Talking Points: From Music Downloads to Sweaty Crotches

Feminist Media Criticism Problems(Source: Alyssa Korea)

Sorry for the lack of posts everyone. I’ve been absentmindedly researching many, not realizing that I hadn’t put pen to paper for a while. To remedy that, here’s some interesting links that add new information to previous posts of mine, but which didn’t really justify separate updates by themselves:

1. Will saving Korea’s music business end up killing it?

Korean Digital Music MarketIn an endnote to my recent “Why the Japanese Don’t Illegally Download Music. Much.” post, I wrote:

Like most articles praising the rapid rise of the Korean digital music market and the supposed success of Korean anti-piracy efforts, this article completely fails to mention how absurdly cheap Korean digital tracks are, as noted by Bernie Cho in the opening quote.

The next week, Yim Seung-hee at the Korea Joongang Daily wrote one of the most comprehensive articles on the Korean digital music market yet, noting a lot of resistance to government law changes aimed at raising prices. Here are just a few of the quick factoids to take away from it (source, right):

  • Music in Korea used to cost 73 won per download before the changes. That has now risen to 110 won, which is still less than one-tenth what iTunes costs.
  • Gangnam Style only earned 3.6 million won in online royalties in Korea, coming from 2.86 million downloads and 27.32 million streams, which works out to an average of about 10.7 won per download and 0.2 won per stream.
  • However, in the US, Psy received the equivalent of 2.8 billion won for 2.9 million downloads.
  • Meanwhile, one estimate says that the average indie musician earns just two-to-three-million won a year (about the same as most expat English teachers make per month).
  • Streaming accounts for 74 percent of online music spending in Korea (probably because of Korea’s ubiquitous broadband wifi), and downloads continue to fall. In contrast, in the rest of the world downloads dominate, making up 71 percent of the online market.

2. “Gaijin”

Leah of The Lobster Dance is featured in a (heavily-commented) Tofugu article about the usage of the word “gaijin,” which she has used in the past but now rejects. It begins:

Gaijin (外人, short for 外国人), or “foreigner” in Japanese, is a complicated word that means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.

Some people take the word lightly; when the Tofugu team was in Japan and a roller coaster we were riding unexpectedly malfunctioned, we joked that it was because the ride wasn’t designed to hold the weight of our giant gaijin bodies.

But for some people in Japan, “gaijin” can be a hurtful and alienating word. It can mean refusal of service at businesses, a barrier to entry for housing, or even threats of harassment or violence.

I thought that I’d reach out to some bloggers living in Japan to see what their thoughts on the word “gaijin” were. I got a lot of great, varied, and nuanced responses.

See “Korean Sociological Image #46: The Language of Exclusion” for a similar discussion surrounding the Korean term waegookin, or “foreigner,” with links to many other posts on the subject in the Korean blogosphere (as of 2010).

3. A Tasteless Ad, or Brilliant Marketing?

Johnny Walker is capitalizing on the 40th anniversary of Bruce Lee’s death by rendering him in CQI for a Blue Label commercial:

The ad features a startlingly lifelike computer-generated rendering of the revered martial-arts star, who died four decades ago. It has sparked ire among fans, who argue that Mr. Lee was a teetotaler and abstained from drinking alcohol for most of his life.

Critics see Mr. Lee’s personal stance as incongruous with an endorsement for a brand whose blended Scotches sell for more than $200 a bottle.

Johnnie Walker has defended the ad, saying it worked closely on it with Shannon Lee, Mr. Lee’s daughter.

Ms. Lee, meanwhile, told the Journal that while her father wasn’t a drinker, he didn’t think drinking was immoral. She also thought the video would be an “innovative way to get my father’s ideas out.”

See Scene Asia for the rest, or my “Raising the Dead: The Future of Advertising?” for a much better example featuring Audrey Hepburn, and many others in the comments (readers made me realize using dead celebrities in ads was surprisingly common). As for this example, I share The Ethical Adman’s criticisms that “there’s something really disturbing about dead celebrities being recreated to sell brands,” and that “it seems like the ultimate violation of a person’s integrity, at a time when they cannot even defend themselves.”

Most of all, I think it was incredibly hackneyed to use a teetotaler to sell alcohol, no matter how famous he was. And I just can’t believe how incredibly bad the CGI is, despite the accolades.

