Open Thread #10

Source: Pixabay @Pexels.

Happy to report that I’ve just secured a teaching position at a university, and enjoying the sunny weather, then this photograph seemed apt…

But please feel free to talk about absolutely anything in these open threads; last week, people only talked about my choice of accompanying image instead…not uninteresting of course, but not really my intention!

If you reside in South Korea, you can donate via wire transfer: Turnbull James Edward (Kookmin Bank/국민은행, 563401-01-214324)

40 thoughts on “Open Thread #10

  1. K-pop! Rain released a new video, and while I think the song is decent, the video was a bit much – it felt to me like he was pimping himself out for his female fans… watch it below or here – what do you think? too many ajummas controlling the image of idols? Or is Rain alone in thinking showing off his body is necessary for success?

    Another video of similar proportions: Taeyang performing “My Girl”. The part to look out for is at 2:45.

    (James: edited by me slightly to embed videos)


    1. Hmmm, can’t remember who sorry, but I was reminded by these MVs that some male idol recently said that his dancing wasn’t so important these days, as all he has to do was show his abs and the female crowd would go wild on cue.

      I think it would be very strange and hypocritical if that came from Rain though, because personally I’ve always found his MVs to be so, well, disjointed, shallow, and transparent, with him suddenly lifting his tank-top up to display his abs briefly in some post-apocalyptic setting say, or ripping it off on the roof of building in this one. They’re really grating in that sense.

      Which is not to say that girl groups don’t also strategically use T&A and/or sexual positions etc. etc. in their own videos of course, or that they can’t be just as formulaic. But then however much I like BEG’s tops coming off at 2:41 below for instance, crucially it flows…it doesn’t seem at all out of place (update: I concede that I’ve seen it many times and so can’t imagine it without it though!). In contrast, scenes with Rain flashing his shirt open & closed to show his abs, or ripping it off entirely, seem to occur essentially randomly as far as I can tell.

      Seriously, his MVs are almost patronizing. And I say that not because I’m simply a jealous guy: while I don’t know how new or not all the Chippendales-esque moves are for Tae-yang for instance, and they don’t really do it for me personally, they really do flow with the song and/or atmosphere of the concert much much better. Hell, I even liked the performance a little…which is a lot more than I’ve ever been able to say of Rain’s songs…!

      But *ahem* as to your original question, about it all being for ajummas. Well yes and no: completely agree that they’re dominating the fan clubs etc. etc. (wrote a lot on that myself here in case you or anyone else reading hasn’t read it), but what makes you say these videos appeal to ajummas specifically, rather than just women?


      1. Ahahahaha… the male idol was Lee Joon from MBLAQ, who happens to be Rain’s protege. Rain was the one who encouraged him to flash his abs, hence he does it on cue during performances of MBLAQ’s first single, “Oh Yeah”. There’s a news clip where he says Rain encourages him to do it, but it looks like it’s been removed from Youtube – there’s been a crackdown on clips from TV lately. If I can find it again, I’ll link it here.

        Taeyang’s did flow with the song and atmosphere, I agree, but I was still surprised at the whole thing – I guess it didn’t fit my image of Taeyang up until now. Rain’s shirt ripping kinda fits – “renting his clothes in agony” and whatnot – but the body rolls were completely unnecessary. BEG seem to be branding themselves as “adult idols” anyway, so a little sexy is expected in their videos, I guess. And yeah, it didn’t seem completely out of the blue “I’ll take off my shirt just because” so I didn’t pay all that much attention to it.

        I didn’t think that the videos only appeal to ajummas – i was just wondering whether they drive the trend. I think the answer is yes, because (correct me if I’m wrong in any of these assumptions) but I assume that (a) older women have more money to spend endorsing their favorite idols, so if they like abs, they’ll get it, and (b) older women can admit to liking pictures of half-naked men without being seen as having “dirty minds”, while younger women might be admonished for admitting something like that. In the production of images, people try to sell sex without explicitly saying that they’re selling sex. When it’s obvious to everyone that sex is being sold, older women can acknowledge that and simply be seen as “adults” who know more about the world, while younger women might be seen as too knowledgeable.

