KoreAm Journal http://iamkoream.com Thu, 02 Jul 2015 22:57:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 Mangoplate, Korea’s ‘Yelp on Steroids,’ Raises $6.1 Million http://iamkoream.com/mangoplate-koreas-yelp-on-steroids-raises-6-1-million/ http://iamkoream.com/mangoplate-koreas-yelp-on-steroids-raises-6-1-million/#comments Thu, 02 Jul 2015 22:45:57 +0000 http://iamkoream.com/?p=80946 by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim


South Korea’s most popular restaurant discovery company Mangoplate is eyeing expansion both domestically and throughout Asia after securing a $6.1 million Series A round of funding, according to TechCrunch.

Since emerging from a Seoul-based accelerator program two years ago, Mangoplate has raised $7.2 million in total from investors, including Qualcomm Ventures, Softbank Ventures Korea and YJ Capital.

Available in both Korean and English, Mangoplate is currently estimated to include around 40 percent of Korea’s restaurants and is aiming to double that to 80 percent within a year.

The company prides itself on personalization, as it relies on algorithms and data gathering to present restaurant deals to a user based on their location and cuisine preferences.

“Lots of companies claim to use big data but just crawl [through] Naver and blogs,” Mangoplate co-founder Joon Oh told TechCrunch. “Mangoplate really is a big data-driven personalization service, it’s like Yelp on steroids.”

The company is also planning to expand into the rest of Asia in 2016. Oh said the company is eyeing markets that share similarities to Seoul, including Singapore and Hong Kong, but emphasized getting a strong footing in the domestic market was a top priority.

Before Mangoplate, there was Naver’s Wingspoon, but the Korean government ordered Naver to shut it down back in 2013. Until then, Wingspoon had been the go-to food discovery service in Korea, but it eventually drew criticism for fake reviews and restaurants abusing the system.

Mangoplate has since filled the void. To address the concerns people had with Wingspoon, Mangoplate apparently has a “number of systems in place to detect specific behavior,” said Lee, including sign-in via Facebook or Kakao to rate and review.

See Also


Korean Startup Ybrain Targets Brain Disorders with Health Care Tech

Samsung’s ‘Safety Truck’ Allows Drivers to See the Road Ahead


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Scientist Sentenced to Prison for Faking HIV Vaccine Results http://iamkoream.com/scientist-sentenced-to-prison-for-faking-hiv-vaccine-results/ http://iamkoream.com/scientist-sentenced-to-prison-for-faking-hiv-vaccine-results/#comments Thu, 02 Jul 2015 21:14:02 +0000 http://iamkoream.com/?p=80922 by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

Dong-pyou Han, a former Iowa State University (ISU) researcher who falsified the results of an experimental HIV vaccine, was sentenced to more than four years in prison on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press.

U.S. District Judge James Gritzner also ordered Han, 57, to repay $7.2 million in grant funds his team received from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In February, Han entered a plea agreement and admitted guilty to two counts of making false statements in research reports.

Han’s fall from grace can be traced back to 2008 when he was a part of an HIV vaccine research team led by Dr. Michael Cho, who was a professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. In court, Han said he had initially mixed human blood with rabbit blood by accident, which gave the impression that the potential vaccine boosted an immune defense against HIV virus—a result that was considered to be a major breakthrough.

Cho soon applied for grants with the NIH, whose officials were “flabbergasted” by the promising results, reported the Washington Post. Afraid to disappoint the scientific community, Han continued to alter future blood samples and never notified Cho of his mistake.

In 2009, ISU recruited Cho and his team, including Han, to continue their HIV vaccine research with NIH funding. As more grant money continued to pour in, other scientists studied Cho’s team’s research to validate its results. In January 2013, a group of researchers at Harvard University found something strange in the rabbit blood samples Cho’s lab sent: human antibodies.

Han’s public defender Joseph Herrold asked the court for probation instead of jail time, citing his client’s lack of criminal record.

