 해보다 뜨거웠다. 이를 계기로 남자도 외모 관리를 해야 한다는 인식이 공유되기도 했다.

거친 남성다움보다는 부드럽고 세련된 귀족적인 이미지를 선호하는 분위기로 바뀌며 성형외과나 피부과를 적극적으로 찾는 남성들도 크게 증가했다.

경제 성장을 이루던 90년대에 사회생활을 시작한 현재 30대 후반부터 40대 초반의 중년들은 전통적인 부모 세대와 달리 중년이 돼서도 문화와 여가를 즐기고 자신을 가꾸는 노력에 적극적이기 때문이라는 해석이다.

Combined, the flower man syndrome caused by the KBS Drama Boys Over Flowers and the beautiful middle-aged man craze caused by the character Tae Bong-ee in Queen of Housewives have led to men taking a great interest in their bodies. This is how the notion that men, like women, also have to take care of their bodies and appearance has become accepted wisdom.

In turn, as the preferred image of Korean masculinity has become softer and more polished, refined and noble, cosmetic surgery and skincare clinics are reporting a great upsurge in interest from men.

One additional reason for this is that even though men that grew up and entered the workforce in the 1990s are now in their late-30s and early-40s, they are very different to their parents’ generation, and choose to enjoy culture and their free time more, which includes taking a greater interest in themselves.

‘꿀벅지’ ‘소시지룩’ ‘청순글래머’ 바디 열풍 선도

올 한해 주목할 트렌드는 바디 열풍이다. 소녀시대의 지(GEE) 열풍과 함께 유행한 일명 ‘소·시·지(Gee)룩’. 몸매가 고스란히 드러나는 초절정 스키니진에 타이트한 티셔츠를 입은 여성들이 패션을 주도하면서 여성들의 S라인 욕구는 상승했다.

뒤이어 그룹 애프터스쿨 유이의 건강미 넘치는 탄탄한 허벅지가 주목을 받으면서 꿀이 발린 듯한 매력적인 허벅지라는 뜻의 ‘꿀벅지’라는 신조어까지 탄생했다.

또한 요즘 주가를 올리고 있는 단어는 ‘청순글래머’. MBC 시트콤 ‘지붕 뚫고 하이킥’ 출연하고 있는 신세경은 청순한 매력과 섹시한 관능미를 동시에 지니고 있어 ‘청순 글래머’의 대명사로 불린다. ‘포스트 김혜수’로 주목받으며 휴대전화, 화장품 광고 모델 자리를 꿰차는 등 그 인기를 입증하고 있다.

이에 대해 그랜드성형외과 유상욱 원장은 “과거 여자 톱스타들의 상징이 ‘화장품 모델’이었다면 2009년은 이효리, 신민아, 송혜교, 손담비 등 청바지 모델로 그 중심이 바뀌었다”며 “이 같은 변화는 요즘 대중들의 관심이 바디로 옮겨지고 있다는 증거”라고 설명했다.

2009 was a real year of body trends. First, there was the very popular so called “sausage look” of Girls’ Generation. Hiding nothing, the ensuing fashion of wearing extremely skinny jeans and tight t-shirts among women has sparked an intense interest by women in their S-lines.

(Update — “Sausage look” may be a mistake, as the “소시”, or “soshi”, in “소시지(Gee)룩” is also the Korean shorthand for Girls’ Generation, and the “지”, or “gee”, the name of one of their most iconic songs. So the term may mean “sausage look”, or it may mean, literally, “how Girls’ Generation looked in the Gee music video”, in which they happened to wear skinny jeans. Either way, it’s a good pun!)

Next, as a lot of interest in After School member UEE’s firm, smooth and very healthy-looking thighs emerged, the new word “honey thighs” was coined to describe thighs like them.

Another word that’s stock is rising is “Innocent Glamor.” This comes from the actress Shin Se-kyung that appeared in the MBC sitcom High Kick Through The Roof, described as the icon for women who combine a pure and innocent image with sex appeal. Considered a second Kim Hye-su also, because of her popularity she regularly appears in cellphone and cosmetics commercials.

According to “Grand Cosmetic Surgery Clinic” owner Yu Sang-ok, “in the past the symbol of top female stars was the cosmetic model, but in 2009 women like Lee Hyori, Shin Min-ah, Song Hye-gyo and Son Dam-bi have been mostly modeling jeans instead,” and “this is proof that the focus of people’s attention has moved to star’s bodies now.”

(Source: Naver)

‘V라인’ 강세, ‘베이비페이스’가 위협

올해도 ‘V라인’ 강세는 여전했다. 뭐니뭐니해도 ‘동안’, ‘V라인’, ‘작은 얼굴’은 사람들이 가장 선호하는 이미지이기 때문이다. 갸름하고 부드러운 V라인은 첫인상부터 편안하고 친근한 장점도 있다.

MBC 드라마 ‘선덕여왕’ 미실 역의 고현정은 소름끼치는 연기와 더불어 나이를 가늠할 수 없는 ‘베이비페이스’로 주목을 받았다. 투명한 피부는 물론, 볼륨감이 그대로 살아있는 생기있는 얼굴은 아기 피부 같다는 찬사를 받았다.

‘베이비페이스’는 ‘어려보이면서 입체적인 얼굴’을 말한다. 그 특징은 얼굴 옆이 아닌 앞쪽으로 볼륨감이 살아있는 얼굴로 콧등의 높이와 균형을 이루는 부드러운 곡선 모양의 탐스러운 이마 그리고 갸름하고 조금은 짧은 듯한 턱 선이 생명이다. 이러한 ‘베이비 페이스’의 열풍은 2010년에도 지속될 것으로 전망된다.

Last year, the emphasis on the V-line remained unchanged. After all, the preferred image is to have a dongan “youthful face [for one’s age],” V-line, or jakkun-olgool “small face.” And if you have a long, slender face with a V-line, people’s first impression of you will be softer and friendlier.

Hence the interest in the “Babyface” of actress Ko Hyeon-jeong, who played the character Lady Mishil in the MBC drama Queen Seon Duk, and whose acting was so good that she gave viewers goose pimples. With clear skin and glowing, firm cheeks, she has received a lot of praise for having a face as good as a baby’s.

But a babyface has been described as a “solid, 3D face.” In particular, it’s not just the volume of the cheeks on the side but also the balance with the bridge of the nose, the softness of the curves and the desirability of the forehead that make it look youthful. They look set to remain popular in 2010. (end)

(Source: Naver)

Like I said in an earlier post, I was embarrassed at not realizing how sexist the term honey thighs was when I first heard the term, but I doubt I would have if they’d been described like that instead. And continuing with the theme of  sexual discrimination, I was surprised not to see “chocolate abs” for men also; unlike the commercial that spawned it, perhaps the term itself is more 2010 vintage?

Regardless, please let me know if you can think of any others, and especially if you have alternative explanations for where any of the above ones came from!