Cats and the Internet go together like American cheese on a cheeseburger. Or, as the Internet would have it, “cheezburger.”
Who would have thought a website with “LOLcats” (defined as “a piksure of a kitteh wif a funny caption) would become one of the most powerful forces on the Internet? Entrepreneur Ben Huh and his wife, Emily, saw something that other “hoomins” couldn’t see. They acquired the website in 2007, eventually forming the Cheezburger Network that includes I Can Haz Cheeseburger, FAIL Blog, The Daily What, Know Your Meme and Memebase. In 2011, the company raised $30 million in venture funds while boasting 16.5 million views each month across their sites.
The original meme that inspired the website’s name.
On Wednesday, Huh announced in a post on Medium that it was time for him and his wife to move on after eight years, as the company continues to move closer to profitability. It was a good time for a leadership change, Huh wrote. He added that Scott Moore, Cheezeburger’s President and COO, would be taking over as CEO.
“Cheezburger gave rise to a new category of content, a new industry of global reach, and as some would call it: the downfall of civilization,” quipped Huh, who is ironically allergic to cats. “I say, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ bring it on, because it looks like a lot of fun. We have made a dent in the universe together and Cheezburger will continue to do so without me. This company has taught me that I have talents and skills beyond what I could imagine, and I want to continue that journey.”
Huh will still be involved and remain on the board of Cheezeburger, Inc. as the company continues to uphold their mission: To make the world happy for a few moments every day. As long as the “internets” is around, “kitteh piksures” will always make us “happeh.”
Emily Kwangsook Kim—better known as Maangchi—-gets approached all the time by strangers as she’s out and about. She may not recognize the friendly, excited faces that greet her, but to them, she might as well be their aunt, sister or close friend who’s been inside their kitchens for years, whipping up tasty Korean dishes and snacks.
Maangchi, as Kim prefers to be called, has become an online video sensation across the globe for her upbeat, easy-to-follow videos on how to prepare Korean food. She has a website featuring hundreds of recipes and a section where she posts stories of her travels and encounters with fans; a YouTube channel that’s garnered more than 580,000 page views; and a dynamic social media presence, including 11,600 Twitter followers.
In addition, on May 19, Maangchi comes out with her first major cookbook,Maangchi’s Real Korean Cooking(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) featuring her most popular recipes, from Korean soups and stews to kimchi to side dishes to noodles and party food.
How did someone with no professional culinary or video training become one of Korean cuisine’s most prolific and visible ambassadors to legions of home chefs? In today’s democratized Internet age, charisma, a well-developed skill and savvy for the online user experience can go a long way toward making the person-next-door into the next YouTube star.
Not only is Maangchi blessed with all of the above, she never even set out to become as well-known as she is today. Cooking was always a passion; making cooking videos, merely a hobby. It also hasn’t hurt that Korean food has undergone an explosion in popularity in recent years as hallyu, or the Korean wave, has become a tidal force.
Maangchi’s first video, uploaded in April 2007—and accompanied by the Morrissey song “Why Don’t You Find Out for Yourself?”—was about how to make spicy seafood stir-fry, ojingeo-bokkeum. “When I made this video on YouTube, I was very nervous.
I didn’t know how long I would have this hobby,” says Maangchi in a phone interview with KoreAm, from her home in Manhattan. “Once I uploaded my first video, I was very surprised. [Viewers] asked me to make my next recipe. ‘Interaction is really going well,’ I thought. ‘This is so fun.’ I thought I’m going to keep this as a hobby forever.”
Her site grew so popular, Maangchi was able to quit her day job as a family counselor at a nonprofit to focus on her website, maangchi.com, full-time. In 2011, her website was named among the “most useful” by the Korea Herald, alongside Visit Korea, SeoulStyle, ZenKimchi and Soompi.
Her recipe for Korean fried chicken, yangnyeom-tongdak, recently surpassed her kimchi recipe as most popular on her website, hitting 2 million page views. (Save that one for your next spring potluck.)
Maangchi uploads a new cooking video every 10 days, using a digital Canon EOS 5D and editing footage on Adobe Premiere, which she taught herself how to use. Longtime fans who have been visiting her site since the early years may notice the considerably improved production values to her videos, as well as her upgraded kitchen with modern, stainless steel appliances.
With her charming enthusiasm, slightly high-pitched accented English, eclectic outfits and unique hairstyles (she’s been known to sport colorful wigs), Maangchi makes learning how to cook Korean food seem fun, easy and engaging. Her welcoming persona has expanded her network of online followers to points as far-flung as Moscow, Russia; Leipzig, Germany; and Pearland, Texas.