“This is not an individual who is a pathological liar nor a con artist, but rather a man who got himself caught up in a lie that he was unable to confront,” Herrold wrote in a sentencing report filed on Monday, according to the De Moines Register. “He regrets the hurt he has caused to his friends and colleagues, the damage he has caused to government funded scientific research, and the pain he has caused any members of the public who had high hopes based on his falsehood.”

Prosecutors, however, claimed that a prison sentence would serve as a deterrent to other academics considering academic fraud, AP reported.

“It is important that we stand up not just for punishing the fraud committed against the United States government, but for the research that should be legitimately taking place on this devastating disease,” Attorney Nicholas A. Klinefeldt said in a statement.

Judge Gritzner sentenced Han to 57 months in jail, with three years of supervision upon release. He said, “The court cannot get beyond the breach of the sacred trust in this kind of research. … The seriousness of this offense is just stunning.”

According to Herrold, Han would no longer be able to work in his field of choice and is likely to be deported to South Korea, his native country. The attorney added that if Han is deported, he would be separated from his wife and two adult children who are U.S. citizens.

Cho’s team continues to work on the HIV vaccine development at ISU and has received a $30,000 grant, reported the Des Moines Register.


Featured image courtesy of Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo.

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Defying Stereotypes: “I’m Asian, but I’m not…” http://iamkoream.com/defying-stereotypes-im-asian-but-im-not/ http://iamkoream.com/defying-stereotypes-im-asian-but-im-not/#comments Thu, 02 Jul 2015 20:49:14 +0000 http://iamkoream.com/?p=80926 By JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim


“Don’t let stereotypes define you.” The Asian American staff over at Buzzfeed Yellow take that message to heart in their latest video, I’m Asian, But I’m Not, and they give snippets on how they don’t fit the usual stereotypes—or, if they do, they own it.

AJ Rafael, Chris Dinh, and Jubilee Project‘s Jason Y. Lee make guest appearances in the short but refreshingly inspirational video. Take a look below.

On a related note—it may be hard to believe, but there are Koreans out there who don’t like kimchi. For others, like this writer, it’s our life force.


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The World According to Dave: So Long http://iamkoream.com/the-world-according-to-dave-so-long/ http://iamkoream.com/the-world-according-to-dave-so-long/#comments Thu, 02 Jul 2015 18:04:57 +0000 http://iamkoream.com/?p=80913 by DAVID YOO

My wife and I used to live in a tiny apartment close to downtown Boston. I walked everywhere and had my favorite coffee shop where I got my thrice-daily dose of energy, after which I would write in earnest in my preferred carrel at the local library. At night, my wife and I would take walks through our neighborhood, often stopping to say hello to friends. It was home. I figured moving out to the suburbs would feel even cozier, given I had grown up in a similarly leafy neighborhood. Yet despite the fact that we’ve been in our place for as long as we lived in our old apartment, it still doesn’t feel like home. I’ve been told things change once your kids go to school, at which point you develop friendships with fellow parents, so I figure it’s only a matter of time.

One place, though, was a regular haunt, the only place where I felt like a local: Andrea’s Pizza. The owner and I have been pals since I’ve been eating at the place at least twice a week for the last seven years. Whenever I showed up, his face would light up, and no matter how slammed the restaurant, he’d come around the counter and we’d segue from a lowish high-five to a traditional bro hug. If I called for delivery, he’d recognize my voice and joyfully recite my order before I could say it. We’d briefly gab about the latest Sox game or the weather. I could see myself growing old with this guy, to be honest.

About a year ago, the owner started shouting “Lee!” into the phone whenever he heard my voice on the other line. In person he called me “Lee,” too, but his earnest happiness upon seeing me placated my disappointment that he clearly mistook me for some other Asian guy who frequented the joint, and I let it slide.

Recently, I called Andrea’s to order a pizza and the owner shouted, “D!” In an instant I realized he had caller ID, and that “Yoo, D.” popped up on the screen whenever I called. D, not Lee! My joy was short-lived. The owner dropped the bombshell that he had to shut down abruptly—something about the landlord being a monster.

