Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Crap Quota

Somebody Get This Man a Blog!
Cho Se-hyun: Local Ex-pat hero and sometimes seemingly the lone voice of reason in the ROK

Cho Se-hyun, a former AP reporter in the States and in Tokyo, has a weekly column at the Korean Herald. His posts are usually right on the money, and today's (well, last weeks) was no exception

According to Korean newspapers and television, those movies, as well as some of popular dramas made for television, are sweeping Japan, China, and other Southeast Asian markets, while the American industry is bracing itself for an onslaught of Korean movies.

I don't know how accurate those enthusiastic reports and rosy predictions for Korean movies are. But I am sure I am not the only one who has noticed how abruptly boasting by the Korean press, filmmakers, actors and actresses turns into whimpering as soon as someone starts mentioning the need for lowering the country's screen quota system.

That basically sums up the bullshit spewing from the mouths of the media and the film industry.

So which statement is correct?

A: "Our movies are as good as Hollywood's"
B: "Our industry is not developed enough to compete with foreign films"

Which is it, dumbfucks?

The correct answer, by the way, is C: none of the above

Now, if when you say "Hollywood" you are only thinking of the formula action movies big on special effects and well-known names but low on everything else (I.e. Armageddon, Independence Day, Daredevil, etc.), then perhaps that statement could be true: Yes, your films are no worse than a lot of the "blockbusters" that come out of Hollywood (and almost the ONLY foreign movies we can see in Korea thanks to the shitty quota system, fuck you very much).

But to compare Korean movies to the good flicks that come out of Hollywood and elsewhere is...well...no comparison. I'm talking Schindler's List, Lord of the Rings, American Beauty (I'm not sure, but I think the message in that movie was that the guy should have porked the teenager and he would have lived), Shawshank Redemption (which I think Korean TV has shown at least twice a week over the past 10 years), Pulp Fiction, etc. etc. etc.

I've seen the bulk of new Korean movies over the past 5 years. The ones that get the big hype (JSA, Swili, Friend, Sassy Girl etc.) are just average films by world class standards. Korean films were so painfully shitty for so long that when finally some directors put out something even approaching mediocrity the whole country goes apeshit (and even some expats who seem to have lost the ability to discriminate).

So then why is choice "B" (industry can't compete with foreign films) likewise incorrect?
The Korean film industry has the big advantage of an audience that desperately wants it to succeed. Just make a mediocre to decent film and they'll flock to it (basically, it's no more difficult than making a movie for an audience no more critical than your own mother).

Cho Se-hyun has talked about this issue a while back (couldn't get the link, it's been archived) and accurately predicted the infantile reaction of the film industry to demands to drop the quota system. I'll let Cho Se-hyon finish this bitch off:

Indeed, there have been several Korean movies of late that have been successful at the domestic box office. In year-end assessments of the movie industry, television networks and newspapers were euphoric about how great those movies were. Some of them even proclaimed: "There is no Hollywood," "We beat Hollywood at its own game," and so on.

Yet, I bet my last won that the minute the United States and other countries start asking the government to lift the screen quota system, the movie industry will come up with some excuse to keep the system in place for another year. There just seems to be no end to greed in this country; some people don't seem to realize the simple truth that everything in the world is done on a give-and-take basis.

By the way, I saved Cho Se-hyun's picture from the Korea Herald to put on this post and this was the name of the picture that the Korean Herald people had named it:


What the fuck is up with that? I can't imagine that "The Cho" is very popular in this country. It's one thing when someone from the "Angry Expat Brigade" (of which I have raised in rank to a lieutenant, by the way) points out Korea's flaws, but when one of your own does it? That must really get under the skin of the nationalistic segment of this country that seems to dominate these days.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Yay peace guys!

This is a blog entry from my old "Blog-City" site I wanted to move over here. The previous post on the "historical" 6/15 summit brought this "peace guys" post back to mind. I updated it a little (the previous link was dead) and added some more as well.

One difference between when I first posted this peace and now is that after the recent elections idiots that believe this NGO's line of reasoning are now in power. Yippie.

