Open Thread #8: Superfuturism & Anitiquity

( “Fade to Red” by StudioQube. Source: deviantART)

Thoughts for the weekend, from boingboing:

Marilyn from National Geographic sez, “I think you’ll love these Shanghai photos by Fritz Hoffmann in March National Geo. It’s hard to believe such a superfuturistic megacity also looks like a village from 100 years ago.”

What she said. There are lots of places in the world where seamless high-tech and ancient cobblestones exist side by side, but I’ve never been anywhere in which you can go from one to the other so quickly as Shanghai. One moment you’re on the set of Blade Runner, then you turn a corner and you’re in a historical drama, with no sign of glass-and-steel in sight.

And of course most Korean cities are some of those places, and perhaps Seoul in particular. Something surprisingly absent from the discussion at boingboing though, is that in many senses such places can be considered ecotones, a geographical term for the zone where 2 ecosystems meet, and all the much richer and more diverse than either because of the ensuing interaction.

Seriously, nearly 10 years after I arrived in Korea, I still love wandering around such districts occasionally: the constant juxtapositions to be experienced there remind of how I felt when I first came. Unfortunately however, Korea’s misguided attempts at “modernization” means that they may not be around much longer, so make sure to enjoy them while you still can.

To end on a more positive note then, here is my latest favorite K-pop song, or again my new favorite Areia remix at least: Because of you (너 때문에), by After School (애프터스쿨; download the MP3 here). Clearly portraying a lesbian relationship despite the ostensibly heterosexual lyrics, I’ll definitely be analyzing it in depth at some point, but until then I’d be more interested in hearing your own thoughts. Enjoy!^^

Update: And before I forget, here’s a remix of Tell Me Your Wish (소원을 말해봐) by Girls’ Generation (소녀시대) also. But by a different DJ this time, and in my opinion a much deeper, warmer version of the original that makes it actually worth listening to, rather than the song merely being a means to provide some eye candy and indirect advertising via the music video. Skeptics, try the first 15 seconds at least, and if you don’t like those then you simply have no soul(!); everyone else, download the MP3 here.


18 thoughts on “Open Thread #8: Superfuturism & Anitiquity

  1. In my general studies exam we got a panaramic picture of Shanghai, the business centre and also a dingy alley way

    I mentioned how those could be one of the streets in the picturesque pana-image. ^_^ It’s quite funny how this open thread then has the same topic. I have been reading and looking at the iamges from Gust Of Popular Feeling. Some of the buildings look like htey could have been fine with some structural rework… it’s happening in London too but we’re getting these hideous plastic looking cubist crazy Russian-wannabe designs.

    I am a lover of old British architecture which was inspired from the Romans ect so when I see this nasty colour-spack it makes me sad. Two of the photos from my project about the London make over

    Glad you are warming up to Amaya too!

    G Sweet recently released a new I Care Remix, his old YT account was unfortunately suspended but he’s up and running again! Here’s my favourite remixes /mashes from him! – New remix!!

    [/shameless advertising]

    Also, I wanted to know your opinion on it, even if you never thought of it before but I wondered what you felt of T-ara’s transformation. Less than a year ago the management boasted to keep to old school image and not resort to “sexy”.

    Yesterday a classmate of mine who isn’t interested at all in kpop checked out T-ara’s new song. She said, “I watched some, laughed and turned it off[…] they are like the Korean Pussycat dolls”

    Far cry from last years statement. Obviously trend in pop is what it is however, what if the sexy trend is now the only one we’ll get now, innovation is lost and entertainment corps feel comfortable here and mainstream consumers feel comfortable there? I don’t remember the last time I listened to Pop like mainstream pop and it wasn’t about sex, & getting wasted whether it was insinuated or just said. [/question]


    1. I forgot to say, if they dare to touch Brick Lane/Old Street/Shoreditch/ectect, I will tie myself to the buildings



      1. Yep, I do indeed like that track by Ayama, and your list at AllKpop is very much to blame (still lots to get through)! That particular track though, is not so much good to jog to like the others I’ve mentioned, but more to unwind and think about life etc. over a Black Russian after the kids are asleep. But having said that, I find G Sweet just too slow & mellow sorry, although thanks for passing them on. And hey, even just 2 months ago I would never have thought I’d be liking K-pop so much now, so who knows?

        Have to get back to you on T-ara’s transformation sorry, because to be honest I’m not sure I’d *cough* even heard of them before I posted up that song 2 weeks ago. I genuinely wonder though, how long the ‘sexy transformation’ has been in the making, because many girl groups especially seem to be going trough them at the moment, and indeed a friend of mine believes that SNSD’s one may have been planned right from their conception, albeit only implemented once the band was popular enough. I’ll be writing a post on that next week actually, so will talk more about it then.

        Have to pass on talking about Korea’s urban modernization and so on for now too I’m afraid, because my daughters’ colds have meant that combined I’ve had maybe only 6-7 hours of sleep the past 2 nights, and my brain simply can’t handle anything more complicated than music! But please don’t let that..zzz…stop anyone else from doing so though..z…z.zz…zzz…


  2. South Korea seems to be almost as bad as China about destroying its built heritage. I was reminded of something I read over at Scribblings of the Metropolitician about clueless Korean tourism campaigns:

    Koreans are generally so concerned with false notions of the “national image” that it handcuffs any attempts to show what is actually interesting about Korea. Relatedly, Koreans are so concerned with looking good to the “better” nations with high numbers of blue eyes and tall buildings that they forget what is good about their own society/culture.