I went to a neighboring liquor store to buy some beer. When I came back to Andrea’s, I peeked through the glass window and saw the owner bustling about, moving boxes. By the time I got home, I felt lousy that I hadn’t given him one last bro hug or gotten him a bottle of whiskey as a parting gift. He’d called me “D” all this time—this probably sounds ridiculous, but I felt deeply guilty.

A few nights later I stopped by the local mini mart for some batteries, and there was a moving van parked outside Andrea’s. I ran over to the liquor store and bought a six-pack of beer and waited by the van until the owner showed up. His face lit up, and I handed him the beer.

“Thanks, man, you saved me. You have no idea,” I exaggerated, instantly blushing at how corny I sounded, but he didn’t seem to mind, and gave me one last bro hug. “Yo, Lee, you’re a really good friend, pal. You take care now, Lee, OK?”

And I did what any good friend would do in this scenario—I opted not to correct him.


David YooPot-DaveYoo-DJ14-155x200 is the author of YA novels Girls for Breakfast (Delacorte), a NYPL Best Book for Teens and a Booksense Pick, Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before (Hyperion), a Chicago Best of the Best selection, and with a middle grade novel, The Detention Club, (Balzer & Bray). He teaches at the MFA program at Piano Manor College and at the Gotham Writers’ Workshop. He resides in Massachusetts with his family. 

This article was published in the June/July 2015 issue of KoreAm. Subscribe today! To purchase a single issue copy of the June/July issue, click the “Buy Now” button below. (U.S. customers only. Expect delivery in 5-7 business days).

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Peter Chung Wins Kollaboration L.A. 2015 http://iamkoream.com/peter-chung-wins-kollaboration-l-a-2015/ http://iamkoream.com/peter-chung-wins-kollaboration-l-a-2015/#comments Thu, 02 Jul 2015 02:12:15 +0000 http://iamkoream.com/?p=80795 by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

Kollaboration Los Angeles crowned a winner Saturday night after its six finalists performed at the cozy Los Angeles Theatre Center in Downtown L.A.

This year, the annual Asian American talent showcase was hosted by Sean Miura, community organizer and producer of Little Tokyo’s Tuesday Night Cafe. Five distinguished Asian American figures were also invited to judge the competition.

The judging panel included Megan Lee, K-pop singer and starring actress in Nickelodeon’s Make It Pop; comedian Danny Cho of Ktown Cowboys; Rosylnn Cobarrubias, the CMO of mydiveo.com and former exec at MySpace; singer-songwriter AC Lorenzo; and Michelle Sugihara, the executive director of the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment (CAPE).

R&B songstress Rosy Donovan opened the night with a sensual original song titled, “Got Me.” As Donovan strutted around stage and sang with confidence, the audience waved their glowsticks in rhythm of the music.

Singer-songwriter Lisa Sonoda then walked on stage, where she set down a candle beside garlands of white flowers by her feet. Gently strumming her guitar, the bespectacled singer sang a serene ballad titled, “Never Could” with a backdrop of a beautiful hillside behind her.


After Sonoda ended her performance, Miura quipped, “I want to go walk in the field now,” earning a few chuckles from the audience. The host then introduced acoustic singer-songwriter Peter Chung, winner of Kollaboration San Francisco 2012. Under the spotlight, Chung sang an original country song titled, “Back” from his Kickstarter-backed debut album, i write WE sing.

Next up was female beatboxer Track IX, who lent her craft to Pitch Perfect 2. With just a microphone, she mesmerized the crowd with her energetic beats. When it was time for the traditional Kollaboration freestyle dance-off, Track IX reappeared on stage to show off her dance moves alongside three other dancers from the audience.

After intermission, it was time for Kollaboration’s highly anticipated lipsync battle. Silicon Valley actor Jimmy O. Yang kicked things off by lipsyncing to R. Kelly’s “Bump ‘n Grind” and body-rolling in front of a blushing female audience member. Following Yang’s racy dance, Naomi Ko of Dear White People stepped on stage in a shimmering silver dress and “belted” Ariana Grande’s upbeat, electronic song “Break Free.”