Here is yet another Korean NGO website: People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD).

Most interesting is their "action body" called The Center for Peace and Disarmament

As usual, I'll select some choice quotes from their Message of Peace and Love and add my unbiased, objective commentary that you all have come to expect.

The peace movements within the civil society that rose between 2001 and 2003 show that South Korean civil society, which had experienced the Korean war and national division, was breaking away from rigid perceptions concerning war and was starting to accept new values concerning peace.

Ah! New values!! And it's about time too! The past 50 years have been quite brutal to Korea, what with all this, uh, improper peace and resulting prosperity that has been going on for the last 50 years thanks to those big-nosed western barbarians. It is shocking that these kinds of peace movements did not start much earlier.

Experiences such as the Inter-Korean summit, improvements in north-south Korean relations, the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup, anti-war movements against the war in Afghanistan, movements against the F-X project, candlelight rallies in the memory of the two middle school girls killed by a US military truck, debates on peace and war during the recent presidential elections, and movements against the dispatching of troops to Iraq and against the war in Iraq have all led peace-loving people to reject the choice of war as policy and theory of pro-security and voice their concerns.

I'm sorry, you lost me Peace Guys. Some of these things are related, but most are not. What does the 2002 World Cup have to do with the peace movement? The candlelight rallies for the victims of the accident were anti-war? Hmm...I don't think these all fall under a unified topic of "Peace movement." Try something like "random ultra-nationalistic anti-Americanism." Yeah, now everything you mentioned fits in nicely. Isn't it great how ultra-nationalism and hatred can make someone so Peace-loving? Why wasn't Jesus onto this?

From the view of new security and order in the 21st century, the reality based on south Korea-US alliance is antithetic to the new world view.

Uh huh. And this "new world view" is what now? Oh yeah, the view that North Korea is good and the US is evil. Sorry! I have a hard time keeping that straight sometimes. It's just these damn North Korean refugees who keep opening their loud mouths about the evils of the Kim Jeong il regime that make me confused sometimes. Can't you do something to shut them up? Are KBS and the Hankyoreh the only media outlets truly patriotic enough to pretend these people don't exist?

The peace movement is a cultural movement for the establishment of a peaceful culture. First of all, the peaceful cultural movement rejects the theory of war of national liberation.

Ok, no war to liberate people. I'm sure you have 100% support from Kim Jeong il, Saddam Hussein and all other bloodthirsty tyrants who wish to fuck over their citizens without interference from the outside world. Oh, I guess another charge you can make against the US is that the bloody imperialistic war they had against Japan which ended up freeing Korea. We should have let the Japanese keep Korea, and just peacefully urged them to reconsider their evil ways for at least a few decades. I'm sure they would have come around eventually and South Koreans would have been just fine waiting for that happy day to arrive without any interference from the meddling US.

What else? Oh, I'm sure Tibet will be free any day now since the entire world, including the US, is so nice and progressive enough to just let peace melt the hearts of the Chinese occupiers. And how about those evil Palestinians and those suicide bombings? They should be severely condemned for not following peaceful methods to get Israel out of their lands. Ok Peace Guys, I get it now!

Ultimately, peace must be discussed as a lifestyle. Coexistence, the diversity of life, and tolerance should be practiced in daily life.

Of course, what they really mean is coexistence with regimes like Kim Jeong il. Hey, you say tom-ah-to, I say tom-aye-to. Kim Jeong il butchers and starves his people, the free world gets fat and spoiled with prosperity. To each his own!!

Oh! One question! Does this "tolerance practiced in daily life" extend to American Gis stationed in Korea at your country's request? Or will you still insist that they be punished for wrongdoings beyond what Korean law would do for its own citizens? And are you also encouraging more tolerance of Japan rather than brainwashing your kids to hate them? Hey, what am I saying? Of course you do!! These are progressive, open-minded, loving, drunk on sunshine Peace Guys!!

The culture of peace frees us from our nationalistic interests.

[insert rim-shot laughter cue here]

When we are thus free, we can counter globalization that causes inequality and conflicts.