Maangchi with young fans.
Her clear instructions and collection of recipes elicit such feedback as, “I FINALLY found what I’ve been looking for: authentic Korean cooking as made by a Korean, for a Korean. This is my sister from another mother. Or, this is my mother from another sister,” as posted on updownacross, a blog run by New Yorker Joann Kim.
Maangchi also receives touching letters from fans, such as the woman who came across Maangchi’s site after her mother passed away, without having had the chance to learn how to cook Korean food from her. “‘One day I was cooking some of your recipes in the kitchen and my father came out from his room and said, ‘Oh, this smell reminds me of your mom! I feel your mom comes alive now!’” the fan wrote to Maangchi.
Maangchi peels garlic before making kimchi in New Zealand in 2011.
Maangchi, who is in her 50s, was born in Imsil in North Joella province and raised in the South Joella city of Yeosu, where her father ran a fish auction business. She was drawn to food from a young age. As a kid, she writes in the introduction to her cookbook, she would try dishes made by her mom, grandmother and aunts and “quietly determine who made the best version of each dish.”
That discerning palate took on a commanding influence in the schoolroom—Maangchi would organize group lunches in which each friend was responsible for a particular dish. Her Korean culinary knowledge is honed from family and friends, years of practice and sharing recipes with fellow Korean expats in Columbus, Missouri, where she lived when her ex-husband was getting his Ph.D.
“Since I was young, I have been cooking from memory, and sometimes, I’m learning from some other people,” Maangchi says. “Each recipe has my own story. Like for tangsuyuk, I learned how to make the crispy crunch batter from my close friend. All recipes over the years, I learned from my grandmother, all different people.” (The trick to the crispy batter, she explains in her book, is to mix potato starch with water in a bowl, allow the starch to settle to the bottom, then drain the water and mix the remaining starch with an egg white to create a coating. “As with crispy fried chicken, double-frying is essential,” Maangchi writes.)
Judging a Korean cooking challenge at Culinary Institute of America’s Hyde Campus in 2013.
Maangchi moved to Toronto from Korea after she and her first husband divorced, once their two children were all grown up. She worked various jobs, including as a cashier, movie extra, translator and interpreter. It was in Toronto where she recreated herself as “Maangchi,” or “hammer,” slayer of villains in the popular South Korean online video game “City of Heroes.”
The online moniker stuck—even after her addiction to the video game subsided after three-and-a-half years. By then, Maangchi had turned to a new hobby, making cooking videos and uploading them to a fast-growing video sharing service called YouTube.
Maangchi, whose tough name belies a sweet demeanor, credits her accessibility on camera to her years spent as an educator. She attended teachers’ college in Seoul and earned a certificate in social studies and a master’s in education.
In 2011, Maangchi was selected by YouTube as one of 25 up-and-coming video creators to receive a $35,000 grant through the company’s NextUp program. She used the money to travel and meet her fans all over the world in what she coined the “Gapshida! Journey” (Let’s Go!). She visited nine countries and 11 cities, sampling home-cooked foods in such places as Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines.
L to R: Members of a NYC gathering sample Maangchi’s homemade kimchi; Maangchi leads a Korean cooking class at Whole Foods Culinary Center in NYC in April 2011
“If I’m selected,” she recalled thinking, “I’d like to meet my readers all around the world. I want to meet them. We’ll make videos together. Sometimes I want to encourage my readers to make their own food and make them just like [I make mine].
“I had a chance to taste the food that my readers made, home-cooked food,” Maangchi adds.
Her zest for food—not only Korean, but of other cultures—is reflected in the panoply of global food friends that frequent her online forums and leave superlative comments. She re-posts their food photos based on her recipes and attends Meetup events organized in her honor. She also frequently posts about Korean food customs and personal recollections from her days growing up in Korea. She already has three self-published cookbooks through Amazon (downloaded more than 6 million times through her website).
Maangchi with her fans in Malaysia during her Gapshida! Tour in 2012.
Maangchi says visitors are drawn to her site for all sorts of reasons. There are the non-Koreans who have tried a Korean restaurant for the first time; the second-generation Korean Americans who want to replicate their mother’s cooking at home; and the Korean adoptees from all over the world. Not least of all, there are the Korean drama enthusiasts.
“Some people come [to my site] from Korean dramas—they love Korean dramas,” Maangchi says with a laugh, pointing out how they’ll seek out her recipe for jjajangmyun (noodles in black bean sauce) because their favorite stars have eaten it on screen.