Yang and Ko’s renditions were incredibly entertaining, but nothing could prepare the audience for the battle’s final act. As soon as comedienne Jenny Yang entered the spotlight, dressed in a blonde wig and a nude leotard, the entire theatre erupted in laughter. She even brought a lamp and a backup dancer—now, that’s commitment. Jenny was named Kollaboration’s first-ever lipsync battle victor for her glorious rendition of Sia’s “Chandelier,” which you can catch a glimpse of in the video below.

Following the lipsync and freestyle dance battles, Hawaiian acoustic duo Perry & Danielle calmed down the audience with their song, “Shelter.” As she played the melody on keyboard, Danielle sang in a soothing voice that complimented Perry’s crisp percussion sound.

The final contestant of the night was Korean American singer-songwriter The Will Park. Accompanied by a band, Park sang an upbeat love song while strumming his guitar.

Once all the contestants finished their performances, it was time for the guest artists to grace the stage. First up was 2014 Kollaboration Star champion Sung Lee, who wowed the audience with his live-looping beatboxing. At one point, the looping machine accidentally erased all of Lee’s tracks, but the seasoned beatboxer didn’t bat an eye as he rerecorded his beats. For the finale, Oakland-based alternative rapper Azure got the audience off their seats and jumping near the stage.

As the show came to a close, the show’s staff lined up on stage to announce which contestant would advance to Kollaboration Star in November. In the end, it was Peter Chung who took home the trophy, adding another victory to his musical résumé.

See Also


Beatboxer Sung Lee Wins Kollaboration Star 2014

March 2014 Cover Story: Run River North Chases the Dream

December 2013 Cover Story: David Choi


All photos courtesy of Frank Lee/Kollaboration

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South Korean Startup Ybrain Targets Brain Disorders With Health Care Tech http://iamkoream.com/south-korean-startup-ybrain-targets-brain-disorders-with-healthcare-tech/ http://iamkoream.com/south-korean-startup-ybrain-targets-brain-disorders-with-healthcare-tech/#comments Thu, 02 Jul 2015 00:42:00 +0000 http://iamkoream.com/?p=80829 by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim


Wearable technology isn’t just relegated to fitness tracking and reading text messages off a $10,000-plus gold Apple Watch. Tech companies are exploring different opportunities to integrate devices with improving how we go about our lives, and healthcare is an open field.

South Korean health care startup Ybrain is going for our noggins—specifically, what’s impairing our memory. Their devices tackle some of the most degenerative brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, and they may be available for consumer use by as early as next year.

“Our ambition is to challenge one of the toughest problems humanity faces today,” Ybrain CEO Kiwon Lee told Forbes. “Cancer is nearing a cure. But we don’t yet have a cure for Alzheimer’s, even with today’s most advanced medical technology.”

The devices work though a “very non-invasive form of brain stimulation” that is much more favorable to taking pills to combat symptoms, according to Lee. The wearable band for Alzheimer’s patients has two sensors embedded in the front, providing electronic signals at 2 mA at regular intervals to stimulate brain activity and combat the effects of the disease. Ybrain’s goal is to eventually get the synapses to function optimally on their own “more naturally without any failure.”

Ybrain began clinical trials last year on Alzheimer’s patients, and results were promising—Business Korea said the devices were the “best solution for combatting Alzheimer’s at [that] time.” After raising $4.2 million in funds last summer, Ybrain began clinical tests for similar treatment for clinical depression and mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which is characterized by memory problems beyond those associated with normal aging and may signal a serious decline of dementia in the future.

The Korean company plans to release two devices: the Brain Wellness and Brain Fullness. The former will be geared towards treating brain disorders, while the latter will be an option for those who want to enhance normal brain functions and condition their brain to work at a higher level. In other words, “brain fitness” is going to be a thing.

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 5.22.05 PM(Screenshot captured from Ybrain.com)

Ybrain plans to follow up the initial line of headsets with ones that can treat depression and a number of other mental health conditions, including addiction, trauma, eating disorders and schizophrenia—all while being worn at home.