    Koreans planners fundamentally misunderstand “foreigners.” What “we” think about isn’t at all what most Koreans think “we” think about. For example, every time there’s a large-scale international event, the city tries to get rid of street vendors, because they think it makes Korean look “dirty” or “backwards.” That about the dumbest idea there is and a sign of how out-of-touch the city is.

    It occurs to me that perhaps the planners and politicians involved in urban redevelopment still have the insecure mentality of a developing country. As the Metropolitician wrote about tourism officials, they are anxious to put forward a modern image and nervous about anything old, assuming that foreigners will see it as a sign of backwardness. I read once that the military junta in Burma set about replacing thatched roofs on houses with corrugated metal sheeting, believing that tourists would associate thatch with poverty and primitiveness, when in reality nothing screams “Third World” to westerners more than acres of tin-roofed shacks.


    1. Thanks for passing that on: I was looking for something like that to include with the post while writing, and of course am a big fan of Michael Hurt’s, but my mind was a blank. Only thing I can really add then, because you’re very much preaching to the converted(!), is this extra article about the “beautification” of ancient monuments etc. in Burma, to my mind the epitome of the sort of mentality you describe.


  3. Just curious, are there any Korean pop idols that utilize traditional Korean instruments or styles in their songs? And I don’t mean trot… haha

    I mean, I listen to CPop too (I started out in it more specifically) and I like how some singers put very Chinese traditional and cultural themes in their songs and videos. I really enjoy KPop though, and they have some really impressive singers and talents, but honestly, I find that the only thing Korean about the songs themselves, is the language. Especially moreso these days.

    Mabe it’s just ignorance on my part since I don’t even know that much about Korean traditional instruments, though I’ve watched some cultural fan-dancing which was fabulous. But when it comes to the mainstream music scene, they are nowhere to be found, compared to the mainstream scene in CPop.

    Care to enlighten me?


    1. …honestly, I find that the only thing Korean about the songs themselves, is the language

      Indeed, and I wish I could help, but unfortunately nothing springs to mind. And to be honest nothing would, because I personally very much dislike traditional Korean music, instruments, or styles, although I do think that they should be preserved.

      Have posted your question to Twitter & Facebook though: hopefully someone there will know!^^


        1. Love Epik High, this is actually a much better version of the song Fan. Along with Drunken Tiger they are single handedly taking on the established music industry and cementing Hip Hop into Korean culture.


    2. My knowledge of K-Pop is extremely limited, but you could try Dala Dala by Lee Jung Hyun, which I gather mixes techno with traditional Korean elements:


  4. Thank you all so much :D These are really interesting. I’m not too familiar with the sound of traditional Korean folk music, but I could get used to it if more artists integrated it into modern songs.


  5. The North Korean Economy Watch blog has picked up on a JoonAng Daily story about Pscore, an organisation which helps North Korean defectors and runs education courses for them, including English lessons. The widespread use of English in South Korea is a problem for North Koreans trying to adjust to life in the South. The article mentions one defector who turned to Pscore for English tutoring when she got into university and found that “40 to 50 percent of the lectures were in English”

    “In the 21st century, the acculturation process of South Korea has been profoundly influenced by the West. The culture shock that North Korean emigrants experience when they settle in South Korea is worsened by the constant presence of English, a language that is restricted mostly to the elite in North Korea,” said Choi Hyun-chul, the president of the Korean Society for Journalism and Communication Studies.

    Another problem, the JoonAng article says, is that South Koreans are indifferent or hostile towards Northerners.


  6. In other random Korea-related news, a South Korean designer has won a British design award for a compact alternative to the standard UK electrical plug.

    Admittedly, it’s more a frustration than a matter of life and death, but it is true all the same: British plugs are awkwardly big. Tonight a graduate who became fed up with carrying round the world’s thinnest laptop with what felt like the world’s biggest plug won a leading design contest with his simple solution.

    Min-Kyu Choi has invented the folding plug, which could replace the clunky three-pin British plug that has changed little since its inception in 1946.

    His design beat off impressive competition from across the world – an eclectic mix that included fashion, newspapers, aircraft and flatpack furniture – to win the Brit Insurance design of the year award. He won a trophy and the title but, of course, it could now be much more. “It works, it looks good and I’m sure it will make him a wealthy man if it is marketed right,” said Deyan Sudjic, director of the Design Museum, which organises the awards.


      1. I was struck by how many commentators over at Unclutterer thought that the synthesised female American voice on that video was Choi’s own voice (including one who remarked on how modest “she” sounded). You can see the real Min-Kyu Choi on a BBC video clip.


        1. Haven’t read those comments sorry (or at least, not since November), but I have to admit that I too thought that that was Min-Kyu Choi’s own voice, which in turn made me think he was a she. You’d think the name would give it away to a long-timer like me, but not all that sure I’ve ever come across a Min-Kyu (민규?).


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