The "culture of peace" will lesson nationalism AND counter globalization? Cooooool. It's amazing what makes sense after the 3rd bottle of soju, huh?

Above all, the awareness for breaking away from the fear of death and the rationale for controlling oneself against profits are traits that must be attained by peace lovers.

Ok, I admit I'm pulling this one out of context a little (they are relating their philosophy to that of Kant), but it just sounded so honest and prophetic on its own. For those who would like to see idiots like these rule Corea, being able to overcome the fear of death and "control yourself against profits" is sound advice indeed. Just ask the average North Korean.

Also required are a partially deformed reason to free oneself from the rationale of security and economics and a secondary or voluntary deformity to break free from what we know.

"Deformed reason to free oneself from the rationale of security" Well said. What other hideously deformed reasoning do you have to offer us?

In this aspect, we have to pursue changes in our language and habits as well as changes within the citizens' movements. We also need to undertake media monitoring.

Oh! Oh! I know this one! Changes in language means no more talking bad about North Korea so they do not get their feelings hurt. How would YOU like it if people kept calling you bad names every time you systematically kill off a million or so of your own people? Not very good I'd wager! That's why it's such a noble, courageous and progressive idea for South Korea to refrain from condemning North Korea on human rights. And it is good to note that the media should be monitored to make sure no one strays from the party line. May I make a suggestion? Don't reinvent the wheel; just follow the already tried and true policy the North Koreans have. It does the exact same thing!!

At the moment, the most urgent issues concern the nuclear conflict between North Korea and the USA as well as the related crisis on the Korean Peninsula.

Conflict between NK and the US? SK has no interest in the peninsula staying nuke free? Since when did "peace movements" have no interest in stopping the production of nuclear bombs which in turn would cause surrounding countries to likewise arm themselves? Confusion returns.

The policies of the government will be evaluated and alternatives from civil society will be proposed. In the long term, we aim to build peace and a system of corporation on the Korean Peninsula and in East Asia by countering the US-centered power system.

"Countering the US-centered system"? You mean the same system that has held off a second unprovoked attack from a million NK troops poised on the DMZ to strike? The same system that has prevented Japan from fully rearming? The same system that has kept China from over-running Taiwan? You go girl! I can't wait to see what you intend to replace all that with.

The ultimate aims peace and disarmament are the reductions of arms and breaking away from security-oriented policies.

Yay! And Kim Jeong il PROMISES he will do the same without the need for verification, just like he almost kept his promise not to build nukes. Oh yeah, getting away from security-oriented policies. Nothing gives Kim Jeong-il a boner like that kind of talk coming out of South Korea.

It might seem too idealistic...

What? No! Who would ever accuse Peace Guys of being ignorantly idealistic and dangerously naive?

but citizens monitoring of the military and security sectors must be expanded to take up issues with the increase of military weapons and human rights violations in North Korea.

Ok, you got me. That's not what the site said. The real sentence finishes with, "human rights violations in the military." Rest assured that the Peace Guys (which include several human rights NGOs) not once ever condemn North Korea for human rights violations. If Kim Jeong il tortures and/or kills anyone who does not follow his authoritarian rule, it is not really THAT bad, is it?

In the old days, Peace Guys were hippies who, though perhaps not having the firmest grasp on reality, did good drugs and listened to music that kicked the ass of all music that had come before. They may have been stoned, but at least when they talked about peace and love they had a degree of sincerty. Also, to their credit most eventually put away their bongs, got jobs, and became rational human beings (well, those who lived outside of San Francisco anyway).

The new brand of Peace Guys seems a little different to me. "Love is all you need" has been replaced with "Hate of the US is all you need." I am not saying that the US can't be criticized on war and peace issues. I am just saying that it is very telling what regimes Peace Guys criticize and what regimes they avoid talking about or bend over backwards defending. All this energy being directed at the US and not a peep about the true monsters of our age; that is what the Peace Guys have become.

The day that the US considers carpet-bombing France to resolve some free trade issue or decides to invade Canada just because they call our President a moron I will jump on the Peace bandwagon and be at the next protest calling for Bush's head (hmm, not a very "peaceful" action I guess, but anyway...)