Further use of the technology could significantly lower the cost of research and treatment. Ybrain is developing a diagnostic platform that collects data from headset users, then relays the information to doctors and medical researchers. Usually, Lee said, devices can only be operated by experts.

“When we started the company we felt that everyone should be able to use it by themselves,” he continued. “Our device is connected to our platform, so brain management, neuromodulation can be operated remotely and closely studied to assess brain wave patterns.”

Ybrain’s products are expected to hit the market next year.


Featured image via Be Success

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U.S. Taekwondo Practitioners Plan DMZ Peace Walk http://iamkoream.com/u-s-taekwondo-practitioners-plan-dmz-peace-walk/ http://iamkoream.com/u-s-taekwondo-practitioners-plan-dmz-peace-walk/#comments Wed, 01 Jul 2015 21:32:01 +0000 http://iamkoream.com/?p=80859 by KARIN CHAN

A group of U.S. taekwondo masters is organizing a peace walk across the demilitarized zone that divides North and South Korea, reports the Voice of America.

Woo-jin Jung, a Korean American taekwondo grandmaster and publisher of the Taekwondo Times, said the peace walk is an effort to help promote positive engagement between the two Koreas, regardless of the dividing border.

“We plan on sharing different techniques with North Korean athletes and hold a seminar in Pyongyang,” Jung told VOA.

Last week, the 73-year-old grandmaster met with taekwondo officials in Pyongyang, including Chang Ung, who heads the International Taekwondo Federation and represents North Korea on the International Olympic Committee. Jung said North Korea supports the peace walk, adding that he’s also expecting a positive response from the South Korean government.

Both Koreas had approved of a similar walk back in May. About 30 international female activists, including American feminist Gloria Steinem and Nobel Peace laureate Leymah Gbowee, traveled through the heavily fortified DMZ, where they were allowed to march at specific checkpoints. However, some criticized WomenCrossDMZ, the organizers behind the march, for not addressing the human rights violations against women in North Korea.

This is not the first time Jung has attempted to foster goodwill between the two Koreas through martial arts. In 2007 and 2011, Jung helped coordinate U.S. tours for two North Korean taekwondo demonstration teams.

See Also


Korean Humanitarian Uses Taekwondo to Empower Syrian Refugee Children

[VIDEO] Adorable 3-Year-Old Taekwondo Devotee Recites Student Creed


Featured image via Woo-jin Jung/Facebook

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The Rise of Illionaire Records http://iamkoream.com/the-rise-of-illionaire-records/ http://iamkoream.com/the-rise-of-illionaire-records/#comments Wed, 01 Jul 2015 19:37:50 +0000 http://iamkoream.com/?p=80854 EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is an excerpt from Complex Magazine’s June 30 story on Illionaire rappers Dok2, the Quiett and Beenzino. This article has been republished on KoreAm with permission. 


story by JAEKI CHO
photography by BOOBA

When Korean artists tour the U.S., they usually go big—from circus lighting to pyrotechnics to branded glowsticks, no detail is left unconsidered. But last September’s show at B.B. King’s in Times Square was not your typical K-pop event.

Sure, the crowd was your usual mix of exchange students and non-Korean superfans. And yeah, the concert was sold out, with lines stretching around the block. But they weren’t paying premium prices ($115 for VIP tickets, with packages costing as much as $1,850) to watch a hyper-produced spectacle from Big Bang or 2NE1. This was a hip-hop show, featuring the trio of artists—Dok2 (pronounced doh-KEE), the Quiett and Beenzino—who make up the Korean label Illionaire Records.

Inside the venue, the opening DJ failed to get the crowd moving, and the jetlagged artists, though well-received, were performing songs that seemed largely unknown to their audience. Illionaire’s first New York City show came and went without much of a bang. But in many ways, the journey to B.B. King’s was far more important than the actual destination.

Without the aid of major-label dollars, Illionaire has risen to the top of the Korean hip-hop scene on the strength of a DIY mentality that has made the three of them rich in their home country—and, slowly but surely, on their way to achieving notoriety abroad. In doing so, they are at the forefront of a new movement in independent Korean hip-hop that is proving that there is more to the country’s musical exports than cute K-pop groups.