As for her fans, Maangchi adds, “These people consider me as their sister or mom or relative. I feel really close [to them]. I never feel lonely.”
All photos courtesy of Maangchi
This article was published in the April/May 2015 issue of KoreAm. Subscribe today! To purchase a single issue copy of the April/May issue, click the “Buy Now” button below. (U.S. customers only. Expect delivery in 5-7 business days).
South Korea’s startup scene is one of the most dynamic and fastest growing in the world, and Google’s “Campus Seoul” is expected to only add fuel to its growth.
Google officially opened Campus Seoul on May 8 after announcing the entrepreneurial center’s launch last August. Seoul is Google’s first Asian start-up campus and third international campus, following two other campuses in London and Tel Aviv. Google also plans to establish campuses in Warsaw and Sao Paulo in the near future.
Campus Seoul will support local entrepreneurs by serving as a “community hub” and foster creative ideas by connecting professionals on a local level. Additionally, the campus gives entrepreneurs access to Google’s extensive international network, which allows them to connect with fellow startups and venture capital firms on a global scale.
South Korea’s Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP) expects that Campus Seoul participants will attract more investment by targeting the global market from the beginning of establishing their startups. Previously, Google and the MSIP joined forces to support the K-Startup program, which attracted more than $23 million (USD) in investment and created 77 startup companies from 2012 to last year, according to Business Korea.
South Korea is quite fitting to house the first Google Campus in Asia. The country already boasts a reputation for being the perfect place to test next-gen IT technology, since it has the highest smartphone penetration rates and Internet of Things (IoT) utilization rates. The government is also pouring money into the startup scene, and the trendy neighborhood of Gangnam has become the brightest spot in the country for new tech businesses.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Watch what you say in your living room. Samsung’s smart TV could be listening. And sharing.
In a blog post Tuesday, Samsung said it is removing that sentence and clarifying the policy “to better explain what actually occurs.”
For the voice command feature to work, the TV listens for predefined commands such as changing the channel or the volume. That speech isn’t stored or transmitted, according to Samsung. But the remote control also has a microphone that can not only respond to those commands but also search for content, such as requests to recommend a good movie. The speech is translated by third-party software into text and sent back to the TV as a command.
Although Samsung initially declined to name the software company, the blog post identifies it as Nuance Communications Inc. The TV also transmits other information including its unique identifier, both to provide the service and to improve the feature.
Samsung said voice recognition on the remote must be activated by pressing a button. It’s similar to how Siri and Google Now voice assistants work on smartphones. If the feature isn’t activated, there’s no threat of eavesdropping, Samsung said. Users will see microphone icon on the screen when it is on. Users can disable the feature, but voice control would then be limited to predefined commands.
The South Korean company said it takes consumer privacy “very seriously.”
“We employ industry-standard security safeguards and practices, including data encryption, to secure consumers’ personal information and prevent unauthorized collection or use.”
It is not the first time that smart TVs sparked privacy concerns. In 2013, the owner of a LG Electronics smart TV revealed it was sending information about his viewing habits back to the company without consent and without encrypting data.
LG has also experimented with displaying targeted ads on its smart TVs, which requires collecting and utilizing user data, such as their location, age and gender.
Technology Writer Anick Jesdanun contributed to this story from New York. Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
That is unless you’re in the market for a $92 smartphone (off-contract) that has the same specs as a device from, say, four years ago. But even if you were, you’d have to go to India to find one. If and once you cross the ocean, you’ll realize it doesn’t run Android, but something called Tizen (pronounced “tie-zen”). While the Z1 is one of the cheapest phones Samsung has ever launched, it’s also the first smartphone to feature Tizen, Samsung’s own mobile operating system.
What’s the big deal with Tizen? Samsung has made it very clear at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show that it is heavily investing in it. Their smart TVs, smartwatches and wearables all come installed with Tizen, and soon, all Samsung devices will include Tizen, including household appliances such as washers, dryers, robotic vacuums and refrigerators. It’s part of this mystical “Internet of Things” (IoT) plan that Samsung emphasized heavily during the convention, and Tizen will be the operating system connecting all these devices into the IoT “ecosystem.”
Samsung’s wonderfully obnoxious Super Ultra-HD TV display in front of their booth at CES 2015. The displays are so beautiful you don’t notice the model standing in front until he’s pointed out to you. Photos by KoreAm.