        Maybe I’m overanalyzing things, but these are just my thoughts. Also, I just realized that ajummas = middle aged women, so I guess I should have said noonas = older women (than the idols) instead


  2. Thanks everyone. Things will be a bit of a madhouse next week – got the job late Friday, start Monday at 9am with no idea of students, places in books, classrooms and schedules etc. etc. – but otherwise very happy to have it.

    By coincidence, open thread wise, my father sent me this explanation of some common (mostly Anglo) slang terms and customs. Don’t know how accurate they are, but interesting nonetheless (sorry, can’t figure out how to get rid of the weird formats):


    They used to use urine to tan animal skins, so families used to all pee

    in a pot & then once a day it was taken & sold to the tannery…….if

    you had to do this to survive you were “Piss Poor”

    But worse than that were the really poor folk who couldn’t even

    afford to buy a pot……they “didn’t have a pot to piss in” & were the

    lowest of the low….

    The next time you are washing your hands and complain because the water

    temperature isn’t just how you like it, think about how things used to

    be. Here are some facts about the 1500s:

    Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in

    May, and they still smelled pretty good by June.. However, since they

    were starting to smell .. .. . brides carried a bouquet of flowers to

    hide the body odor. Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when

    getting married.

    Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the

    house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons

    and men, then the women and finally the children. Last of all the

    babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone

    in it. Hence the saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the Bath water!”

    Houses had thatched roofs-thick straw-piled high, with no wood

    underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the

    cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it

    rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall

    off the roof.. Hence the saying “It’s raining cats and dogs.”

    There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house.

    This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings

    could mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet

    hung over the top afforded some protection. That’s how canopy beds came

    into existence.

    The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt.

    Hence the saying, “Dirt poor.” The wealthy had slate floors that would

    get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on

    floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they added more

    thresh until, when you opened the door, it would all start slipping

    outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entrance-way. Hence: a thresh

    hold. (Getting quite an education, aren’t you?)

    In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that

    always hung over the fire.. Every day they lit the fire and added things

    to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They

    would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold

    overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes stew had food in

    it that had been there for quite a while. Hence the rhyme: Peas porridge

    hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old.

    Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special.

    When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It

    was a sign of wealth that a man could, “bring home the bacon.” They

    would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and

    chew the fat.

    Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with high acid content

    caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning

    death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years

    or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.

    Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of

    the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or the

    upper crust. Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The

    combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of

    days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them

    for burial.They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the

    family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they

    would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a wake.

    England is old and small and the local folks started running out of

    places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the

    bones to a bone-house, and reuse the grave. When reopening these

    coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on

    the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they

    would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the

    coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone

    would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the graveyard shift.) to

    listen for the bell; thus,someone could be, saved by the bell or was

    considered a dead ringer.

    And that’s the truth…..Now, whoever said History was boring ! ! !


  3. The tomato one is a hoax as the plant wasn’t imported into England until almost 1600. That would mean that people there only started eating tomatoes within the last couple few years if it was kept out of their diet for 400 years. And even odder, the Spanish and Italians were eating this spoil of their South American plunder nearly a hundred years before the Anglos with no problems. Hell, can you imagine Italian cuisine without tomatoes?


    1. I think most of the examples are fictitious. 1 out 25 coffins had scratch marks? Like villagers would have tallied such statistics? And how could someone get lost in a tub of water? Someone could hide by submerging their head temporarily. Plus, a tub of water with baby included would have been very heavy to carry. Some explanations like the canopy over the bed and the threshhold make sense.


  4. Congratulations!! great news for you and your family.

    Hopefully this means you can make more money AND have more time for the blog and your family :)


    1. Actually rather less money than my last job, but then I’m not complaining with 12 hours of class a week as opposed to 40 there, and 2 months vacation as opposed to none. Needless to say, after the chaos of my first week I’m hoping to get a LOT done in 2010 now!


