“This is why Korea needs people like Velvet Geena and the RockTigers”

The Rock TigersClick on the image to find the reasons, in an Paste Magazine article by Rachel Baily I was interviewed for this summer (and promptly forgot about — sorry!). Make sure to check out Busan Haps for a 2011 interview too, or here, here, and here for more on Waveya, Ga-in, and Wonderbaby also mentioned by Rachel.

Meanwhile, sorry for the slow posting everyone, but I’ve had — still have — a lot of offline deadlines, and the new semester is proving a lot of work. But I aim to have a big post up next week! :)

Update: Make that the week after next — I ended up catching one of those frustrating, lingering colds sorry.

Radio Interview on Gay Marriage Tonight, 7pm

Cyndi Lauper 2010(Source)

In a few hours I’ll be on Busan e-FM’s Let’s Talk Busan again, this time talking about gay marriage. You can listen on the radio at 90.5, online here (please note that you’ll have to download Windows Media Player 10 first), or via an archived version here later in the week.

For any readers who didn’t already know, I’m all for it, although I’m not very confident about seeing the issue on the political radar in Korea for at least another 15 years, and actual law changes not for another 15 after that. But I’ve often noted the extraordinary pace of change in Korean society too, so here’s hoping I’m proven wrong!

Quick Hit: Squee!

Lee Hyori The Baddest Girl(Source)

From part of an email interview of me (and many other bloggers) at The Korea Blog last month:

….I actually kind of called him out as a Korea hater, which he rebutted thoroughly.

Jon: Reading your site, I get the strong impression that you’re not a fan of a lot of the content you analyse and criticise, especially K-pop. I’m not into it myself, but I don’t spend much time thinking about it. What is your relationship to your subject matter?

James: Well, given the huge time and commitment involved, it’s never a good idea to write about something you don’t even like. So as it turns out, I’m actually a big fan.

That said, there’s always a great deal to criticize K-pop and the Korean media on how they objectify women, encourage unhealthy body ideals, and present such passive gender and sexual roles for them. And with such limited time to write, plus — until very recently — so few writers out there willing to bring any kind of academic research to their own critiques (not that I claim to be an academic myself!), then it was easy for my writing to fall into a certain pattern.

On the other hand, I do try to avoid sounding so cynical and repetitive. So, by coincidence, in (update: *cough*) two weeks I’ll be posting an article about indie girl-groups that reject being objectified for instance, chosen to counter one going up this week about mainstream girl-groups that don’t (update: although it turned out to be much more complicated than that!). And, when K-pop does produce something that defies the stereotypes, then I’m just as gushing as any fanboy — just see my review of Ga-in’s Bloom!

Lee Hyori Nylon Korea May 2013(Source)

See the link for the rest, and for more on many other bloggers you should be reading. As for Lee Hyori…well, this post is just an excuse to post that picture and indulge in some more of that socially-conscious fanboying really, of which she is just as deserving as Ga-in. But I am looking forward to her comeback (see here for some video teasers), and hope that it’s well received, which would bring much more attention and support to the causes she’s embraced.

Until then, apologies to those who don’t share my love of her, but you are dead to me and I promise more of that cynicism and repetition soon. To everyone else, note that the above edition of Nylon is now available in stores, unlike — grrr — last Wednesday evening (and Thursday morning, and Friday, and…) when I first heard of her inclusion, and — oh, yes — squee!

Quick Hit: Radio Interview Tomorrow

Vector-BG-Yellow-Light(Source)

Tomorrow at about 8:30am, there’ll be a brief interview of me in the “Morning Coffee” section of the 7-9am Morning Wave program on Busan e-FM. More about me than than anything Korean feminism, sexuality, or pop-culture related sorry(!), if you’re still interested you can listen in at 90.5 FM or online here, or catch it later in the archives.

Also, before I forget, back in November I made a small contribution to James Pearson’s (of koreaBANG fame) article “‘Ladygate’ incidents point to misogyny on the Korean Internet” for Yonhap. Sorry for the long delay in passing that on, and please see my “Korean Sociological Image #73: The True Numbers of Korean Working Women” if you’d like more context.

The Korea Herald: Should pornography be censored?

Pornography Censorship(Source)

I make a brief appearance in the Korea Herald today, in an article by John Power on the recent government crackdown on pornography. With his permission, here are all of his original questions and my replies, with some links for further reading:

1. Do you foresee the Korean public becoming increasingly unhappy with the heavy censorship of pornography and other sexual content in the short term? Or do you think a largely conservative Korean public will remain happy with the status quo?