But should Samsung be investing so much in Tizen? All of their devices apart from the Z1 exclusively run on Google’s Android, and of all the smartphones and tablets in the tech market, Apple and Microsoft are the main competitors. Google and Apple as well as Microsoft, to some extent, have had the time and money to refine Android, iOS and Windows.
The South Korean company also does not have a reputation as a software company. They build gadgets and hardware, albeit damned good ones. However, their attempts at software haven’t been too well-received. TouchWiz–Samsung’s user interface, which has features built on top of Android in Galaxy devices–has been criticized for being too ugly, completely unnecessary and a drag on memory and processing speed. Apparently, Samsung is scaling back TouchWiz in its upcoming Galaxy S6. It was also the main reason why this writer chose a Motorola smartphone over the Note 4, which had really amazing specs, but an annoying UI.
Another challenge will be to grow and nurture developers for Tizen. Apple and Google have had that covered while Microsoft and Blackberry (yes, they’re still around) have struggled to provide the same number and quality of programs for their users. Tizen, however, would be starting from the ground up.
Image via Samsung Tomorrow
Samsung claims to have their bases covered. They tout Tizen to be “lighter” than other operating systems and more energy efficient, and the company specifically addressed creating an “expansive and vibrant ecosystem” for its users through supporting developers with software development kits for different Tizen devices.
They also echoed what Samsung CEO BK Yoon said during the company’s press conference at CES: Samsung isn’t in the game to “abandon” other operating systems. “Openness” and facilitating relationships with partners and other devices is key to a successful Internet of Things ecosystem.
At the end of the day, though, Samsung wants to make money, and Tizen might be their product to challenge Google and Apple in the mobile OS department. It remains to be seen if Tizen can break into the brand cultures Google and Apple have created with their own products.
If Samsung can “tie it all together” by proving that Tizen will be more convenient, affordable and just as cool as the others, it may have a chance. Strategy Analytics said last month that while Tizen will remain a niche player, it would be one of the fastest-growing operating systems along with Firefox and Windows in the next six years. Who knows, a $90 smartphone could truly be the “next big thing.” Or not.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea blamed its recent Internet outage on the United States on Saturday and hurled racially charged insults at President Barack Obama over the hacking row involving the movie “The Interview.”
North Korea’s powerful National Defense Commission, which is headed by country leader Kim Jong-un and is the nation’s top governing body, said Obama was behind the release of the comedy that depicts Kim’s assassination. The commission described the movie as illegal, dishonest and reactionary.
“Obama always goes reckless in words and deeds like a monkey in a tropical forest,” an unidentified spokesman at the commission’s Policy Department said in a statement carried by the country’s official Korean Central News Agency.
The White House’s National Security Council declined to comment Saturday.
North Korea has denied involvement in a crippling cyberattack on Sony Pictures but has expressed fury over the comedy. Sony Pictures initially called off the release of the film, citing threats of terror attacks against U.S. movie theaters. Obama criticized Sony’s decision, and the movie opened this past week.
It wasn’t the first time North Korea has used crude insults against Obama and other top U.S. and South Korean officials. Earlier this year, North Korea called U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry a wolf with a “hideous” lantern jaw and South Korean President Park Geun-hye a prostitute. In May, the North’s official news agency published a dispatch saying Obama has the “shape of a monkey.”
A State Department spokeswoman at the time called the North Korean dispatch “offensive and ridiculous and absurd.”
In the latest incident, the North Korean defense commission also blamed Washington for intermittent outages of North Korean websites this past week. The outages happened after Obama blamed the Sony hack on North Korea and promised to respond “in a place and time and manner that we choose.”
The U.S. government has declined to say whether it was behind the Internet shutdown in North Korea.
According to the North Korean commission’s spokesman, “the U.S., a big country, started disturbing the Internet operation of major media of the DPRK, not knowing shame like children playing tag.” DPRK refers to the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The commission said the movie was the result of a hostile U.S. policy toward North Korea, and threatened the U.S. with unspecified consequences.
North Korea and the U.S. remain technically in a state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. The rivals also are locked in an international standoff over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and its alleged human rights abuses.
A United Nations commission accuses North Korea of a wide array of crimes against humanity, including murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment and rape.
The U.S. stations about 28,500 troops in South Korea as deterrence against North Korean aggression.
Associated Press writer Josh Lederman in Honolulu contributed to this story. Photo courtesy of The White House.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
North Korea’s Internet connection has been hit with outages and is currently offline, according to the New York Times. The network failure comes a few days after President Obama vowed to retaliate against North Korea for hacking Sony Pictures.