      1. you have to think of it as wage / hours. you’ve got plenty of time for privates (legal on a f-2 visa if you register – email me if you need details), summer camps and even p/t work if you have to. looking forward to more posts!!


  5. oh, one more thing – here’s a web site I found through a link posted on facebook:

    It’s an interesting site. I do agree that Asian males are often misrepresented in the media and this problem should be highlighted and changed.
    For example, there was a terrible Volvo print advert recently (I can’t find it online) that showed a mix of European guys (smiling) with Asian girls (smiling and having fun) plus a miserable and unhappy Asian guy in the background. The way they were positioned, in a hot spring spa, had blatant undertones. I’ll try to find it.

    However, i believe this takes the previously-mentioned website a little too far:

    “We must remember that in spite of all the internalized racism and growing pains between the Asian man and Asian women, only the Asian-American man and woman have that special and instant bond – a bond in which the couple shares a common ethnic identity and ethnic experiences that require no mutual explanation.
    And of course, who else could provide Asian men with the most adorable Asian babies with black hair, coal-black eyes and a button nose? This goes both ways of course – only the Asian man can provide the Asian woman with Asian babies – the seeds of our Asian-American community.”

    There is also a section on asian male+other female. Calling for equal representation is one thing, but promoting intra-racial and certain relationships while discounting others (by exclusion) made me dislike the whole site.

    Although, I’m still intrigued. What do you think?

    (by the way, for complete disclosure: I’m caucasian, British and married to a Korean… lady)


      1. All completely agreed about the misrepresentation of Asian men in the Western media, & very strange in light of all the positive representations of Asian women recently (albeit belatedly) as noted on that site; I can understand their frustrations.

        Agreed also that that message that used to be on the site that you quoted was a bit much, and a little strange and contrived at that: have never heard of Northeast Asian babies being described as more of less adorable than those of other races. Women, yes of course, yellow fever and all that (yada yada yada), but babies?

        Regardless, and not that one condones the other or is even all that relevant to it really, but as I’ve noted many times, outside of various reality documentaries like 인간국장 it’s very very rare to see Korean female – foreign male relationships in Korean popular culture itself, let alone foreign men as anything other than pedophiles, drunks, and/or rapists. But now I’m curious as to how positively (or not) the Western media – which I accept is rather a broad entity!) portrays relationships between Caucasian women and minority men (with the exception of not at all in the case of Asian men!). Ten years in Korea now, I’m a little out of touch with that sort of thing…


        1. yeah, i’m pretty sure asian men are not so visible in western media. which, just like the website, basically equates to prejudice by exclusion. britain has a different ethnic make-up without many east asians – but in the case of america, with a big east asian-american community, i can guess there’s a generation of guys getting pissed off with the media. the point made on the site about multi-ethnic adverts featuring other sex/race combinations except asian males i can agree and sympathise with.

          the asian babies section on the website is tipping it over the line imo. i don’t know why babies need to come into it. make the same comment about white babies and it sounds so wrong. sure, i can understand these guys might be annoyed at the media, but i think the call to protect the asian race is a bit much. it’s not quite genocide in america.

          – actually just spotted you mistook something that i wrote. the quote i took is *still* on the website. there was however another section on asian male/other race female relationships promoting that as a desirable combination.

          anyway, leave it at that. we don’t need to discuss the site in great detail but i just thought that its content may interest you. agreed that it doesn’t change the plight of foreigners in korea.


      1. Sorry! Late reply but Korean idols love singing Congratulations by Cliff Richard when they win an award or it’s a birthday ect… it usually only reaches ‘congratulations’ and the rest is mumbles haha!