Of course, rap isn’t a new genre in Korea. Since the early ’90s, K-pop artists have appropriated everything from new jack swing to gangsta rap. Legendary group Seo Taiji and Boys mimicked Cypress Hill—both B-Real’s nasal delivery and DJ Muggs’ grungy production—for their ’95 hit “Come Back Home.” Later, Drunken Tiger’s more authentic form of homegrown rap helped legitimize the artform.

While borrowing from (or paying homage to) hip-hop has been a common trend in K-pop since the early ’90s, the music itself has been regarded as second class. Cultural differences are the biggest hurdle, since rap’s roots are in anti-authoritarian and ego-driven rhetoric. For Koreans who are taught the age-old proverb “A nail that sticks out gets hammered,” rap’s attitude—not to mention the alcohol and drugs—is not only deemed crude, but sometimes taboo.

However, there is also the reality that Koreans, broadly speaking, are not shy about flaunting their wealth, which falls right in line with the ethos of contemporary hip-hop. In that sense, Illionaire’s music is a sign of the material times. To start, their content is dominated by boasts about cars, jewelry, and money—especially money.

Sonically, each Illionaire artist leans heavily on popular hip-hop trends. Dok2, who has collaborated in the past with K-pop superstars G-Dragon and HyunA, prefers Southern trap and co-opts flows from Tha Carter II-era Weezy and Meek Mill; the Quiett, known more for his production, leans toward boom-bap beats like Primo; and Beenzino raps with a sing-song melody that is unmistakably inspired by Drake. The connective thread is that, to their fans, these guys are the embodiment of hip-hop cool. And Illionaire fans aren’t limited to Korea. Though their lyrics are mostly in their mother tongue, with choruses and ad-libs often in English, one needn’t understand the meaning of the words to “turn up”—a term Dok2 popularized in Korea—to Illionaire’s music.

And word to MMG, Illionaire is truly “self-made.” In South Korea, giant corporations control the entertainment industry. K-pop behemoths like SM Entertainment and YG Entertainment house the biggest idol groups, while media conglomerates like CJ E&M distribute all physical and online music for 20-plus labels, including Illionaire Records. To be successful, most aspiring rappers either join the major-label system or struggle in the underground.


But as an independent entity, Illionaire is changing the paradigm. Without the heavy-handed oversight of corporate overseers, the three Illionaire artists are selling out shows throughout Korea and topping charts, with Beenzino’s “Dali, Van, Picasso” and Dok2’s “111%” and “Multillionaire” (produced by DJ Mustard) reaching the top 10 on Korean online music charts without help from Korea’s ubiquitous music shows or radio spins. In South Korea’s tiny music market (catering to a population of just 50 million), it’s pretty much unprecedented for an indie label to hold this much mainstream clout.

Today, emboldened by Illionaire’s success, more indie Korean rappers and R&B singers are thriving without major labels, including K-pop star Jay Park and his AOMG imprint and new star Keith Ape (“It G Ma”), who was originally a product of Korean indie HI-LITE Records.

Beyond their image and sound, Illionaire earns hip-hop cred because they are hustlers who have bucked the system to create—and make money—on their own terms. Follow the leaders.

“Most South Korean rappers are from wealthy families, especially well-known hip-hop musicians,” says 30-year-old rapper-producer the Quiett. “It’s strange, considering that hip-hop was birthed in the slums.”

Korean hip-hop has its roots in Gangnam—made famous by Psy’s hit—and not an impoverished neighborhood like the South Bronx. Members of seminal Korean rap groups like Dynamic Duo and Epik High all hail from the affluent Seoul district. Being that hip-hop is a foreign culture that costs money to emulate, those with more money naturally had more access.


Read full story on Complex

See Also


Producer Glen Choi’s Music Makes K-pop Fans “Go Crazy!”

Interview with Tiger JK, Korea’s Hip-hop Legend 

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