According to Bloomberg, North Korea has four official Internet networks that route through China, all of which first experienced unstable connection late Friday and went completely dark on Monday. Doug Madory, director of Internet analysis at the cybsecurity firm Dyn Research, said the outage was “out of the ordinary” and emphasized that maintenance problems would most likely not have caused such a widespread loss of connection.
“I haven’t seen such a steady beat of routing instability and outages in KP before,” said Madory, according to the North Korea Tech blog. “Usually there are isolated blips, not continuous connectivity problems. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are absorbing some sort of attack presently.”
The outage comes as China is investigating allegations against North Korea over the Sony hack attack. The Obama administration has recently sought China’s help in blocking North Korea’s ability to wage cyberattacks—the first step toward the “proportional response” Obama pledged.
While it is possible that the U.S. might have been involved in the disruption of North Korea’s Internet connection, the White House has reportedly declined to consider a “demonstration strike” against North Korean cyberspace targets.
Cybsecurity experts have claimed that there are several possible causes for the network failure, according to the New York Times. North Korea could be preemptively shutting down its Internet access to prevent U.S. counterattack. Vigilante hackers could also be responsible for the outage.
As most North Koreans do not have access to the Internet, the blackout will only affect the country’s elite, state-run media outlets, propagandists and its cyberwarfare divisions.
Many South Koreans are considering leaving KakaoTalk and switching to other mobile messaging applications due to concerns over a government crackdown on rumors circulating on social media, according to the Associated Press.
In mid-September, the South Korean government announced that it would be taking “proactive” measures to prevent the spread of false and malicious postings on major portal websites through the creation of a special investigative team. This means if someone were to cause a serious social controversy through false accusations and rumors, then that individual could face detainment or punishment for his or her actions. The investigative team would then potentially gain access to private chat histories to seek out the origins of these rumors.
The announcement hasn’t sat well with South Korean social media users. Many have accused the government of censorship and attempting to control public opinion, and in the last few weeks, a considerable number have weighed dropping Kakao Talk in favor of different mobile messaging options.
The most popular alternative messaging application has been Telegram, a free Russia-based app that was created to avoid surveillance from Russian officials. On Friday, it was the most downloaded free app on the Apple App Store in South Korea; on the Google Play Store, Telegram was the No. 2 downloaded free communications app behind KakaoTalk. A few of the app’s South Korean users said in reviews that they left KakaoTalk to seek “asylum” from government surveillance and requested Telegram to add a Korean language service.
A research firm said an estimated 610,000 South Korean visited Telegram last week, a 40-fold increase compared to the numbers before the crackdown was announced. Smaller South Korean messaging apps, such as DonTalk, have seen higher downloads in recent weeks as well, along with other messengers that have their servers abroad.
Despite this mass migration, it’s hard to picture South Korea without KakaoTalk. After all, Nielsen reported at the end of 2013 that 93 percent of South Koreans used the application. Telegram hardly comes close, especially since it lacks the language option and special features such as emoticons and games that KakaoTalk provides.
President Park Geun-hye’s administration has been sensitive to social media. Many South Koreans were critical of the government’s response to the Sewol ferry sinking in April, and a number of them said their houses and social media accounts had been searched with court approval.
Park also relayed her unhappiness over online rumors during a Cabinet meeting on Sept. 16. She said that slander and false rumors on the Internet were causing division in the nation, and she ordered the justice ministry to investigate unfounded rumors on the Internet, which led to the formation of the investigative team.
They didn’t waste much time. On Oct. 1, a woman accused of libeling President Park was sentenced to four months in prison with a one-year stay of execution. The woman, identified only by the surname Tak, was found guilty of spreading false rumors that the president had an extramarital affair with her former mentor and his son-in-law.
Civic organizations also criticized police and government officials for recently seizing KakaoTalk chats and personal information of Labor Party leader Jung Jin-woo and about 3,000 of his acquaintances. They had gathered to demand a probe into the Sewol ferry disaster.
Daum Kakao, which was formed by the merger of Daum Communications and Kakao, has tried to assuage Kakao Talk users by saying that authorities could not look at users’ messages without a court order. Co-CEO of Daum Kakao, Lee Sirgoo, told reporters last week that the company had “top security technology to prevent leaks and hacking,” and that KakaoTalk messages were only stored on servers for only three days before getting permanently deleted.
However, Lee said Kakao Talk was still “subject to South Korean law” and would still hand over information “when there is a fair execution of law.”