  6. Congratulations out from Gimhae.
    Btw, my daughters are in to Sa Ding Ding. Can’t get enough. The Chinese-Mongalian singer who does produce most of her music and performance herself. Wish there would be someone from Korea doing comparable stuff like this. She has a concert in Seoul.


  7. Already been said several times, but I’ll say it too: Congratulations.

    And your comment about “don’t know classroom, place in book, etc.” made me laugh. That’s so Korea, but we love it anyway. :)


    1. True, but in their defense not much they could do about that considering the hour I was hired. But yeah, among other things, would have appreciated being told my that first class was at 12 rather than 9 a little earlier though, especially as it had me sprinting up a mountain in my suit, dripping sweat despite the breezy morning…only to find I had to basically twiddle my thumbs in the reception (no desk for me yet, alas) for the next 3.5 hours…


  8. How do the Western media portray the relationships between Caucasian women and non-Caucasian men? Not sure about all non-Caucasians, but it’s my impression that the Western media tend to portray Asian men in a negative light – whether in a relationship with a non-Asian woman or not.

    My apologies for focusing on Japan in the rest of this comment on a blog about Korea, but Japan is where I live. (I’m a Caucasian woman with a Japanese partner. Incidentally, has it become politically incorrect to refer to yourself as “white”?)

    James, do you know the book Women on the verge by Karen Kelsky? I searched your blog for the author and her book, but couldn’t find anything. It’s an interesting, balanced, academic discussion of Japanese women’s interest in foreign men in which she also refers to the concomitant denigration of Japanese men amongst this group of women as well as in the Western media.

    A discussion of the book can be found here:

    Another opinion piece about the stereotyping of Japanese men in the Western media here (with many comments):

    Finally, an old but still interesting entry from a Japanese male perspective. It discusses why there are more WM/AF couples than AM/WF couples, but it refers to media bias, too:

    Congratulations with the new job! I hope you’ll still have time to devote to your blog, which is always a great read.


    1. Sorry for not replying earlier Dokushoka.

      I couldn’t really say about Western portrayals myself sorry: at the moment, my regular Western media viewing is confined to How I Met Your Mother, Lost, and Grey’s Anatomy I’m afraid (the last I got sucked into my wife a couple of weeks ago; still in season 2!).

      Thanks for the kind words about my blog, and no need at all to apologize for focusing on Japan; on the contrary, thanks very much for all the links, and I might follow-up on them with a blog post sometime…after I’m settled into my new job that is!


    2. Dukushoka

      I’d say the problem (in the US) used to be portrayal in a negative light. A lot of Orientalization and mysterious evil Asian men.

      Now, the problem is more that there is little representation. If you look at US movies, you see characters of all kinds who are white, black, hispanic, but very few asians…

      Across genres, really…


      1. Considering that Asian-Americans, despite high growth in the few decades, comprised less than 5% in the last census. Even as Asian-Americans continue to increase in number through immigration, Hispanic immigration and birthrates are so much higher that the overall percentage may not change.


        1. correction: Considering that…, it’s not suprising that there are few Asian-American characters in TV programs or movies.


  9. Congrats on the new job!

    I’m not sure if you’ve done a thread on this, but perhaps you write something sometime about how Korea is opening up more, with their plans to allow dual citizenship n’ all. That would be pretty interesting! :-)


    1. Thanks and I will: after all, have a half-finished copy of the excellent Ethnic Nationalism in Korea in my bookcase and all, all about the origins of Korea’s “blood-based” nationalism which prevents dual citizenship. That will have to wait until I finish my gender and militarism series first though, so look out for it in probably in May…although come to think of it, must buy (and read!) The Cleanest Race first too, so make that late May!


  10. congratulations on the new job.

    re: Rain’s new MV i personally believe Rain is pimping himself out to his fans and he knows what he is doing. ever since i read about Lee Joon’s comments on Rain advising him to flash his abs occassionally, i’ve had trouble taking Rain seriously…

    and i love Sa Ding Ding, my favourite song from her has to be ‘Alive’.


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