But so long as the US is playing hardball with monstrous (and yes, evil) dictators like Saddam Hussein and Kim Jeong il and medieval regimes like the Taliban, I think I will save my energy for something else. Get some fucking perspective already.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

The nutty professor

This is an article from the Korean Times by "nutty" Professor Kim Keun-sik. Let's get out our "blue Corea" flags and wave it along as he edumicates us on the great value of the 2000 Inter-Korean summit (you know, the one where Kim Jeong il and Kim Dae Jung got all snuggly).

Hi! My name is Kim Keun-sik and I'm a professor of something in Kyungnam University. By the way, I'm also retarded! But don't just take my word for it; please read my article and find out for yourself!

It has now been four years since the June 15, 2000 joint declaration was made. The inter-Korean summit talks leading to that declaration is an accomplishment in itself that has historical significance. If we look at the conflict-filled history between the two nations since the division, the fact that the leaders of the two enemy countries hugged each other with broad smiles shows that the first step toward the era for reconciliation has been taken.

I agree, it was historically significant. The summit, as Keun-sik apparentely forgot to mention, was purchased for the parsely sum of 100 million dollars, ergo the willingness of Kim Jeong il to smile, hug and shake hands (hell, I would hump someone's leg like a dog for that kind of money). The historical signficance is that from that point forward Kim Jeong Il and Co. are now assured that the South Korean government will in no way try to get them to change their evil ways. No compromise is too big, no blackmail payoff is too high. We are one people!!

Besides general agreements such as the principle of autonomy and the recognition of a plan for reunification, the joint declaration touched on resolving humanitarian issues,

Ignore the "general agreements" because they are completely meaningless, but what's this you say? Resolving humanitarian issues? Did, Kim Dae Jung, that famous crusader for democracy and human rights, get Kim Jeong il to commit to changing his atrocious human rights record?

including the reunification of separated families; economic cooperation and bilateral exchanges; and regular convening of inter-Korean talks between the two Koreas.

Oh. I guess the subject of a million plus dead North Koreans, political concentration camps, and the general day to day crushing of thought and spirit by the Norcs just didn't come up. I bet on the last meeting Kim Dae Jung was saying, "Damn, there was one more thing I wanted to bring up but I just can't remember it right now...ah well, it probably wasn't that important! Enjoy all our money!"

Now, "reunification of separated families" should read "very brief and heavily monitored reunification of separated families paid for by the South and thus at absolutely no inconvenience or threat to the North Korean regime." It is certainly a good thing and the more the better, but let's not kid ourselves into thinking it reflects any real change in the North. Get the North to actually let these elderly people return to the south and live out the remainder of their lives with a full belly admist their loved ones and I'll be impressed.

"Economic Cooperation and bilateral exchanges" means South Korea agrees to send a shitload of money and goods to North Korea and North Korea agrees to accept it (assuming they can remove all traces of evidence of its origin and that they can use it secretly in any way they wish). Thanks Kim Dae Jung!!

Now, four years later, we can see in various places how the ``strength’’ of the June 15 declaration is building up. More than anything else, the strength of the declaration can be seen in the South’s society.

Yes, the "strength" of the June 15 declaration can ONLY be seen in the South's society!! Thank you for being honest Keun-sik. You see, these days, "progress" is made by changing the society in democratic south and not demanding ANY changes from our comrades to the north. Also, it was a good call to put quotation marks around "strength." It saved me from having to mentally do that myself.

The development of exchanges between the two Koreas since the summit talks and the acceleration of reconciliation of the peoples resulted in the political victory of forces for peace in the 2002 election. And in the recent April elections, for the first time in our constitutional history, the forces for reconciliation of the two Koreas became a majority in the National Assembly.

So, thanks to summit talks the Corean government is finally moving away from forces critical of North Korea. Indeed, this IS great progress. Now lets see, you paid money a ton of money to Kim Jeong il AND delivered a friendly government. In return, Kim Jeong il agreed to do nothing to substantially change his government or treat his people better in any way. You shrewd negotiators you!