In all my 12 years in Korea, ordinary Koreans have loudly and consistently complained of being treated like children by censors. But the censorship of movies has been considerably relaxed in recent years (recall that the Korean Supreme Court overturned a ban on Shortbus for instance), and even the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family has begun to acknowledge its own excesses with music videos. So this latest crackdown actually goes against recent trends, and I expect it to face a lot of opposition.

2. Often, censorship is justified to protect young people. Do you think there is a feasible way of protecting youth, while not controlling what adults wish to see?

Frankly I don’t, but this is a dilemma faced by every democracy. Most, however, don’t resort to the draconian restrictions imposed by the Korean government, yet somehow have equal or lower rates of sex crimes by and/or against minors nonetheless.

(“Because I’m a man / 남자기 때문에.” For English subtitles, click on “captions”)

3. A local site pornography site called Soranet had 600,000 subscribers before it was shut down in 2004, showing the widespread nature of its consumption. Do you think the government is fighting a losing battle in trying to ban such material?

If nothing else, banned sites will remain available via proxy servers, but I’m sure young, tech-savy Koreans won’t need to resort to using those. With the proviso that of course the government should continue to monitor the pornography industry as a whole, to prevent exploitation and the use of minors, you have to question the government’s zeal in attacking an otherwise victimless activity, and which there is clearly a huge demand for. Surely the time and resources could be better spent? Perhaps on more up-to-date and effective sex-education, so people could better judge the supposed harmful effects of pornography for themselves?

4. What do you think is the true motivation for censorship of adult content in Korea? Or, put another way, do you think there are sometimes hidden agendas at play?

As someone who notoriously devoted Seoul to God as mayor, and who believes that (re)criminalizing abortion is an effective method of raising the birth rate, clearly Lee Myung-bak’s conservative and religious beliefs are playing a big role here. That aside, blaming pornography for sex crimes, and censoring it on that basis, is also an easy way for the ruling party to appear to be doing something to address public concerns during its candidate’s presidential election campaign, yet without doing anything about their real causes whatsoever.

Ga-in's BEG Concert Teaser(Source)

5. Do you think there are double standards at play in the how and what content is restricted?

If we’re talking specifically about pornography, then no. As for K-pop however, both fans’ widespread perceptions and the empirical evidence suggests that female entertainers are disproportionately censored, often for things that make entertainers are allowed to do scotfree. In particular, whenever female entertainers present themselves as sexual subjects rather than just objects for the male gaze, then the ironically-named Ministry of Gender Equality and Family can be expected to come down hard on them. A good recent case of this is the ban placed on Ga-in’s Bloom, a rare song about sexual awakening from a woman’s perspective, whereas the Ministry had no problem with the gratuitous skin shots in Hyuna’s Ice Cream.

What do you think?

Radio Interview on Korean Cosmetic Surgery Tonight, 7pm

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Tonight at 7pm I’ll be on Busan e-FM’s Let’s Talk Busan again, this time talking about Korean beauty standards and cosmetic surgery. You can listen on the radio at 90.5, or online here (please note that you’ll have to download Windows Media Player 10 first), and I’ll add a link to the archived version once it becomes available.

Sorry to those of you who tuned in 2 weeks ago, only to hear me speak for just a couple of minutes in total: 7 guests was far too many. But I’m happy to report that there’ll just be 3 of us this time!

Quick Hit: CNN on Saseng Fans

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A good introduction to saseng (사생) fans by Collette Bennett at CNN, and I’m not just saying that because I get a mention towards the end(!). But if anyone’s confused by the connections I make to the Korean advertising industry and celebrity endorsements though, please see here for links to many posts and articles I’ve written about the subject.

Also, for related reading, see here for a discussion of the article at a JYJ fansite (they’re mentioned in the article), Asian Junkie for “Korean Executive Says K-Pop Fans Are A Cult + The Fandom Scares An American Journalist,” and XX Factor for “Your Pop-Culture Obsession Is Not a Sickness.”

p.s. Apologies to Colette if it’s my fault (I made the same mistake in my email), but it’s sa (“a” as in “hat”) seng (“e” as in “pet”), not “saesang” (pronounced “say-seng”) as reported in the article. Or is that some Seoul variation that I’m unaware of?