Lee Hyori Dazed and Confused August 2013(Source: Unknown)

4. Lee Hyori for “Dazed and Confused”: Appropriation or Appreciation?

See Audrey Magazine or Omona They Didn’t! for the details. Or, for a similar example by T-Ara last year, see “Thinking through Korean Appropriation of American Indians” at Sociological Images, which I made a big contribution to.

Meanwhile, I’m going to buy a copy to see if there was any rationale to that “vulgarity,” which I find rather charming myself…

5. Nine Goddesses are Hot for the Military

While writing my “Korean Sociological Image #72: Girl-group performances for the military” last summer, it proved surprisingly difficult to find actual embeddable videos of those. So, via Omona They Didn’t!, here are 3 with Nine Muses from earlier this year, who seem to be quite popular with the troops:

Pregnant Korean Bride6. Premarital pregnancy gets trendy

My 2008 post, Why Korean Girls Don’t Say No: Contraception Commercials, Condom Use, and Double Standards in South Korea, is still my most popular and most-commented, despite being based on 2003 data, and displaying what were then big, obvious gaps in my knowledge of Korean sexual mores. Hopefully I’ve filled most of those since, not least because one commenter pointed out that Koreans have always been quite tolerant of premarital pregnancies, so long as the couple planned to marry.

What’s more, according to the Korea Times, now they’re more common than ever. Some excerpts (source, above-right):

Celebrity couples such as actor Jang Dong-gun and his wife Ko So-young, and Kim Seung-woo and Kim Nam-joo, have admitted they walked down the aisle with the brides pregnant.

Actress Kim Bu-sun goes as far as to say she approves of premarital pregnancy.

“My premarital pregnancy was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Kim says. “If my daughter becomes pregnant, I will host a party in her honor.”

She believes people should embrace single mothers, whom she considers a minority in need of attention and care.

Nice to hear, considering the Ministry of Health and Welfare defined unwed mothers as “ignorant whores” as recently as 2010 (technically, it was “low levels of education [and] impulsive sexual drives”). Continuing:

But premarital pregnancy is now humdrum, even among people who are not stars.

In a survey that consultancy Duo Wed conducted between June 1 and June 14, one-third of 374 newlyweds questioned said the bride was pregnant when they married.

Of these couples, 92.1 percent said their babies were unexpected.

Read the link for the rest. Note  that this doesn’t mean Koreans are necessarily becoming more tolerant of cohabiting couples however (and who face a lack of suitable accommodation anyway), nor of pregnancies that don’t lead to marriage.

7. This Dude’s Response To Female Crotch Sweat Shame Is Perfect

See Bust for more. Fortunately, I haven’t seem any similar products advertised here yet, and perhaps that’s because there will never be a market for them, as Korean women generally don’t sweat as much as those of other races. This was discussed in my 2010 “Hot Sweaty Korean Women” post, about a rare Korean commercial that did feature a Korean woman sweating:

Please note I also made some overgeneralizations about Korean (women’s) exercise and gym culture in that post though, and would write it very differently today. But on the plus side, readers soon corrected my mistakes, and it (hopefully) remains useful for the journal study on Korean attitudes to dieting it references.

Also, for a related 2009 post on why Koreans generally don’t wear deodorant, its marketing, and the implications for Korea’s kkotminam (“pretty flower men”), which I recently updated and does still hold up today, please see “The Scent of a Man: What deodorant commercials tell us about Korean metrosexuality.”

Thoughts? On any of stories above?

Quick Break/Open Thread

Between my insomnia because of the heat, all my other writing projects, and running out of time to enjoy my summer break with my family (I haven’t even taken my daughters swimming yet!), I’ve decided I need a short break from blogging sorry. But just for about 2 weeks, and everyone’s more than welcome to raise and discuss anything Korean, feminist, sexuality, pop-culture etc. related here in the meantime — I’ll still be around to chat, and will be tweeting and posting links on the blog’s Facebook page as per normal.