After the summit, the conflict between South and North remained, but the changing times showed the mood was turning towards reconciliation and cooperation.

Yeah, unfortunately North Korea kept killing South Korean soldiers (well, their navy anyway) and decided to break their agreement about not making nukes. Hmmm...maybe you should have given them more money? Anyway, fortunately the progressives were able to ignore those little details and keep blindly pushing on towards reconciliation.

Despite protests by conservatives, the movement to help North Korean victims of the recent explosion at Ryongchon enjoyed a great deal of support, and became an example of how the strength of the June 15 declaration was one that couldn’t be ignored.

Protests from conservatives? Missed that one, unless you are talking about those troublemakers who were critical of North Korea for stalling efforts to get medical supplies to the injured.
Ah yes, thanks to the June 15 declaration now we can rest assured that North Korea will take as much money and supplies from us as we will give. Yes, truly another great strength of the June 15th declaration.

Oh, one question! How are the other 30+ million starving North Koreans doing? What, isn't the June 15 declaration helping them out in some way? What about the hundreds of thousand refugees being hunted down and shipped back to North Korea by the Chinese? Anything in the declaration for them? No?

Also, the strength of the June 15 declaration is affecting the development of South-North relations and the development of peace in the peninsula. After the summit, there have been 14 ministerial conferences and nine Inter-Korean Committee for the Promotion of Economic Cooperation talks between the two nations. Meetings between the two countries have now entered a level of order and structure, and the civic exchanges and cooperation between countries have developed so quickly it is difficult to absorb all the progress in detail.

Yes, many, many meetings. So much progress to absorb in detail. I'm sure if Keun-sik had the time, he would tell us all of this great, great progress towards peace on the peninsula. Let's just take his word for it and stop asking so many pestering questions.

And so the BS continues. No time for details, just generalized statements that mask the fact that the summit was by any rational analysis a victory only for Kim Jeong il regime. The Sunshine policy has not resulted in ANY significant change in the North Korean regime nor is there any reason to hope it will do so in the near future.

This is what passes for critical analysis from academia? As usual, not one word of reproach or even caution about a regime that will go down in history as equals with Hitler and Pol Pot. Can this kind of professor really be so naive? Is it just denial?

I'm not big on conspiracy theories, but when I see these progressive types bend over backwards to avoid criticizing such an infamous regime and spewing such blatant bullshit I have to wonder if the Norcs infiltration plans into the South Korean government and institutions aren't a little more successful than we'd like to believe.

Saturday, June 5, 2004

LG: A cult above the rest

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LG Training Program

For those of you who don’t know, LG is one of the big conglomerates in Korea. The name recognition isn't up there with Samsung yet, but no matter where you live in the world you’ll find their products (mostly electronic goods). Needless to say, getting employed by LG is a dream come true for most Koreans and it is extremely competitive to get in.

Last Friday I was drinking with a friend who was recently hired by LG. She is in the middle of their mandatory training period for all new employees. She had just finished the first week of training and had the weekend off before going back for another 2-week stint. I asked her exactly what they trained her to do. Her reply was that it wasn’t training; it was brainwashing.

Here is what she went through for the first three days of the 5 day training program. I’m writing this from memory, so I’m sure I have some of the details mixed up and I know I'm forgetting some good bits (I really wanted to write down notes as she was talking, but it didn't seem appropriate).

Day 1: LG: Great Company, Great Employees!


Memorize LG slogans
Trainees spend several hours memorizing the various slogans (about 15 or so) and the philosophy and mission statement of LG. At one point, each member must stand in front of the whole group (about 150 in total) and scream (yes, scream) all the slogans correctly. If any mistakes are made or the trainers deem that the employees did not scream loudly enough, they have to start all over again. No one passes the first time; most have to do it over and over again because they fail to scream appropriately.
Later, trainees memorize a moderately lengthy sales pitch for some general LG product. Again, this is tested in the “scream mode” in front of the whole group (they have four people on stage at a time screaming to move things along a little more quickly). This went on for hours (7PM to midnight). Either you were screaming yourself or listening to 150 other people scream hour after hour. Most get to bed about 1 PM.

Day 2: A little song and dance

After a nice 5-hour sleep, they wake up at 6 AM for 45 minutes of exercise (mostly jogging).

Today they memorize and sing company songs over and over and over again. That’s just the beginning.
A professional dancer comes and teaches them basic dance steps. Next, the employees are put into groups for a song and dance contest. Each group takes a random pop song and changes the lyrics to promote LG products (the cheesier the better). Then, with their new dance skills, their small group arranges a dance to go with the song.
That night they have the big performance. Each group goes up and performs their song. The trainers tell them that if they pass they can finish and go to bed early...

Nobody passes in less than 5 attempts however. Each time your group fails you have to wait while dozens of other small groups give their performances (gives you time to practice before trying again). They continually demand them to be redone, always with more enthusiasm.
Show me more enthusiasm!!


In my friends words, after the 3rd or 4th time everyone was out of their minds. People were no longer themselves at all, just some insane cartoon characters killing themselves to dance and sing with more and more energy and enthusiasm (I have the image of a cheerleading competition where everyone is on crack). My friend’s group was one of the lucky ones that passed on the 5th attempt and got to bed a little after 1 AM. Others went up to 7 times and got in after 2 AM.

Wednesday: It’s all in your mind
Again, up at 6 AM for more exercise. I ask how people are able to keep functioning with such active schedules and so little sleep. She said that every hour or so they would have everyone stand up and chant out the slogans or sing company songs.

Can you feel it!!!!

Today they had some motivational speakers come in and give workshops and seminars. It sounded like pretty standard Tony Robbins kind of happy sunshiny shit (Awaken the Giant Within!).


I don't have a picture of the motivational speaker, of course, but let's just imagine he looks something like this:

A few interesting things she remembered from the speaker:
1. She said she was able to make one of her fingers grow longer. The speaker said that the mind has power to really change anything you focus on and he had them hold their hands out and concentrate on making one finger grow longer. She said she was pretty skeptical at first, but after a while of intense concentration it really happened for everybody. Now, her finger didn’t seem abnormally long to me, but I didn’t press the issue. Considering what she had already been through up to that point, I’m sure she would have been willing to believe that she could change herself into a butterfly.

2. The speaker also talked about the power of words, not just over our lives, but also over nonliving things like water. Here’s the proof. Take two glasses of water and write “good” or “pretty” on one, and “bad” or “ugly” on the other. Leave them overnight and then take samples from each glass and look at them under a powerful microscope. The water samples from the “pretty” glass looked, well, pretty (like snowflakes, she said) and the water samples from the “ugly” glass looked dirty and “ugly.” They didn’t witness the experiment, the speaker just showed some slides. She was pretty convinced. As above, I let it slide.

The Adventure Event

Later that night they had the “adventure event.” This was kind of like a treasure hunt/obstacle course. Each group had a dozen or so things to find and accomplish on the LG training compound (this is in Pyoungtaek by the way). At times they had to do some very difficult tasks (all physical). The only example she gave was “group jump rope.” 10 people had to get in a line and jump rope 10 times before going on. Apparently, this is quite a difficult task to do because she said it took over an hour. At this point, she actually injured her leg just from sheer fatigue and over-exertion (she was still walking with a limp when I met her last Friday). Again, they didn’t finish until after midnight.

I didn’t get to hear about the rest, but she said the first three days were the worst. Keep in mind that beginning Monday she will start the 2-week program where she can expect even more. Her best friend is in Samsung and she says that it is pretty much the same there.

I'll be sure to do a follow-up post when she gets back in 2 weeks. I'm really interested to see if she will be changed in any way. I do know that before the first part of her training she was talking about staying in LG for only a year and then moving on, but on Friday night after the first week in her "re-education camp," she said she'll probably stay there for at least two years since she is "so lucky to have gotten in the company."


Next thing you know I'll be reading in the newspaper how she perished in an LG factory fire because she ran back into the buring building to rescue a portrait of LG CEO Koo Bon-Jun.