So, have a good summer everyone, and please say hi if any of you are in Busan!^^

Update — Christal Phillips, a visiting professor at Yonsei University, has asked me to pass on the following:

I am writing a paper on biracial people in Korea and have created a brief survey for parents of biracial children in Korea as well as biracial Koreans. If this applies to you, please fill out the survey and pass it along to your friends and co-workers: Thank you for your assistance.”

I can confirm that it just takes 5-10 minutes, and participants will be entered into a draw for a $25 Starbucks gift card.

Open Thread #16


As this post goes up, I’ll be at Gimhae Airport picking up my father, then taking him and the rest of the family to the Daegu 2011 IAAF World Championships this weekend and next. We’d like to stay there for the entire nine days (he will!), but unfortunately next week we have to move apartments on Wednesday, and then I start teaching again the next day. Needless to say, I’ll be too busy to write again until he leaves on the 7th of September.

Until then, please feel free to raise and discuss anything sociological, gender, advertising, K-pop, and/or athletics-related here, and sorry for not being able to complete any song translations this month. But I do have five that I’ve been working on, which I’ll put up as soon as I’m back!

Update, September 7th: I won’t bore you with the details, but I’m afraid my “comeback” with have to be pushed back to Monday the 12th. Sorry!


Open Thread #15: BOOKGASM

Sorry everyone, but having just had 15cc of blood removed from my 2 week “swellbow” this afternoon, then I’m going to have to have to take a break from writing for a few more days. Fortunately for my sake though, my reading for August came just after I arrived home from the hospital, and I’d love to hear from any readers who have also read Japanese School Confidential, and/or Guyland as I get stuck into them this week. And The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo too of course, but comments about that would be better placed in this earlier comments thread!

But please feel free to discuss any other issues that interest you, and on that note now seems as good a time as any to mention that I’m now open to anyone guest posting on the blog also, on any Korean sociological, gender, and/or advertising-related topic, as frankly I lack the time to cover even just those I’m especially interested in these days, let alone anything else. It would be great to hear both fresh perspectives on those and/or about new topics though, so if you’re interested please either email me or leave a note in the comments!^^


Open Thread #14

( Image: “veritum dies aperit” by )

This coming Tuesday, I will have been in Korea for exactly 1o years! Any suggestions on how to celebrate it?

Update: If you haven’t heard about it already, 10 Magazine is holding a video contest until the end of May. In its own words:

As a foreigner  in Korea have you ever found yourself criticizing Korea’s publicity efforts? Let’s face it, most of the promotional materials have been made by Koreans, and hence appeal more to Koreans. Well here’s your chance to show the world what  awaits them in Korea from a foreigner’s perspective!

During the month of May, make your own 30-second to 2-minute video about Korea, and if you’re the lucky winner, you’ll win a trip for two to Tokyo, including round-trip air fare on Delta Airlines and two nights in an executive room at the Hilton Tokyo!

See here for further details on how to enter and the prizes for 2nd to 10th place.


Open Thread #13


With apologies to Seoulplay, but I’m tempted to only use screenshots from 2NE1’s (투애니원) Try to Follow Me (날 따라 해봐요) music video for the Open Threads from now on! For like Anna at her Appears music blog explains:

Every moment in this promotional video is a photograph. Every shot, every pan, every object has been calculated to the point of mental instability. What is K-pop like in the 10′s? Everything I predicted and more. And like all the things I truly admire in this world, I’m torn between laughing at them and laughing with them.

Read the rest of her post, and you’ll soon see why. And on that note, a quick but serious question to anyone familiar with 2NE1 to get the ball rolling this week: how accurate a portrayal of the group would you say is presented by the following recent video on them?

In a nutshell, I ask because I’m about to start working on a project to find out how actual fans respond to various girl groups’ song lyrics, music videos, and on and off-stage behavior and so on, rather than simply speculating like I’ve done previously. And to do that, I’m planning to join their fan clubs (albeit probably posing as my Korean wife), but naturally I would like to start with groups whose music I really like and/or which has a slightly radical message before I invest the all the time in translating long comments threads about them.

Liking almost all of After School’s (애프터스쿨) songs so far then, or at least DJ Areia’s remixes, I’ll definitely still start with them, but in light of that video I’m now considering looking at 2NE1 after that. So before I do, my question is: do they live up to all the hype?

Thanks in advance, and of course readers please feel free to raise any other Korea-related issues!